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Copyright 2011 Rocky Mountain Rider. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Reproduction of any editorial material, artwork and photos is strictly forbidden without express written permission of the publisher. For information about reprint rights, please contact the editor; editor@rockymountainrider.com.

 

Letter from Reader

Horses Need Other Horses

 

June 2011 issue

  

      You’ve all seen it: the sad, lone horse in a pasture or paddock, head down and depressed or pacing the fence.

      A normal horse is never alone by choice. Horses are social herd animals and have certain ingrained behaviors that need other horses to accomplish. A herd of just two horses can help a horse feel more secure and content.

      Horses take turns watching over each other while they sleep so that they can lie down and truly rest. They mutually groom each other, switch flies from each other’s faces, and stand next to each other in winter in a sheltered space to keep warm. They run around and play games with each other.

      Everyone knows of the story of a race horse having a companion goat to keep it company. A horse can bond with another species if a horse is not available, but the mutually beneficial behaviors are not the same and most horses will eventually suffer.

      Horses need other horses and a horse should always be able to see or touch another horse. If horses are always separated by fences, they can still become stressed.

      Every horse is different, but a horse alone can show signs of stress that affect its health: depression, pacing, aggressiveness, fence chewing, weaving, wind sucking, anxiety, fear and other bad habits. Chronic stress can also slow growth in youngsters and inhibit reproduction, compromise the immune system and increase ulcers, colic and diarrhea. Alone horses also lose or do not develop social skills so that when they are allowed in with other horses they may be easily bullied or be overly aggressive.

      There are ways to keep expenses down and still have a companion for your horse:

 

• Arrange to board someone else’s horse with yours at your place or board your horse with others.

 

• If you have a pasture, combine horses with a friend who also has a horse and pasture and move the horses together from pasture to pasture, allowing each pasture to rest and grow between.

 

• Consider getting a burro, pony or mini horse. They will have similar equine herd instincts and behaviors, but be less expensive to buy and keep.

 

      There are some general rules to follow when introducing horses. Learn those rules in order to keep horses and yourself safe.

 

      Switzerland is one country that recognizes humane keeping of social animals. The Swiss Parliament enacted a law in September, 2006, that recognizes more humane methods of keeping domestic animals, including horses. Any animal classified as a “social species” (such as a horse, cow, sheep, goldfish, parakeet, etc.) would be a victim of abuse if it did not cohabit, or at least have contact, with others of its own kind. In addition, it would be illegal to tether sheep, goats and horses.

— Jane Lothrop,

Cheyenne , Wyoming

 

Readers: What do you think? Should horses live with other horses, or is it all right for them to live in isolation? Please visit RMR’s Horsepeople’s Forum to voice your opinion. Please click here.

 

Copyright 2011 Rocky Mountain Rider. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Reproduction of any editorial material, artwork and photos is strictly forbidden without express written permission of the publisher. For information about reprint rights, please contact the editor; editor@rockymountainrider.com.

 

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