If you are thinking of buying a horse, you might want to keep it on its own. But do horses need a companion, and can they get lonely? Let’s find out!
Do Horses Need A Companion?
To decide if horses do need a companion, we need to look at their natural behavior in the wild and in a domesticated situation.
In The Wild
A group of horses will choose to live together. They do this for security, as a group of horses can look out for each other. They also enjoy the company of other horses.
So, you will get two types of herd in the wild. The first is a breeding herd, where a stallion lives with a group of mares. These will breed together every year, producing a new batch of foals.
When female foals reach reproductive maturity, they either stay with the herd or move to a different reproductive herd. The male foals are evicted from the herd once they are old enough to breed.
There are far too many male horses for each one to have their own herd of mares, so there are many stallions that do not form a herd. Some of these will live alone, but most – especially the younger ones – will form a bachelor herd. This is because horses do not like to live alone, and enjoy the company of other horses.
Check Out What Is A Flea Bitten Horse?
In Domesticated Situation
You will see similar patterns of herd behavior emerging. Most domesticated horses are not kept for breeding, so there will not be a stallion present. However, the horses will form a gang, with a hierarchy and attachments between certain horses.
If you watch a group of horses in the field, you will see them interacting with each other constantly. They may play and chase each other, and choose to share food resources with other horses. They will groom each other, and you will observe close bonds between specific horses.
When a horse is kept alone, he does not have the opportunity to exhibit these normal behaviors. Even if all his other basic needs are met, companionship is vital to maintaining his health and well-being.
This can be tricky if you only have one horse, which is why many people choose to keep their horses in barns or fields with other horses. This provides the companionship your horse needs, without having to buy and care for another horse.
Signs Of Loneliness In Horses
When a horse is lonely, it will either be dull and depressed, or excitable and anxious. The former normally occurs when the horse has been alone for a long period of time, while the latter happens when a horse is suddenly separated from his friends. This is called separation anxiety and is a big problem when horses are removed from a herd.
Signs that a horse is lonely include repetitive neighing, in an attempt to locate other equines in the area. The horse may pace around the stable, barn, or paddock, leaving a well-worn trail. Alternatively, he may stand at a single point for many hours, trying to find a friend.
If a horse becomes distressed and anxious through loneliness, he may develop vices such as windsucking and weaving. These vices can be difficult to break, even when the initial cause is rectified.
A horse that lives with other horses can also be lonely if he does not bond with the other horses. A dominant horse may drive a weaker horse out of the herd or away from food sources, leaving it isolated and hungry. In this situation, it may be better to separate the horses into two separate herds.
What Can I Do If My Horse Lives Alone
Sometimes keeping a horse alone is unavoidable, for many reasons. He may need to be isolated or kept on stable rest because of disease or injury, or you may simply be struggling to find an equine companion for him.
In this situation, it is vital to provide as much mental stimulation and companionship as possible for your horse. Spend as much time as possible with him, as he will enjoy the company. Some horses will also bond with another animal, such as a goat or a sheep.
Mental stimulation can be provided in the form of treats and toys. Slow feeders can help his daily rations last for longer, and treat balls can provide hours of entertainment. A large safety mirror can be placed in the stable to give the illusion that there are other horses nearby.
Summary – Do Horses Need A Companion?
So, as we have learned, horses do need a companion – this is because they are herd animals, and the opportunity to socialize is one of their basic needs. They prefer the company of other horses, but if this is not possible we can provide mental stimulation in other ways. When a horse is lonely he may become dull and depressed, and start to exhibit unwanted behaviors.
We’d love to hear your thoughts on do horses need a companion! Have you found a novel way of keeping your horse entertained when he is alone? Or perhaps you’ve got a horse that struggles to settle in happily with a herd of equines? Leave a comment below and we’ll get back to you!
Is It OK To Have Just One Horse?
Normally, you will see horses living in groups, in the same way as they do in the wild. They like the company of other horses, and are very sociable animals. However, most people do not want to own more than one horse, so is it OK to have just one horse? Most people with just one horse will club together to share the facilities in which the horses live. This means that they all get the company of other horses. If you cannot find an equine companion for your horse, you will need to make alternative arrangements to stop him from getting lonely.
Do Horses Get Lonely?
Horses do get lonely, and without company they can become depressed. They need daily interaction with other creatures, whether they are equine, human, or another animal.
What Is A Good Companion For A Horse?
The best companion for a horse is another horse, but if this is not possible you can provide company in the form of another animal, such as a donkey, sheep, or goat.