Because of the risk of injury, horse owners should keep pastures and barn aisles free of such enticements. Not necessarily, according to Dr. Cindy McCall, professor and extension horse specialist in the Department of Animal Sciences at Alabama's Auburn University.
Of course, investigative behavior can be turned to a training advantage with a little patience--like when using grain to lure a reluctant shipper onto a trailer. Rather than rushing the process, and risking a bad association, experts agree that it's better to slow down and let the horse's natural curiosity work for you.
Since horses are herd animals, chances are you've seen many instances of Social Facilitation (also called allelomimetic behavior). This refers to the tendency of animals in a herd to do the same thing at the same time, such as walk to the watering trough.
Vigilance is another example of social facilitation, one driven by the fact that horses are prey animals and thus keenly alert to signs of danger. The classic example of social facilitation is when you're on a trail ride and one horse spooks, triggering the same reaction in his companions.
Equines are considered “long-day breeders,” which means that mares tend to begin cycling during early spring, are at their most fertile during the summer, and enter “reproductive quiescence,” or an estrus, during the colder months. Though a mare's cycle can be inconsistent, the telltale signs that she's in heat include urinating frequently and/or lifting her tail and “winking” (opening and closing) her vulva.
That means reducing all signals to light aids, he says, and ensuring that “she is in self-carriage and not running away/leaning on the bit or forced into an outline by strong hands. Young colts start exhibiting sexual behavior as early as six months of age, so it's critical to keep them separated from female equines--including their own dams and siblings--until they are gelded (castrated).
In addition, he will display agonistic (aggressive) behavior toward horses that he considers competition for those mares. Indeed, it requires careful handling and just the right amount of authority to keep a stallion from turning on his handler or behaving like a bully in general.
Signs of aggression can range from a horse pinning its ears and lunging at the person tightening its girth to nipping, biting, wheeling and kicking. Because each horse knows its place, this natural hierarchy actually helps minimize aggressive behavior in the long run.
Of course, hierarchies can change with the situation; for example, the “top” horse at feeding time might not rank so highly in the competition for shelter. This program offers equine education courses and resources to help you achieve your horse-management goals.
Eastern Washington’s stunning scenery. Several years ago I took my horse, Chico, and his pasture mate, Barley, on a summer vacation to the hills of eastern Washington. He could set a pace and lead you out of the mountains and get you back to the truck and trailer by dark.
While he had boundaries and wasn’t afraid to express them, he didn’t waste energy on unnecessary things. One evening after I fed Chico his special food down by the house, I walked him and Barley up to their 45-acre home in the dark.
Horses have spectacular night vision, so walking in the dark was quite comfortable for Chico and Barley. To get to where we were going, we had to walk up this canyon-like corridor that opened to the field where the herd of 10 horses lived.
Then we would have to walk through that herd’s home to get to the 45-acre hillside where Chico and Barley would go. The last thing I wanted was Chico and Barley thinking they needed to negotiate or defend themselves when we reached the 10 horses.
As we walked up the corridor, the sky was midnight black and speckled with so many stars I had difficulty recognizing any constellations. I stood tall with open, relaxed, square shoulders to communicate to this approaching horse to stop at a distance from us.
Sure enough, the herd leader came into focus, his white/gray coat easily seen in the dark. Once he saw us, he slowed to a walk and stopped about 25 feet away, his head up, ears pricked forward and both eyes on us.
We had reached the edge of his territory, and as protector of his herd, he wanted to know who we were. Out of respect for him and his home and herd, I didn’t move, but I also did not give up any of my ground.
I could have stayed there forever: the diamond stars glittering in the night sky, this powerful gray horse meeting us at the gate to his field, fulfilling his duty as protector of his herd, and Chico and Barley waiting respectfully behind me. I have found that if I am patient and willing to wait long enough, horses will make their own decisions.
So on this beautiful evening, in the presence of all these horses, I waited to see what would happen. In order to be as unobtrusive as possible, we found a path around the herd of 10 horses and headed for the far gate to the 45-acres hillside.
The crunch of dry grass and soft dirt under my feet had begun to feel like home. I spent a long moment just hanging out and being with them, breathing, relaxing and enjoying their company and the beautiful place in which they lived.
I thanked them, the herd leader in particular, for sharing their home with us for the past two weeks. It was a bittersweet moment as I gathered Chico and Barley, and we walked through the resident herd’s home for the final time.
