How to safely integrate weanling into a farm with no other weanlings

I have purchased a weanling and she will be arriving in the next few weeks. I’ve had horses for almost 2 decades, but have never owned a weanling to myself. Been around them, but never actually owned one or had to plan a herd integration with one.

What is the safest way to integrate this baby into a quiet herd (they’ve been dubbed “The Perfects” because that’s what they are)? My thought was to introduce the baby to one of my retired broodmares to nanny on her own for a few weeks and then do a phased introduction into a 4-5 acre field with multiple shelters and lots of room to escape. The planned herd is comprised of a 19 year old gelding, a 30 year old donkey jenny and mares that are 11, 17, 27 and 29.

Is it safer to just not introduce the weanling until the following year and just give her one of the quiet older mares for company?

How old is the weanling?

In general, you start with the most accepting horse, the most “compassionate”, the kindest and more fair. Your retired broodie is probably perfect, if she’s not bottom of the pecking order and gets pushed around.

Also in general, you put that pair in the main pasture, so it’s established as their territory. Then one by one you introduce the next most fair, accepting horse into that territory, or 1 of her good buddies, until they’re all there.

There’s no physical harm in not introducing the weanling to the rest of the herd until she’s a yearling. But mentally, it would be great for her to have a herd of her own. And from a movement perspective, she’s more likely to get more exercise if she’s got another aunt/uncle to bug once one of them gets tired of her :laughing:

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The weanling was born in April, so will be about 6 months old by the time she arrives, give or take a few days.

The two retired broodmares I have are very much seniors and were lowest in the pecking order in their original field (with three younger, stronger mares who are also retired broodmares). But they will likely be the most dominant in their winter field, especially if they have a foal to protect. In an ideal world, the horses in my planned herd will be kind to the weanling and no one will bully her too bad. In fact, the 11 year old mare might enjoy a playmate - I’ve watched her really harass her donkey friend.

That being said, I have some options to move horses around and create a safe little herd for the weanling. Worst case, the two broodmares, donkey and baby live in the smaller pasture and the rest go to the large one.

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Great advice! :+1:

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I just introduced my 4 month old colt to my herd a couple of weeks ago. I started with a paddock side by side so weanling could meet my 4 ponies over the gate (25 year old, 13, 9 and 2 - all geldings). Then I put my 25 year old in there with him for a bit. Then I introduced my 2 year old, and when that was good and uneventful, I introduced my 9 year old. I left it this way for a few days as my 13 year old is the boss and not a nice one to newbies.

Once the 13 year old stopped rushing the gate, I did introduce him and though he chased the weanling at first, it was not a huge deal and they all settled quickly. I wanted my weanling out with the full herd before winter as the younger ones will play with him and my 25 year old wants nothing to do with that. So far so good. He’s being taught manners from all of them right now (which he needed!!) and not much playing yet. He’s still a bit of an outsider but he’s starting to hang out more with the herd and fitting in which is perfect.

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I have borrowed my friend’s gelding to be a buddy to my weanling colt. I wasn’t sure how they would get along and my friend wasn’t certain either, but the gelding has been perfect.

From the moment he arrived he was friendly with my other horses. When I started putting him and the colt together with supervised turnout they mostly ignored each other. But then they started sharing hay, drinking water, and grazing together so I would say it’s been a success.

Do be careful about bully horses. My friend’s gelding chased her weanlings through a fence. I have not tried turning my colt out with my alpha mare. She wants nothing to do with him and while I don’t think she would be malicious, she certainly makes a lot of threats. I think she wouldn’t do anything with me standing there (she knows that nastiness isn’t allowed) but she might chase him if I wasn’t.

Retired broodmares are the perfect match to introduce her to. I would then trickle in the other horses one by one starting with quiet mares. It’s fine if you’re retired broodmares are not terribly dominant, they just may allow the weanling to get away with more rambunctious behavior. I’ve had the most issues with geldings when introducing youngsters.

That said, what type of fencing do you have? Most common issues are a too dominant horse running the weanling off. Weaklings panic and often will do anything to get away, including running through fencing. If you’re able to do two separate fields with your weanling and retired broodmares until the weanling settles and adapts, that would be great.

We have 4 and 5 strand barbed with a top interior hot wire. The plan next summer is to run a couple extra lines of hot wire in each pen, but we need to run power first because solar chargers are PRICY and don’t have enough juice to do more than a trickle zap.

