Being herd animals, horses feel safer if they have other horses around them. As much as you love your horse and hang out with him, he may still be sad if he’s alone for stretches at a time. And, let’s face it; it might be pretty difficult to spend 24/7 with your horse.
If you’re boarding your horse at a barn with other equines -- or boarding other horses at your place -- your best horse-friend may not need a companion, because he sees others of his own kind all around him. But, if you are the owner of a single horse, you can bring some special happiness to him by gifting him with a companion animal. Heck, even Seabiscuit was matched with a companion horse, when the racer needed a little “mental adjustment!”
The best companion for a horse is, you guessed it, another horse. This doesn’t mean you have to go out and buy a high-priced counterpart to your horse. You can get an older pal, or a retired gal, sometimes even at no cost. Of course, you’ll want to be able to maintain its upkeep, and that could get pricey.
You don’t have to stick with other horses as companions, though. After determining the personality of your horse, you can pair him with other species, assuming their personalities are compatible. Or, how about a pony? Just keep in mind that ponies often possess much more demanding personalities and can be super smart, to boot. Sometimes, a pony will assert herself as the herd leader, which can be great if your horse has confidence issues.
Or you could get a goat for your horse. The cost for the upkeep of a goat is relatively low, and horses and goats seem to easily get along well, and even closely bond. Just remember that goats are a different breed of animal. You can’t treat them like you do your horse; you’ll want to learn all you can about their care before acquiring one as a horse buddy.
It’s not unheard of for cats, chickens or dogs to provide companionship for a horse. But, remember, the animal needs to hang out with your horse almost 24 hours a day, either in his stall or in the pasture. Cats, being pretty independent, might not be ideal, nor might chickens or dogs because of their more high-strung personalities and desire to keep moving.
The chief thing to remember is not to simply assume that your horse and a companion animal of any type will form a comfortable friendship. It might happen quickly, or not at all. There will be an adjustment period while the two potential best-buds get used to each other, so give it a little time. If it doesn’t work out, you can always try a different companion critter.
Photo: Bruce Parrott