How To Choose a New Horse That Will Get Along with Others

We are so lucky here at LTYH, because we get the best reader questions! And I know that if 1 person is asking, there’s at least 30 more wondering the same thing. We use initials to protect identity in cyberspace, but our readers are also happy to share, so others can learn from their journey:

“Your experience, website and videos are amazing. I discovered a lot of answers and the reasons for my everyday acts, that I just do because I feel it’s right. So thank you!

My next step is to find a field with a house so I can welcome other horses to create a herd, and find some friends for mine after his surgery (he’s still a stallion) and your videos about introducing a new one into the herd are fascinating and so peaceful that I’m watching all the episodes again and again.

Do you have any advice on how to choose a new horse, so they can enjoy the company of each other? I’m guessing that every horse isn’t friends with everyone…

My horse is 13 years old and I’ll do the surgery in a couple of months (he’s really nice and easy going but he also has stallion instincts).

Thanks again for your inspiration, Your vision and the great work you’re doing! I wish you all the best and say Hi to everyone in the field for me! – V.S.”

Montaro as a stallion meeting Zorra for the first time

Thanks so much for reaching out and how wonderful that your intuition guided you to such a wonderful relationship with your stallion.

I must ask though, having been through it 4 times, are you SURE castration is right for your stallion? Have you asked him if that’s what he wants? And have you considered the option of having a herd of stallions?

I ask because I LOVE stallions SO MUCH and if I could have kept Montaro a stallion I would have for SURE. Have you seen this woman on Instagram? She’s had a herd of stallions for years and lets them run free for a few hours a day (unfenced) in the area she lives – they are so responsive and enlivened! She’s recently begun gelding them though – perhaps because she’s moving from Spain to the UK – but, her experience shows that stallions can live together very easily.

This other woman also runs several herds of stallions on her property. She has a few videos on her YouTube channel where you can see the horses interacting and also get a sense of how much space she has for them.

Anyway, I’m just throwing it out there to see how you feel. Because bachelor herds are common among wild horses and indeed, most stallions never get to breed, and live out their lives in bachelor herds.

However, the key element that makes a bachelor herd work, is to not have any mares nearby. This way the competitive nature and hormones are not stimulated and the lads can safely remain friends. If they can see, smell, or hear the mares, things can get difficult and your fences will likely not hold. Montaro went through a solid wood fence with a line of hotwire on the top. My neighbour tried to keep a stallion with mares nearby and even with an 8-foot wood fence and 2 lines of hotwire, he went through it. So that’s something to keep in mind.

As for how I choose a horse (or a dog!) – it is an entirely spiritual/energetic thing for me. I ask the divine/universe to give me signs, dreams, etc to either lead me or confirm my thought/desire. I learned very early on – with my first horse at age 8 – not to choose a horse based on looks, color, etc. When my Dad finally agreed to get me a horse (with none of us knowing anything about horses) I chose a large bay gelding named Gent based on looks alone.

Well, let me tell you, Gent was a horse that even today would be a ‘project horse’. I don’t know his history, but I suspect it contained just enough abuse and neglect to make him mean and angry – and not quite enough to make him shut down, or get himself slaughtered. He was a disaster for me, and we soon sold him to a very experienced horse person.

Wisely, I decided to let my Mum choose my next horse – and she chose entirely by feel and intuition. She chose a rather ordinary-looking Morgan/Arab mare who was pregnant. And while I was trying to decide between names like Starshine and Moonlight, my Mum said, “She’s a real Dobbin!” And much to my chagrin, the name stuck and everyone called her Dobbin from that day forward. She was my teacher, my spiritual guide, and my angel in horse-form. From that day forward I never chose an animal companion based on looks. But I must say, my painter-self has sure been happy when they’ve turned out to be gorgeous!

Dobbin and me

I find it’s also really helpful to ask the horse, “Are you meant to be with me?” When I did this with Audelina, I walked about 10 feet away from her and held out my hand as I asked – I wanted her to show me physically what SHE wanted. She looked at me, looked at her mom, looked around, looked at her mom (remember to allow for horse time!), and then walked over to me and gently touched my hand with her lips.

Aude choosing me, with her mum in the background

Lastly, I also have an arrangement with the seller that if my herd won’t accept the horse, that I can return him/her (I pay all transportation fees). Any seller truly concerned with the welfare of the horse will accept this condition, as they want them to be happy too.

