Q&A Questions and Answers:
Hello Bob -
I have 5 quarter horse geldings (used for roping, penning, trail), ranging in age from 3 - 14.
Over the last few years, the alpha gelding (Buck), has been introduced to the other four geldings with no problems. Sure they all received a few nips and bites, but within a short period of time, they pretty much figured out who's who in the pecking order. I recently introduced all 5 geldings to a new 4 year old gelding by allowing the herd several weeks of getting used to one another over the fence lines.
I thought, okay they know each other, no problem... time to turn them all out together. I was wrong. When I turned the new gelding out to pasture (10 acres) with the other geldings, all heck broke loose. All the geldings took their normal shots (bites, cries, etc.) at the new gelding, however, the alpha gelding, within 10 minutes, penned the new comer into a corner, biting, etc., effectively forcing the new gelding to climb over the gate/fence for safety. Luckily, I saw it, and was able to rescue him, and unfortunately clean up his wounds.
So, what is the best practice at introducing new horses to the herd? This spring I am bringing in a new two year old, and I would love to know how best to get them to get along safely in the pasture.
If I were in your boots, I'd start as you did -- introducing the new gelding slowly, preferably by putting him in an adjoining paddock and letting them "talk it over" across the fence. If that Alpha horse didn't settle down -- especially if he tried attacking over the fence -- then I'd take a more direct, aggressive approach.
You need to be the "lead brood mare" -- the horse that all the males obey. Take a long carriage whip with you, and move the newcomer in with the rest of the herd. As soon as the Alpha attacks, punish him by forcing him out of the herd. Hold him there at a distance from the herd, and go after him every time he tries to return. Eventually, he will try to approach you in a submissive posture. Give him a pet, and gently lead him toward the newcomer. If he tries to get mean again, drive him back out of the herd and repeat the procedure until he gets the message that he MUST do what you order... and you are ordering him to accept the new gelding. It won't be quick, and you may get a good work-out, but it's usually effective.
By the way, be extra cautious about staying out of kicking range. That Alpha may try putting you in your place. Make sure he doesn't succeed! You may even want to put him through some extra round pen work to reinforce his submission to you.
Happy Horse Training!
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