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Managing Horses who have to be alone?

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  • Managing Horses who have to be alone?

    Not all the time, but for a good part of their day?

    I know it is natural for horses to be with others and it's unnatural and so very hard for them to be by themselves. Where I am now, there are only two horses, and so they must be regularly split up otherwise no one will ever get any riding done! Of course the ideal would be if there were another horse as company, but there isn't and there isn't lots of room, so we hope to see how well we can manage the situation.

    There are other animals all over the place but nothing particularly large- there are geese chickens and dogs about all the time so there is activity and living things around to observe.

    Separating the pair has been hard tricky but far from impossible. We have been trying keeping them out of sight of each other in paddocks but within earshot. They call and pace a bit for a few minutes every so often, with the odd run along the fence thrown in, but do settle and drink, graze and roll etc. as well.

    I don't know what is reasonable to expect of them- can they adjust to this situation or will it be a real problem for good? One horse is very new to her surroundings so her anxiety is probably being heightened by that, but at home she hacked out alone very comfortably so I didn't have her pegged as a particularly insecure mare.

    Thoughts welcome!
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  • #2
    Originally posted by Cancara View Post
    Not all the time, but for a good part of their day?

    I know it is natural for horses to be with others and it's unnatural and so very hard for them to be by themselves. Where I am now, there are only two horses, and so they must be regularly split up otherwise no one will ever get any riding done! Of course the ideal would be if there were another horse as company, but there isn't and there isn't lots of room, so we hope to see how well we can manage the situation.

    There are other animals all over the place but nothing particularly large- there are geese chickens and dogs about all the time so there is activity and living things around to observe.

    Separating the pair has been hard tricky but far from impossible. We have been trying keeping them out of sight of each other in paddocks but within earshot. They call and pace a bit for a few minutes every so often, with the odd run along the fence thrown in, but do settle and drink, graze and roll etc. as well.

    I don't know what is reasonable to expect of them- can they adjust to this situation or will it be a real problem for good? One horse is very new to her surroundings so her anxiety is probably being heightened by that, but at home she hacked out alone very comfortably so I didn't have her pegged as a particularly insecure mare.

    Thoughts welcome!
    Actually, the ideal is not a third horse. The ideal is that the horses are capable of being worked independently.

    You say that they settle down when they are separated in turn out. What happens when you try to ride them separately?

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    • #3
      My gelding is kept alone, all the time. He's the only horse on several acres of pasture. Do I worry about his happiness? Yes. A couple years ago I had the bright idea of getting another horse, and it ended badly. Lost a friendship over it, had to move them back to said pasture, and I couldn't work my horse without him freaking out because his friend wasn't by his side. And I agree, they should ALWAYS be able to work independently; however I was not able to work them enough or separate them to achieve this.

      Sold second horse, my horse buddies up with the cows. Still would throw a minor tantrum on being led away from the, but would work fine. Cows leave, horse calls and calls, but finally settles down.

      In my situation I prefer him to be by himself. He gets visited several times a day by people, and I've caught him hanging out with deer. He doesn't stress and is rather happy.

      You say the mare hacked out alone fine at home; was she the only horse there? It is reasonable to expect them to be a bit anxious, but it is also reasonable to expect them to settle down and focus on their jobs.
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      • #4
        I had two at my farm over the summer (they are boarded now what with the snow and all....) so when I wanted to ride, it always left one at home alone. I don't know if it helped or hindered that I rode where the horse at home couldn't see us... Either way, neither my my guys cared when their 'buddy' left.

        Sure, the first day my young mare paced and hollered for a minute but I threw her some hay to keep her busy until me and my QH were out of sight. In a matter of days, I could take either horse out - leaving the second horse home- with not a peep from either one.

        Now I got a third project pony, but I really don't think that it'll make any difference. I think that my young mare even enjoyed the time away from my pushy QH gelding....

        I agree that adding a third horse to the pasture is only the excuse we tell others to justify our third horse and that the answer really is that our horses should learn to go out alone occasionally.

