I received a call yesterday from a college acquaintance who bought a horse last year for his daughter. It's a first horse, and comes complete with all the learning curves that the phrase "first horse" brings with it.
("You mean we need to get his feet trimmed every 8 weeks?! We've had him for 5 months. Probably should find a farrier, hmmm?")
I'm not trying to belittle the guy. He genuinely doesn't know this stuff. But he's willing to learn. So when he calls (inevitably at supper -- regardless of what time we eat...) I try to answer his questions.
Yesterday's question had to do with the horse's state of mind and social well-being. (I told you he was ready to learn. Many long-time horse owners aren't nearly as concerned about their animals' happiness.) The place where he board the gelding recently sold the mare that the horse was pastured with. So now he's all alone.
The question was: How quickly should they worry about finding another horse to share the pasture with the gelding?
I told him that, while it's true that horses are social creatures and tend to do best in a herd situation, he didn't need to hurry up and go buy a companion animal. As long as the horse wasn't pacing nervously, running around whinnying, or off his feed, he'd be just fine by himself for a time.
I told him that some people get companion animals like goats or donkeys to keep lonely horses company. I also told him that I was proud of him for considering his horse's psyche and happiness. For now, he said that the gelding was perfectly happy by himself -- evidently the now-missing mare was a fairly aggressive and dominant one. It seems that the gelding is not at all upset at being the one and only...
I have a gelding like that. Two of my boys like the social interaction of hanging out together. But Nehi prefers to be a Herd of One. Others infringe on the available food, and that never bodes well in his mind.