Horses are herd animals, not loners, but friends come in all shapes and sizes. My first horse, Bogie, loved the barn cat. He wasn’t crazy about other horses, but I often found the cat in his stall, happy as could be while my gelding nuzzled him.
Freedom loves dogs. Occasionally, he’ll find a dog that doesn’t mind having a 1200 pound animal snuffle at his fur. It’s one of the things that makes him a good hunt horse: he wants to be close to the hounds.
Racehorses, in particular, often have “barn buddies” to help keep them calm and help them save their energy for running. Goats, in particular, are good at calming nervous horses, who might stall walk, weave or crib.
Seabiscuit was known for having his “best friend” Pumpkin, but he also traveled with a dog, Pocatell, and a spider monkey known as Jo Jo.
Strong Impact’s BFF is Charlie the pig. He was the only horse in his barn who tolerated the porcine buddy (my horses have always been scared to death of pigs, so I think it takes a special horse to accept one).
Goats are frequently used as companion animals for racehorses. In fact, the derivation of the phrase, “got your goat” comes from racing in England centuries back when goats and horses were often companions. If a rival wanted to unsettle a horse (and influence the outcome of a race) he’d sneak into a barn and make off with the horse’s goat companion the night before, leaving the horse so upset that they used up their energy before the race.
This is still true today. The racehorse Eldaafer was so attached to his goat, named Google, that when he was shipped to race in Kentucky in the Grade 3 Turfway Park Championship, Eldaafer became inconsolable. He refused to train and paced his stall screaming for his friend. Worried they would need to scratch him from the race, his team called the home base in Florida where they discovered the goat was also missing his friend. So, Google was put on a plane, flown to Cincinnati, and driven to Turfway Park. Three days later, Eldaafer won the $100,000 race, and his trainer realized they couldn’t separate the two again. To hedge their bets, in case anything happened to Google, his connections bought him a second goat, named Yahoo. The three ultimately retired to “Old Friends” where the goats caused chaos until goat-proof fencing was installed!
Does your horse have any unconventional friends?