Whether you’ve had horses for years or are still relatively new to the equine world, getting a new horse is incredibly exciting. However, it doesn’t come without its complications, and introducing a new horse to an already established herd can be tricky.
Depending on the temperament of the horses involved, a new horse may slot right in with no problems at all. However, sometimes there can be a few teething problems when integrating a new horse – and here we’re going to give you some advice on making that process as smooth and hassle-free as possible.
Should you just put them together?
Depending on who you talk to, some horse owners may advise that you just put your new horse in with the herd and let them sort everything out between themselves.
This can work as long as you know your horses and have a reasonable idea of how they’re going to react. If you’ve had issues in the past then you’ll know the problems to look out for – for example, which of the current herd are followers and leaders?
If you do just decide to put your new horse in with the herd, you’ll obviously need to monitor the situation and act accordingly if you spot any problems.
Integrating them slowly
Many don’t want to take the chance of putting their new horse in with an established herd in case they don’t get on, which can lead to all sorts of problems.
If you do want to integrate them slowly then you could start by actually stabling them away from each other. This will allow your new horse to get used to their new surroundings without worrying about other horses for the time being. After a couple of weeks, you can move the horses closer together – they’ll soon start to smell them and they may need time to get used to this new smell.
When turning out, it’s a sensible idea to keep your new horse in an adjoining paddock for a few days. This will allow the horses to get used to the presence of another horse nearby and let you gauge their reaction. Importantly, this also lets the horses move away from each other if they’re not happy.
Make sure that fence between the two paddocks are nice and sturdy as both sets of horses may get a little agitated and give it a kick.
Make sure they have enough room
When introducing a new horse, it’s vital that there is enough room for everyone – about 600 sq ft per horse is a good benchmark to work from.
This will allow room for horses to run around, but also let them keep away from the others if they want to.
Having a paddock that’s too small can make the horses agitated and more likely to feel like they’re encroaching on each other’s personal space.
You should also make sure there is enough room between their food and water. Again, this reduces the chances of overcrowding. If possible, have a couple of feeding and drinking stations so new horses don’t feel like they’re being stopped getting to their food and drink.
Know your horses
Most horse owners know their steeds inside out and understand every part of their personality, and this is very important when introducing a new horse to the herd.
For example, if you know that one of your horses gets a little jittery around newcomers, then you need to keep an eye on them. The most important thing is to keep an eye out for unusual behaviour you haven’t seen before, as this will often let you know that something’s wrong.
It’s also worth making sure that all your horse’s are fit and healthy (or that you at least know of any health issues) before bringing in a new horse, so it’s wise to have a vet check them all over.
Know your new horse
While it’s vital to know your existing heard like the back of your hand, it’s also essential you know as much as possible about your new horse.
If you’re getting them from a breeder or other horse owner then ask as many questions as you can think of about their temperament, habits, preferences, health issues, family lineage, and more.
This will all help you get a better understanding of how well they will settle in with the current herd.
Regularly check for injury
It’s not uncommon for horses, new and old, to get feisty when they put together for the first time. There could be biting, kicking, charging and plenty more – and while most of this will be relatively harmless, it’s always important to check all your horses for injury on a regular basis for the first few weeks after the introduction of a new horse.
If you know it’s happening but you’re not aware of the culprit, it might even be worth installing CCTV to keep an eye on them.
Remove hind shoes from kicking horses
If you know that any of your horses kick or are particularly irritated by newcomers, then it might be worth removing their hind shoes until they get used to the new horse.
You can pop them back on again, but doing this can help reduce injury to your new four-legged friend.
Do you have a new horse and need to stock up on equipment for it? Take a look at our great range of horse blankets, saddle pads, halters & lead ropes, and much more. And if you have any advice on introducing a new horse to an established herd, let us know!