Whether you are introducing your horse into a new herd or a new horse into your horse’s existing herd, horse behavior can make the transition tough. Horses have certain herd dynamics and often respond dramatically when that is threatened. Here are a few tips for making the transition go as easy as possible when introducing a new horse.
The biggest risk of introducing a new horse is that one could become injured in the chasing and jockeying for position that tends to happen in the beginning. You’ll minimize this risk somewhat if the horses have a chance to get to know one another before they’re all thrown in together. If you can, pen them next to one another for a few days so that they can greet one another over the fence. If this isn’t an option, you could opt for walking the new horse around outside of the pen or pasture for a little while and letting everyone get used to seeing one another. After a little while, you could progress to letting them sniff each other’s noses for a little bit over the fence before adding the new horse into the herd, but watch out for squealing and striking, as this is common horse behavior to sniffing noses with a new horse. Most likely the horses in the existing herd will be very interested in the newcomer, but might still chase him around a bit once he joins the group.
Resource guarding is another common horse behavior in response to a new addition to the herd. It’s not as immediately dangerous as the threat of an injury, but a horse that is denied access to water is at risk for colic and dehydration if the situation goes unnoticed. Keep an eye on the herd and make sure that all horses are being allowed access to water. Providing a second or even a third water tank, depending on herd size, can help minimize the threat of resource guarding. If the new horse is being kept to a certain part of the pasture, usually away from the usual sources of food and water, you can hang a bucket on the fence near “his” area to ensure he gets water.
Resource guarding doesn’t stop at water, although a horse going without food isn’t as immediately dangerous as one going without water. A single hay trough or round bale makes it too easy for the dominant horse or horses to monopolize the food, leaving out the new horse. Ideally, a horse would be fed in a stall by himself, to minimize the impact of herd dynamics and better control the amount of feed the horse gets. If feeding in the pasture is the only option, be sure to feed at multiple stations throughout the pasture, so that if one is pushed away from his food, there’s always another trough or pile of hay to go to.
Horse behavior and herd dynamics can be challenging for horse owners. Not only is there the issue of introducing a new horse into the herd, but also, even in a well-established herd, some horses may struggle to get enough to eat or drink. For more tips on best practices for feeding horses, including the benefits of complete pelleted feeds, contact Sacate Pellet Mills today.