Does your horse need an animal friend?

Horses are herd animals and prefer having a companion around.

Horses are herd animals and prefer having a companion around.

Horses are herd animals and prefer having a companion around.

Horses evolved as herd animals and do better in groups. Having close companions helps them feel safe and keeps them from getting bored. As a result, they’re less likely to engage in destructive behaviors. Another horse is always the ideal friend, but they can be prohibitively expensive. After all, two horses means double the space, food and visits from your vet and farrier.

If you don’t have the resources for another equine, a different type of four-legged friend could be the answer you’re looking for. Below are some companion animal options perfect for a barn:

“Goats are less expensive and require less maintenance than horses.”

Goats

Goats do extremely well with horses. They eat the same food and have similar medical needs, and both enjoy being part of a herd. Thankfully, however, goats are far less expensive and require less maintenance.

If you choose to buy a goat, keep a watchful eye when it grazes. Goats will eat anything they can access, including decorative flowers or prized plants. Plus, as EquiMed cautioned, goats are mischievous, and Pygmies in particular have a knack for escaping.

Still, goats travel well, so you can easily bring them with you to shows and events. Horses and goats can form fast, strong bonds and will keep each other company throughout all hours of the day and night.

Cats

Despite their fussy reputations, cats can be great with horses. They keep rats and other pests at bay, so your horse is less likely to contract diseases and your feed supplies are safe. What’s more, cats barely need any space at all, preferring to curl up wherever there’s sun rather than roam around a pasture.

However, cats do not travel as well as other animals. In fact, they usually respond to car rides by panting, hissing and yowling, and they won’t be able to roam as they please during a show. Only get a cat if you don’t plan on doing much travel or if your horse is comfortable riding alone.

Cats keep mice away but do not travel well.Cats keep mice away but do not travel well.

Dogs

Dogs are hit or miss with horses. An even-tempered, mild-mannered or well-trained canine makes a great friend. Their energy and enthusiasm keeps horses active and happy. Dogs will follow you and your horse on pleasure rides and love car trips. They’re also great for spotting and announcing danger, helping your horse feel safe.

Unfortunately, some dogs are too energetic and can’t behave themselves around horses. A dog that likes to jump and bark too much can end up scaring or accidentally injuring your horse, who might then lash out and do some serious damage. On the other hand, a dog might be fearful of your horse and act aggressively in defense.

If you’re set on getting a canine, choose an intelligent breed that isn’t overly energetic or threatening. Horse Channel recommended retrievers, pointers, hounds, Dalmatians and several others.

Caring for horse and companion

Finish Line has several great horse healthcare products, some of which also benefit companion animals. Our Fluid Action and Fluid Action HA, for example, support healthy joints in equines, cats and dogs with vitamin C and glucosamine.

However, the most important part of keeping both animals healthy is making sure they get along. Introduce the two animals slowly and gently, and make sure they’re comfortable with each other before leaving them unattended. If you take your time and don’t force interactions between the two, your horse and its new buddy will develop a fast, strong friendship.