Archives MAIN PAGE

Franklin Levinson's

Horse Help Center

Professional support for you and your horse!

horses' companionship needs and time requirements with owners

Hello Franklin!

I am not a horse owner, but my wife and I are considering relocating to less expensive, somewhat rural land, primarily for reasons of financial planning. However, one aspiration we are considering is to secure property that would accommodate horse ownership. Such a move would be 2-4 years away for us, but considering the seriousness of the commitment involved in horse ownership as well as a horse's long lifespan, I think it isn't too early to start learning and asking questions, lest I not know what I'm getting into when that time comes.

In search of the answers to my questions, I have spent time reading quite a few web sites. I decided to direct my question to you, because I see from the Question and Answers section of your site that you have a genuine concern for the psychological wellbeing of horses.

My time issue is that I am interested in pursuing a doctorate and an MBA will be going to school 2 or 3 nights per week after my 9-5 job. This go on for quite a few years (up to 10). My wife will be in a similar fix, because she also has a 9-5 and is just starting her bachlor's degree. Obviously, our schedules won't allow us to be the horse's only friend. We have agreed that when (or if) we acquire a horse, we will have to get at least two.

So, I have two areas of questions:

how much time must I spend with my horses for them to be able to bond with me?
I should be able to spend a few hours with them each day on Saturday and Sunday, plus about one hour for one or two days during the week. On school nights, usually Tuesday and Thursday with homework-laden Wednesdays, I would probably only see the horses for a few minutes to feed and water them and provide for their hygiene. Will I be able to maintain a trust relationship with the horses such that I can ride them, go for walks on or beside them, stroke them and generally have an affectionate bond and relationship with them? Towards the horses' health, will a horse sufficiently provide for his or her own exercise when I'm unavailable if open space is available? Will having a bond with the horse make the horse unhappy when I'm away, even if it has an equine companion?

are you aware of any best grouping such that a pair of horses will best provide for one another's companionship needs?
For example, would they be happier together if they were the same age or if one is young and the other old? Would a mare and a gelding be happier together than two mares? (I'm guessing that two males are probably the worst combination?) If they are of opposite gender and different age, does it matter whether it's the mare or the gelding that's the older horse? I think you understand now what I want to know without any further rambling.

One last consideration, if you'll indulge me, I've read a lot from rescue groups and the Humane Society about the need to adopt abused or neglected horses or to buy starved or injured horses which can be nursed to health from an auction to prevent their slaughter. Would the special needs of such a horse make that kind of acquisition out of the question given the time restraints that I've mentioned above? I would provide for their veterinary care without fail and build or acquire whatever equipment they need to keep them in comfort while they recover, but the question again comes down to time spent during the week days.

I know I've written quite a long letter and asked a lot of questions that may require long answers. If you've made it this far into the letter, I deeply appreciate your concern and patience. I do very much want to provide a horse not only with a home but happiness.

Thank you!

Hello Steven,

Your relationship and bond with a horse can be very quick depending on how well and appropriately you interact and communicate with the horse. Yes, deep relationships take some time. But good or not-so-good feelings can be established quickly. Here are a few general principles; your relationship with your horse begins and is formed through successful action and interaction with the horse 'on the ground'. If you honor the horse by not assuming the horse 'should' do something because you ask but, rather, ask appropriately and look for the horse to try to do as you are requesting and reward the horse's try. This sets you up as the good parent type of leader. If you remember to make every little simple move you want the horse to do (such as coming forward, stopping, backing, turning, etc.) a clear, precise and conscious request and then say 'thank you' when you get what you want, the horse will habituate to 'trying' to do as you request. This is a very good thing.

Horses will move themselves around a bit when in a pasture with some room. They may even run and jump on a cool, fresh day. If the horse has equine companions it will certainly be fine with you not being there for days on end. However, unless you are there regularly and do something with the horse, it will become 'herd bound' and not want to leave its companions. As far as gender for the companions, another gelding is fine actually unless one is decidedly aggressive.

Older or younger, doesn't really matter. Although, sometimes folks are looking to retire an older horse and will give it w/o charge to a good home looking for a companion animal. As far as rescuing a horse, its a nice thought. Frequently there is a ton of baggage with rescued horses. I really believe in rescuing as many as possible. However, rehabiliting a horse can be risky and I think is best left to somone with a fair amount of horse experience. For a first horse I strongly suggest a horse over 6 years of age who has some wonderful training and is as bomb proofed as possible. This horse will teach you what you need to know mostly. If you get a horse that needs training, you will be hardpressed to provide it, believe me.

I hope I have offered some insight and I thank you for your question. Please keep me posted as to how it goes. Happy Holidays to you.

Sincerely, Franklin

Look for: