I’m always watchful when I put a new combination of ponies together, whether on dry lot or pasture. Normally things go fine, but occasionally I’ve ended up with injuries to treat, which of course makes me ever more watchful. One recent new combination has surprised me by how long it’s taking to reach a point of stability. And so far the trend toward a stable herd isn’t going where I thought it would.
I put a young mare in with two older ponies she’d never met before. I try to always do the initial introduction at meal time so the focus isn’t immediately on establishing a pecking order. The young mare has been at or near the bottom of her herd for most of her life, and I fully expected that’s where she’d end up with these two new ponies, especially since her older half-sister when with these ponies occupied the bottom rung. Instead, this young mare so far is in the middle, but there are still enough tails being flipped at meal times and occasionally heels being kicked up to tell me things aren’t stable.
I was interested, then, when I read more about the research on housing stallions together. The researchers found that it took a full two months in one case and three months in another for the social network of the herd to settle into a stable structure. (1) I’ve never had a pony herd take that long before, but now I’m wondering if my newest combination might take as long as those stallion herds did to settle to stability.
Last night I returned home in the midst of a very intense lightning and rain storm. It was one of the few times I remember having to delay feeding because of lightning. I was heartened, though, when I drove past the paddock with my newest combination in it to see all three ponies together in the shed out of the weather. Perhaps stability will come to that herd sooner rather than later.
- Barakat, Christine and Mick McCluskey. “Can stallions get along better than we think?”, Equus, Volume 431, August 2013, p. 10.
© Jenifer Morrissey, 2013