Q1) Why does my horse need a companion?
Although many things about the horse's psyche
still remain a mystery, we do know without a doubt that horses are herd animals.
This means that for thousands of years the mental, emotional and physical
well-being of the horse has depended solely on his ability to be a member of a
herd group (i.e. to live with companions). A horse's brain has been programmed
by nature to equate solitude with almost certain death. This is not something
that your horse is likely or willing to forget. Although the mortal threat of
solitude is no longer real since horses have been domesticated, there is still a
residual feeling of uneasiness that will exist in a horse that lives alone. When
a horse lives alone there is no one to "keep watch" while he eats,
sleeps or daydreams. A horse doesn't know where he "fits" in the world
if there is no one with whom to play or communicate.
"What about me", you say. Aren't I my
horse's companion? The answer is yes, but only to a limited extent. Most of us
are not able to spend 24 hours a day, 7 days a week with our horses. We can't
offer the kind of extended companionship that horses experience in a herd. If
you can increase the quality of your horse's life you will, in turn, increase
the quality of your relationship with your horse.
A horse that spends his entire day alone in a
stall or pasture will have a harder time establishing any communication with you
when you do come to ride or work with him. It's almost as if his interaction
skills seem to be dulled by disuse. Loneliness has been known to lead to
boredom, which we all know leads to stable vices. Loneliness, can in some
extreme cases, cause emotional imbalance which can then manifest itself in
self-mutilation behaviors. Of course owning an entire herd of horses is not a
practical solution for most horse owners. Other options include boarding at a
stable where your horse is able to interact with other horses or maybe sharing a
pasture with neighbors who have horses. If boarding is not an option and turning
out with a neighbor's horses is impossible, obtaining one or more companion
animals (equine or other) for your horse will provide him with a more fulfilling
and emotionally healthy lifestyle.