See this guy down below? That's Shad. Shad is our little herd's "lord and ruler". We call him the "herdmeister". Shad takes his job very seriously.
Until now. We've had Eagle for a little more than 2 weeks now. We haven't even tried to put all the horses together in the same pasture yet. Frankly, we're terrified to try this. For a few reasons. For one, Harley is almost completely blind now. He relies on mostly Katie to be his eyes, but he will stick close to both of the other horses periodically as well. Without knowing where his herdmates are at, Harley is uneasy and cannot relax until he's reunited with everyone. Siri used to call out when Harley yelled for his companions, thereby indicating where at least, she was at. So far, nobody else has stepped up and accepted the "town cryer" position for Harley since Siri's demise.
The other day, I accidentally left the gate open during feeding time...Eagle spotted the open gate and proceeded calmly and directly to where Kadie was eating. Kadie gave him her best "scally look", but Eagle was unimpressed and continued eating alongside Kadie. Kadie accepted and continued to eat. No big deal. Ladde could have cared less about Eagle. Ladde is all about the food, and was satisfied that he had his ration and all was well within his world. Harley was completely unaware that Eagle had joined the dinner table...
Shad however...did one of those comical "doubletakes" like..."what the????", and proceeded straight as an arrow to where Eagle was, all puffed up like a peacock, neck arched, spun around and presented his big, red butt and bellowed like a bucking bronc and began a kicking match on the intruder. Eagle responded in kind. Eagle was not impressed, nor was Eagle intimidated. At all. Eagle has great guns and gave whack for whack. I was in a state of sheer panic and grabbed the, now frightened Harley, and got him the heck out of there before he could get caught in the crossfire. Hubby comes running with the lunge whip and gets everybody's attention and breaks up the kicking match.
When the dust settles, Kadie's in the corner with Shad protecting her like armour. Ladde's in front of Shad, and Harley's running around in the corral wondering what the heck is going on? Eagle is standing calmly, butt facing the trio in the corner, about 20 feet away. Everybody's thinking things over, it seems. I walk up to Eagle, halter him and get him out of there before round 2 gets started.
Now, I'm still not sure whether what I did was the right thing to do, or not. I did not want anybody getting seriously hurt. I wanted to check everybody out and see if any damage had already been done. But...if we were'nt there to intervene, would that have been it? Or, would they have gone at it again? We'll never know for sure, but my bet's on round 2.
We've had the horses where they've been able to sniff and squeal and get acquainted for just over 2 weeks now, and we need and want to get Eagle integrated into the herd. That's quite obviously what Eagle wants. Shad, on the other hand, likes things the way they are - thank you very much! *sigh* What to do??? I know at some point, we are going to have to let them do what they will. I remember Ray Hunt telling me that "you have to go through it, to get past it". True, but scary at times. For me; this is one of those times because one well-placed kick could mean a broken bone. That, I don't want.
Does anyone have any experience dealing with a situation like this? What have you done when integrating a new horse into an established "equine family"? Do you remove the herd boss and let that horse work out things with the new guy first? Or, do you just let everybody out together at the same time?
I do know one thing for certain. Harley will have to be removed for his own protection. He cannot see to avoid a situation and would almost certainly get hurt. Kadie's an aged mare and doesn't move as quickly as she once did. Plus, she's as close to "married" as any horse possibly can be...and to Shad. It's his duty to protect Kadie at all costs. Even if there's nothing to protect her from - Shad sees things differently than we do. Like I said before, Shad takes his job very, very seriously...and he is the protector.
Ladde, undoubtedly will be the easiest. He's already had a squabble with Eagle and has learned that the powerful, even if smaller, Mustang has..."great guns". Ladde's butt shows Eagle's perfect hoof mark as a reminder. And, as second in command, Ladde will follow Shad's lead.
I'd definitely appreciate any advice that you can offer. Life's experiences can provide great insight and wisdom...we're open to any and all of your thoughts.