New horse in the herd? How to integrate it

3 min.

We all know horror stories when it comes to integrating a new horse into the herd. Many have been in a situation where they have let the new horse out to the others and the situation has escalated and gotten out of control. Your poor horse is being chased around, running through the fence, being forced into a corner, kicked or bitten. Moving the horse to a new place is about creating as safe an environment as possible, and taking the ‘integration process’ quietly.

QUESTIONS YOU SHOULD ASK YOURSELF

The key to introducing any horse to a new stable is about being organized. It is therefore a good idea to make a risk assessment of your horse in advance. Espeically if you do not know it very well yet. This information will help it when it becomes the new horse in the herd.

• Where does it come from?

• How has it previously been turned out – in larger or smaller groups?

• How does it behave socially?

• Is it normally low or high in hierarchies?

All of these questions make good sense to ask its previous owner when you take over your new horse. If you have had your horse for many years, and have moved it to a new place, then fortunately you already know the answers.

You may also like to read: Injuries in the field: How does the mix of mares and geldings play in?

What rank your horse had in his old herd means a lot to its integration into a new one. Photo: Archive.

THE ARRIVAL

Make sure your horse arrives at its new stable in daylight. Horses see better in the dark than humans, but they can better form an overview of their surroundings in daylight. A good time to arrive is in the afternoon. Because then the horse can spend the rest of the day and night getting used to his stall and relax. If it is moving to a place with loose housing, it is a good idea to leave by itself for the first 24 hours. Moving is generally very stressful for a horse. Also remember plenty of straw feed so it has something to keep it occupied with.

WALK ALONG THE FENCE

The next morning, before the other horses are let out, you should walk around the paddock with your horse. So, it can check out the scenery. The horse’s sense of space is quite good. You can help it sensing how far it can run when you do this little exercise. Also remember to show it the water tank so it knows where it can get water. All this will help the new horse in the herd.

SLOW INTEGRATION

Whether you should let out the whole herd to meet your horse or just a single horse at a time will depend on your own assessment of the herd and of your horse. Feel free to put on a pair of gaiters and let the horse keep the halter. Then it is easier to catch it if the situation becomes dangerous. A good rule of thumb is that there should be plenty of space around the horses.

If you let the horses out individually, do not start with the head of the herd. The horse at the top of the hierarchy rarely feels threatened unless your new horse is aggressive. It is the horses further down the hierarchy that you need to be aware of. They may feel threatened by a new horse. The “bottom” horse may see the chance of no longer being at the bottom. Therefore, it may suddenly make itself very noted when it comes to the new horse.

In most cases, the integration of a new horse into the herd goes quietly. However, always make sure you have some wound care remedies and the number of the vet / blacksmith nearby in case of an accident. And remember never to try to get between two horses that are fighting. Use your voice, wave a whip, or throw your robe after them.

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