with hay, the happier they will be.
I could, theoretically, keep hay in front of Sally at all times but that did have some significant downsides. For starters, she is a very easy keeper. I’d have to be careful about the hay I chose and cut back in other areas of her diet to ensure she didn’t pick up too much weight. Increasing her hay supply to “unlimited” could also quickly become prohibitively expensive. Unlimited hay, then, didn’t seem like the best idea for us.
• Utilize slow feeders. If unlimited hay wasn’t a viable option, I could try stretching her usual hay ration as far as possible by using a slow feeder. These feeders regulate a horse’s hay consumption by allowing them to only get a few stems at a time. Slow feeders help replicate natural grazing behavior, occupying a horse’s time and mind without the downsides of weight gain and a strained bank account. Slow feeders come in a variety of options, ranging from what are essentially hay nets with very small holes to elaborate boxes with mesh lids. There are also plans available online for building your own if you were so inclined. I saw very little downside of a slow feeder for my mare and filed the idea under “very possible” in my mind if she seemed to become bored or anxious.
• Get a goat or a donkey. If bringing in another horse wasn’t a good option right now, perhaps a smaller companion animal might be. I, like most horse owners, had heard tales of racehorses with dedicated goat companions that traveled from track to track with them. Or of faithful donkeys who, already being naturally fluent in equine body language, stepped easily into the role of fellow herd members. Honestly, the idea of a goat or donkey sounded pretty fun. But taking a step back, I realized that neither of these options seemed like a good fit for our farm. From my large animal background I knew that the fencing, feed and the simple day-to-day care of these animals can be quite different from those required for horses. The responsibility of taking on another, different creature was a big one that I wasn’t prepared to take on just yet.
The days stretched to weeks as I researched and considered these options. All the while I kept a close watch on Sally. And, to my surprise and relief, she continued to do fine. She was eating and drinking normally, was her typical laidback self when I handled and rode her, and she hadn’t developed any signs of anxiety, like stall walking or wood chewing. Perhaps most reassuring was the fact that I’d often find her stretched flat out to sleep in the early morning hours or for a nap in the afternoon sun. I knew that horses who are fretful about being alone often don’t feel secure enough to lie down in such a vulnerable position, but she seemed to have no qualms about it.
I had made no changes to our
Slow feeders help replicate natural grazing behavior, occupying a horse’s time and mind without the downsides of weight gain and an empty bank account. The idea of a goat or donkey sounded pretty fun. But taking a step back, I realized that neither of these options seemed like a good fit for our farm.
routine and not only was Sally coping well, but our relationship thrived. We calmly went out on trail rides alone. She sought my leadership. I trusted in her abilities. I decided to not try to fix what wasn’t broken.
After a few months, I did have to make an adjustment, but it wasn’t one I’d expected. I discovered, ironically, that after longer periods of solitude