Friendships, Part 3

Companionship is critical.
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Companionship is critical.

Beyond equine friendships, many horses develop close bonds to animals of other species. People who have a single horse living at their home often look to find a companion animal for their horse.

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Horses are herd/social animals. They do best mentally and emotionally if they have some sort of company. (There are rare horses who do best living alone – see Part 1 with Misty.) Horses who are often on the road benefit the most from a companion pet. The presence of a known and friendly animal can help a high-strung horse to relax.

Many racehorses are known to travel with their own “personal pets.” Those pets range from goats to chickens, dogs, cats and other equines such as ponies and donkeys.

Seabiscuit was known for his collection of companion animals. These included a horse named Pumpkin, a stray dog named Pocatell and even a spider monkey named Jo Jo. Pumpkin remained with Seabiscuit throughout his life. Reports claim he rejected a goat companion.Black Caviar, a racing mare in Australia, hangs out with a magnificent Boer goat.

While my own horses have equine friends, they enjoy other animals’ company as well.

We recently lost Zoom, our goat, from old age. Zoom was a true party animal. He might hang out with the sheep or he might graze side by side with Frodo the miniature horse and Spice the donkey. Zoom would also slip under the gate and join the “big” horses to graze in the lane. He moved from species to species with no problem – at the very least tolerated by the others.

Barn cats are often equine favorites as well. There are many cute photos of horses nuzzling “their” cats. Of course, cats are naturals in the barn to begin – working as rodent patrol.

Chickens seem to be well tolerated by many horses. Our miniature horse Frodo has enjoyed watching the antics of the ducks in the stall next door. He will chase them a bit when out in the barnyard though!

Dogs are another species that often teams up in friendships with horses. Many people bring their dogs along when they ride or drive. A carriage with a Corgi or Jack Russell perched on the seat is not an uncommon sight at driving competitions. Dalmatian owners go a step further with their Road Dog trials. In these competitions, Dalmatians must travel along with a horse being ridden or driven for a number of miles. The dog must display obedience and maintain proper position – not interfering with the horse’s movement.

Of course, many of us have done roadwork with horses and dogs on an unofficial basis. My Belgian Tervurens have often accompanied me working horses in our big field. They quickly learn where to stay to be out of the horse’s way and yet keep up with us.

Our Australian Shepherds tend to take a more direct route to equine activities. They love to bark at the horses through the fence. The horses clearly are not intimidated and will often pay along. They dash up to the fence and then spin away. Both Frodo and Spice will come up to the fence almost as if to taunt the dogs and then hightail it off, frequently with a big kick/buck as they go. Because the Aussies do tend to bark up close at the horses, they do not go on rides. I have no desire to deal with a dog who has had a well deserved kick!