I savored every step down that hillside and the 360 degree panoramic view before me: sparkling blue sky, a few token billowing clouds, the river valley below us, and the mountains framing the land. As we neared our exit, I looked back one last time, took it all in, then dipped out of sight.
Chico following the resident herd leader on the trail. Preparing to leave on our last day. Some horses are very territorial and will chase and/or kill other animals that enter their space.
Domestic mares and geldings aren't very territorial, wild horses being animals who roam. They are more concerned about other horses like their offspring, or in a stallion's case, his mares.
In the wild, stallions are territorial and probably get mad is removed from their herd. Wild or feral horses should not be approached as this can alter their natural behavior.
My appaloosa is currently staying at a friends farm where there's one other horse. I went out today to grain Cherokee (my horse) and anytime Goldie (friends horse) would come close to me Cherokee would charge her, chase her clear up the field speed up in front of her then almost corral her further up the field then come prancing back to me.
Her personality is funny she's such a sneaky trickster too. If a mare gets separated from the harem she is more likely to sniff any eliminations she encounters, probably in order to try and follow the trail back.
It includes the preferred sites for grazing, (known as lawns), defecating, (known as roughs), shelter, drinking and shade. This may lead to increased aggression between individuals as groups are forced to share facilities in a common core area.
Whilst horses seem to have preferred areas, they do not generally defend territories in the wild. Without a doubt, horses can change their behavior depending on their individual circumstances.
Whilst rare in the wild, the sort of conditions which encourage territoriality may be more common in the domestic situation because the areas reserved for horses are generally very much smaller. If any male ignores these messages he is greeted with a tensely muscled, screaming and snorting display.
This is a high-risk game to play, and unless the intruder is confident of his position then he is likely to be seriously injured even if he wins. This is why posturing rituals and the avoidance of real violence is so important in nature.
Bachelor bands In order to manage horses effectively and sympathetically it is important to communicate with them in a way that they can understand. Position of Humans Good management should try to help people to form a close bond with their horses, whilst at the same time maintaining the role of controller.
This should avoid conflict and produce animals that are obedient because they want to respond favorably, rather than horses that obey because they are scared to disobey. Parker Flannery, a close friend of mine, proposed that we drop out of school, adopt wild horses, and attempt to traverse the Continental Divide Trail.
What started as a crazy idea turned into reality when we adopted a handful of mustangs from a holding facility in Paul’s Valley, Oklahoma. We planned to ride 2,000 miles from Santa Fe, New Mexico, through Colorado, Wyoming, and Montana to the Canadian border.
We launched a Kickstarter campaign, gathered the money, attracted an all-star film production team directed by Phillip Caribbean, adopted wild mustangs from the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), trained them with assistance from horse trainers Lanny Leach and Jerry Jones, and embarked on our journey. For five months and six days during the summer of 2013 we crossed 3,000 miles, primarily through public lands, in Arizona, Utah, Idaho, Wyoming, and Montana.
We held nationwide theatrical screenings, with all the proceeds going to the Mustang Heritage Foundation to fund adoption efforts. As of March 1, 2016, there were 67,000 horses and burros on public lands and 45,000 in government holding pens.
Computer models show that the current population, including foals born in 2016, is approximately 75,000 wild horses and burros. The controversial nationwide Appropriate Management Level (AML), defined as “the number of horses to have thriving ecological balance with the vegetation, wildlife, and livestock usage,” is 27,000.
The BLM gathers excess horses to prevent overgrazing and offers them up for adoption. Without the budget or facilities to round up and hold enough horses to equal the birth rate, the population in the wild has increased to nearly three times the Appropriate Management Level.
Wildlife conservation organizations claim that bison, bighorn, mule deer, pronghorn, sage grouse, and other native species should take precedence over livestock and wild horses. Through the creation of Unbranded and an accompanying book, I had the chance to interview some of the most brilliant minds in ecology, wildlife biology, animal welfare, politics, and rang eland management.
I was humbled beyond belief earlier this year when I was nominated to sit as wildlife management chair for the volunteer Bureau of Land Management wild horse and burro advisory board, as a 28-year-old, to help make policy recommendations that directly influence the rang eland and wildlife health on 31.2 million acres of public land in the West. Since then, because I voted in favor of euthanizing adoptable horses to prevent rang eland degradation, I have had death threats directed at me and my family.
