Horses are social animals who prefer the company of their own kind to a solitary lifestyle. With that said, each horse has his own personality and not all horses will get along well when turned out together in a pasture. Horses who are overly aggressive may cause problems among the herd, and those who are too submissive can quickly become the punching bag of the pasture and may be injured by the other horses. Introducing a new horse properly to his pasture mates can help minimize scuffles and make the transition in the herd easier for the newcomer.
Know your horses' individual personalities. A lot of problems can be avoided if you already know which horses are dominant and which are submissive. Most barns pair their dominant horses together and their submissive animals together in separate pastures to minimize personality conflicts. Select pasture mates who you feel will be a good fit for your new horse and turn him out with those individuals.
Quarantine your new horse in an area where none of the other horses have access to him for several weeks if there is any chance that the new horse may be carrying a disease or illness. You do not want to make your horses sick by putting a sick horse out to pasture with them on the first or second day after he arrives.
Put the new horse in a pasture that adjoins the pasture you are planning to turn him out in. Put the horses you want to introduce your new horse to in the pasture beside him. Allow the horses to sniff one another and make friends over the fence for a couple of days. Pay attention to any conflicts that develop. If one horse is attacking the new horse repeatedly, they will likely not make good herd mates.
Wait until the middle of the day in between feeding times and then put the new horse into the pasture with the existing herd. Leave the halter on the new horse so that if you have to catch him, you can do it more quickly. Allow the horses to sniff one another and acclimate to one other gradually through interaction.
- Expect some squealing, kicking and nipping at one another for the first few days when they are turned out with one another. Some small scuffles are normal when a new horse is figuring out his place in the herd pecking order. You should not be concerned unless a horse is actually attacked by one of the others, is significantly injured (more than some scratches, a little missing fur or a single kick), or gets run out of the pasture in some way. Things should settle down within a few days if everything is going well.
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Jen Davis has been writing since 2004. She has served as a newspaper reporter and her freelance articles have appeared in magazines such as "Horses Incorporated," "The Paisley Pony" and "Alabama Living." Davis earned her Bachelor of Arts in communication with a concentration in journalism from Berry College in Rome, Ga.