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"Private" turnout...keeping 1 horse at home

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  • "Private" turnout...keeping 1 horse at home

    I know that horses are herd animals and prefer the company of its own kind...but has anyone had experience with having just 1 horse by itself? Or would that be too unhealthy for the horse mentally to even attempt?

    I have a nice little setup with 4 acre fenced area for turnout and an indoor I can have access to down the street (~0.5 miles). Have been thinking about bringing my horse home to have him closer, and would save $ on board. I hesitate to get another horse for several reasons: cost, time, possibility of 2 horses becoming co-dependent/herd bound.

    I really have no major complaints at the current place I'm boarding, and maybe I should just stay put. But it's getting harder to pay for board and lessons (which I keep taking even though my budget is shrinking). I keep taking regular lessons (2x/week) because one, they really are beneficial...and two, I feel kind of obligated to since all the other boarders do. I literally spend every dollar I have on this sport...and this will need to change soon, as I'm getting done with school and entering the adult world

    Benefits of home board:
    - save $ (this is the major point)
    - closer to horse
    - feel (and learn to be) more independent--I'll still take lessons, but probably 1/week or every other week.

    - horse can't cope without a pasture 'pal' ?
    - have to have "support network" in place in case of emergencies (can't leave work on short notice)

    I suppose my other option would be to move to a cheaper place. But it's so hard for me to find a place that I actually trust (experienced lots of dishonest practices in the past).

    Sorry that this has been somewhat of a random rambling post.

  • #2
    I have had just one horse at home and it was fine for him. He of course, was concerned at first, but did get used to it over time. The first three days or so he would just stare out in to the distance and whinny (the neighbors a few doors down have horses so I think he was hearing them!).

    I now have two horses at home, and honestly, I wish I could board them! It's really hard to ride consistently when I have to truck somewhere to ride. Of course, when summer rolls around I'll be able to ride in our field....but with the ice and upcoming mud, it'll be probably end of May or June before that happens.

    There are trade offs to every decision....but it's very gratifying to be able to be a MICRO manager with your horse(s)....

    Good luck!


    • #3
      I have a horse home alone right now. When I first had him I only had dogs as companions and they are much more of a companion than you would think. Then I got into fostering for a rescue, which is a good way to get company for your horse. The rescue pays for the vet, farrier, and wormer so I only have to pay for feed, but that is tax deductable (big refund this year!!!). Now my foster horse has just been adopted so my boy is home alone again, but I now have a dog and goats so he is really not alone. My horse doesn't really relate to goats, but for some horses they are good companions so you might consider that if you have the fencing to keep one or two in. Or maybe a miniature donkey that wouldn't cost much to keep.

      Anyway, after all that rambling, I don't find it to be that big of a deal to keep a horse home alone as long as you spend time with them everyday and at least have one other animal for them to interact with (goat or dog or donkey, it does help even though it's not a normal herd).


      • #4
        A long time ago, my Aunt decided she wanted to ride, so my Uncle bought a horse. A few weeks later she decided she didn't want to ride. This was just after they built the fencing and small barn for him. He lived the next twenty years in that field. He would escape every once in a while and go through the neighbor's trash. The kids took pony rides on him and the dogs would go out and visit. He never seemed really worse for the wear, but I was young then so wouldn't really know if he was just mildly unhappy with the situation but dealing or if he really didn't care.

        I have known other horses that would have a heart attack if left alone. You can also consider getting a sheep, llama, small donkey or other herd-type animal to keep him company. A sheep or llama would not damage the grass as much as a small donkey or miniature horse (due to teeth configuration and therefore how they graze), but they may be harder to find.

        Other than that, it depends on your horse.


        • #5
          I don't think it's IDEAL, but whether or not it WORKS depends on the horse.

          My boy has lived alone, and did just fine. He was leased out to a wonderful family and they made sure he got plenty of interaction, even though it wasn't horsey interaction. I'd rather he have other horsey companions (he does now), but it's not a deal breaker.

          I've known other horses who just went nuts when left alone - though, as the poster above me said, you can sometimes combat that with another (smaller) animal companion.
          Proud member of the EDRF


          • #6
            Dora used to be TERRIFIED of being alone, but when I moved her to the new barn I'm at, she was alone in a separate barn. It took her about 2 weeks, but she got accustomed to it (she is still turned out with everyone).

