Loneliness is a common problem for many animals and horses can get lonely too. These beautiful animals are highly sociable and according to the RSPCA if they don’t socialise with other horses they “may experience high levels of stress which can lead to abnormal behaviour”.
So, how can you make sure your equine friend has enough companionship to prevent this?
Caring for your horse’s social needs
You can start off by ensuring that your horse is stabled with other animals. Recent research carried out by the Nottingham Trent University revealed that horse behaviour is determined by its proximity to other horses.
Lee Hackett of the British Horse Society believes that keeping your horse on its own for long periods of time in a loose box could increase its stress levels and even lead to depression in the animal.
Keeping your horse at a livery might be a solution if you only have one horse under your ownership.
Alternatively you could make sure that it is released into a paddock every day where it will be able to enjoy the company of other horses and animals.
How can I tell if my horse is lonely?
If your horse holds its head low or appears aggressive when you approach it, or if it appears to withdraw rather than greet your approach with a friendly snicker, then your animal may suffer from depression.
Horses are sociable animals. In the wild the mares and foals roam in large groups and studies show that horses are happiest when with other equine friends. If your horse starts to bite you, with its ears back accompanied with a swishing tail and a stamping foot, it may be time to address the question of your horse’s environment.
Horse care is fundamentally about understanding your animal’s needs. They can’t tell you if they are sad but they can show you!
Not all horses get on
Like human society, not all horses get on with each other. When introducing your animal to others horses make sure that the paddock is large enough to accommodate them both comfortably.
Observe the introduction, if you see signs of excessive squealing biting or kicking then remember this is quite normal but should not be allowed to escalate or become dangerous.
Try and keep sexually aggressive geldings away from a group of mares. If you have the space, then letting your new horse set up home into an adjoining paddock is an excellent idea as both parties can get acquainted without fear of injury or fights over herd dominance.
If you have a passive horse, then put it in with the newcomer as this will soothe any jumpy nerves.
A lonely horse is an unhappy horse
When stabling your horse make sure that it’s housed in close proximity with the rest of your horses. Levels of cortisone can rise as a result of isolation and this can lead to depression and other illnesses.
Horses need companionship in order to thrive – make sure yours gets it!