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ESI Q and A Forums > ESI Q and A Forum > Questions and discussions for the ESI Q and A Forum > Is there a best way to introduce a new horse to an established group?

Is there a best way to introduce a new horse to an established group?
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Joe
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 Posted: Mon Jun 27th, 2011 04:44 am
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Friends:

Sometime this month a fine, solid 15-1 Arabian gelding will be joining our other two here on our three stall barn and small acreage.  He is a gift to me from the breeder, an old friend of my wife's. 

The two who live here now have been here for many years and are very tightly knit.  They had a companion for about a year once, but that was five years ago.

Is there a good -- or a best -- way to introduce the newcomer so as to reduce the chance of fights and injuries?

Cheers!

Joe

Brenton Ross Matthews
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 Posted: Mon Jun 27th, 2011 11:26 am
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Hello Joe,
I have had this situation many times and this is what works for me .
My horses run as a mob and they gang up on newcomers so ,as all my horses are well broken to hobbles,I just hobble them until they accept the stranger. Obviously the larger the area the better so they have less chance to corner the new horse. Possibly leave the hobbles on for a couple of days depending on how dominent the new horse is.
Good luck,
Brenton

bespotted
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 Posted: Mon Jun 27th, 2011 04:21 pm
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Joe,

I like to introduce new horses gradually and let them see each other so they can watch each other, then let them closer to sniff each other, then meet one horse at a time. I take it day by day and see how they are reacting to each other for how long it will take. The new horse needs to get used to your routine and what is expected of him in a new place. The first day I like to hand walk the new horse around the fence line and then let him loose alone (if I am sure I can catch him again) to investigate the new place before letting the other horses in with him. 

When they do get together there will always be some kind of exchange to establish a order. This will depend on the individual horses and may or may not result in any contact at all, but gestures and displays of athletic ability. Some horses may want to run each other alot, some just keep their distance and learn what is acceptable. I have also seen some appear very violent towards other horses and it is always best to use caution and not introduce them with food involved at first.  In one case the horse had not been properly socialized and did not read the other horses signals very well. Another case was previously malnourished and very protective of his food. In cases where I didn't know the horses full history, I kept them separated/quarantined 30 days before any sniffing, but they were within sight. It didn't seem to matter how long they saw each other. Once they got together, there was always an exchange and I don't think the time span mattered in relationship to the level or duration of the exchange.

You probably know the two you have now pretty well. Once the new horse is settled in and is familiar with his new surroundings, I would introduce the new horse to the current horse who is not the leader first, one on one. Then when they seem to have it worked out, I would introduce the lead horse.  I heard of two or three is manageable. I do not agree that any of them should be hobbled as was previously suggested. I think that would take away their natural ability to flee if needed.  I have 25 acres with several 2-6 acre sections and paddocks, woods and natural obstacles. Depending on how much space you have, you may want to section some pasture off with temporary fencing to let the new horse out next to the others but not in with them yet.

Latina


Jeannie
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 Posted: Mon Jun 27th, 2011 07:01 pm
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Hi Joe,
   I agree with Latina's advice regarding how to go about introducing everyone.

   I would add that the new horse will be watching to see how the other horses act around the people who are taking care of them, especially the more dominant horse. He will take cues from him, and may adopt a similar attitude if he sees the people aren't running the show. It will be especially  useful when they are all together, and the new horse understands that you control the other horses, and can step in as needed with your presence. It will develop his confidence in you, and make it easier to work with him. People often miss out on this and wonder why things seem so chaotic. I hope all goes well.

                      Jeannie

Pauline Moore
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 Posted: Tue Jun 28th, 2011 01:01 am
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Hello Joe - Good to hear from you again.

My experience has been different from the suggestions offered earlier on this thread, and was primarily gained from observations during the process of introducing a previously unsocialized stallion to an existing herd of two geldings and a young stallion. Despite some anxious moments in the first few weeks, they have been happily and peacefully living together for over 5 years. The behaviours I saw were really no different from those I'd seen many times previously when adding a new horse to a herd of geldings or mares - just magnified somewhat!

The main lesson for me was confirmation that the senior horse in the existing group will show his authority to the newcomer by keeping him away from the other members of 'his' herd. This takes priority over access to resources such as food and water. When the new horse has indicated his acceptance of the senior horse's ranking, he will then be allowed access to the other members of the herd. The senior horse may, or may not, allow the new horse to take a higher ranking than some other members of the herd.

If the new horse is destined to be herd leader, he may slowly work his way up the pecking order after being accepted into the herd - this may take weeks or months. If the new horse is especially confident, he may take that leadership role within minutes of arriving at his new home - you might not see more than a few flicks of the ears.

Whichever way it pans out, it is very important that the new horse is introduced first to the senior horse and kept away from other herd members.

If you have a 3-stall barn, I suggest that immediately on arrival you put the new horse at one end with the senior horse next to him. The junior horse will then be in the 3rd stall at the opposite end to the new horse. The senior horse will be happy with this arrangement as the newcomer cannot interact with the junior horse.

