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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Yes, I am aware that horses are herd animals…BUT!

I am working towards bringing my mare home hopefully in the spring next year. She’s 14 and has several health issues that are creating problems in my chosen career for her. My barn and land constraints mean that I can really only support one other horse here. I don’t want to rush into getting a second horse just to have a friend for her, because that horse will hopefully be my next dressage horse to move up the levels with.

She is use to being pastured alone because she is an alpha mare and finding the right group for her can be tricky, however she has never been totally secluded from other horses. What are some things I could do to keep her happy while I find a second horse?
 

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I had my mare live by herself years ago, and it was fine! She really liked it, lots of open fields, but I’m sure she got bored sometime, even though I tried to be out there 24/7..but at her old barn she was always alone so it worked for her.

my friends horse (that’s definitely the alpha) was moved away from his herd and put at a field completely by himself and he was great, didn’t bother him a bit.

she’ll probably be fine!

I got my horses jolly balls and those big inflatable ones, they always have a blast with them! :)
 

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Dusty, 12hh Welsh gelding
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A stallion I had previously who was always kept by himself, was quite happy and content with just human interaction and didn't seem to miss other equines in the slightest. Though my gelding I currently have does get lonely and always enjoys having a goat or a couple of sheep in the yards with him.
My personal opinion is that it varies with each horse, but the majority of them are considerably happier with other horse friends to keep them company, because (as we all well know) they are herd animals. :)
 

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Can you do a test run? Take her home alone for a few weeks with the option to go back to the barn where she's currently boarding if things go south? Horses are like people, some of them just prefer being alone, even though most of them don't. It could go just fine, but I would want the option of going back just in case she seems unhappy, anxious, or starts developing vices she didn't display before.
 

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Most horses strongly prefer being in a herd but some of them are ok alone. And I’ve met two who actively preferred not having other horses around. (Those make excellent solo trail horses) The only way to find out is to do a trial run.
 

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Till you try flying "solo" you won't know how the outcome shall be.

I've owned many, some were very happy alone and miserable with another.
Some were miserable alone. happy with another...
Some could of cared less either way.

I found my horse who enjoyed human interaction truly did not care if another was there or not.
My other horse was searching for, a bit anxious and never seemed to relax...he "needed" another.
The one horse who was more the Alpha was just fine on their own...could of cared less.
But all were happy to see me and spend time with me cause me meant food was also coming soon....

You truly will know within a week or so of time the outcome needed.
At that point decisions can be made.
What you will save in boarding costs would probably allow you to have a second animal and not a big difference in $ outlay....and that takes into consideration your land not supporting 2 animals will need hay to feed along with other of farrier and vet. I keep 2 {1 easy 1 difficult} home now for less than it would cost me to have one on basic pasture board in my area...
Its more to me if zoning allows for more and you have provided shelter as needed that needs attention...the rest just sort of falls into place.
🐴....
 

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I wouldn't do it. You can't know the physiological effects of being lonely as well as the fear from not having the herd for protection. We can guess but you'll never really know and the risk of mental anguish and damage are too great.

I thought about this myself a few years back when I was looking for a place to board. I just decided no, just not worth it. I considered getting a buddy horse or some other animal to create a group/herd. I watched horses pair up with donkeys, cattle and other animals for safety. They need pasture mates.
 

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One consideration is that if you eventually get a companion horse - just two horses living together has a lot of potential for buddy sournesses. It doesn’t happen all the time but that is typically a situation where it is statistically likely to happen. Three horse goes a long way in preventing issues (we are a bunch of horse buying and hoarding enablers on this forum so you might want to ignore this advice…)
 

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My current horses all had 1-2 week periods of living by themselves. The difference was crazy.

My 5yo haflinger seemed the most “ok”. He was extra spooky, didn’t lay down to sleep or roll nearly as much, and was all about ME. He wanted me there, all the time, and would neigh as loud as he possibly could if he heard it caught sight of me.

A 28-30yo I had was depressed. Sad, anxious, and lost his spark and wish to interact with anyone or anything. Even his food enthusiasm was way down.