So before I dive into this issue in as journalistically as I possibly can, I need to clarify a few things: I am not in the livestock industry, I am not being paid by a political entity, and the following blogs and short film were being developed long before my volunteer nomination took place. “Wild” horses in the American West are the perfect example of how species classification in politics is much more interesting than in biology class.
Today, wild horses and burros are present on 179 different BLM Herd Management Areas (MA), covering 31.6 million acres in Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, and Wyoming. Generations of natural selection, of braving extreme heat and cold, and of battling for breeding rights have resulted in animals that survive on meager rations and are resilient, tough-footed, intelligent, and well-suited to thrive in the West’s harsh conditions.
Under the Who Act’s protection, wild horse and burro populations expanded and rang eland managers became concerned that the animals would overgraze and damage the land. To achieve the Amos, the BLM began gathering horses, putting them in holding pens, and offering them up for adoption.
Over time, these excess horses became stockpiled in feedlot-type pens to the point where the BLM knew they couldn’t adopt them all out. All 45,000 of these wild animals were gathered off the range, segregated by sex, castrated, branded, given shots, and doomed to sit in a feedlot for about five years.
Although the Wild Horse and Burro Act specifically states that “The Secretary shall cause additional excess wild free-roaming horses and burros for which an adoption demand by qualified individuals does not exist to be destroyed in the most humane and cost-efficient manner possible,” this option hasn’t been utilized due to lawsuits, public outcry, and congressional riders. The BLM generally feeds each horse 20 pounds of hay every single day.
One horse in a holding pen in California or Nevada, eating locally produced irrigated hay, could be responsible for water usage totaling 730,000 gallons per year. Today, there are 4,620 wild horses and burros in California and Nevada pens, needing 3,372,600,000 gallons of water annually if no non-irrigated hay is available (as in drought conditions).
In 2013, I traveled to southwest Utah to photograph and watch a wild horse roundup. “Congress has already answered that question by unanimously passing a law to protect wild horses as living symbols of the historic and pioneer spirit of the West,” she replied.
The horse evolved on the North American continent, maybe it left for a while, but as far as I’m concerned they have a place on the Western landscape as a reintroduced native species.” A lot of these horses originated in the Dust Bowl when people just turned them loose when they couldn’t afford them; that still happens today.
This is important, because many wild horse herd management areas are genetically isolated. “Basically what we do is take the individual DNA for each sample and compare them to a reference panel of about 70 different breeds of horses and see which is the best fit.
Three of your mustangs, Violet, Chief, and Luke, have results all over the map, indicating that they’re mongrel type horses that don’t really have unique genetics. “The vast majority of the mustangs, I refer to it as the mongrel population, you can take a general management strategy on them because their genetics are commonly found in domestic breeds.
In fact, if you took individuals from different breeds and turned them loose in the wild, after a few generations you would have the mustangs we have today. I packed my bags and drove to Fly, Nevada, the heart of the wild horse and burro controversy, to meet with ecologists, wildlife biologists, and rang eland managers to learn more about the ecological consequences of mismanagement.
Ben Masters is a filmmaker, writer, and horse hand who splits his time between Bozeman, Montana, and Austin, Texas. Masters studied wildlife management at Texas A&M University, is a proud owner of six mustangs, and serves as wildlife management chair for the volunteer BLM Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board.
This four-part series and short film presents his experiences, research, and interviews on the controversial wild horse issue in the United States. Their first reaction to a threat is often to flee, although sometimes they stand their ground and defend themselves or their offspring in cases where flight is untenable, such as when a foal would be threatened.
Nonetheless, because of their physiology horses are also suited to a number of work and entertainment-related tasks. On the other hand, most light horse riding breeds were developed for speed, agility, alertness, and endurance; building on natural qualities that extended from their wild ancestors.
Horses evolved from small mammals whose survival depended on their ability to flee from predators. Humans have removed many predators from the life of the domestic horse; however, its first instinct when frightened is to escape.
If running is not possible, the horse resorts to biting, kicking, striking or rearing to protect itself. Many of the horse's natural behavior patterns, such as herd-formation and social facilitation of activities, are directly related to their being a prey species.
