Herd dynamics - adult with youngsters

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Herd dynamics - adult with youngsters

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    01-19-2010, 12:33 PM
Thumbs down Herd dynamics - adult with youngsters

I have a coloured pony gelding (10 year old) that is usually placid, kind and mannerly.... no problem in any way. He has lived happily and placidly with a mixed group of youngstock before, as well as mixed horses and ponies at livery. He is usually at the bottom of the pecking order, or certainly towards the bottom.

I have decided to proceed and get him long term companionship with 2 fillies. These fillies are yearlings, so quite a lot smaller and obviously less life experience than the gelding.

Having got the fillies accustomed to each other over weeks turned out together, I turned them out with the gelding.

I didn't anticipate any problems. The gelding has always been amenable and fair with other ponies he has been turned out. And have only ever observed subtle body language (ears back etc) - never seen him make contact with another pony.

However when he approached the fillies in the field, they ran! He followed. Initially he was just exuberant - tail up, neck arched, prancing with them... they ran as a bunch. Sometimes the fillies were in the lead, sometimes he led. No dominant behaviour, just high spirits as they explored the field boundaries.

But after about 10 minutes, there was a change in behaviour. He became more aggressive. Almost frustrated. Again no kicking, but ears back, trying to split up the two fillies by cantering between them, and then chasing after one of them alone... and if he could biting the top of their necks.

After about an hour, all ponies exhausted, and things had slowed down to a trot... but still the gelding moved the fillies around.

Not once did they touch noses, or interact. The fillies simply tried to keep out of his way.

I think that if they turned to face him, things would have wound down - but they didn't.

I removed the fillies for fear of injury if I left them.

Have I been naive trying to mix an adult with yearlings? If I try again, is the whole episode likely to repeat, or is this the worst of it over?

Any ideas on how to proceed?
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    01-19-2010, 12:39 PM
I think I would try to introduce him to one filly at a time. Maybe they will be less likely to run off together and will actually stick around to meet him.
    01-19-2010, 12:41 PM
I always put horses in adjoining pens for a few days before throwing them together. So they can get use to the sight and smell of each other. This has worked well for me.
    01-19-2010, 01:11 PM
Originally Posted by Snowkicker    
I always put horses in adjoining pens for a few days before throwing them together. So they can get use to the sight and smell of each other. This has worked well for me.

^^^ Ditto. If pens side by side are not available, just having them in sight has proven to be better than throwing them in together right off the bat. I had an arab mare right right THROUGH a fencepost once trying to get away from my laziest horse...she was trying to catch up and say hi, nothing dominant, but the arab had it in her brain that the lazy one WAS going to eat her and just ran blindly. Never did that again.

Now when introducing somebody new to the herd, I keep them on the other side of the property for about a week, but in sight. The others can get a wiff of her and see her, but no nose to nose yet. After that week, I put the newb in either a round pen beside the pasture or a paddock...this is when they "meet". That being said, sometimes through a fence can be more dangerous than being out together. Depends on the horse and how well you know them. I knew this mare wouldn't go right up to the fence until she were CERTAIN she wouldn't get bit so I didn't worry about fights starting. Both a bolder mare, I would've put her in after the week across the yard.

I think one at a time is your best bet. Take the more dominant filly and put her in with your gelding. Let them sort it out over a couple days, then introduce the other filly. The 2 fillies will likely band together again, but your gelding will already have an "in" with the bolder of the two, hense forgoing any flee responce as a group.

Let us know how it goes and how you make out with your new herd! Good luck and be safe!
    01-19-2010, 01:43 PM
They were already winding down. I would have left them in there together. If you had fed them in 3 different places it would have helped them to settle down. Next time leave for a while and just check occasionally so your nerves can settle.
    01-19-2010, 02:05 PM
Many thanks for the thoughts so far....

The gelding and fillies had met before (had them stabled together in adjacent stables for a few days) but not recently.

I did actually leave them once they had apparently settled... (hoping it was all over) and went back to check an hour later to find fillies had jumped out over substantial fencing! Gelding remained in field. So am guessing the gelding had upped the chase again. Don't wish to repeat that!!

I will split the field in two with electric fencing (which all the ponies respect) and see what happens then. Then try the dominant filly introduced first.

How long would you leave them side by side in the field before reintroducing - a week or two?

And if it is not a success would you wait 6 months until the fillies are bigger and less intimidated? Or keep persevering?
    01-20-2010, 12:01 AM
I'd think a week or two is more than enough time for them to sniff and snort at each other. I personally would put them in one at a time and leave them that way. You HAVE to expect them to be uppity with each other for the first couple days. Add the last filly a couple days after the first and LEAVE them together. They'll sort it out. I'd definitely feed in different areas though, throw at least 2 piles of hay. It sounds like the fillies are more than BFF's and the gelding will move them off one pile, they'll go to the second. Don't make them 10 feet apart either or the fillies won't get much...have a good 50 feet between them so it takes effort for him to chase them off it, he'll be less inclined to be a hay hog.

If all the ponies repect the fencing, how'd the fillies get out of it?
    01-20-2010, 12:16 PM
What Kevinshorses said about spreading out feeding areas is good too. When I introduce them I spread out a square bale over a large area. I find most dominant horses are very food oriented and will chase the newbies from pile to pile, but will stop to eat too. There were two cases Where It took me longer to introduce the horses, and they busted the fence. First time I just threw a young horse right in with the herd. The second time I introduced my most dominant horse in with my rescue horse, and a submissive horse that I had put in as a companion as the horse was healing. The submissive horse had been raised with the dominant horse and actually tried to get in between the dominant horse and the rescue. That pissed off the dominant horse more and he ended up chasing the both of them into a corner and busting a fence post. It is good my dominant horse is a shortlegged fatty cause he couldn't quite catch the other guy, and no one got hurt. We did eventually get them all together in both instances. Good luck!

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