Introducing a New Horse to a Herd


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After trying different horses for sale, you’ve settled on the perfect horse for you. Buying a horse often means making changes to turnout herds. New introductions between horses can be very physical and a little frightening to watch. If done improperly, horses can be injured. Do you know how to safely introduce your new horse to a herd?

Understanding Herd Dynamics

Horses are naturally herd animals. In the wild they would exist in groups governed by herd dynamics. Herd dynamics refer to the fact that each horse has his own role in the herd. There is a very specific “pecking order” present in horse herds. Herds are typically run by a lead mare, and one dominant stallion is present in each herd. Below the lead mare, each horse has a certain herd level; that horse will submit to all of the horses above him in the hierarchy, and will dominate all of the horses who fall beneath him in the herd.

Domesticated herds are different than wild herds. Domesticated herds are constrained by the size of their pastures, and the herds are changed as we decide which horses to turn out together in a group. Because of this, scuffles can occur whenever we remove or introduce a new horse to the herd – with every change, the herd must re-establish its pecking order and hierarchy.

Since horses establish herd hierarchy through body language and physical interaction, herd changes can result in injuries to both new and existing members. That’s why introducing a new horse properly is so important.

Making the Introductions

When you first bring home a new horse, allow him to meet the other horses over a pasture fence. It is best if you introduce your horse to each member of the herd one at a time, with the others out of sight. This will give the horses a chance to greet each other without being in the same pasture space, making the greeting less overwhelming and safer for all involved.

Repeat this greeting process over a number of days, and if possible, turn your new horse out in a pasture that runs alongside the herd’s pasture. Always supervise the turnout sessions, and gradually lengthen the time as the horses grow to accept each other.

If serious fights break out, use a lunge whip to separate the horses – never put yourself in between fighting horses. If the horses do not accept each other well, you may need to consider a different turnout arrangement; some horses simply do not get along.

When you are sure that the horses are well accustomed, turn your new horse out with only one or two members of the herd. Gradually reintroduce the other herd members. Be sure that the horses are turned out in a large pasture with plenty of room to move around and avoid each other if they wish.

After looking at horses for sale and buying a horse, you want to make sure that he stays safe. New herd introductions can be tense, but with proper preparation you can help them to go smoothly.

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