Concerning social needs, the horse requires at least one constant companion with whom it can maintain full contact.

Full contact

“Full contact” means that the horse can not only see and sniff companions, but also interact with them smoothly and continuously. This is possible when horses live in a horse farm with a companion, and not possible when horses are kept in separate stables one at a time, or when they are allowed to sniff and mingle a little while keeping them on the lines. Sometimes horses are forced to live for years without full contact with relatives, or even completely alone.

“In stable horse farming, a person provides what he believes to be good food, shelter and health care, but usually deprives them of the long-term social relationships and communication with their relatives, which seems so important for horses living in the wild. Scientists now consider social contact and relationships with congeners to be equally important for the well-being of the domestic horse.” – Daniel Mills and Sue McDonnell, The Domestic Horse.

A horse is a social animal that is naturally “hard-wired” to live in a group. Being in a group gives the horse a sense of security and the ability to fully perform certain behavioral rituals that are important for his mental well-being (acquaintance, mutual grooming, play, establishment of hierarchy).

Isolation is stressful.

“Like all social animals, horses need companions. However, many horses are kept separately, which prevents them from exhibiting normal social behavior. This social isolation is likely to lead to frustration and distress in animals.” – Paul McGreevy and Andrew McLean, Equitation Science.

Numerous studies have shown that isolated horses experience chronic stress and increased anxiety. Such horses will have an urgent need to communicate with congeners. It will be difficult to work with them in the presence of other horses. Until the social need is met, horses will only think about finding a companion, not training.

Permanent companion

It is just as important for the horse not only to be in the company of any other horse all the time, but to form friendships with some of them. It has been scientifically proven that horses can form long-term, strong bonds. Sometimes in nature, couples are formed for life. This is also important for the mental well-being of the horse.

“Horses are quite unique among ungulates, and indeed among mammals, in that stallions and mares maintain long-term bonds. Horses have a complex system of social relationships and communication. And it is built based on close ties between several partners who, when they grow up, remain with each other for many years. Horses also have intricate parenting systems.” – Daniel Mills and Sue McDonnell, The Domestic Horse.

Such connections are not formed instantly. Before creating such a bond, horses need to determine their social and partner status from the very beginning of dating. This occurs during a behavioral dating ritual.

The hierarchy is not immediately established.

Sorting out the relationship can take 2-3 weeks. It can take up to several weeks to completely establish a hierarchy in a herd, when a new horse is introduced there! Changing and clarifying status always causes a lot of tension. During this period, there is an abundance of conflict behavior: reactions of aggression, avoidance and signs of stress.

It is only when the hierarchy is fully established, that conflicting behavior between horses practically disappears and relationships are formed.

Therefore, if a horse cannot communicate with some kind of relative for a long time or these companions are constantly changing, stress will constantly arise, and the horse’s need for communication will remain unmet.

“It is unreasonable to believe that any horse can be a companion. With optimal control of the process, it takes time to determine which horses will be suitable neighbors for each other.” Paul McGreevy and Andrew McLean, Equitation Science.

Meeting a social need is essential to the well-being of the horse. Only when you ensure that all of the above needs are met, the horse can easily focus on working with you!

Bio: Donald is a writer, zoopsychologist, and a contributor to cheap essay writing service. He loves spending time with horses at the horse farm, and is happy to share his insights on the social needs of a horse

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