I put any new horse(s) across the fence from each other and only let them in together when they are showing affection over the fence. That way no one gets injured and they can work out the relationship safely first. With all 11 of my horses, I knew within a few days, or less, that they were meant to be together.

At the property I boarded at 5 years ago, I only had the original four there, when the landowner bought a rescue horse and had her trailered overnight. This little Arab beauty arrived and I put her in one of the fields next to the big field where my herd were. I watched for 3 weeks solid and my herd never accepted her. I could put Montaro or Jax in alone with her (she was quite flirty with them), but Zorra would have nothing to do with her and Aude would not even tolerate her putting her head over the fence! Sometimes, even Jax or Montaro would run her away from the fenceline. My herd made it crystal clear they would not accept this horse into their herd.

Which turned out to be the best thing, and all part of the greater plan, of course. It prompted me to move my herd to the much larger property we’re on now and the landowner bought a 2nd rescue horse to keep the Arab mare company and they got on brilliantly from the moment they met.

Does anyone else have any stories to share about bringing horses together that worked out well… or didn’t?

How To Choose a New Horse That Will Get Along with Others

8 thoughts on “How To Choose a New Horse That Will Get Along with Others

  • August 25, 2019 at 7:35 am
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    My arabian stallion is the babysitter for my entire community. At weaning time you’ll find him happily providing adult companionship to everyone’s foals which prevents the usual fear and insecurity they go through when first weaned. Although the stallion is quite friendly with most horses when he’s out he is very territorial and kept surrounded with mares and very young horses only when he’s in his pasture or paddock depending on the season. He will drive even geldings he gets along with quite well otherwise back from his fence and away from his territory. Other stallions tend to challenge him and he won’t forget. That horse becomes a target. Obviously he gets on wonderfully with mares since he genuinely enjoys their company rather than only wanting to breed although he does like that part.

    here it is:

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    • August 26, 2019 at 11:08 am
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      The intensity/strength of their hormones is amazing. I’ve also seen quite a difference between a stallion who’s bred a mare (or few) and one who hasn’t. Are you planning to keep yours a stallion his whole life, or geld him in his older years? I read a book by an Arabian breeder and she wrote that as her studs aged, she retired them to large pastures on their own as they never felt ‘safe’ with other stallions or geldings – it was too stressful for them to always be on guard. It’s a whole different world, and not many people know about it, or write/talk about it.

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  • August 25, 2019 at 8:35 pm
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    Thanks for posting this Jini! I did a quick once thru and I will read it later, and reply, but I wanted to mention to the link you gave about the “Mother of Stallions” in Spain…. She ended up having to castrate 3 of the boys, due to too much and serious fighting with big gashes and injuries. I don’t know if she’s going to castrate the last one (as far as I read, no), but she IS going to change her Instagram name now… 🙂
    I’ll reply to the rest later!

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    • August 26, 2019 at 11:03 am
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      I did not know that! Although it would be interesting to know what she qualifies as ‘big gashes and injuries’. Juno and Cobra are always covered with torn flesh marks and every so often one of the lads is limping etc – just a natural consequence of wrestling. They’re never bothered and heal quickly. It’s like, what’s normal for a rugby player is shocking to many, but no big thang for those in the game. I would think stallions have a different comfort level with injuries due to scrapping. I wonder what the difference is between her set-up, land, etc and the other woman who’s kept several stallion herds for years now…?

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  • August 26, 2019 at 9:30 pm
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    Wow, I did not know most stallions never get to breed in the wild! I just assumed EVERYONE gets to get it on! Is that true? I mean, I know there are bachelor bands, but I thought they are temporary until the mustangs are old enough and experienced enough. Then again, it’s always one stallion and several mares….

    And the other thing I did not know is what you mentioned from the Arabian breeder who let their studs retire on their own…I had no idea but it does make sense that you’d have to be on guard and you just get used to that.

    I discovered the other woman who only has stallions. Ha! I thought there must be only one. As far as I read (from the one in Spain who is NOT moving to the UK btw) the injuries were severe and required medical care and the horses seemed stressed. I think it makes sense once they start fighting, it’s hard to stop.

