Introducing your new horse to other horses can sometimes lead to tense moments. Horses are not always kind to the new kid on the block. There will always be a pecking order that needs to be established. The pecking order starts with the Alpha horses and then the Beta horses. The Alpha is the ruler of the pasture or paddock.
Let’s say that your horse will be pasture boarded, meaning they will be kept in a pasture with other horses with a sufficient amount of grass and a lean-to structure for them to escape harsh weather. Usually, pasture horses are all fed grain at the same time, preferably twice a day. As the feed is put into the hanging feed buckets or ground feeder tubs, the Alpha horse will be the first to eat.
If any of the other horses dare to challenge the Alpha, in some cases an Alpha might chase the other horses with teeth bared and try to bite them. Other Alphas like to kick and will back up, kicking the whole time in order to get their point across. The kickers are usually more dangerous to the health of the other horses.
Certain horses will usually develop a bond with another horse or a group of horses. And of course, there is a leader in each one of the separate little groups. Unfortunately, there will always be a horse on the low end of the totem pole. This is the horse that eats last and sometimes is chased away from a feed tub before everyone settles down, or until the Alpha has finished eating and the horse starts to invade other feed tubs. If the low horse on the pecking order is not keeping proper weight, then it may be necessary to put that horse in a separate pen to feed it to ensure it gets the proper amount of food at each feeding.
As a general rule, when you introduce a new horse into a new environment, there will be a sudden burst of activity. Some sniffing and squealing, maybe some striking out nostril to nostril, usually some running around, and chasing of the new horse. This is why you do not want to put unfamiliar horses together in a small paddock or pasture. If one or the other horse becomes too aggressive, the underdog needs to have enough room to escape. The commotion should not last too long since this is just how it is in a community of horses.
Always use safety first. After turning your new horse out, stay and watch for a while, at least until things settle down. There may be some scuffles or disagreements as this is natural behavior. Horses will learn the pecking order and eventually find their place, learning what they can and cannot get away with. If your horse is getting beat up, kicked, or constantly chased around by the other horses, you may not be able to leave your horse out with them, and will need to make other arrangements. If your horse is in a very large pasture, then there should be enough room for your horse to keep a safe distance until it is accepted. Every once in a while there will be a situation where other horses just don’t want to accept your horse. The first couple of days will determine your horse’s place in its new home.
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