My 21yo was extra high strung and anxious. Difficult to work with, unfocused, and consistently pacing and moving around.

My friend, however, has a gelding by himself and he’s happy as pie from what I can tell! Fire-y, funny, great appetite, and content to lay down and sleep/roll without worry.

So it largely depends on the horse.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
One consideration is that if you eventually get a companion horse - just two horses living together has a lot of potential for buddy sournesses. It doesn’t happen all the time but that is typically a situation where it is statistically likely to happen. Three horse goes a long way in preventing issues (we are a bunch of horse buying and hoarding enablers on this forum so you might want to ignore this advice…)
Originally I had hoped to have two and a donkey, but after measuring out the building I am turning back into a barn (use to be a carriage house) there is only room for two 12x12 stalls. I don’t want to have more animals than stalls in case of emergency or bad weather.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Till you try flying "solo" you won't know how the outcome shall be.

I've owned many, some were very happy alone and miserable with another.
Some were miserable alone. happy with another...
Some could of cared less either way.

I found my horse who enjoyed human interaction truly did not care if another was there or not.
My other horse was searching for, a bit anxious and never seemed to relax...he "needed" another.
The one horse who was more the Alpha was just fine on their own...could of cared less.
But all were happy to see me and spend time with me cause me meant food was also coming soon....

You truly will know within a week or so of time the outcome needed.
At that point decisions can be made.
What you will save in boarding costs would probably allow you to have a second animal and not a big difference in $ outlay....and that takes into consideration your land not supporting 2 animals will need hay to feed along with other of farrier and vet. I keep 2 {1 easy 1 difficult} home now for less than it would cost me to have one on basic pasture board in my area...
Its more to me if zoning allows for more and you have provided shelter as needed that needs attention...the rest just sort of falls into place.
🐴....
Zoning isn’t an issue. My entire farm is 130 acres and my county requires one acre per horse. 🤣 However, current room as well as space I am turning back into a barn is an issue. We have a long term lease with a farmer, and we just resigned a couple of years ago. I’ll have to wait before I can expand any more.
 

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Zoning isn’t an issue. My entire farm is 130 acres and my county requires one acre per horse. 🤣 However, current room as well as space I am turning back into a barn is an issue. We have a long term lease with a farmer, and we just resigned a couple of years ago. I’ll have to wait before I can expand any more.
You may be interested in this company "Nobel Panels":
They sell several types of shelters and covered stalls / barns. Very easy to put together or take down. Very high quality panels that have no sharp edges and are galvanize. I have a 40 foot round pen made from these as well as a covered stall with the stall made from 12 x 12 foot panels and a 6 foot gate. It might work for you to be able to house another animal.
 

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Can you do a test run? Take her home alone for a few weeks with the option to go back to the barn where she's currently boarding if things go south? Horses are like people, some of them just prefer being alone, even though most of them don't. It could go just fine, but I would want the option of going back just in case she seems unhappy, anxious, or starts developing vices she didn't display before.
This. When we built our barn, I had my daughter's horse boarded at the neighbors. When we got to the point where the stall was finished and I had a turnout, I figured I could move him early even though I hadn't yet found a second horse for company. I rode him over from the neighbors, untacked him and turned him out and he lost his mind. This was kind of shocking, because he's a bit grumpy with the other horses, and actually seems to find them more annoying than anything. I let him run a bit, thinking he'd stop to eat the lush grass at some point. Nope. He just got more and more worked up, was working a good lather, neighing and becoming quite frantic. We packed up his stuff and brought him back to the neighbors' barn and waited until we had a second horse to move him.

I agree, some horses are perfectly fine, but my other gelding would be the same. He has a meltdown everytime he sees one of his friends get on a trailer. I bought a pony for him because he would lose his mind whenever my daughter would take her horse to shows. Doesn't matter, he still has meltdowns (but settles faster with his pony buddy). So you won't know until you get her home, and it if goes badly, then you may have a problem on your hands. If you could bring her over for a day, set up a small fenced-in area and see how she is, then you will have your answer.
 
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