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Horse Facts and Tips
First Posted Jan 26, 2010
Jul 30, 2010

A New Horse

So, you have purchased a new horse. There is much to do before bringing that new horse to your property or to a boarding facility. Below are some thoughts to help organize the homecoming and help the transition go as smoothly as possible for all concerned--horses and humans. Just like humans, horses like routine and get use to it and take comfort in it. Change takes them out of their comfort zone and can cause stress. Of course, you have already checked out the safety of your horse's new environment. You have also asked the new place if your farrier, vet and trainer (if you have one) can come to the new place. I always check to see if mares and geldings are separated or together. I also want to know if the herd is stable or if there is allot of traffic in and out of the facility. I prefer a quiet, stable herd. I also prefer small numbers of horses--a private farm instead of a large boarding facility. This is personal choice and depends on what your needs and your horse's needs may be.

Checklist Before the Move

  • If boarding check to see what the worming and vaccination rules are at the barn
  • All horses should have a coggins that has been done within the past year no matter what! The result must be negative.
  • Shots not only protect your horse, but also other new stable mates, as well. Disease can be present or brought in--it works both ways.
  • Know what your horse has been eating--amounts, type of hay, grain, etc. Know what supplements have been given and the amount so that information can be passed along to your horse's new living environment. If possible, bring some of the hay your horse has been eating with you so that the transition to the new feed can be made easier. This cuts down on the chance of colic.
  • Know your horse's turnout schedule so that information can be shared.
  • If at pasture, ask whether your horse was turned out in hour increments to prevent founder or laminitis in the Spring and in the Fall. Many breeds and ponies are often inclined to founder if just turned out on rich grass. Many have to work their way up in time at grass slowly over several weeks time.
  • Bring some water that your horse is familiar with just as you would when trailering. Horses can be picky drinkers, too.
  • Make sure that the care givers at the new place know if your horse has any bad habits. Their safety is paramount.
  • Have a copy of the boarding agreement.
  • Take your horse's medical folder to the new barn.

At the New Place

  • Barb wire is a no, no! However, before picking this facility you have already checked out the fencing, etc. and know that this is a safe environment for your horse. We all know that horses will find a way to get into mischief in a padded cell! We do our best to minimize their efforts to get into trouble.
  • Try to keep your horse separated from the other stable mates for a week or so. Give them time to get acquainted over a fence or in a separate paddock. If that is not possible, perhaps your horse could be in a stall where he would be able to see and talk to his new stalemates and then be turned out by himself.
  • Walk the fence line with your horse before turning him out with the rest of the horses. You might want to be able to do this when the other horses are not in the turnout area. That is safer for you and your horse.
  • You also want to familiarize your horse with the water source and make sure that he is comfortable with it. For example, if your horse has been drinking from a stream and not an automatic watering device, make sure that he understands that the automatic waterer will not hurt him. Help him get acquainted with that new water monster!
  • If there is a specific feeding area, familiarize your horse with that area, as well.
  • Don't rush the efforts. Horses really pick up on our vibes.
It's Time to Take the Plunge

Preacher, the black bay, was quite aggressive and could be mean. Poor Tucker!

It is not always possible to have it your own way unless you have your own property. Whatever your situation, no one wants to see any horse or human injured. Care should be taken when introducing a horse to a new environment. Horses are social animals and have a pecking order (hierarchy) society. Some are aggressive, some are not. In all the years that I have had horses, only once did one of our horses get hurt when being introduced to the other horses. He was kicked in the stifle and laid up for 6 weeks. It was not pleasant! Taking a little time to let the established horses and the new horse get acquainted is really helpful. Ideally the new horse can be kept at a distance in another paddock for a few days. Then he can be moved closer--across a fence--perhaps. It is important that the pasture area is not overwhelmed by too many horses. If at grass, rule of thumb is 2 acres per horse. For turnout one acre per horse. Make sure that the pasture is free of debris, farm equipment, old cares, etc. has no area where your horse can be trapped and cornered unable to escape if threatened and that the terrain is as safe as possible. Most horses have shoes on the front feet and not the hind feet, but shoes can be lethal weapons when introducing a new horse. We do not have dominion over this eventuality. If at all possible before turning the new horse out into the herd bring a middle ranking horse of good temperament into the Paddock where the new horse is being kept, after a few days. After than introduction has been made and both are happy turn them out into the herd. Give them a couple of days together. Also, when you turn the horses out make sure that everyone has been fed and that hunger and jockeying for position to eat is not an issue. Most likely there will be prancing and dancing, tails up, snorts, kicking and posturing, running and following. The new horse will be kept away from the herd, usually, by the alpha horse. The new horse will look on and just follow the herd until he has been accepted. I have seen horses run for days by other bullying horses. This is not a pretty picture. However, it usually does not happen.

For the Next Few Days

Keep a watch on your horse's eating to make sure that he is not off his feed. Also watch for any lameness or swellings for scuffles. Be mindful if your horse has any mood changes that are out of the ordinary. Just be observant to make sure the transition is smooth and safe.

A Life Time

To us it seems like a lifetime when introducing a new horse to a herd and new environment. Often we lose sleep over it and get nervous. Just remember that the horses have a way of doing what they do in their social order. We have to suck it up and adjust. We can only do our best.

For More Information:

Introducing a New Horse to the Herd
Horse Herd Hierarchy

Horse Facts and Tips