We all have busy times when we can’t work with our horses as much as we would like. Family, illness, work and weather can prevent us from working our horses consistently. Particularly with young horses, it is important that they get some type of exercise. Whether you board your horse at home or in a stable, turn the horse out every day or so. Try to find someone to help you if you cannot do it. It is important that all horses get some kind of exercise. If you put a young horse in with other hand-picked horses, you can also socialize your horse. Being with another horse will help him learn how to act around his own kind. Socialization with their own kind, another baby or an adult horse, is very important and should be part of a young horse’s training program. Socialization can affect the emotional and mental development of your horse and make for a more well rounded horse.
When I first bought my horse Tennison at 18 months, he had never been exposed to any kind of socialization. It took him several years to learn how to “be a horse”– to romp and play and rear and bite and chase other horses in a pasture or corral. Horses are just like people in that if they are not socialized enough, they do not know how to act around their own kind. With socialization, a horse learns how to accept pressure and leadership. An adult horse will educate a youngster. Any time a puppy comes to the ranch, my dog Max, who is four years old, seems to think it is his job to teach the puppy manners. An older horse does the same thing. I use mares for this because they are usually good teachers.
When you only have one horse and you board your horse at home, how do you provide the socialization? Try to get your horse out with others at trail rides or horse shows. Some of my clients have adopted or bought rescue horses with lameness problems to provide companionship for horses boarded at home. This way, not only can you save a life by adopting a horse who normally wouldn’t be adoptable, but you can also make your horse happy. I have also had clients who have gotten a goat to provide companionship for their horse and have seen the two animals romp and play together.
Since not every horse is a good match and you don’t want your horse hurt, you do have to be careful which other horse you match your horse up with. When a horse comes to the ranch for training, we regularly match horses and I have never had any major problems or accidents other than a horse giving or getting a nip here and there. I actually have seen more horses get hurt by themselves than when they are with others. We try to match up two to three horses in the large turnouts so that they get plenty of socialization.
If you board out, it is important to pay attention to what goes on and to speak up when the situation isn’t good. Even the most conscientious ranch or stable owner can get busy and not see everything that is going on. You can’t assume that when you board your horse out, anyone but you is going to routinely see that everything is going well. Know your horse well, behavior, soundness and personality.