Companion Animals for Horses
Horses are herd animals, and they are naturally suited to life with at least one companion. Sometimes, though, it just isn’t possible to have another horse for a companion. Pasture space may be at a premium, or you may be dealing with a stallion or otherwise aggressive horse who is nonetheless lonesome for a pal. So what kind of animals can you use as a companion for your horse?
Ponies and Miniature Horses can make great companions when a horse is too valuable/accident-prone to be turned out with other horses. Miniature horses, in particular, can be a relatively economic way to provide a horse with a friend of his own species. Although they still require the same veterinary and farrier work that a full-size horse would need, they need much less hay and grain than a horse. Ponies and minis both tend to be confident, bossy animals, which is helpful for a submissive horse who gets beat up on when turned out with the herd.
Donkeys often make great companions for horses. As a species, donkeys tend to be lower-maintenance than horses — in fact, you might have such an easy keeper, you have to watch your donkey’s weight when the grass is lush. Cattle ranchers often keep donkeys with their roaming cattle herds to protect them from coyotes, and you might find your donkey has a built in watch-dog instinct (which might extend to your farm’s dogs — so be sure your donkey is used to dogs before you bring him home!).
Goats are a common sight at many show and racing stables — they’re cheaper to buy and cheaper to keep than ponies, and tend to be low-maintenance. Goats also have a tendency to bond with horses, often bunking down in their stalls and sharing their hay.
You need to watch out for a goat’s equal-opportunity grazing policy, as they’ll eat your ornamental plants and shrubs just as happily as they will your grass. But all in all, goats are a great alternative to more horses for the lonely equine in your barn.
There are plenty of other stories about great companion animals floating around — sometimes cats seem to “adopt” horses, and some horses just love having a flock of chickens to boss around. And although many horses think alpacas or llamas came straight from from their nightmares, some horses actually enjoy living with an alpaca friend. Whatever companion animal you choose, make sure you can arrange a trial period and that both the companion and your horse have safe living arrangements. Sharing a stall isn’t always necessary — sometimes, all your horse needs is someone within view to feel better.