Tuesday, April 2, 2013

"My Thoughts on Having One Horse"

Howdy Folks,

Last week Linda Tansek asked if I would share my thoughts of having just a single horse. My reason for wanting to keep only one horse is both health and financially driven. If I could I would have 3 – 5 as we used to. Coffee Clutch followers and Facebook friends know that I do have only one horse, my mare, Kessy. You may not know that before Kessy I had other single horses, my Competitive/Endurance horse, River and the fabulous rescue horse, Honey. All did fine being the only horse here.

Allow me to describe, "here" because I do believe their home environment plays a big part. A barn that allows Kessy to come and go as she pleases, about an acre to roam in among trees. No grass to speak of, but free choice hay in a slow feed hay bag 24/7. No grain, but some fruit and fresh vegetables. She also has her free roaming chickens, 2 cats and 3 dogs. Her barn is 30 feet from the house and her yard is our back yard, she can and will come right up to the back door. Sometimes she'll nicker softly to get my attention.
Kessy's barn allows her to come and go as she pleases. Our chickens do too!
Kessy has been an "only horse" for 34 months, she moved in with us in May 2011. Kessy had never been off the farm where she was born. She was 7 when she moved in with us. They had lots of horses. I believe she made the adjustment to being an only horse right away. So did River and Honey, but as I said, I suppose their "home" here had something to do with it, the free style roaming and pets and chickens, and our back porch. And don't forget I start each day with our Coffee Clutch. And sometimes I write in the barn, but only when it's warm. Now everyone who would like to keep only one horse may not be able to do everything we do here, but I share our set up as "food for thought." Perhaps it might help you to make your own plans.
Kessy is free to roam her wooded acre lot. The dogs cats and chickens roam with her.
Also I do a fair amount with Kessy, the release and relax exercises, we ride 2 or 3 days a week, groom her almost daily and other little things. But there are plenty of days that all I do is feed her, too.
Kessy, Saturday and Dutch working on a story together.
I've been told because of the herd thing horses need other horses to be happy, "they are herd animals" they say. Plenty of folks with one horse have ponies or minis as pasture buddies, or other companion horses. I think that is wonderful, if you want it. I was told a few years back, after River left and I was looking to adopt a horse, I could not adopt with only one horse, I needed at least a companion horse. I did not adopt there ... did that horse I wanted to give a home to find one? I don't know.

I know this is a touchy subject with strong opinions on both sides, but it's my opinion a horse can and will thrive and enjoy life if they are the only horse. Just as is the case with any horse be it your only horse, or part of a herd, how we care for, play with and learn from them are the most important things to that horse.

One final note, Kessy is just fine when we go riding with others, too. No excitement, no separation anxiety, no crowding on the trail. She is confident in herself, trusts me and enjoys herself. I think everyone needs to make this decision for themselves, but I think a single horse well cared for is perfectly wonderful. I also have several friends who have only one horse and are doing splendidly. I do think diet, exercise and no confinement to a stall is very important, but then I think that is very important for all horses.

Gitty Up ~ Dutch Henry


  1. Great article Dutch...I have had horses in both situations, alone and in a herd...Horses are very good at adapting to what ever situation you give them..as long as you love them and take good care of them...i went from 1 horse to raising AQHA horses in a herd of about 20..With the horse business as it is we had to downsize. Now have 3 horses and 2 ponies..I keep ponies for my grand kids..I ride 2 of my horses and the other is a broodmare we just decided to keep...Horses are tougher the people give them credit for...Remember they were once wild and have those survival skills...They are awesome animals...

    1. Thanks Darlene! ... Sounds like life is great at your farm. Yes indeed, "Horses are Aw some!"

  2. Got to say I am very glad you chose this subject. There are so many diverse opinions and some people get very adamant about those opinions.I have had horses in both situations as well and have actually found that in some cases involving horses experiencing behavior troubles, especially issues relating to confidence, the horse has functioned better as a single horse. In my present herd of 4, I have one horse who prefers to not socialize with the other horses but prefers her Pygmy goat pal. I have heard from some people that a herd can contain other animals of that species but I don't believe that to be true. Like you, my horses,goat,chickens and humans share the same back yard with woods to wander in if they choose. We are all part of the herd dynamics.To make a broad statement that a particular adopter wouldn't be suitable for a rescue horse solely because there are no other horses on the property does a disservice to that horse. If the perspective adopter was not home much or had a life style where he/she wasn't able to interact with this horse much then I would agree they should not have a single horse. If the perspective adopter is able to fulfill the emotional needs of said horse whether it be one on one with the human or with the help of other suitable companion animals, then it would be a disservice not to take the time to evaluate this perspective home further. The particular horses personality plays a huge role in this as well. Not every horse can deal with being a single horse and not every horse prefers to be with other horses. In the wild there are solitary stallions that will spend years by themselves until they find the right band to join or are able to find their own mare to start a band of their own. Although I have not seen any documentation to back it up, I suspect there may be loners that never become members of a herd. I had a TB years ago that was very unhappy in the company of other horses and would only settle down and relax in the company of a bird. He had a pet duck for a few years and was alone after the duck passed away. Several months later a wild ringneck pheasant would show up and hang around him at different times of the day. They often shared meals together. Like people, horses are such individuals and we humans really need to get on
    board and try to be as adaptable as they are.

    1. Thanks Tricia!! ... Love your story of the horse, duck & pheasant! Yes we do need to learn to be adaptable ... The horse will teach us if we listen ...

    2. What Miss VanCoenhover said, in spades.

  3. I've never read an article pro or con about having only one horse and found I agree totally with your opinion. Because my horse is at a barn and none of us have land at our homes to keep them (plus it's illegal) I don't have to make that decision. But it appears you've made the right one.