    I worked with a woman this year who hired me (as a coach/energy person) to find out why her two little dogs (both males) started fighting with each other… they used to love each other and then as they (litter mates) became 1.5 yr old, one would pick so much on the other. They now had to be living in separate areas of the house…Owner was devastated, she had already talked to her holistic vet who had recommended no castration, and was told now that THAT could be the issue. She had also gone to the dog behaviorist who sent her to me. We had several sessions, and of course I “picked” on her, not the dogs (I don’t think that was her intention, but she rolled with it 🙂 ) and I could totally see the dogs would be fine once neutered. And eventually she had it done and within a couple of months, the dogs were best friends again. But we do live in contrived and manipulated environments, and so do the animals we share our lives with…

    I love this subject because I started with two mustangs (mother/son) and even though they love each other and are totally bonded, they were not at all a good match…. and that’s how I came to my herd of 4.

    I will say that I use intuition and feelings in choosing, not much analytical in how I chose/choose. But often it’s an unconscious choosing, like when I found Leilani (see story below). In fact, I picked Dakota and Denali out of a photo of 9 who had arrived from South Dakota, and I said, “Oh, I’ll take the palominos”…… I had already “received” the names (we had to adopt in pairs, and I knew I was going to adopt 2) but then I flipped them (Dakota was going to be the female, but then I checked in and it was the other way round, which by the way, works great because, what do you know, Dakota means friend and he the friendliest horse!).

    Dakota was 2.5-3 y/o and mom Denali was 16 (now about 18.5, but who knows really). She wanted peace and quiet, he wanted to run. She was introverted and at first super distrustful of everyone, he was a ham, saying hi to everybody from day 2. She wanted to be still, he wanted to play, jump on her (he still does!). So even before we moved to our land, I knew there needed to be more.

    Leilani came out of the blue, an immediate and instant decision to save this emaciated buckskin QH from a kill pen in Louisiana on a Jan night. I was on the computer 4 hrs from start to finish, and by 10 pm she was set to be picked up the next day and….well, she arrived after quarantine. I had not much interested in domesticated horses, and I happened to go to that site because someone I was following on FB was also picking up a mare that day…. well, it all worked out. It was not well received from my husband who was informed another horse was coming… Ooppss.

    Leilani and Denali were a total match from day 1, even among 10-12 other mares (in the boarding facility mares and geldings were separate), when they met, there was never a kick or anything to resemble animosity. To her credit, Leilani worked the mare crew really well and kept to the sidelines for about 10 days. Pretty soon they forgot she was there.
    Now Denali and Leilani are together all the time. I will say Leilani is a little bit too much of a shadow to Denali, but that’s another story.

    When we moved WA from OR last summer, we stayed in a boarding facility for a short time, then moved the horses to a beautiful home of friends, and the 3 of them were together. And OMG, Leilani LOVED Dakota. Just adored him. The three of them were like 3 peas in a pod. Honestly, even I was surprised. There was no fighting, they ate out of the same tub together like they were the 3 twins….Dakota was pretty happy with himself. 🙂 But Leilani did not want to play, and she made it VERY clear to Dakota (kicking, biting, ninja moves along with some screaming….I was there! Only happened once, Dakota got the message.). Soooo….now Dakota needed a friend!

    I surrendered to what was/ what needed to happen, while I engaged my husband in the process so he would be part of the adventure, and allowed myself to look. Mostly online. I surrendered to the fact that maybe we would not be able to find a mustang “for Dakota”, or not find one for months. I would have loved to bring in an older mustang from the BLM who will not get adopted and live his life out in holding, but I did not think it would be a good match for me, my horses, and my limited mustang experience, and our space limitations. So I did have that thought, and I had made that decision in advance. So you could say there was some pragmatic decision in the mix.

    When I found the young BLM mustang Rayo at a TIP trainer in AZ, I fell in love with him immediately and both my husband and I were able to connect with him very easily and both of us got very similar responses from him. 🙂 But of course we had no idea if Dakota and the gang would like him. We did adopt him and it has worked out. But Rayo has definitely brought fire to the mix. While Dakota subjugates to the mares (except when he wants to tease mom), Rayo has been for pretty much the beginning, now with us for 9 months, wanting to be top dog, and he gets a lot of resistance from Leilani. So adding Rayo to the mix and moving to our (much) smaller land, has given them some frustrations. But overall, they are forming a super tight bond, and the skirmishes are mostly Leilani wanting to have Denali to herself, or something about food. Now she’s in heat, so the boys are her friends!

