Q: I’d like some advice about introducing a new horse to a herd. My two elderly geldings (21 and 24) have been together for most of their lives. I have been riding the younger one, but his jumping days are over and though I will keep hacking him lightly, I am about to purchase a younger horse (five years old) so I can do some competing again. My property is just over 6 acres and I have three main paddocks that I rotate the horses around. Some friends have told me that three is a bad number of horses to keep, but my land just won't support four, and I'm not about to rehome (or worse) one of the older ones just for convenience. Should I just put the new guy in with the pair and let them sort it out? Or put him in with just one of them and put the other in a taped off area? Any idea appreciated.
It’s great to hear that you’re taking such good care of your faithful servants. The good news is that there’s no need to rehome or get rid of one of your old horses. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with three horses running together. It’s always best if a horse has friends to live with in the paddock.
Leave your new horse in a yard at first and make sure that he’s confident and relaxed with you and you can catch him easily. When you’re certain that you can catch him in the paddock, he’s ready to go in with the others.
I’m a great believer that horses should be allowed to be horses. Put your horses in your largest paddock and let the new horse in with them. I’ve done this hundreds of times. All the horses will probably run around for a while and snort and play. Don’t worry if they squeal and whinny and run around. That’s normal. That’s just horses being horses.
Don’t put any of the horses in a taped off area or in the next paddock. They’ll play through the tape or fence and are far more likely to be injured by becoming tangled in the tape or the fence.
Don’t lead the new horse around in the old horse’s paddock. The older horses may run around and play and you might be kicked or get tangled in the lead rope. Just open the gate, remove the headstall and let the new horse go with the other two. It’s good for horses to run and play and kick up. That’s what horses do in this situation, so don’t worry.
Years ago, I bought a two year old thoroughbred gelding and ran him in a paddock with two of my old stock horses. The three horses galloped and bucked and played and had a great time. The stock horses promptly forget that they were old and retired. I’m sure they thought they were two years old once more. The young horse bought a new lease of life to the old stagers. The three of them were always leaping and rearing and galloping and playing.
It’s easy to forget that horses were born to live with other horses. It’s perfectly normal for them to live in a group. It’s perfectly normal for them to run and play and interact.
It’s always better to have your horses running in a paddock, rather than locked in stables all the time. You may need to bring your horses in when the weather is extreme but it’s much better for every horse’s mental health to be running in a paddock with other horses.