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post #1 of 12 Old 05-10-2019, 04:39 PM Thread Starter
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Question The Lone Horse

I was just sitting here browsing the forum while eating lunch, and it finally became real in my head that I'm about to be in a position to own a horse on my own property for the first time! While I'm not new to horses, I will be new to caring for one on my own in my own space.

I'm not concerned about the logistics of feeding, exercising, and caring for the horse, but I was wondering what impacts only having 1 horse on my property might be in regards to the horse's mental health, even though I can almost guarantee that I will only have 1 for a 'short' time (I mean, let's be realistic here ). I searched the forum on the topic, but no threads immediately jumped out at me. I also haven't had a chance to really talk it over with my local horse friends. I figured that since I was already on THF that I'd ask ya'll about your experiences and thoughts!

My immediate concern would be that it might stress the horse not having herd mates, but I really don't know. I'm guessing it may come down to a combination of the horse's living situation prior to coming to my property and the horse itself as their personalities can differ so much. My new neighbors have a couple horses, but the property is about half treed and the neighbor horses are at least a few acres away. What are some things that I might be concerned about in this situation?

Also, as a side topic based on a conversation I was just having, I'm a little curious how many people might admit to buying a horse just because it was 'pretty'. I have very specific things I'll be looking for, but I'm sure it happens more than people want to admit.

I'm looking forward to your replies!
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post #2 of 12 Old 05-10-2019, 05:09 PM
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If I had a horse (which I do), it'd be most important to me that it have a sound state of mind. A solitary horse, in my opinion, suffers the adverse effects of a combination of solitary confinement and constant high alertness to deadly risks.

If you are in solitary in prison, it is unlikely you'll get jumped, so you only go bonkers because humans are not built to live without companionship. Now imagine being in solitary in the exercise yard, and guards taking random shots at you from their watch towers. Not only will you lack companionship, but you will also be constantly on the lookout whether one of the guards raises his rifle to aim at you. You don't know that they are only firing blanks and that you are, in fact, safe, because genetically you are programmed to assume that one of them is out to get you.

Oh, occasionally a guard brings a tray with food which you are free to consume by yourself, and sometimes you get put on a treadmill for an hour. That'll leave you with another 21-22 hours or so to contemplate your life.

Now, after having lived like this for a while, a second prisoner is introduced - no promise that this will be a permanent arrangement, though. During the long hours in the prison yard (let's assume it has some grass and trees and a shelter), you get to know each other. You take comfort in each other's company, and the fact that someone can look out for guards taking pot shots. Then, sometimes, you get separated for no apparent reason and for an indeterminate amount of time...

So, one or two horses, you ask? We're presently already in the middle of a rather contentious "buddy sour" thread.
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post #3 of 12 Old 05-10-2019, 05:28 PM
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*Sigh* I am so verbose.

I am a huge advocate for horses being in a herd with other horses.

Horses are masters of adaptation, especially when they don't have a choice. While, yes, a lot of horses can learn to live alone, most would prefer to be in a herd. Horses are herd animals; they find comfort in a herd. They like the extra security of having extra eyes and ears for danger; they also like the companionship. When horses are in a herd, they take turns keeping watch (figuratively, as horses, alone or in a herd, are always watching). That means while some horses are "patrolling", others can relax, lie down, eat, or play. When a horse is alone, they loose some of that extra security and it's always, "I need to watch out for me, myself, and I." That constant hypervigilance and over-surveillance can put undue stress on a horse. Again, a lot horses can eventually learn to live alone and some of that anxiety will eventually become more subdued.

In terms of companionship, I believe there is a ladder of preference. Horses > Some other form of equine (such as a donkey or mule) > Some other form prey animal (such as a goat or a chicken) > Predator (such as a dog or a barn cat). Of course, it depends on the individual, but you get the idea.

Keep in mind the saying, "being alone is better than being in a toxic relationship." Some horses, for whatever reason, just can't be together. It is better to keep a horse alone than it is to keep it with another horse that is constantly extremely aggressive towards them.

