Sally would become anxious when she was around other horses. It was almost as if she would forget how to relate to them and when she did see them, she worried about what they might do.
Fortunately, the solution was easy enough. I try to not let more than a week or two go by without allowing her some interaction with other horses. I take her trail riding with friends or ride her at a local park regularly. This seems to be often enough for her to keep up her social skills and remain comfortable in the company of other horses.
As her time as a lone horse stretches on, I continue to see benefits of solo horsekeeping. Sally and have developed a level of trust with one another unlike few I have ever experienced. I have also enjoyed some unexpected personal benefits to being the owner of a lone horse. For instance, I never feel as if I need to divide my attention between multiple horses. There is also less time involved and fewer expenses with caring for one animal, allowing me to devote more resources to her. Although solo horsekeeping isn’t a situation I would have ever chosen, it does work well for us. I never would have thought that before I’d experienced it myself.
Of course, not every horse would adapt to the single lifestyle as easily as Sally did. Certainly most young horses need the socialization opportunities provided by one or more horses. And others may simply have personalities or life experiences that would make living alone a problem, no matter what you provide in terms of toys, hay and attention. In those cases, a second horse may be the only solution. I also understand that not every owner will be comfortable with just one horse. Having another mount for friends and family is nice, as is having a “backup” ride when a horse needs time off.
Today, when new friends become aware that I have only one horse, I will still get the occasional offer for a companion animal for Sally. Perhaps in the pasture she does miss having a partner horse from which she can seek a friendly back scratch or share in the duties of fly swishing. I will never know. But I do know that I am not yet ready to take on another horse and I am happy that she seems content with her current life. Maybe one day there will be a new four-legged friend for Sally, but for now she’s loving the single life.
When caring for a suddenly solo horse, your priority is protecting his emotional well-being and health. But don’t overlook the challenges you’ll have to confront yourself. Here are a few ways you can help yourself cope with being a single-horse owner. It’s not just horses who are social creatures. So are many riders. If you aren’t already accustomed to it, suddenly being the caretaker of a solo horse can be isolating. Scour feed store bulletin boards and online communities and attend local events to find nearby groups of likeminded riders you can connect with to exchange ideas and encouragement. Buying hay, grain and shavings in small quantities isn’t nearly as cost-effective as bulk purchasing. When you’re the caretaker of a lone horse, however, you don’t need huge amounts of anything and storage can be difficult or impossible. You may, however, be able to split a bulk purchase with several nearby neighbors, sharing the savings. If you live in an area where farrier and veterinary care options are already limited, you may have trouble finding a professional willing to travel to your location to do routine care for a single horse. Or you may end up paying extra for such a visit. Explore the possibility of trailering your horse to a more populated barn for routine care on days a farrier or veterinarian is already scheduled to be there.