Introducing Your Horse to Other Horses: Important Steps to Keeping Your New Horse Safe

Introducing your new horse to other horses can sometimes carry some tense moments. Horses are not always kind to the new kid on the block. Always, there will be a pecking order that needs to be established. The pecking order starts with the Alpha horses, then to the Beta horses. The Alpha is the ruler of the pasture or paddock. Lets say that your horse will be pasture boarded, meaning that they will be kept in a pasture with other horses with a sufficient amount of grass and a lean-to structure for them to escape harsh weather. Usually pasture horses are all fed grain at the same time, preferably twice daily, which it should be. As the feed is put into the hanging feed buckets or ground feeder tubs, the Alpha horse will be the first to eat. If any of the other horses dare to challenge the Alpha, then there is a price to pay and depending on each Alpha will determine the severity. Some Alpha’s will just chase the other horses with teeth bared and will bite them. Other Alphas are very bad at kicking and will even back up, kicking the whole time in order to get their point across. The kickers are usually more dangerous to the health of the other horses.

Usually, certain horses will develop a bond with another horse or group of horses. And of course, there is a leader in each one of the separate little groups. Unfortunately, there will always be the horse on the low end of the totem pole. This is the horse that eats last and sometimes is chased from feed tub to feed tub before everyone settles down, or until the Alpha has finished and he or she starts to invade other feed tubs. If the low horse on the pecking order is not keeping proper weight, then it may be necessary to put that horse in a separate pen to feed him or her to ensure they get the proper amount of food at each feeding.

As a general rule, when you introduce a new horse into any new environment, there is a sudden burst of activity; some sniffing and squealing, maybe some striking out when nostril to nostril, usually some running around, and some chasing of the new kid. This is why you do not want to put unfamiliar horses together in a small paddock or pasture. If one or the other horse becomes too aggressive, the underdog needs to have enough room to escape. As long as the commotion does not last too long, this is basically just how it is in the society of horses.

Always use safety first. After turning your horse out, stay and watch for awhile or until things settle down. There may always be some scuffles or disagreements as this is natural behavior. Horses will learn the pecking order and eventually will find their place and know what they can and cannot get away with. If your horse is getting beat up, kicked, and constantly being chased around by the other horses, you may not be able to leave your horse out with them, and will need to make other arrangements. If your horse is in a very large pasture, then there should be enough room for your horse to keep a safe distance until he or she is accepted. Every once in a while there will be a situation where other horses just do not want to accept your horse. The first couple of days will determine your horses place in his or her new home.

The best scenario is for young horses in separate pastures, fillies in one pasture, colts in another. Mares should be in separate pastures, and geldings should be in their own pasture. This will avoid a lot of fighting as geldings will sometimes become very possessive over mares. Putting two geldings and one mare out together, as I have seen, can cause geldings to behave like stallions fighting over mating rights, and it wasn’t pretty. So use your common sense and understand that usually horses learn to get along with each other but the initial meeting doesn’t always go as smoothly as you would like. However, there will be times when you introduce a new horse into a group of horses and there will be no problems at all.

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