Another thing to keep in mind is that when you work with a horse, you are a herd of two. That means that if, for whatever reason, you decide to keep your horse alone, you can be a substitute herd member and provide that little extra security and companionship. Ideally, if you choose to do this, you should be out there with your horse every day.

Originally Posted by The Humble Horseman View Post
I'm a little curious how many people might admit to buying a horse just because it was 'pretty'.
Oh, cliché quotes, where art thou?
"Beauty is in the eye of the beholder."
"Beauty is only skin deep."

If you are talking about "pretty" being a physical look (outside of conformation), then, no, I will not admit to it because I have never done that. There are many things I take into consideration before looks.

If you are just talking about "pretty" in a broad sense, all horses are pretty to me and even more so when they are good minded. My horse is just a common, small black horse; you can find some on every corner, and they are a dime a dozen. However, she is my "common, small black horse", and that's what makes her pretty.

"I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand." - Confucius

Last edited by LoonWatcher; 05-10-2019 at 05:39 PM. Reason: Adding. Grammar.
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post #4 of 12 Old 05-10-2019, 06:00 PM
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I have my horse alone at the moment because I re-homed my youngest horse and his mother. So my current trail horse is alone. She does great. She lays down to sleep and shows no signs of stress whatsoever. Would she prefer a friend? I'm sure she would. At some point another horse may come my way. But it has to be the right horse, I'm not going to go out and buy a random horse that's not right for me just to say I have two. But my mare is doing fine as a single horse. I am probably lucky in that regard, that she has a personality that does just fine being alone. Maybe they all can't do that. I normally have more than one, but these are the circumstances at the moment. She does great. Rides great, eats great, sleeps great, etc.

What I wouldn't do is buy two horses that are currently together and bring them home and expect them to ride out alone if they aren't well used to that already. (More on that in a moment). I think it's really good to have one horse used to your routine and riding out alone before you add another horse to the equation.

Originally Posted by LoonWatcher View Post
My horse is just a common, small black horse; you can find some on every corner, and they are a dime a dozen. However, she is my "common, small black horse", and that's what makes her pretty.
It's funny you say that because black is my favorite color, and it took me about 20 years to get one. (But even then, I didn't buy her for her color, she was given to me by a good friend. But she just happens to be my favorite color, and they really aren't on every corner around here!)

BUT, I did buy a horse just for color once. I love Paints and I had the most wonderful Paint many years ago. Then he passed away and I wanted another Paint. So I pretty much bought the first broke-to-ride Paint I came across that I could afford and she ended up being a horrible, barn sour mess. She came as a pair with her buddy gelding because the couple were getting out of horses. I guess that should have been a red flag. The two couldn't be separated and had fits when ridden apart. The Paint reared. I sold them at a major loss. But the biggest loss wasn't financial, it was to my confidence. They totally shattered my confidence and it look a long time to get it back. The horse I bought right after that was a common chestnut and he was a wonderfully trained BLM Mustang that did everything I wanted safely. So I got my confidence back on a Mustang.

I learned that lesson the hard way and don't let color influence me anymore.

So I guess in summary, while I'm sure every horse would like a friend, I really haven't seen any horses stressing out being kept alone in my own life. But I'm sure there are some that would stress out. I'm not sure what percentage that would be. But my mare does just fine. I think it works, especially in the short term. But a friend in the long-term would be ideal. I think the horses should be bought separately and used to your routine separately though. Much worse than being kept alone is two horses that can't be separated.

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post #5 of 12 Old 05-10-2019, 06:03 PM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by mmshiro View Post
If I had a horse (which I do), it'd be most important to me that it have a sound state of mind...
I appreciate your entertaining anecdote. I enjoyed reading it, and it definitely personifies my concern for having only one horse on property to start. I also am aware of the buddy sour thread you mentioned, and I can assure you that you won't find that sort of contention from me. I'm here asking for everybody's thoughts and experiences as a mental exercise in hopes of avoiding similar situations. This thread will only be my first step in information gathering on the subject.

