About introducing horses

Published on 29 June 2023 at 16:30


In my post last week, I wrote about how stallions are just horses too and how, they too, need and could be in a social herd or with at least a buddy, if the stallions were (brought up) social enough.At the end of my post, I wrote I would do an introduction post next week, so that is what this week’s post is about. There was one person who seemed to think I suggested to just simply throw all stallions together or just throw stallions with mares. I do think my post is clear on that and whether you have read my book or not (you really should…), those who follow me know that I always explain to treat each horse as an individual, and the same goes for stallions, as they are also just horses and deserve to be that too, just horses! 



When you introduce a new horse into an existing herd, it is of vital importance that you let them get used to one another without the risk of horses getting into a fight. Of course, when you keep horses together, no matter if they are friends or not, you always want to make sure that horses always have escape routes and cannot get caught in corners from shelters, stables, and fences. This is something one should have in order first, before moving more than one horse in. When the new horse arrives, place him or her in a separate paddock in or next to the track or paddock where the existing herd lives. This way, they can see and smell each other and get used to each other without being able to fight or chase one off. When you see, over days or maybe a week that all horses settle, you can choose to place the newcomer with the highest-ranking horse in a separate, large enough paddock.




When you do this, leave both their nylon, easily breakable halters on, so the horses can be grabbed easily when necessary. Make sure there are enough people present that know what to do, when the horses started fighting. Have an action plan pre-discussed on the ready, just in case. Feed the horses hay, if there is not enough grass, to keep them occupied and calm. Have buckets with feed at the ready, as often nothing breaks up fights better then buckets of feed, in which case the horses can be caught. Another way to break up fighting horses (where possible) is a hard ray of cold water. In that moment of surprise horses can be enticed with food and caught and separated, to try again after another week. In the beginning, leave them together 30 minutes to a few hours, whilst remaining there and having people on the ready and separate them again. Build from there. When the alpha accepts the newbie horse, you can start with introducing him to the herd in the same way. Some horses will never get along and cannot live together no matter how much you try. It is better then to accept that and keep them apart. 



If you have very friendly and social horses which never present any problems amongst each other, nor with newcomers, you might act as in the former paragraph but skip the alpha introduction. Be sure to start with short intervals, make sure nobody is hungry and have enough people on the ready who know exactly what to do and be able to intervene when necessary. 



As I explain extensively in my book, when horses have not been brought up socially by other horses, have been weaned to early and wrongly, this can create lifelong problems for a horse, not to be able to get along with other horses and even be dangerous to them or themselves for not being accepted. Some still can learn, over the years to become better at being social when placed within a herd with horses that are very social but at the same time can handle the anti-social ‘brute’. Be sure to never subject shy and low-ranking horses to such anti-social ones. For those horses that are unable to adjust to social life in the herd, having a stable with walk in paddock, next to the herd is the best option. Maybe over time it can be tried again. Even if (anti-social) horses have to be separate, it does not mean they have to be lonely! 



With some anti-social horses, the following solution might work to give them a buddy. We used to call it ‘kick shetland’. I know, it does not sound very nice, but in practice, it is really not about someone getting kicked, but having a buddy for an anti-social horse. They way it works is, that you make the walk-in paddock such, that the fence is sturdy but at the same time high enough for the Shetland to walk in and out when he or she sees fit and at the same time, can make a clear break out when needed along all the sides of the fence. Introduce the Shetland the same way though, as with every introduction! Here too, the combination must get to know each other and fit together. Surprisingly though, I have witnessed many shets to become boss over much larger (often brutal) horses. It is a last resort, but it can be a solution. The great thing about Shetlands is that they make great Dressage in hand horses! At a racing stable where I worked with 16, most stallions had a shet in their (double) box, who also went with them to the racing track. This made the stallions calm and easy to handle. (No, I am not pro-racing, if you were wondering.) 


As explained in my former Wednesday post, stallions crave company as much as any horse. In nature stallions who do not have a band of their own, join bachelor herds. Many horses are denied a social (family) life nowadays still, but stallions are denied most, sadly. I will not go into to this to deep, as I expanded on that in last week’s post.So, what makes good buddies for stallions? Other stallions where possible (and it often is when the stallions are social), geldings and in some cases, mares. This can be mares that are no longer able to breed, or mares you want to breed to your stallions anyway. It is often said that stallions can be in a herd fine unless they are in breeding season. This also depends on every individual stallion. For some that is the case, then you treat them (during breeding season) the same as the anti-social horse (above) and maybe (carefully) see if the ‘kick Shet’ solution works. 



Stallions that are not gentle, safe, and social at all times, I would not breed, for obvious reasons. I think horses should be bred only when impeccable character and health. Social skills within their own species and others should be first on the list, if it were up to me. If everybody would do that, life would become better for everyone in my opinion  


In the Photo: A stallion, a rig and an ex breeding stallion castrated with 18 years living together like a family, while mares, other
stallions and geldings came to visit all the time for training.

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