Last night when Drifter came in from turnout, he was wringing wet - all sweated up from a combination of anxiety and activity - and the temperatures were only in the 50sF. He didn't want to leave the herd, though - to get him in I had to ask him to make small circles around me all the way down to the barn. Once in his stall, though, he settled down a bit and ate some hay and his dinner - although he was wet he wasn't hot anymore. I gave him a good rubdown, which he seemed to appreciate as he was itchy. I didn't work him, as he was clearly close to exhausted. After feeding time, he went outside for the night with Pie in the paddock opposite. He was a little bit nervous at first, but settled down pretty quickly to eat his hay.
This morning I brought him in from the paddock to the barn to eat his breakfast. Although he clearly wanted in, he led perfectly. Pie came in too. After feeding, Jill and I turned out the horses. She had the good idea of turning all the other geldings out first, partly so they could get a good drink before Drifter got out there - we don't think he's keeping them from drinking as a dominance gesture, it's more that the water tank is located right next to the mares. We also waited until last to turn the mares out as they seem to get him into guarding mode - Dawn's still in heat and now Sugar is too. Drifter led up to the dry lot perfectly, but the odd thing was that when I went to lead him out of his stall, he was very reluctant to leave it, even though Fritz was calling for him from the dry lot - it took some urging on my part to get him to step out into the aisle. Once he got started he was fine. I think he found yesterday very stressful, and the stall is one of his "safe" places, as is his paddock. Although he appears to be the alpha of the gelding herd, he's a bit unsure of himself, too, as I had suspected from the degree of his aggression - a good part of it was defensive. It'll be interested to see how things develop.
Once he got out there, he did sniff noses briefly with Fritz and Fred, and all that happened was very small "acknowledgement" grunt/squeals. Then Drifter took up his position on the fenceline with the mares and started nibbling grass. When I left the barn, the other four geldings were grazing very close to him, and he only moved one away - much less aggressively than yesterday - if they tried to approach the mares. I'll be interested to see what he does at grass turnout time - does he go out with the geldings or try to stick on the fenceline with the mares?
With tonight's feed I'm starting him on a different calming supplement - I've been giving him magnesium oxide but now I'm going to try the MMX supplement also from HorseTech - it has magnesium oxide and also B1 and tryptophan (the same stuff that's in turkey and makes you sleepy after Thanksgiving dinner). If it helps him calm down a bit and relax, that'll be good. And I'm going to try to work him a bit in the late afternoon - this is a time he's used to working so that'll be familiar. I think once his routine is established, he'll be more comfortable. I'll all for breaking up routines and moving a horse's work time around so they learn to deal with different situations and don't become routine-bound, but Drifter needs to feel a bit safer and more certain of what's going to happen to him before I need to do that with him. He needs some good, calmer work experiences to build on. I'd like to move towards doing less free lungeing with him first and moving directly to working, but I'll only do that in stages as he's able to do it - he'll let me know.