|My horse barn turned dog kennel|
I'd leased my mare to my trainer for breeding purposes. She was in foal but absorbed the foal. They bred her again, and she didn't take the second time. The stallion wasn't available for a third breeding, so she would not be bred again this year. Not wanting to pay the money to board a horse that I'm not riding, I made the decision to bring her home in September.
I've not had a horse on the property in six years. This will be a big adjustment for my husband and I. We've gotten in the habit of leaving quite often for weekend vacations, which will be harder to do now. We've also turned one of the stalls and paddocks into a dog kennel. The fencing in the other paddock is in need of repair, my pasture is overgrown, and the fences also need repair. Weeds are growing in my outdoor arena. The hay storage area has other stuff stored in it. All in all, the place needs to work to be horse ready.
|My seldom-used arena|
|The logging road in the woods by my house|
Yet, despite the work and hassle involved, part of me is looking forward to having Gailey at home and doing some trail riding in my woods. Also, I know I can pay closer attention to her when she's at home than I could at the boarding stable.
I'm open for suggestions on a low-maintenance companion for her so give me your ideas.
Well, you probably know what I'm going to suggest, Jami;) A donkey!
I've had a similar situation, keeping one horse and one donkey as buddies, and it worked out well. You can pretty much leave grass hay in front of the donkey without worrying about it, they don't have too much of a fit when you take off to ride your horse, and after the initial shock of those long ears the horse realizes it's another equine and everything is spiffy. Also, donkeys are not accident prone, require much less upkeep than a horse, and their low-key nature usually has a calming effect on the horse. If you think you might like this idea, let me know. I might be able to find something for you from my donkey network buddies.
Jamie, my local humane society has a foster horse program. If yours does too, maybe fostering a retired or companion horse might be a good match? Here's a link to the MSPCA's Equine Foster Care program - retired and companion horses are listed under the last category, TLC: http://www.mspca.org/adoption/methuen-nevins/equine-farm-center/ways-to-help/equine-foster-care.html
I was also going to suggest fostering. There are a number of equine rescue places near us - I think they are found across the US.
I like Linda's idea of a donkey. A goat would also work. The nice thing about either of them is that they are easy keepers and don't have a fit if you go off on the horse. Also, you might be able find an alternative to your dog stall for housing a wee beasty! However, the negative side of a wee beasty is that they can escape through some fencing, so that may be an issue that would need to factor into the decision.
I love your barn and green woods, Jami. And trails! Sigh.
I would also suggest an older horse from either a rescue or a well-mannered trooper/retired pony/lame but sound in heart and body in need of a rest and someone to love him or her. You do have to be careful. We babysat an older mare who was bossy and not at all friendly with me and my other two horses. We all breathed a sigh when she left.
Race horses have had chickens and cats as "companions" but each comes with its own set of issues. My OTTB is a single horse. We have a very open paddock area and he can see what's going on in the neighborhood. I also have two dogs--a Pembroke Welsh Corgi and her Doxie son--and they are "out and about" and often in the paddock with the horse because it's shady there. My horse also loves his reflection in a mirror. Not sure how well a reflective surface would work in a turnout or pasture, but that's another thing to consider.
The foster idea is great, too. I fostered an Appie cross for 18 months and the change was good for him, too.
I was thinking miniature horse or donkey too, but I LOVE Vanessa's suggestion about a foster horse! What a fabulous idea; and boy is there a huge need for that right now.
I can't imagine not having horses here (who cares about silly old vacations when there are horses in the backyard? Not me. ;o)
I only have experience with companion goats, so I'll just tell you about them. (I do love the foster horse idea - the thought of the vet bills for a companion horse has kept me away from picking up a freebie!)
Goats are hard to fence, but a couple appropriate-height strands of hotwire will keep them in. My goat does fine with just a horse for company. He takes up no room and eats very little - he gets Dixie's grass hay and a tiny amount of free-choice goat minerals. Goats hate to be wet, so you definitely need a roofed area where the goat can hide from the rain and complain about the weather. They don't carry many parasites common to horses, and they don't need their feet done very often. Some goats eat tails, but mine hasn't (or I wouldn't still have him.) My goat is a jerk and I'm not very fond of him, but lots of people have very lovable goats, so YMMV!
They do eat blackberry canes!
I own one horse and foster a filly from a horse rescue. It's a nice way to help out a horse in need, give some financial relief to a rescue, and provide a companion for your horse without having to commit to that 2nd horse forever (unless you fall in love and then you can adopt). My foster is low maintenance in the sense that I don't have to train her or ride her; just feed and love her. But there is double manure to scoop and double feed to buy and double vet & farrier bills, just like owning two of the critters. Yes, you are in for some big changes. Horses at home do keep us on a short leash. But they are worth it. I'm excited for you that you will have your mare at home. You have a nice barn and arena. Enjoy!
I'll also add that if I could have a goat, I'd be very tempted to go that route. I think they are cute. But alas, my snooty homeowner's association won't allow goats. My mare is in training at a stable where one of the horses has a goat of its own, even though it has horses in ajoining paddocks to socialize with. The goat is adorable. I want one. I'd probably end up with a foster horse and a goat, cuz then when I take my mare out for a ride, the goat and the foster could keep each other company. Oh...so many animals to love...so little time and money.
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