I think I will make it a habit of going in with the lunge whip, even if it's just to go in and give him a pat. I was in last week to take measurements for a saddle and since he's so calm, figured I'd just do it in the paddock rather than bring him in and again, a horse charged at him. Next time, I will try to establish a circle of safety around me and try to keep the other horses away. But they can be fairly aggressive, even charging behind us. Today, when one of them appeared to want to do so, I draped the lead rope over Harley's neck and walked a few feet away from him and wagged the lunge rope at the mare who was coming behind us. Harley stood as still as a statue and she moved away so I was able to continue to lead him out without issue. But these horses are not respectful of people.
Also, I'm not sure how the BOs will feel about me getting harsher with the whip, however, since they take a very laid back attitude to it all. Maybe I should just have a conversation with them about it so they know why I am hitting their horses with a whip if it becomes necessary. They are my neighbors and have been wonderful BOs, so I don't want to do anything to damage the relationship.
As far as moving Harley out of that herd, that's not an option. There is no other herd, this is a small private barn with only three horses, Harley being # 4. Oddly, the horse that shows the most aggression is a 30 yr old appy gelding! None of us expected that. The good thing is that the old guy doesn't have enough energy to run very fast so Harley just kind of prances away from him. But the other two now seem to be ganging up on Harley.
sarahfromsc - Good to know Harley's not the only loner! Honestly, he sometimes seems to prefer people to horses. I talked to someone about this recently, and she was saying sometimes it's because horses weren't socialized a lot when they were young. It makes him a highly trainable (and lovable) horse, but I can't help but feel for him when they all go at him like that. We will be moving him to our property next summer and getting a companion/mom horse and I swear, I will find the most placid, accepting, docile horse ever for him! He does seem to do better at one-on-one relationships than herds.
Woodhaven - my daughter is nowhere near these horses. I would NEVER allow her to come into the paddock or pasture as these horses are far too disrespectful. The only thing I allow her to do is close a gate behind me as long as there are no horses nearby. And actually, that's often how I handled it in the past since there are several adjoining paddocks so I could usually isolate Harley and get him out safely, but with winter setting in, that's no longer an option. I feel I need to just let these horses know that they need to stay away from me. They're not aggressive towards me though, they just walk up to me and sniff me, but I'd rather they didn't because I can't have them following me right up to Harley.
Honestly, this sounds like an accident waiting to happen. The fact that you yourself say these horses are not respectful of people makes ME nervous for you! Obviously, whenever you are interacting with horses you need to be cool, composed, and confident without a trace of fear or nervousness, but, the situation is cause for concern. I've noticed the vast majority of horses that are not handled correctly on a regular basis (whether riding or not, if the horses are being handled they need to know their boundaries, and those boundaries be consistent) and are spoiled rotten because their owners refuse to "lay down the law" with them are also accompanied by a sour temperament. If there is even the possibility of the owners being angry for you defending yourself with the lunge whip and taking precautionary measures... let's just say I'm glad to hear you will be moving in the spring! I know how tough the small private barn situation can be. So yes, for now, always carry that lunge whip with you. I like what another poster said about keeping the horses ten feet away, at least. Don't be afraid to be "mean", lead mares are bossy as all get out!
As far as him being more trainable and more meek due to lack of socialization, the opposite was true for my horse. She was extremely aggressive around strange horses (not barn buddies), and the aggression stemmed from complete nervousness and fear as she did not know how to act around them! She was always expecting an attack. This went on for years and my only way to manage it was to keep four eyes on her and always keep her feet busy when we were off barn grounds. Then she spent this past summer in a large herd of mares, and she's a different horse. Same sweet, playful, curious personality, highly smart and trainable, but minus the aggression and nervousness that made her so difficult. Well socialized animals tend to be much healthier mentally. When they are not so well socialized I find myself waiting for the next meltdown or anxiety attack when they are around other animals. This has held true for cats, dogs, horses, etc...