Arrow was a stallion when he arrived at SAFE, and while he was kind and gentle, we made plans to get him the snip as soon as possible. We are pro-gelding around here for a number of reasons, but for the sake of this article, I will specify one in particular: friends. Stallions do not make great company for other horses, generally speaking, and in order for Arrow to be integrated into a herd setting, he would have to make the switch from stallion to gelding.
We reassured him, the morning of his surgery, that only good things awaited. Mutual grooming, companionable naps, buddies to run around with, and more! all on the other side of some good drugs and a short procedure. And just like that, Arrow went down a stallion and got up as a gelding.
New geldings need some time to heal and adjust before they can safely make anyone’s acquaintance, so we let our Arrow recuperate for several weeks before making introductions to other members of our herd.
The first would be Artie, who is a perfect first friend. An ex-stallion himself, Artie is an amazing intro horse for our geldings to learn how they will behave with company. Artie adopts a very laissez-faire attitude when it comes to all different personality types. From the pushy, alpha-types to the nervous, insecure ones, Artie manages to get along with them all. Mostly by just keeping out of their way and not escalating conflict if it were to happen.
We first made introductions through the fence, with Arrow’s interest in Artie far exceeding how Artie felt in return. Then, we allowed them to graze nearby one another on halters, the addition of an abundant food source often helping to smooth over any potential issues by providing a distraction. When all that checked out, we let them go together, waiting in the wings nearby to play referee to any untoward shenanigans, should they occur.
Artie, as we expected, was fairly disinterested in making a new friend, his attention much more focused on the grass beneath his feet. Arrow, on the other hand, was fascinated by Artie — particularly what was under his tail. We made a little joke to ourselves that Arrow was familiarizing himself with the new layout of his own body by looking at what Artie had going on, but there are likely more complex rituals being conducted that go beyond our human understanding. I do always wonder what horses are saying to one another as they breathe into each other’s nostrils, and why sometimes those breaths lead to squealing and pawing. But Artie played the role we assumed he would perfectly, meeting Arrow with no fanfare, and allowing his investigative sniffs with hardly a tail swish of displeasure.
Next we brought Declan in, who is kind of the middle-man in a herd setting, a bit more of a wild card. But he, too, was mostly unfazed by Arrow’s poking and prodding. A little more keen to leave the vicinity when Arrow got a bit too nosy for his liking, but very tolerant.
Finally, Montana. A real test of how well Arrow was able to feel of other horses. While fair, Montana is definitely not afraid to dole out more physical displays of his leadership when it comes to other herd members testing the waters. He is also more likely to respond with confrontation as opposed to simply walking away from it, as Artie and Declan are more prone to do. Unleashing Arrow on him was a bit like watching a curious younger brother get under the skin of his older sibling — at first, Montana was tolerant, but gave Arrow some warning signs that the other was not the most receptive of. And then, when it got to be a little much for him, Montana said as much with some well-aimed kicks, not meant to wound as much as to inform: this is my space, and I need you not to be in it. A hoof glancing off his shoulder did have Arrow reconsidering things, and Arrow found renewed interest in sniffing around the rumps and flanks of those who were more accepting of such behavior.
For a guy meeting other guy friends for the first time, Arrow did quite well. His investigative nature and coming-in-hot personality might have been a little much for some less understanding horses, but the group we chose was purposefully a bit on the milder side of things to help him adjust to the idea of buddies — an idea we think he very much enjoys!