Whether you’re purchasing a new horse or moving yards, there will be times when you have to integrate a horse into a herd – but how can you do it safely to avoid any fights or injuries? Animal behaviourist Jenni Nellist shares a four-step protocol you can use to help new introductions run safely and smoothly.
Given that the existing herd may want to protect what’s theirs, and the new horse will be keen to stay safe and join the group, it is safest to have a structured introduction procedure, following any infectious disease prevention methods.
Set up an area next to where the herd are turned out – either by fencing off part of their field or using an adjacent field. If horses will be meeting over an electric fence, have two parallel fences about 5m apart so there is a ‘no man’s land’ to help prevent accidents.
Place the new horse in the enclosure for at least 24 hours until all are settled and carrying on with their day as normal. While you are waiting, do some scent swapping by transferring fresh poo over the fence in both directions so that the horses learn each other’s unique scents.
Next, introduce one calm and friendly horse from the group into the new horse’s enclosure. Turn them out after the new horse has already been turned out if the horses are not living out 24/7. Keep up this arrangement until the two are happily cohabitating. This can take days, so be patient.
Finally, turn the pair out in the main field – which you’ve emptied of other horses so that the new horse can explore without feeling threatened.
Once the pair is settled, turn out the others.
If grass is in short supply, provide plenty of hay and space it widely to allow access. It helps to provide extra water containers too, while the new horse integrates fully.
Meet the expert: Jenni Nellist is an Animal Behaviour & Training Council (ABTC) registered clinical animal behaviourist, and a co-ordinator of the Equine Behaviour and Training Association.