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Does Your Horse Need a Friend?
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Does Your Horse Need a Friend?

The number of articles written here about horses feeling grief and mentioning how they become sad, lonely or even depressed if a horse leaves the farm for whatever reason is what compelled me to write this article. Here, I will be exploring the reasons why a horse needs companionship and what can be done about it if another horse for it is out of the question – whether it is for financial reasons, lack of space or because you just don’t have the time for it.

It is always a complex issue to try to understand animals’ psyche. However, there are often very good indications in their behaviour that allow us to at least understand the basics. Observing them is always a great way to know most of what makes them tick.

Horses love being in herds. Like fish and dolphins, they cherish the companionship and closeness of being together. They are very affectionate animals, and even often stay very physically close. Not as much as sheep, for sure, but they definitely show signs of wanting to stick together as much as possible. In the wild, for thousands of years, this is the way they lived, surely out of protection. Therefore, solitude means almost certain death for them. Of course, the dangers of living alone are not the same nowadays since they have owners, but the discomfort is still present in their psyche whenever they end up alone. They lack the communication they share when with another horse and the reassurance that someone is there to watch over them when they are eating and sleeping.

Humans are companions, but since no owner spends their entire time with them, this doesn’t quite make up for the lack of companionship that another horse can bring. The lack of communication – the lack of understanding the horse’s body language – can also increase the distance between you. The more you understand it, the better the relationship will be. However, is there a way to ensure your horse feels safe if it is the only one of its kind on your land?

First, there is the need to understand that owning more than one horse can be difficult for most. Those that can manage this don’t have this problem, but for those who cannot, another solution needs to be found for the majority of horses who cannot fully tolerate loneliness (as some actually do – but they are the exception, not the rule). Loneliness can lead to boredom, and this is surely one of the main issues here since safety is not.

If your desire is to absolutely find a companion without actually buying one, and you have some extra space, consider boarding. Although companions will come and go, this may be sufficient to reduce the feelings of loneliness and make your horse happy. Another one is to ask any neighbours if they are willing to share pastures – meaning, you will actually build your fence so that all your horses are together. Of course this must be done with the neighbours you trust and get along with; doing it strictly for the sake of your animal but knowing you may regret it is not worth it.

If you just don’t have the money to buy a horse, look for a free one. There are some out there, and your search may just be fruitful. Or, try to find another four-legged animal. Please remember that a dog is generally not enough; goats, other equines and at times, a calf, may be just the thing. Dogs don’t share the same psyche and this is not going to work as you would like it to.

 

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  1. Chestnut Mare
    Chestnut Mare
    Voted. Great article Anita, very good points made. On the subject of equine psychology and behaviour, check out my latest blog, Historical Hans the Counting Horse, you may find it of interest. :-)
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  2. jst4horses
    Over decades I have seen horses that have pet cats, chickens, guinea hens, pigeons, goats, and dogs. One stable dog at a large stable, after almost fifteen years went around the stable one evening, touching noses with every single horse. The next morning, he had died in his sleep. What amazing creatures animals are if we watch them. I had just noticed the dog going from stall to stall, and then just stood and watched him go through the whole stable. One of my horses, that really did not like people, due to a horseshow and people taking their horses out of the barn, was left alone for a weekend, it was lonely enough for him to finally decide he really liked ME!
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