Adding a new member to an existing herd can be risky. When bringing a new horse home there are several things to look at and consider. First, where is the horse coming from? This question is the first crucial question as you want to evaluate risk of disease. There is always a risk when bringing a new horse home. Does the horse have all of its shots? Was it around horses that were potential carriers of anything? How do you know it’s safe? When getting a new horse it’s highly advisable to have the horse in quarantine, away from all your other animals (not just horses) for 30 to 60 days. This will allow any diseases that may not be showing symptoms at the time of purchase to come to blossom. It helps keep the rest of your herd safe, healthy, and your vet bill down. Auctions and feedlots are great examples of places that should absolutely have animals quarantined before interacting with established stock. Private homes where horses don’t go many places and are current on all vaccinations are less of a threat.
Once the new addition has passed the health check phase you can proceed with introducing horses. I don’t keep my horses stalled together (exception: the mini stallions) as I don’t have a stall big enough. If I could, however, I would. I do try to have co-turnout for my horses though. Horse-horse interaction is a vital requirement for the healthy mentality of a horse. As any horse obsessed person knows: horses are herd animals. They’re social. Beyond the company of another horse co-existing in the same yard they need physical contact with the other horse. Like humans, not every horse will get along with every other horse. Some do: some get along with any horse you introduce them to, others are not okay with any horse they’re introduced to, and the rest fall somewhere in the spectrum between the two extremes.
It’s best to go slow, wade into the water, than to just dive in head first. Horses are not small animals. Their hooves can do real damage to each other. I like to know my horse’s personality first: where would they sit in a herd? Is your horse submissive (do they give in easily during training)? Are they more dominant (constantly challenging you, pushing into you, or not moving)? Are they somewhere in between or a combination thereof?
Before turning two horses out together I like to, ideally, have them share a fence line. With sharing a fence the horses can be evaluated for how they interact (to a degree) but still have safety to prevent any terrible fights. They longer they share a fence line, the better.
With Kahlua and Juno I didn’t have the luxury of shared fence line due to the way stalls are set up and occupied. I’ve had Juno for almost a year and in that time I’ve come to know her goofy personality pretty well. She’s kind of… Head in the clouds. She’s extremely smart but book smart. Common sense she is just so…blonde. Every horse (and human) is her new best friend (according to her). She doesn’t understand personal space and comes on very strong. Thankfully Juno is submissive so in the end I’m never worried about her. Even though I haven’t had Kahlua that long I have the luxury of knowing her second hand through her former/first owner/mom. She’s easy going, not necessarily submissive but not the aggressor. More of a stand up for herself kind of mare. She gets along with nearly any horse, provided they’re not aggressive. It sounded like a good match so… I tried it.
It worked wonderfully.
The mares did amazing together. As of now I’ve turned the girls out together several times and they’re nearly best friends. Kahlua gets a little touchy when food is involved (such as right before I bring her in from turnout for breakfast). Though I can leave the girls alone while I do chores and not worry about them. They pal around the arena together with calm interactions. I know they’re on the path to being inseparable.
While the girls were getting along so famous I decided to take things one step further: turn Flint out with them. Flint and Juno get along so well. He’s a fairly docile guy but does still think he’s a stallion… I armed myself with a whip and brought him to the arena too. The whip is key: should a fight break out it allows me to intervene without putting myself in harms way.
Well, true to my thoughts Flint tried to be big bad stallion. While he didn’t come over to Kahlua guns blazing with aggression he did act like a teenage boy in love. Kahlua was quick to put him in his place with a few warning kicks. Flint was just a quick to back off and simply pal around with Juno. There were a few moments where it looked like Kahlua was almost trying to get between Juno and Flint and “protect” Juno from Flint. Another reason I think they’re on their way to being such good friends.
Horses are social animals and need interactions but as important as interactions are for horses safety is equally important.