New research has proven: close relationships make our horses happier and healthier. So, how can riders/owners encourage friendship?
It is quite annoying when your horse’s best buddy is quite clingy. Sometimes they would try to come along and force themselves through the paddock gate or neigh really loud when their bestie is leaving their side. It is quite irritating, isn’t it? Then why should this friendship be understood and encouraged?
Because it is simply for the well being of our horses! The animals benefit strongly from their friends. Tight bonds make horses calmer, happier and healthier. This is shown by new research and experience
And by the way, the riders also benefit directly from those friendships in their training. However now we are focusing on the bond between horses.
Over 25 million years the life of the herd animal was imprinted on contact and physical closeness. The companionship was essential to their survival. It had an important meaning for them when they moved from the woods to the open steppe. There they were no longer able to hide from enemies.
According to Dr. Margit Zeitler-Feicht of the Technical University of Munich-Weihenstephan, the herd offered the flight animals security and heightened their chances of survival. The original necessity of social contact is still deeply anchored in our domestic horses. Without the companionship of their peers they cannot live properly. Horses feel a lot better when they find a friend within their group. This has always been underestimated.
The close relationships between horses are not just good for themselves but also for the whole group, which is very important in a modern open stable setting.
Friendships inhibit aggressions towards other horses
A good friend makes horses more peaceful. According to Equine Scientist Dr. Verena Hauschildt, close relationships can have a positive on the whole herd. It is obvious that horses with friends generally regard the togetherness with other horses as something harmonious.
Every horse benefits from a friend, even the rider!
Best buddies give each other security and access to important resources, food and water. A horse of higher rank would chase other horses away so that his friend of lower rank can enjoy his meal beside him. In other words, they have each other’s back!
When horses are calm and relaxed it will also show in their training. As a rider it will be much easier to train a relaxed horse. This way you will benefit from that friendship as well.
In this case it is important to focus on paddock mates and stable groups. In big groups horses have more options to find potential buddies. Note that they should be faced with an even number of horses when there are less then 10 horses around them. The probability of finding a close bond can also be based on the same age of the horse. Young horses like action, thus they get along with their same age-group who have the same need of moving around. Friends from a young age will usually stay together until they get older. Even seniors over 30-years-old are more often only interested in their only friend.
If your horse hasn’t found its soul mate, there is no need to worry. Just be patient. Friendships grow and sometimes they need more time to develop.