Monday, 4 May 2015

Introducing a New Horse!

Why do horses run around, buck and get so silly when a newcomer arrives? 

As I mentioned last week I am trying to find a new companion for Chesney and Basil so that Chesney is not left on his own when I ride.  This made me think about introducing a new one to the field.  It can be tricky!

Horses always get so excited when a new one arrives.  Even though I only had 3 in my 'herd' they had an established pecking order and understood one another.  They would all spend time in 'couples' so one day Chesney and Basil would graze together, another day it would be Basil and Fidget and then another day Chesney and Fidget.  The other one would never be too far away but they definitely shared their friendship around.  

They understood each others' boundaries and when to keep out of each other's way!  So introducing another one will no doubt cause some stressful moments.  Chesney and Basil are very friendly, they will be keen to say hello to any newcomer.  However, as with any herd, the newcomer will have to learn to read the others actions and reactions and so avoid being hurt.  Chesney is not shod and he does not tend to kick out but Basil does and he is shod so I will have to think carefully about introducing them.  Also, they were all geldings.  Chesney and Fidget were fine with mares (my previous horse Josephine was a mare).  Unfortunately, I don't know if Basil has been turned out with mares before and I have no idea how he would react. 

So, why do horses prance about and get so silly when a new horse is introduced?  They lift their legs higher as they trot around and seem to glide more through the air.  They raise their heads and tails, snort and arch their necks.  They do this to look bigger, more impressive and more intimidating.  In the wild the biggest, fastest and most powerful male  (stallion) will have the largest group of mares.  It is therefore in his own interest to look like the biggest, fastest and most powerful.  Geldings will still have many of their natural male instincts and so will still demonstrate some of these behaviours.

The current 'herd' will also stick together against the newcomer as that gives them safety in numbers.  We know horses like routine, they don't like change.  So the new horse has to conform to the rules and fit in.  This new horse will then gradually gain in confidence and begin to assert itself until it finds its place in the herd.  Mixed groups can make the process longer as the geldings will want to guard the mares against a new male.  Introducing a new mare can cause competition amongst the geldings.

With all this in mind I will have to carefully plan my introductions.  Using temporary electric fencing to keep a new one separate will, I think, be the best way to start.  It will then just be a matter of taking it one day at a time to see how they settle before putting them together.  I may introduce Chesney first as he has no shoes and does not kick.  Also, if I try to introduce Basil first then Chesney will just go through the fence anyway!

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Until next time!

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