Some of these animals can make great friends.
Most horses thrive in a herd environment. They band with others in small groups for companionship and protection. While some horses prefer to stick to themselves, this is quite rare. Without a friend, most horses become lonely and depressed. However, it might not be feasible to have two horses. In this case, you should consider another barnyard companion!
A lonely horse can become destructive or even sick. They may develop nasty habits like cribbing, stall weaving, and pacing the fence line. Even a stall-kept horse needs a nearby companion to ease their anxiety. Not everyone can afford two horses though. Double the hay, grain, vet, and farrier expenses can make it undoable. Even the initial purchase of a second horse can be a problem.
While you could offer boarding or look for a free horse, there’s another option! Invest in a non-horse friend. They can be cheaper and easier to care for! Most of them are smaller and require less food. Not to mention, it can be fun to own a unique barnyard pet. There are a ton of different options!
You’ll want to proceed with caution though! Not all horses accept other animals. Some may be frightened of this non-horse barn pet, while others may become flat out dangerous. Horses have been known to kick and bite when they feel threatened enough. And yet, many times a goat or cow becomes the answer to your lonely horse problem.
Here are a few different options!
Donkeys: These animals make great companions to horses and are easily accepted. Not to mention, they can be a lot of fun to have around the farm. While they have many similar traits, donkeys do have specific health requirements that will vary from your horse. Make sure to take the time to learn how to care for them properly.
They will require routine farrier visits and dental care, just as your horse does. However, they need a lot less food than a full-sized horse. In fact, donkeys need to be monitored for obesity. Many times, their grass intake needs to be carefully managed. And finally, be aware that donkeys can live for 30 to 50 years! They’re quite the long-term investment.
Goats: Fun and loveable, goats are the perfect option for someone looking for a smaller companion. Often, it’s a lot more feasible to care for a goat than it is a second horse. They require less food and grain. Goats can even be housed in the same stall or field as your horse. Racetracks use them all the time!
Another interesting fact is goats love weeds, leaves, and brush. They usually ignore grasses. A goat will keep your pastures looking good by eating the stuff your horse won’t touch. Some people even rent out goats to clean up weedy areas.
Cows: There are a few good reasons to pasture your horse with a cow, and a few drawbacks. For one, they can keep your horse company which can ease their loneliness. They’re also able to be kept out on pasture and eat grass alongside your horse. A cow can be practical, as well. You can use them for meat or milk.
One of the downsides is that horses require higher quality hay, compared to a cow. If kept in the same field, you’ll be unable to keep the cow from eating the horse’s hay. It can get costly to feed the two animals.
Other animals: You may be surprised to learn that a dog, cat, or even chickens can provide your horse with the company they’re seeking. There have been stories describing the relationship between a horse and an unsuspecting friend. You might not want to rely on them sticking around for long periods of the day though.
Ultimately, your horse likely prefers the companionship of another horse or pony. If you do decide to find them a non-horse friend, be careful and watch them carefully! All situations are unique.
Emily Fought discovered her passion for horses early on in life. When she isn’t writing about them, you can find her in the barn riding. Although Emily’s background is in dressage, she enjoys cross-training and is an avid trail rider. She resides in Northwestern Pennsylvania with her husband and small dog. Together, they own and operate Humblewood Farm.