Answering Common Questions About Getting a New Horse

What You Need to Know About Getting a New Horse

Over the years, I’ve determined that most horse knowledge comes from experience. When it’s time to get your first horse, chances are you’ll have many questions! I went on Google and found people’s most common questions about owning a new horse. In this article, I will provide answers to help prepare you for your first horse.

What are the most common questions about getting a new horse? According to Google, the most common questions surrounding getting a new horse includes:

  • What to do when my new horse arrives?
  • Why is my new horse nervous?
  • Why doesn’t my new horse like me?
  • How long will it take to bond with my new horse?

Researching and preparing for your new horse can help build confidence when they finally arrive home. Keep reading for an in-depth explanation of each of the questions listed above!

What to Do When My New Horse Arrives?

In your excitement, you may want to show your new horse around the property or even try to ride. You finally have a horse of your own! All that said, you’ll want to refrain from doing these things when your horse first arrives.

Quarantine Your New Horse

When your new horse arrives home, the first thing you should do is put it in a stall or paddock isolated from other horses but where it can still see the herd. Anytime a new horse comes on the property, it’s wise to quarantine them for at least 48 hours. Even if you know where the horse is coming from and that the horse is healthy, travel and moving to a new home can be stressful for a horse. It can negatively affect the immune system and cause the horse to become ill.

Keep a close eye on your new horse for the first 48 hours. Some signs your horse may not feel good include not eating or drinking, developing runny eyes and noses, and coughing. If you notice these behaviors, you’ll want to call and talk to a vet. Any sign of illness should extend the quarantine until the vet says otherwise.

Introduce Your New Horse to the Herd at a Distance

Quarantining your horse for the first 48 hours is also a good way to introduce your horse to the herd at a distance. Horses are herd animals and can become stressed when they can’t visibly see another horse. Putting a new horse into an already established herd can also be very overwhelming for a horse. Allowing your new horse to see the other horses at a distance for a few days before introducing them can make the process a little easier.

To learn more tips and tricks for introducing your new horse to the herd, visit my article Introducing Horses To a New Herd: Tips For Success.

Why is My New Horse Nervous?

It can be upsetting when you go to try a horse, and the horse is calm and relaxed your whole test ride. You decide to buy the horse. It comes home, and after a few days, you’re wondering why it’s still so nervous. This wasn’t the horse you wanted! You wanted the calm horse you tried out! Don’t worry; this behavior is completely normal! It all comes down to understanding horse behavior.

Horses Do Not Like Change

As prey animals, horses are designed to constantly be looking for danger. When put in new environments where they don’t know what to expect, their instincts can quickly become overloaded. An otherwise calm horse may turn anxious and fearful.

Many physical changes affect your horse when they move to a new home. A new herd means interacting with new horses, and horses usually have a rough initiation process when welcoming a new horse to the herd. There are also feed changes and routine changes. The stress of the move, along with these physical changes, can cause many horses to develop stomach ulcers. If your new horse remains nervous for months, consult a veterinarian.

Your New Horse Needs to Settle In

The most important thing is to give your horse time to settle in. Don’t be in a rush to start riding or working with them; they need time to understand their new herd and learn their new routine. After a few weeks to a month, you should notice them settling back to their normal selves.

What You Should Do To Help Your New Horse Feel More Comfortable

In the meantime, there are specific things you can do to help your horse feel more comfortable. When your new horse arrives, you should already have a daily routine planned out. Starting out, try and feed your horse at the same time every day. If they are in a stall and get turned out, make sure you do that at the same time every day. Routines help your horse know what to expect, which can help them feel safer.

Slowly introduce your horse to the new herd if you haven’t already. Start by putting your horse in a neighboring paddock where the horses can interact over the fence. After a few days, put one well-mannered horse from the herd out with your horse. Let these two become buddies over the next few days. Next, turn these two horses out with the herd. If you follow these steps, there shouldn’t be too much drama.