It would be good if the two horses can sniff at each other over the stall rails/walls provided they are not likely to get a foot caught when striking at each other with a forefoot. There will be plenty of squealing and snorting.

Give them some time, several hours, before providing hay. Ensure the senior horse is fed first, then junior, then the new horse.

The same principle can be used when turning out for the first time, later that same day or the next day if you think they are a bit tense. If you have separate but adjoining paddocks, have the new horse alone in one, with the other two together, ensuring they cannot injure themselves on the fencing in between. Wait until the senior horse is ignoring the new horse before thinking of allowing them all together. This may take hours or days. When that time comes, it would be helpful if junior horse could be in a nearby paddock alone (or taken into his stall) so that the new horse can be taken into the paddock where senior horse is alone. The new horse will then have to negotiate with the senior horse for acceptance, rather than the senior horse having to raise the stakes by going into an area that may have become the possession of the new horse.

Let them sort it out in their own way. There will be more sniffing, squealing and striking, and maybe some chasing. Leave them for a couple of hours after they have settled down to graze before adding junior to the paddock. There may then be a repeat of the whole process.

Alternatively, you could just open the gate when new horse arrives, and let them work it out themselves while you turn your back to go have a strong coffee or something-in-a-glass! In most cases, if all the horses are peaceful and well handled, there is no need to micro-manage introductions provided there is plenty of room for a horse to escape without getting trapped in corners or run into fencing. One acre is not enough.

I once had an old gelding who could control an entire herd with a flick of one ear so I never had to worry about new horses arriving, or putting him into a herd of unknown horses - he'd have everyone organized within 10 minutes. A wonderful teacher I still miss.

Please let us know how it goes. Hope old Dancer is still well.

Best wishes
Pauline

Joe
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 Posted: Tue Jun 28th, 2011 04:48 am
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thanks to all.  Much food for thought.

Pauline, Dancer is quite well at 29.  In fact, we are still actively working him on a light schedule.  Actually, he is a perplexing problem in this context.  Dancer is an alpha-squared animal.  He spent years bossing the younger animal, but to some extent dominance is now shifting as he ages.  I am not entirely sure who is boss.  Majiid pushes Dancer around at times, but it goes the other way, too.  And they readily steal each other's food without fights.  In fact, it is a big element of the day to do so. Horses are easily amused, you know.

Joe

Pauline Moore
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 Posted: Tue Jun 28th, 2011 05:59 am
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Dancer might surprise you again, Joe. He could easily feel the need to re-assert himself when the new horse arrives by reverting to pushing Majid around also.

There is no clear seniority between my two boys - each seems to have his own area of authority. They both push around the remaining gelding who doesn't hesitate to 'talk back' when he thinks they're getting too bossy. Horses are not the only ones easily amused - I find them endlessly entertaining.

Delly
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 Posted: Tue Jun 28th, 2011 12:17 pm
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Many years ago I had an elderly gelding like your old chap Pauline. A quiet gentle horse but always the alpha. At age 30 he lost the sight in one eye and some time later got an infection in the other. For a couple of days until the meds did their work the eye was closed.  I watched in awe as he rested his head on the rump of his life long buddy and was guided around the paddock.  

Jeannie
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 Posted: Tue Jun 28th, 2011 06:14 pm
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Hi all,
 I was thinking about how international animal language is, after leading the horses out to the meadow yesterday. The cows had arrived, as they do every year on this property, and while my horse has done some cow work and lived with them on the other side of the fence, he has never lived with them.

 There was a knot of them just below us, so I hung around a couple of minutes to see how the meet and greet would work. B circled down the hill with his Arab deputy at his hip and walked into the middle of the cow group, scattering them with a head toss to right and left, then started eating where they had been standing. Point made, when I was driving away later, I could see them all grazing together up on the hill.

                 Jeannie

Karla D.
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 Posted: Wed Jun 29th, 2011 07:32 am
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  I tend to go real slow when it comes to introducing a new horse to the herd.  It means some extra fiddling around but I have never had a mishap by taking my time.  At first I put the new horse in a corral beside the others.  Then put the new horse in the pasture alone so that it gets to know its way around.  Then I alternate one horse at a time into the pasture with the new horse until every horse has had some individual time with the newcomer.  And then I put them all together.  By then they appear to be so bored with the daily corral changing, pasture changing, horse changing that they really don't give a darn one way or another.  And that makes me feel like I have done a good job!

  I suspect that there is some science/knowledge behind which horse to introduce to the newcomer to first.  I am not sure what it is though.  Perhaps Dr. Deb will speak to that.  I put my gelding in first, who in my opinion is second in command of the herd.  He seems to be real good at making his way and getting along with others yet he can't be pushed around by anyone other than the old mare whom I assume is the herd leader.  So I think he is the best choice to go in first.  I alternate the lower ranking ones in next and the lead horse in last. 

 


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