We didn’t just chuck them all out together of course, but it is still nerve-racking when keeping horses separately has become so naturalized over the years - despite it being so much more natural for them to live together.
Horses are extremely tactile creatures. They are always together, playing, bumping each other, quietly driving each other around the paddock and gaining confidence from each other. I just love watching the dynamics of my small herd of performance horses as they move around the paddock.
So, how do we go about chucking them in the paddock together for the first time? Firstly, we try to introduce new horses only when they have no rear shoes on. For us, this usually means in the summer time when our horses are only shod in front (if at all). It just reduces the chance of kicking injuries by a little. We make sure the horses have met over the fence, and we introduce them to paddock time with each horse in the herd at once, or small groups depending on the dynamics. Its pretty easy really, but if your horses have been isolated for a long time, or sadly from birth or a young age, there may be some hair-raising moments!
While it does mean I occasionally turn up at international competitions with bite marks on my horses, I feel they are happier, healthier and stronger than ever before – it is one small way I can help keep the horse in a sustainable manner. The horse has 55 million years of evolution and in every part of that he lived as part of a herd. It's little wonder that we've found our horses seem more content and more resilient to other stress when they become part of a group.