For a little while now I have been considering trying to move Louie into one of the small group paddocks at the barn so that he can socialize with other horses, run, play, and eat grass the way that a young horse should. I wasn't really sure if this would be possible as of the 3 small group paddocks, one is pretty much at maximum capacity, one is on the opposite side of the barn (which would require moving to "the double side"), and one, the one that Louie's current paddock borders, is ruled by a large QH/Clydesdale cross who I am worried might beat Louie out in a one-on-one duel. The options didn't seem too hopeful, so I hadn't comitted my heart to getting Louie out with other horses, but the stars aligned this week for us.
Then this morning I got a note from one of the other boarders (the owner of Connor, the QH/Clyde) saying she would be fine with trying Louie out there with that herd, and she would be there to work Connor in the morning before going out so he didn't have excessive energy with which to chase Louie. The owner of the other two horses in the paddock, a ~20 year old TB mare (Silly) and a 2 year old quarter horse gelding (Murphy), was also fine with the addition.
So, while Connor was out being worked, I let Louie go in the group paddock with the other two horses, niether of whom are excessively agressive or mean. Louie did great with them, though the 2-year-old, Murphy, thought it was a lot of fun to chase Louie off and strut his stuff. After a while, Louie wasn't responding much to Murphy's efforts on chasing him off- Murphy would get going at a good extended canter towards him, and Louie would take 2-3 strides of slow trotting then go back to eating- obviously he was really afraid of Murphy. ;)
Then the time came to add the big guy to the mix. At first he didn't notice Louie off in the far corner. Connor went over to the nice dirt pit to have a roll. Louie thought this was good reason to investigate and sauntered over to take a gander. Murphy intercepted Louie and proceeded to chase him away, protecting Connor from the potential threat Louie brought by coming over to check him out. Then the chase began. Connor noticed the imposter in his paddock, got up and began to chase Louie off. Luckily, most horses can outrun Connor due to his size, and Louie is in pretty good shape. Connor chased, and Louie maneuvered- zigging and zagging to get out of Connor's way. Connor couldn't keep up with the agile 3-year-old and gave up for a moment.
After a short while, the chase began again- after just a short lap around the paddock, Louie learned that he could out-maneuver Connor by slowing down and letting Connor pass him, then duck out behind him and go back to eating. I was pretty impressed by my horse's smarts when it came to the herd dynamic, and his agility, grace, and speed! We (the few of us who were there, owners of the horses and another boarder) also quite enjoyed watching Louie strut around, snorting and blowing, flagging his tail, and prancing around in that classic Saddlebred barnyard trot. Gives me goosebumps just thinking about watching that Saddlebred strut.
Well after a short while, everyone settled down and focused on the main task at hand- eating. Louie didn't eat with the herd, and was driven off a few more times by Murphy, but he got along pretty well for his first day, with only a single hoof sized welt on his neck to show for the day (and that was probably from his girlfriend- the gray mare in the adjacent paddock). It's funny how horses can get along so well with others over the fence, but take that boundary away and it's like they don't even know each other.
I think Louie will get along just fine out in the paddock with Connor, Murphy, and Silly, and after a few days, I bet Louie and Murphy will be playing like the young'uns they are and becoming best buds. Being out with other horses is so good for a horse's mind, and I think Louie really enjoyed being out with a group again- and most of all, I think he enjoyed being turned out on something green and edible.
Here is a photo of Louie's new paddock. Of couse I will have to get some more photos of it with him in it now. :)