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Odd Companions For Horses
 By Winniefield Park   •   3rd Aug 2014   •   1,796 views   •   0 comments
To Breed or Not to Breed

Few of us are able to be a companion to our horse twenty-four hours a day, every day. Horses are herd animals, and they feel safest and most secure with others of their own type. This isn't always possible, such as when you can only afford to own one horse or you're competing a lot and your horse must travel alone. Often, a companion can be another animal, either furred or feathered, that will live with your horse.

Some horses like cattle, some hate them and chase them. However, keeping your horse in a field of cattle might be the next-best thing to living with a herd of horses. There can be problems with keeping a horse with cattle though, and as mentioned some will pester them. One day, a friend of mine called me in a panic, because someone had cut off her horse's tail hair right below the tail bone. She was stumped as to how it had happened, as there were no tire tracks, or footprints in the pasture. I then remembered that cattle will chew horse's tails. Yes, she had been keeping two young steers in the same pasture, and the mystery was solved.

Racehorses are famous for their odd companions. Chickens, goats and dogs have been the best friends of many well known runners. War Admiral had a rabbit friend, and Seabiscuit had a monkey, pony and dog. Goats are thought to be calming to horses, and they are relatively easy to keep. Sheepand pigs may provide some company as well. Goats and sheep may chew tails, like cattle. Ponies and mules make good companions. Donkeys of all sizes are often kept with horses and llamas and alpacas can be pastured with horses. These animals will also help protect a horse from any predators.

Don't just assume your horse will accept a non-equine animal as a friend easily. Some horses are nasty to dogs, cats and other smaller animals. I know of one that picked up a cat and flung it against the stall wall. Any animal that lives with a horse needs to be spry and smart enough to get out of the way when need be. Putting an animal in a horse's stall, that can't escape might put the companion in harm's way. Arrange things so that the horse can see and hear the companion animal, but not touch it, at least until the horse shows it has bonded and the animal is safe.

Of course, the best companion for a horse is another horse (or two). If you can afford the expense of its care, a retired or rescue horse might be the answer. Most horses will bond very easily, with a minimum of fuss. Just make sure any older or unsound companions are able to either take care of themselves, or have a place to get out of the way if they are chased or pestered.
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