Lastly, before bringing your new horse home, ask the previous owner what they feed the horse. Try and keep the horse on the same diet initially. If you want to change the diet, do so gradually.

Why Doesn’t My New Horse Like Me?

People often mistake their horse running away from them in the field or not wanting to be petted as a sign that the horse doesn’t like them. The truth is that the horse doesn’t trust them and hasn’t developed a good relationship with them. The good news is that most horses will learn to “like” you if you put in the time and effort.

Your New Horse Feels Safer With Their Herd

If your new horse is constantly wanting to go back to the other horses, don’t take it personally. As prey animals, horses feel safest with their own kind. In a new environment, horses will cling to each other for safety and security. If your horse behaves like this, at least you can find solace in knowing where to start. You need to offer and provide something to your horse that makes it worthwhile for them to leave the herd.

I have a little trick I use to help the horse become comfortable leaving the herd and following me. Food is a great motivator for any animal, including horses! By removing the horse from the herd to feed them, you can quickly solve your horse’s behavior. Stick to a routine, so your horse knows what to expect. Initially, take your horse out of the pasture and feed them on the other side of the fence. They can still see the other horses while eating their food. Gradually increase the distance until your horse eats where they can’t see the other horses.

Your New Horse Needs Groundwork

It is not natural for a horse to get to know you from the saddle. The only way you’ll be able to develop a meaningful relationship with your horse is by interacting with them on the ground. This allows your horse to get to know you face-to-face and learn how you communicate, and it also helps you learn how they communicate.

Groundwork is known as the foundation of horse training. If you can work effectively with your horse on the ground, it will translate to in the saddle. I have an online course that gives you simple groundwork exercises to do with your horse to develop trust. The exercises I show you in the course are ones I have used with my personal horses. To learn more about the course, click here.

You Lack Confidence When Working With Your New Horse

There’s a saying that “horses are the mirrors of your soul.” As prey animals, horses easily pick up on what you’re feeling. In a herd, if one horse feels anxious, they soon all become that way. It’s a defense mechanism, alerting all the horses to be on edge and watch for predators.

If you’re constantly anxious, you probably make your horse feel that way too. Your horse may negatively associate you with bad vibes. Gaining control of your emotions and being confident when working with your horse can make it more appealing for your horse to be around you. In my online course about developing trust with your horse, I also share easy exercises you can do to help you become aware of how your emotions impact your horse. You can learn more here.

How Long Will It Take to Bond With My New Horse?

You should constantly be trying to improve the bond with your horse, even if you’ve had them for 10 years! That being said, there is the initial connection you have to make with your horse for them to understand that they can trust you.

One Session of Groundwork Can Make a World of Difference

It’s important to know that you won’t be 100% there overnight. Building trust takes time, repetition, and consistency. However, just one session can go a long way in establishing a relationship. Think of this groundwork session as an introduction for the both of you; you’re shaking hands and getting to know each other. I recommend having an experienced horse person with you who can give you pointers and step in if necessary.

A Bond With Your Horse is Built on Consistency

Horses need consistency. It helps them know what to expect and shows them there is no danger in the process. If you’re willing to consistently work with your horse for a few sessions a day for 10 minutes each, you’ll make much more progress than working with them for a few hours a day, one day a week.

Apart from your schedule, consistency can also be applied to your emotions. Being consistent with how you approach situations and respond to your horse’s reactions can play a big part in them learning to trust you. When working with horses, you never want to react, as reacting is usually steered by your emotions. Think of it more as responding rather than reacting. Responding considers the situation, the environment, and the motive behind it.

I hope this article will be helpful to you and your new horse! For more advice about owning your first horse, visit my article 50 Tips for New Horse Owners: Everything You Need to Know.

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Carmella Abel, Pro Horse Trainer

Hi! I’m Carmella

My husband and I started Equine Helper to share what we’ve learned about owning and caring for horses. I’ve spent my whole life around horses, and I currently own a POA named Tucker. You can learn more here.

Thank you for reading, and happy trails!

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