Adopting a new horse? This quick guide will ensure he adjusts to his new environment as smoothly as possible.
Bringing home a new horse is very exciting for all involved. However, just like us humans, horses may experience stress and anxiety during an upheaval from their familiar environment. They may be wary of all the changes – new food, a different shelter, new herd mates, etc. – and it can take time for them to adjust. Follow this quick guide to help your horse adapt to his new home.
1. Before arrival
Before your horse arrives, arrange a vet checkup to ensure that he’s in good health. This will give you peace of mind, and prevent him from bringing home an outbreak of strangles or other contagious diseases that may affect the rest of your herd.
Prepare his space
Your new horse must have a suitable living space to move into. If you already have horses, chances are your farm is well equipped to accommodate another herd member. If that’s the case, just be sure there’s enough space in your paddock and barn. If this is your first horse, make sure you have the following:
- An adequate supply of hay
- A healthy amount of pasture grass
- Clean, fresh water
- A good, strong shelter
- Any feed or supplements that your horse requires
2. Let him settle in
Although it can be tempting for caretakers to ride right away, that simply won’t do! The horse must be given time to settle in to his new surroundings. Quarantining him for a while in his own paddock will help him adjust gradually to his surroundings without pressure, and will allow him to familiarize himself with the whereabouts of his feeding station and water sources.
3. Give him company
After a quarantine period, the horse can be introduced to company (i.e. other horses). Since horses are sociable animals, he should have at least one four-legged friend. If you aren’t ready to get a second horse, consider a goat, pig or miniature donkey to serve as his companion.
4. Introduce dietary changes slowly
If you plan on feeding a new feed or supplement, introduce it slowly to prevent health problems.
Signs to look out for:
Adjustments should be made if the horse is experiencing the following:
- Weight gain or weight loss
- Diarrhea or other digestive issues
- Physical conflict(s) with his other herd mates
- Abnormal stress around feeding time
5. Bond with him
Whether or not you plan to ride your equine companion, it’s important to take the time to acquaint yourself with him right away. Both horse and caretaker must have mutual respect for each other, as this builds the trust and confidence required for a strong relationship to develop. Start by sitting in his presence. Give him space, observe him, and learn his body language. When it feels right, offer him a gentle grooming session. Spend at least a few hours with your horse every day, and watch as your bond begins to grow.
6. Develop a routine
Horses appreciate the safety of routine. Right off the hop, practice consistency when it comes to turnout, feeding time and other daily activities.
Depending on his prior situation, and how well he’s able to adapt, it may take weeks before your horse is fully comfortable in his new home. Expect a few blips at first, and be patient with the process. With time and a little extra care, he’ll settle right in!