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Geldings and turn out

16 August 2011 No Comment

Laura Phelps-Bell has over 25 years experience in the equine industry as a trainer and instructor. Her background includes successfully competing in dressage, on the “A” Open circuit in hunter/jumpers, showing in many western events, management of several large training/boarding facilities and teaching equine management courses at the college level. More about Laura

Question
From: Linda Adolf

I have an 8 yr. old Morgan Gelding who is 900 pounds of pure love with me……..however my neighbor who has a 9 year old Morgan Gelding and I would like to corral them together sometimes and when we have tried to get them together they immediately begin to posture, draw their ears back and nip at each other. I know horses have to establish a pecking order, but we are afraid one of them will get seriously injured. Any suggestions?

Thank you,
Linda Adolf

Answer
Unless these two horses just decide that they really hate one another, there are a few different approaches that you can use to see if they will stable in harmony together. My first bit of advice is to make sure that neither horse is wearing hind shoes. This is a huge safety issue when turning horses out together. I saw a gelding have his forearm fractured by another horse who was his good friend. They were playfully running and a freak kick shattered his leg. A well placed kick with a shod hind hoof can fracture a horses leg very easily. Even if a fracture doesn’t occur, serious injury can be inflicted from the kick from a steel-shod hoof that could cripple a horse for life. Make sure also that the corral that the horses are in together is very large. If the corral is too small, it is very easy for the dominant horse to trap the more passive horse in a corner and start kicking them when they have nowhere to escape to except over the
fence.

Depending on your circumstance, one approach would be to corral the horses next to one another for a few days to let them get used to living in the same proximity with just a fence separating them. They can do their nipping and posturing over the fence for a few days without being able to do anything serious to one another.

After a few days of this arrangement, you can then halter both horses and take them in the same large corral. If you are unable to utilize the first part of my advice of corraling the horses next to one another for a few days, this part of my advice would also apply to introducing them “cold”. Staying far to the side with the horses on their halters and lead ropes, I would have them meet and touch noses and do their squealing and posturing. I say to stay far to the side because they may strike at one another with their front feet and you don’t want to get tagged by a front hoof. After they seem to have settled down on the halters and leads, you can them turn them loose together, still wearing their halters in case you need to catch one or both of them. Have a lunging whip handy and be prepared to run interference in case they get into a major conflict (like a butt-to-butt kick fight). Its usually the first 20-30 minutes that are the critical time of getting to know one another and deciding what their “positions” in their two-horse herd is going to be. Most horses don’t waste any time establishing their “pecking order” and “positions”. I stay very close during this period to break up a nasty fight if it occurs. Usually within that 20-30 minute time frame, most horses will resolve the major issues and you can then remove their halters, but still keep an eye on them for a while longer just in case. For the first couple of times that you feed the horses, make sure once again that you stay close and keep an eye on things. Feed the horses as far apart as you can and not close to any corners or within stalls or shelters where one could get trapped. Kicking and biting can be avoided or at least kept to a minimum if you feed them this way. For a while, the dominant gelding may keep switching food sources just to prove that he can move the other horse when he wants to. However, if the food sources are far enough apart, the dominant horse will soon grow tired of going back and forth and running the other horse off. Make it too much work for the dominant horse to play that game. Make sure that you also feed both horses away from the water source so that the dominant gelding can’t “guard” the water and not let the other horse drink.

By having a structured plan-of-action, most horses can be introduced into a peaceful living arrangement. From time-to-time, there may be two horses who just are never going to get along, but it sounds like these two geldings will have your sweet-natured gelding as the passive horse in this twosome with the other gelding as “top horse”. Once horses know their position in their herd, they will usually relax and get along fine.

Good Luck Linda!
Laura Phelps-Bell

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