Transitioning Harley to our home barn?!?
Finally, our stalls are finished. There is an area of the pasture that is done, and electrified. I've been looking forward to this for so long.
Harley is still at the neighbors, and will stay there another week or two, but I've been hand-grazing him at the boarding barn for 10-15, then 30 and 45 minutes over the last two weeks. Tonight, I rode him over to our place and let him eat in our own pasture for an hour. The area he was in is about 1.5 acres, maybe 2. I rode him in the pasture, took off his saddle and bridle, put on his halter and let him go. He promptly put his head down and started chomping on the lush green grass.
That went on for about 30 minutes. My daughter and I watched him for a while, but then went about doing a few chores in the backyard where we could still keep an eye on him. Every once in a while, he would look for us. I think he may have lost sight of us for a minute because I turned around and he was gone. He'd run to the other end of the pasture. I talked to him and he saw me, but started to run full speed from one end of the pasture to the other. He even threw in a few bucks! He never gets to do that because his pasture mates harass him and try to bite him so he kind of stays in his corner. What started as a kind of expression of freedom soon started to look a little panicky, however. Nostrils flared, running at full speed, totally alert, not grazing anymore. It went on for a few minutes and I was glad I made my fences high and had checked that they were all electrified! I walked into the pasture and he ran full speed towards me, but stopped in front of me as I snapped on the lead line. He was clearly in a state of high anxiety, snorting loudly with nostrils flared and head held high. But he seemed to settle a bit with me beside him so I walked him around a bit and he totally settled down, like it was a huge relief not to be alone in that great big pasture. I figured it was going to be a crazy ride back to his boarding stable, but quite the opposite. He was calmer than he's ever been. Like feeling the saddle and bridle and having me on his back was familiar, like he knew what to do and felt secure.
So I guess my question is, should I rethink my idea of transitioning slowly to the new place? I was thinking I'd start letting him graze for an hour, progress to half days, then eventually a full day (but still sleep at the boarding barn), and finally, days and nights at our barn. But is going back and forth only going to make it worse? I ride him over since we live really close. That means he knows which way is home. If he came on a trailer, I think he'd be fooled into thinking he's far from home. We could actually do that - trailer him over and keep him here permanently. But I don't know that we'd be fooling him now that he knows the way.
What may be compounding the problem is that we still don't have a pasture mate for Harley. I've been looking for a second horse (as many of you know), but no luck yet. So he's alone here, at least for now.
What are your thoughts? Make slow, incremental adjustments or rip it off like a bandaid?