    I do think that the more horses, the more challenges, because of all the different personalities, unless you have 100-500 acres and the horses can roam. Space gives everyone a chance to get away. On the other hand, I see how the (temporary) limited space we have here has forced our herd to bond. Also, with 4, you kind of have to make them your friend. So you don’t have to be alone. That’s what a horse would think, wouldn’t she? 😉

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    • August 27, 2019 at 8:46 pm
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      Oh I love your story of how they all came to be and then the integration of each of them. In a way, your comment about the lack of space mirrors my own situation – which I was really concerned about until Montaro said to me, “It’s going to be REALLY tough, but if we had enough space we would not integrate the way we need to. It’s going to be difficult, but it needs to happen.” He sent me pictures, that if they had more space, they would just stay separate, peaceable, but separate. And sure enough, after a horrible winter of sometimes continual injuries (sprains, limping, etc), they were fully integrated and intermingled all the time.

      I’ve created more sheltered space and gravel pathways (lunging through the deep mud was the cause of many sprains) for them this winter so hopefully all can remain peaceful. And I’m sure you’ll be fencing more as soon as you’re able. Kesia only has about 35 of her 500 acres fenced. Because, once the cows arrived, the type/cost of fencing escalated.

      And yes, the dog story… I just got Kumba castrated (3 years old) for similar reasons. The animals are really shifting my opinion on “natural is best” WHEN we have them living in unnatural, domestic situations. Because that changes everything. And sometimes what we thought was natural and free turns out to be the thing *keeping* them from freedom – the thing that keeps their life smaller than it needs to be.

      Speaking of which… I went looking for hard data on the bachelor herd thing and not much info available, but I did find this study:

      https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1060766

      So total herd of wild mustangs was 270
      135 stallions
      44 of those stallions had a harem of mares (so were breeding)
      the other 91 lived in bachelor herds (no breeding)
      So yeah, about 68% of stallions in the wild, don’t get to breed.

      I also found this cool vid from ethologist Lucy Rees on how the herd stallion decides his daughters need to leave (so he doesn’t breed them):

      https://www.epona.tv/time-to-go

      But there’s certainly LARGE gaps of knowledge when it comes to stallions, both wild and domestic and the knowledge we do have is rather patchy.

      It would be REALLY great if someone like the MOS on Insta could write a book, or even detailed blog post about the data and logistics of her situation. It doesn’t do much good to make statements or draw conclusions about behaviour without listing all the parameters: how many acres per horse? restricted forage or 24/7 forage/slowfeeders? Family herd or random stallions? Stall time? When human arrives, what happens? etc etc As ALL of these factors will greatly influence aggression. It’s frustrating that there is so little data. I wish I could have given my lads the option – or at least known what options existed. Deep breath. Letting it go. Obviously it was not meant to be, or the neighbour would not have had SEVEN mares across the fence! And I would have had my own land, and sufficient land to experiment.

      My hope is by writing about these wildies and videoing them, that more people will feel comfortable with having a BLM mustang or two – as you pointed out, their situation is just tragic and there’s SO MANY waiting for homes… about 55,000 was the last figure I saw.

      Reply
  • August 29, 2019 at 3:04 pm
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    Thanks for your reply Jini, and I do love what you said about a similar situation with Montaro saying “It’ll be hard” (to be so close with little space). Of course our integration of 4 is nothing compared to 11, I am well aware. I could have gone a little crazy, I am sure you did….

    I am curious to see how it’s going to go for you/them this winter too! It’s tough with the rain.

    I’ll take a look at your links soon.But in looking at what you gathered, I can see how few stallions actually do breed. It’s pretty shocking. I wonder how that relates to other species? Like zebras, donkeys, and others across the planet. Don’t know why I never thought that!

    In reading your last comments about the details re the stallions, I had to laugh. I could just see the Jini with her hands up in the air saying: “Where is the DATA??” her hair all fluffed up Aude-style, and her mad eyes darting about! Ha! You should have been a journalist, a historian! You are so right though, the data is so important. Alas, we don’t have as much.

    And yes, those BLM mustangs, oh my, what a shift in consciousness is needed for them to have better lives. I love to be positive, but the situation is so dire, and so many lives are at stake or are just living miserably. I know it’s going to change, just not soon enough, is it? <3

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  • September 2, 2019 at 7:35 am
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    Great conversation!
    I think we really need to consider your one statement about all the variables! This is what is so important in all these situations…. that each of us live in different climates and have different weather ….different schedules …different personalities… different feeding practices..different ages and sex of horses….different relationships and what we do with our horses?…it all just has such a huge influence on each individual situation! Also as Jini said if coming from a previous human always having the option to return after a trial period if things just don’t work out!

