Horses are herd animals, and are often happiest when together in a group. Turning horses out in small herds can be beneficial, since it allows the horses to socialize while reducing the number of individualized turnouts that you need. But horses don’t always get along right off the bat – here are some tips for introducing new turnout buddies.
1. Start With Fenceline Introductions
Before you introduce a new buddy to the herd, allow the horses to meet over a fence. Turn the new horse out into an adjoining paddock and give the horses time to get acquainted. This should be a period of a few days – you want the novelty of this new horse to have worn off by the time you actually introduce him into the herd.
2. Leave Halters On the Horses
When it comes time to introduce the new buddy to the herd, leave halters on all of the horses. In the event that you do need to separate the horses, having halters on them can make this task easier and safer.
3. Maximize Space for the Introduction
Try to turn the horses out into a large pasture when you first introduce the new horse. The larger the space, the more room the horses will have to run in as they sort through the herd’s introduction and the restructuring of the herd hierarchy. Ideally, try to use a pasture which has curved corners to eliminate the chance of a horse getting pinned into the corner.
4. Introduce with a Smaller Herd
If you’re introducing a new horse into a larger herd, separate some horses out so that he’s only meeting one or two horses at a time, rather than meeting the entire herd. Once the horse has met each herd member, you can reintroduce the larger herd.
5. Don’t Risk Your Safety
It’s a good idea to only introduce a new turnout buddy when there’s another skilled horseperson on the grounds who can help you if you need to separate the horses. But remember, if a fight breaks out, your priority needs to be to keep yourself safe. If you do attempt to catch one of the horses, then bring a lunge whip into the pasture with you and stay close to the fenceline so that you can exit quickly if you need to.
6. Continue to Monitor
While many horses tend to fight during their initial introductions, it’s important to continue monitoring the new herd member for days and weeks after the introduction is made. Additional fights and disagreements can break out as the herd members continue to sort out and challenge the new herd hierarchy.