Goats are inexpensive to keep compared to another equine as a companion, and most horses become very attached to them. Getting a goat for your ”only child” horse can work very well, but there are a few things you need to know.
1) If you horse has never seen a goat, he may well react with caution, if not downright panic. Never just put the goat in with the horse on the first meeting. Injury to one, or both, of them may occur. Instead, keep the goat in an adjacent stall, outside your horse’s stall, or in a neighboring paddock for a few days. Keep them close enough that the horse can see and smell the goat, but not bite it.
2) Once the horse is relaxed about having the goat in the neighborhood, allow the horse to actually make contact by sniffing. Keep the horse on a lead shank in case he attempts to bite or strike. If this goes well, turn them out together in a paddock but keep an eye on them for a while to make sure the horse won’t spook or get aggressive.
The process of introduction is the hard part but really no different than the steps you should follow when introducing another horse. While a rare horse may continue to be aggressive or obviously dislike or mistrust the new companion, most adapt extremely well.
Some things you should know are:
• Females make the best pets and companions. Bucks and even castrated males may be very aggressive, including to humans.
• You should not allow your goat to eat a commercial horse feed. Goats have very different mineral requirements and may become toxic if they eat high copper feeds. General livestock salt mineral blocks are OK though.
• You will need to make sure that all grain stays tightly locked up and out of reach of the goat. Trash cans with lids won’t get the job done. If the goat gets access to grain, she will overeat and end up with a lifethreatening bloat.
• Goats are browsers, not grazers, which means they may prefer shrubs and trees over pasture. Even if you are not planning to give your goat freedom to roam, they are pretty good escape artists so make sure you take full inventory of your plants, shrubs and trees for potentially toxic varieties.
• You will probably have to add mesh or chain link to your fencing to keep the goat in the paddock.
• Companion goats will do well on the same quality hay you feed your horse. Large feed companies make goat specific mineral mixes, usually a blend of salt and minerals, that you can provide free choice in an area not accessible to your horse. If hay quality is very poor, small amounts of a goat feed or a 75:25 mix of ground corn and soybean meal can be fed.
• Goats and horses don’t share any transmissible diseases or parasites. Talk to your vet about a deworming and vaccination protocol. The most commonly used vaccine is CD-T, a combination tetanus and Clostridium C and D vaccine. The last two are intestinal bacteria that can cause endotoxemia.