What to do When your Horse is the Herd Outcast

Negative interactions, including squeals, pinned ears and bite and kick threats, are a necessary and normal aspect of establishing and maintaining social hierarchies, and don’t necessarily mean that horses are not getting along. These “ritualistic behaviours” (i.e. an abbreviated stand in for the actual behaviours that they mimic) tend not to escalate into aggressive encounters. Horses lower in the hierarchy quickly learn to acquiesce in order to avoid unpleasant and costly interactions. Herds work best with horses that have been well socialized as youngsters; unfortunately horse owners rarely have control of their horse’s early socialization experiences. Ensuring that horses have ample space to flee a persecutor, providing opportunities for “pre-meetings” over a stall wall or paddock fence to find compatible combinations, making resources plentiful (i.e. providing more feeding and watering stations than horses, and ideally more than one shelter), and keeping groups stable will all work to optimize herd harmony…

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