    I came to horses just over 10 years ago …even though it has felt like 10 lifetimes …with the knowledge and emotional journey I have taken…thus far! I have permanently introduced 5 horses into existing herd/horse dynamic over this span and have done things very right and very wrong! Also so far it has been all geldings! The first was Banner he was my neighbors horse (where we use to live) and lived a very traditional stalled life…when one of our first rescues died of internal pigeon fever it left Big Acea very lonely and my neighbors at the time were moving and selling all there horses! Banner and Big Acea were an instant duo…and acted like they had known each other for many lifetimes! Then we found Bullet in a bad situation on a ranch with 100s of horses and not the best conditions! He looked into my soul and he must of seen something in me and he said please get me out of here…we did! He came into our lives when we were only living on one acre and space was not on our side! Banner and Big Acea were very hard on him and one night when he was locked in a stall..(I thought for his safety😰) there was some kicking that happened and Bullet skinned his back leg pretty badly! But shortly after they did work it our and things were quite peaceful from then on! Dreamer came after Big Acea died and he had 12 acres to get away and since Banner is lame and Bullet doesn’t really challenge anyone it was easy to just let them work it out because space was on our side..and Dreamer would just run and run and didn’t have to engage if he felt threatened! It took about a month until all was peaceful and Dreamer hung out with the neighbors two mini mare horses across the fence to have company until Banner let him join the herd! About one year later Dreamer took over as top dog horse and Banner had a pretty badly skinned back leg😔. I was a bit shocked but at the same time not…as Banner is so lame and I was surprised he had been able to hold off Dreamers intentions to be leader for so long.
    Banner at the time actually seemed a bit relieved to not have to be the one…they still argue a bit here and there but no one gets hurt! The latest integration was Buck and it was kind of decided/done for me… the neighbors brought him home last year..(after one of the mini mares died and the other was given away) and as I said we share a fence! At first there was a lot of squealing with him and especially Dreamer but the fence line covers many acres so no one had to stay stuck to the fence! It did get a bit overly rambunctious a few times but no one got hurt! After a few months of this …& Buck always longingly staring over at all of us…I noticed one day….Buck had some really bad skin issues going on around his hooves and pasterns! My neighbors are not very horsey and although Buck had tons of space/food he did not get eyes on him very often and definitely not thoroughly! So I informed my neighbor…then brought him over and he was a perfect patient…totally sending me Thankyou vibes for Dr him up! Then he would again look longingly out at the other boys and ask me if he could please go play and please stay and live with us! I told him no …but that I would keep making sure he was healing as his skin issues were quite severe!
    I brought him over a few more times to tend to his skin…and was falling for him hard! He’s a big pile of gentle giant goo and he was sinking deep into my soul! So after him giving me the big doe eyes over and over and basically pleading with me through his telepathic communication…I could hear him so clearly……& of course I always love that…I finally gave in and told him he and Dreamer could run to there hearts content and play hard…but no one was to get really hurt! He agreed and I opened the gate and he was off! He held true to his promise and he and Dreamer ran hard and played hard but neither one got hurt! Banner and Bullet joined in a bit but mostly left the high octane stuff to Buck and Dreamer! We also had a fifth horse at the time but he and I did not work out so I returned him to his original human! Buck has fit in perfectly but all the horses had a few months of good neighbor fence time and it helped make the actual introduction pretty seamless! The neighbors decided a month later that we could permanently keep Buck on our side of the fence and that he would be a part of our family/herd…we could also use there back 5-6 acres so it took us from 12 to probably 18 acres…..which of course is awesome! There is a gate to the neighbors..right in there main area so it has created a lot more movement and I am so grateful for Buck and his youthful exuberance! I still think one or two more horses are in our future…but my husband and I just turned 50…so I try to keep that in mind in relation to the horses and how long they live! I want to hopefully out live them all so they don’t end up in bad situations!
    You just never know how horses will find you or you will find them! I truly believe space is one of the biggest assets to have with horse integration so that movement is possible and also plays a role in mental health for all! ✌🏼❤️🐴

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