While keeping a horse alone is not ideal, many owners (including myself) have found themselves in a situation where it’s the most practical and economical solution. Here’s some helpful tips and strategies for keeping a solo horse happy and healthy:
1. Non-Equine Companions: If another horse is not possible, there are other animals that make suitable pasture mates such as donkeys, sheep, cows, goats, llamas and alpacas. Keep in mind that they often have different feed or shelter requirements which may make their care more difficult. Do your homework before adding a companion animal!
2. Keep Them Busy: Horses
are naturally curious so you can use this to your advantage and provide new items to explore. The possibilities are endless, but always ensure their “toys” are horse safe. There are several great options on the market now like this Nose-it! Treat Dispenser. For my food-motivated, yet rather chunky, gelding I use a no calorie Apple Scented Jolly Ball.
3. Slow Feed or Graze:
Well-maintained pasture is undoubtedly the best diet for a horse and allows them to graze continuously throughout the day. For those who don’t have access to year round grass, feeding hay several times a day can help mimic this behavior. Feeding with a Slow Feeder Hay Net will extend their meal time even further.
4. Spend Time: A few minutes of attention or a quick grooming session will always be appreciated and the more time you can spend with them the better. Get their mind working with interesting training exercises both on the ground and under saddle. Clicker Training is great way to teach new skills and keep their attention (I use this extra large clicker with wrist band). For an extra challenge try working with a Training Activity Ball. Even an old horse can learn new tricks!
5. Hit the Road: Arrange to meet other riders for a trail ride or trailer to a local arena. A change of scenery is nice and gives your horse a chance to socialize. In my experience, horses greatly benefit from being in the presence of other (calm) horses, even if they aren’t making physical contact. This can be a welcome change for the rider too, since riding alone also has its challenges!
No matter which strategies you choose, always ensure that your horse’s well-being is the top priority. Some horses thrive living alone but others are anxious or depressed without an equine companion. Keeping a horse alone can be challenging, but remember, a busy horse is a happy horse.
What’s your experience keeping a horse alone?