            Where do you live? Are there horses near you? I kept my 2 (Gwen, when she was alive, and Dora), and boarded a good friend's horse a few years ago on 5 acres that I rented (with a house and barn). Do you have any friends that need a cheap place to board? It is a HUGE help. One extra horse isn't much extra work, and even if you charge way less than the local barns, you can even have money to support your horse (I did!).

            I absolutely LOVED having my horses at home! My set up was super nice, though. All five acres could be divided or one big field if you left the gates open. My stalls had front doors into the barn, and back doors to the field, so when the weather was nice, they just stayed out, but had access to their stalls. No worrying if I got held up at work, they could come and go as they pleased. It was so nice to be able to control every part of their care (I'm very picky), and I got to know them and their habits much better. I also loved being able to walk outside and see them whenever I wanted, and I could ride whenever! No drive to the barn and back, no sharing the ring, etc.

            As others have stated, another option is a goat or a mini. They don't eat much.
            In loving memory of my precious Gwendolyn; you will always be with me, in my heart. I love you.


            • #7
              Buy a mini (or a mini donkey!) for like $100. They eat basically nothing, no shoes, you can trim them yourself, they generally don't care when they are alone. Then your horse can have a buddy!
              Yes, I ride a pony. No, he would not be ideal for your child. No, he is not a re-sale project...


              • #8
                Definately get a mini or a pony for company. Our mini eats a small handful of grain 2 x per day (my guilt not because she needs it) and eats all of the loose hay that I clean up in our hay stall. And that is about it And believe me, she is plenty round on that little bit. Plus (even though she might be evil concentrated) she is the cutest little thing ever


                • #9
                  And the bonus to getting a mini for company? Your horse won't look twice at them next time your in the show ring and one is outside the ring!
                  Horses are amazing physicists, they know the exact angle, thrust, speed required to land you face first in the only pile of poop in the entire arena


                  • #10
                    Goats make great pasture buddies too! I have a large nubian that loves his horse... and the horse loves him.
                    The Galloping Grape
                    Warrenton, VA


                    • #11
                      Then I got into fostering for a rescue, which is a good way to get company for your horse. The rescue pays for the vet, farrier, and wormer so I only have to pay for feed, but that is tax deductable (big refund this year!!!).
                      Not a bad idea! helps a horse that needs it, gives you a deduction and your horse a companion for a while.

                      Some horses do just fine solo...others will be semi-nervous or lonely and some will freak right out. All depends on the horse. When my mare passed away last spring...I wasn't up to buying another horse asap so my gelding was alone. He had been purchased to keep the mare company. The first 3 days he'd run out of the barn each morning at a full gallop and run the fenceline for 5 minutes calling for her, then settle down and eat. After those 3 days he was fine...showing no signs of depression or being lonely and he stayed that way for a few months. After about 5 months he started standing the paddock and just staring into the woods, calling every once in a while, so we bought another horse. We did want another horse anyways...had I not wanted the extra horse I would have looked into a donkey most likely. Not a mini donk or mini horse since my fencing isn't the best for minis (although I'm sure it would be fine) plus I don't drive so had no reason to have a mini other than the cute factor. I don't do goats...they can be impossible to keep in many types of fencing. Didn't want a sheep. A regular sized donkey makes a decent companion, great property protector, not so much of an escape artist, not expensive to keep and not as likely to get herd bound. Plus they have really big ears and make awesome loud noises!
                      You jump in the saddle,
                      Hold onto the bridle!
                      Jump in the line!


                      • #12
                        Finding a boarder has another plus: There's someone who can take over care if you want to go away for a vacation or get sick. or you might find someone who wants a retirement baording situation, a low cost, stress-free option for an older horse.
                        Fostering is a great idea, too.

                        You will get so much closer to your horse if you are doing the care, believe me. It really builds trust.


                        • #13
                          Having one companion is great if you're always at home, but if you want to travel for shows, you may find you have to take the companion with you.
                          If you are allergic to a thing, it is best not to put that thing in your mouth, particularly if the thing is cats. - Lemony Snicket


                          • #14
                            My aunt has had two horses alone at her farm. Her first horse was a TWH mare, who she had for 4 or 5 years. She ended up colicing and unfortunately passing away, and my aunt then got an QH gelding. He's now been living by himself for ~2 years. Both of her horses seemed depressed to me. They are (were) both older (around 20), so I don't know if that had anything to do with it, but neither of them looked happy. When I saw them, they just stood in one spot and moped. And she has a bunch of dogs and cats, so her current gelding isn't completely by himself.