Eventually, I'm looking at a 3-4 horse setup on my property, but you've got to start somewhere. Since I am limiting myself to 3-4 horses, the odds of finding a pair or threesome that I can pick up at once that meets all my needs are slim, so that is what got me started down this line of thinking. I do not intend to have a single horse long term, but there could be a length of time where there is only one to start, or there may be weekends where 1, 2, or 3 of the horses leave for camping/shows. My experiences with horses has mostly been at boarding facilities where such an issue doesn't generally exist, so I decided to reach out here.
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post #6 of 12 Old 05-10-2019, 06:12 PM
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Here are some more ideas from an older thread:
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post #7 of 12 Old 05-10-2019, 06:21 PM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by knightrider View Post
Here are some more ideas from an older thread:
Your forum search-Fu is stronger than mine. I have to step away for awhile, but I will definitely get back to this thread and the one you linked as soon as I have a moment. Thank you!
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post #8 of 12 Old 05-10-2019, 06:45 PM
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I don't have my own property but I do have two horses--it is very difficult to limit yourself to just one! Most horses do need a companion but there are many instances where a horse is alone and seems to be fine. In fact, I recently saw an ad where the seller stated that their horse prefers to be alone and does not like being around other horses--but that is unusual. If your new horse wants a herdmate then you will know pretty quick. When he sees the neighbor horses then most likely he'll start calling for them and pace the fence line constantly. Besides being annoying for you he could easily get himself worked up enough to cause stress colic and a big vet bill. It would be helpful to find this out before you buy so ask the seller if the horse does well alone or in a group.

As far as buying "pretty" goes--no I don't. I will admit that I am attracted to pretty and certainly admire it! But I want a good minded horse that's willing, affectionate and sound for riding--honestly do not care what they look like. There have been things I wanted and was looking for but it doesn't always work out so in the end you just go with what's important. For example--I knew I didn't want any boring chesnut colored horses. So my first 2 were of course, chesnut! For my very first horse I just had to have one of those gorgeous, dishy faced arabians. I got an arab but he was from polish racing lines and did not have the typey face. Some people said he looked anglo-arab, others didn't know what he was. For my second horse, I had fallen in love with peruvians and chesnut is a very common color. Also he has kind of a big head and funky conformation. Come to find out his mama wasn't even supposed to be bred! In their defense however, the arab had the rabicano gene so his chesnut got more interesting, and the peruvian has the sooty/smutty gene so he has a multiclored mane/tail and black hairs on his body. And they were both awesome riding horses and that is what really matters!

I still have the peruvian but he is 26 this month and semi retired. Last summer I was looking for a TWH since they frequently have good nature's and I'm partial to gaited horses now. But I was actually open to any breed that fit the bill and did not care about looks at all. Ended up with a black KMH found on Craigslist for only $1200--pretty, well trained, loves people, etc. I feel very blessed to have had three such amazing animals!

Horses are proof that God wants us to be happy
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post #9 of 12 Old 05-10-2019, 07:37 PM
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Nothing to add that hasn't been said - except that Loon, I could have sworn the saying 'Beauty is in the eye of the beerholder'...
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post #10 of 12 Old 05-13-2019, 04:09 PM Thread Starter
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@LoonWatcher @trailhorserider @knightrider @pasomountain

Thank you all for your thoughts and experiences on this. I've read through the thread that @knightrider linked as well as a few that have popped up in the 'similar threads' box at the bottom of this thread, and feel like I have a better idea of what to look out for and expect.

I'll plan to take it one step at a time with considerations as to the horse's history and what I can find out about their personality. I'll make sure to have a backup plan in place as well in the event I get the horse home and it melts down. After reading these threads I spoke with a local friend and he did offer up one of his older extremely horse friendly mini donkeys as a temporary solution. He called it his 'therapy donkey' and he's loaned it out before for just this reason. I'd have to make some changes to the paddock areas to accommodate, but it might just be something that needs to happen.

As far as the question about buying 'pretty', it was meant to be a light-hearted question about any time where someone might have overlooked some undesirable traits because the horse had a color and/or conformation that they really liked. This stemmed from a conversation I was having with a non-horsey female colleague as I was expressing to her that most horse folk wouldn't buy for color. It could be a deciding factor among others, but generally wasn't a primary factor in most purchases, so I thought I'd throw it out there to see what came back.
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horse mental health , lone horse , lonely horse , only 1 horse

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