We technically have four fields - the largest does not share a fence line with any fields and has two shelters. The next one is smaller, doesn’t share fence lines, but we haven’t had a chance to put a shelter in. The other two share a fence line - the smaller one has a shelter, the larger one does not have a shelter yet. We also have two smaller pens, one with barbed wire and page wire and the other is currently out of commission.

Plus a round pen, which is where we’re keeping the weanling for the first couple weeks while we work on bonding and introducing her to her first nanny. The round pen is situated in such a way that every horse on the property will be able to see the newbie.

It might make most sense to put my three dominant mare + the gelding + the younger quarter horse mare in the big field with two shelters and put the weanling with the three docile mares + donkey in a smaller one with one shelter. Probably the safest bet anyway.

How long will she have been weaned prior to coming to you?

I think regardless the round pen is a great idea, especially if she was just weaned. I wouldn’t turn her out to a field until she is totally settled in the round pen with the barbed fencing.

If it were me, considering the fence is barbed, I’d put her in a field alone with your most saintly broodmare starting out. Let them acclimate, then bring in another low ranking broodmare. I’d introduce her to more submissive broodmares than dominant. They will be less likely to guard resources and run her off. Depending on the size of the field, I might leave it at 2 broodmares and the weanling for a while and put the other horses in different fields. Weanlings are wonderful but they really tend to react versus think in situations and they often become quite terrified of a dominant horse running them off. They can become totally panicked by it. If you do add more horses, I would increase your herd one at a time to try to minimize the chance of any accidents. I would maybe think about turning the weanling out with the more dominant horses and the larger herd when you have your other fencing up.

By the time she arrives here, she will have been weaned for at least 2-3 weeks. I’m not sure the exact date she was weaned, but I believe it was last week or the week before. At the breeders, she’s in a pen with a couple other weanlings and an ancient stallion for babysitting purposes.

The smaller fields are still about 1.5 acres in size.

My three most saintly horses are the two retired broodmares and the little Thoroughbred. All are about as docile as can be and their idea of a scuffle is laying ears back at each other from a safe distance sometimes.

I think my best bet will be to move the gelding and younger quarter horse to the big field and not ever try to introduce them to the weanling until next year or something. The weanling and one nanny will go to the round pen for about a week to bond. Then they’ll go into the smaller field that shares a fence line with the paddock where my other broodmare and Thoroughbred are and I’ll stick the donkey in with them too, and they can be introduced that way over the fence. After a couple days of that, I’ll bring my other broodmare into the smaller pen. With any luck, the TB and donkey will also be able to be introduced and I’ll be able to simplify my life by having all the hard keepers in one pen and the baby can have multiple nannies to bother. We’ll just have to play it by ear.

Fingers crossed it all goes as well as I think it will. I think it’ll also help that this weanling is the bravest, most dominant baby in her group. Even at 6 months old, her “mare stare” is really strong. I picked her specifically because she was the bravest of the group and the first to really come investigate us while her friends kind of hung back. So I guess we’ll see if that plays a positive role in introductions.

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Good idea. With the right gelding, it can work out great.

Even though my old gelding was the herd boss, he just loved babies. (His stall was next to foaling stalls in two of our barns). When a new herd member was introduced, baby or not, he would befriend the newcomer while keeping the rest of the herd at a distance. After a few days, after the newcomer was more comfortable, he would let the other horses approach.

ETA: And of course by then, the other horses knew the newcomer was under his protection. :grin: Such a smart old guy. I called him a benevolent dictator.

I have solar chargers for electric fence in a drought-y area and in the dry season I manage this by literally watering all my ground rods every day as if they were plants.

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That’s encouraging. Our gelding is a sweet old gentleman and I’ve watched him rule his little herd benevolently, going so far as to make sure no one stole anyone else’s hay. So who knows… maybe he’ll like babies too. shrugs

Luckily, I work from home so I have a bunch of hours in a day to supervise.

What a great idea, I will totally try this! Thank you!

just got my daughter’s 4 1/2 month old weanling home and out for the first time… this guy is most laid back weanling we have seen. Nothing phases him.

His trip here from North Dakota took him to a major horse show were he became a celebrity being the youngest horse there. when walked about the grounds he was surrounded by well wishers.

He loads into a trailer without a second thought. Hauls wonderfully, the breeder did an excellent job handling and teaching him the basics.

He acts more like a long yearling or two year old

Got here last night, put him in the round pen this morning

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