                            She is thinking of getting a mini horse.

                            *OMGiH I Loff my Mare* and *My Saddlebred Can Do Anything Your Horse Can Do*


                            • #15
                              As mentioned, it really depends on the individual horse. My old gelding, then stallion when I bought him, lived w/ two geldings in a big field. When I brought him home he went in w/ my young gelding. They got along fine.

                              Fast forward several years after a divorce and a couple moves. He was still being kept w/ a herd only larger and then had to be gelded or he'd a bred every single one of my friend's mares. After that we moved again and I boarded. He was by himself, but his neighbors were ostriches. He lived at the ostrich farm for a year or so until I found a place closer to home. He seemed completely fine w/ that. Found a place closer to home and he was again alone, but had horses to look at in other turnouts acrossed the farm. He was on pasture board. He was by himself until we found more land to lease and started adding other horses for the growing family. He's not been alone since then.

                              He's a very easy going guy and nothing really bothers him. As long as he has food, he's happy. He's very food motivated.

                              My stallion on the other hand, though used to being alone at certain times, but always had other horses to look at and touch noses w/ went all last winter alone here at home. Most of the time he was fine, if he had food to occupy him, but he escaped many times looking for company or for whatever reason (he could.) He and the deer kept taking down my electric fence that wasn't working the best in the frozen ground. I did what I could to keep him in and he's not been out since then now that he has his girls w/ him.
                              A Merrick N Dream Farm
                              Proud Member of "Someone Special to me serves in the Military" Clique


                              • #16
                                It honestly depends on the horse. I have one mare who is the boss mare of any herd I've seen her in over the last 18 years. She's FINE alone. She's confident and she honestly doesn't care one way or the other. (I HAVE had her alone as a temporary deal)

                                Have another mare who is not very confident and I think would be mind blown being alone.

                                There's only one gelding left at the old farm and he is fine alone. Not good in a herd anyway.

                                One of the other mares that used to be on the farm was so bad about being alone that we had to send another horse with her back home as a buddy.

                                The goat thing is another toss up. I bought one for my "boss mare" when she was injured and required stall rest for several months as a 3YO. I thought giving her some company in the barn would be good and a goat would make less mess than rotating other horses through. She hated the goat. I liked the goat. But mare hated goat.

                                So it just depends on the horse.
                                A good horseman doesn't have to tell anyone...the horse already knows.

                                Might be a reason, never an excuse...


                                • #17
                                  Lots of horses can manage just fine on their own. It's an individual personality thing. Our stallions could, and I have a strong suspicion that my bay baby boy would do fine on his own as long as he had regular work and plenty of space.

                                  One former boarder has her gelding at home alone. He's been fine all by himself for years. He is afraid of thunderstorms, but a stall mirror relieved that anxiety by giving him just the bit of company he needed to feel safe.

                                  Ask your horse what he wants, and good luck!


                                  • #18
                                    I've kept my one horse at home alone for three years. He's in a 3 acre pasture 10 hours/day and stalled the balance of the day. I too was worried what would happen. But thus far, he's fine alone.


                                    • #19
                                      I would mix the mini and rescue ideas - a plan I've had in the back of my head for when (sigh... if) I ever get my own farm - foster/adopt an older pony from a rescue. That's even better than a horse mostly because 4 acres is marginal with 2 horses but should do better with a horse/pony.
                                      Your crazy is showing. You might want to tuck that back in.


                                      • #20
                                        One is Enough

                                        Unless you buy an anxiety-ridden mare. Initially, I bought a 4 yr old mare. She could see and touch noses with the horses in the next pasture, but no horses were in her pasture. She was fine in the beginning, but slowly lost her mind. She paced the fence vigorously anytime the other horses were out of sight and hollered. That's all she would do, trot the fence and whinny. She didn't seem to get better with time either. So now I have a bossy gelding and she's not thrilled with him, but is way calmer. Of course if he goes for a ride or walk with me, she starts up again.