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        • Original Poster

          #5
          Thanks all for your replies;

          ABN- neither has been ridden yet- one is recovering from an injury- but nearly good to go, the other is so new she's not got a saddle yet!

          RNJ- our sit is very similar and I was worried I may need to take my mare away as the other horse had been managing alone before. The other day he pulled loose and came charging back to her. Not great for his poor resident owner! The mare was not the only horse at her old place but she was rarely, if ever turned out with others.

          Interestingly today two other horses passed her paddock where she is alone. She observed them closely but didn't try to approach the fence and didn't even shout to them. She seems to particularly want to be with horse no 2 at her own stable, a little gelding.

          I suspect she is relying on him a lot being new to her surroundings. We have established a routine- she is rugged for turnout then the gelding goes out to his paddock. She is then taken to hers for breakfast. Both shout and trot or canter up and down for a bit, but then settle for the rest of the day. At the moment I am avoiding putting them out closer together, though that will be the long term goal, because I don't want it to be difficult for other owner to take her horse in or out.

          Any thoughts? I am very pleased with how they are coping at the moment and hoping they will adjust to their routine, but I still worry about them and us owners!
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          • #6
            Cancara, I have only two at home and the answer is practice, practice, practice! There was a lot of worry and fret when we first moved here ... it was a move several states away from what had been "home" to these two for years, and from me running a boarding barn with many other horses to just my two at a smaller farm, so a big adjustment all 'round and they were overly dependent on each other, presumably because they were the only thing besides me familiar to each other.

            They are now fine being worked independently around here; I can even hack one around the neighborhood with no more drama than a few calls from the one left. I periodically stall one and turn the other out, turn them out in separate pastures, etc. All this practice makes them very accepting that sometimes they are together and sometimes not.
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            • #7
              When my old horse had to be kept alone because the younger horses picked on him I got him some goats, sheep and his very own Great Pyr. It was a very strange looking group but it worked.

              He was in his mid 30's
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              • #8
                To me the thing is when it gets to be too routine, then any change to that routine is cause for alarm. Meaning if those two horses do the exact same thing for 30 days then one day you need to take #1 away to the vet/show/lesson/McDonald's Drive Thru for a McFlurry, then all hell breaks loose.

                there is a school of thought that says take #1 away just to the point they get agitated and instantly bring #1 back ...rinse and repeat until done. That's a good school....but if they sit idle for 30 days, guess what...you get to start over.

                For me, the ideal solution is the addition of a donkey at any point 2 of my three horses may be gone on a trail ride, leaving #3 with a donkey for a companion. Easy peasy.

                I love the ideal of any horse can leave the premise and the sole remaining horse will be a good soldier, but that can be difficult to achieve unless you can do so often, routinely, and without idle periods where they all stand around in a daze.

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by katarine View Post
                  To me the thing is when it gets to be too routine, then any change to that routine is cause for alarm. Meaning if those two horses do the exact same thing for 30 days then one day you need to take #1 away to the vet/show/lesson/McDonald's Drive Thru for a McFlurry, then all hell breaks loose.


                  When I moved my gelding out to my boyfriend's farm last autumn, this was a concern - not because he'd be the only one there, but because there would now be three horses on the farm. So, when we go out on a trail ride, one will always be left behind.

                  We do put the "left behind" horse in his stall with a bunch of hay and water to keep him occupied, rather than leaving him in the pasture. We used to have a companion goat, but he was old and passed away in February.

                  A few times we tethered the dog in there for added company, but the horse didn't even seem to care that the dog was there and the dog ended up frantic about being left in the barn instead of her usual place outside. Fail.

                  As it turns out, any anxious hollering and whinnying lasted only about as long as the truck and trailer remained within earshot of the barn. Then the horse in the stall went to eating his hay and seemed quite happy to not be the one having to work that day.
                  Please copy and paste this to your signature if you know someone, or have been affected by someone who needs a smack upside the head. Lets raise awareness.

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