The fight-or-flight response involves nervous impulses which result in hormone secretions into the bloodstream. When a horse reacts to a threat, it may initially “freeze” in preparation to take flight.
The fight-or-flight reaction begins in the amygdala, which triggers a neural response in the hypothalamus. The initial reaction is followed by activation of the pituitary gland and secretion of the hormone ACTH.
The adrenal gland is activated almost simultaneously and releases the neurotransmitters epinephrine (adrenaline) and norepinephrine (noradrenaline). Catecholamine hormones, such as epinephrine and norepinephrine, facilitate immediate physical reactions associated with a preparation for violent muscular action.
The result is a rapid rise in blood pressure, resulting in an increased supply of oxygen and glucose for energy to the brain and skeletal muscles, the most vital organs the horse needs when fleeing from a perceived threat. Once the horse has removed itself from immediate danger, the body is returned to more “normal” conditions via the parasympathetic nervous system.
Newer research shows that there is no “pecking order” in horse herds. Free ranging, wild horses are mostly communicating via positive Reinforcement and less via punishment.
Horses are able to form companionship attachments not only to their own species, but with other animals as well, including humans. In fact, many domesticated horses will become anxious, flighty, and hard to manage if they are isolated.
Horses kept in near-complete isolation, particularly in a closed stable where they cannot see other animals, may require a stable companion such as a cat, goat, or even a small pony or donkey, to provide company and reduce stress. Feral and wild horse “herds” are usually made up of several, small “bands” which share a territory.
In bands, there is usually a single “herd” or “lead” stallion, though occasionally a few less-dominant males may remain on the fringes of the group. The reproductive success of the lead station is determined in part by his ability to prevent other males from mating with the mares of his harem.
The stability of the band is not affected by size, but tends to be more stable when there are subordinate stallions attached to the harem. Fights for dominance are normally brief; sometimes, displays which do not involve physical contact are sufficient to maintain the hierarchy.
As with many animals that live in large groups, establishment of a stable hierarchical system or “pecking order” is important to reduce aggression and increase group cohesion. Once a dominance hierarchy is established, horses more often than not will travel in rank order.
Most young horses in the wild are allowed to stay with the herd until they reach sexual maturity, usually in their first or second year. The fillies usually join another band soon afterward, and the colts driven out from several herds usually join together in small “bachelor” groups until those who are able to establish dominance over an older stallion in another herd.
Rather, the horse that tends to lead a wild or feral herd is most commonly a dominant mare. A recent supplemental theory posits that there is “distributed leadership”, and no single individual is a universal herd leader.
Stallions tend to stay on the periphery of the herd where they fight off both predators and other males. Domesticated stallions, with human management, often mate with (“cover”) more mares in a year than is possible in the wild.
Traditionally, thoroughbred stud farms limited stallions to breeding with between 40 and 60 mares a year. With use of artificial insemination, one stallion could potentially sire thousands of offspring annually, though in practice, economic considerations usually limit the number of foals produced.
Some breeders keep horses in semi-natural conditions, with a single stallion amongst a group of mares. While this has advantages of less intensive labor for human caretakers, and full-time turnout (living in pasture) may be psychologically healthy for the horses, pasture breeding presents a risk of injury to valuable breeding stock, both stallions and mares, particularly when unfamiliar animals are added to the herd.
Mature, domesticated stallions are commonly kept by themselves in a stable or small paddock. When stallions are stabled in a manner that allows visual and tactile communication, they will often challenge each another and sometimes attempt to fight.
Therefore, stallions are often kept isolated from each other to reduce the risk of injury and disruption to the rest of the stable. In some cases, stallions are released for exercise at different times of the day to ensure they do not see or hear each another.
To avoid stable vices associated with isolation, some stallions are provided with a non-horse companion, such as a castrated donkey or a goat (the Go dolphin Arabian was particularly fond of a barn cat ). One example of this was the racehorse Sea biscuit, who lived with a gelding companion named “Pumpkin”.
Stallions live peacefully in bachelor herds in the wild and in natural management settings. For example, the stallions in the New Forest (U.K.) live in bachelor herds on their winter grazing pastures.
An example of this is the stallions of the Spanish Riding School, which travel, train and are stabled in proximity. There are also studies suggesting that a foal will “inherit” or perhaps imprint dominance behavior from its dam, and at maturity seek to obtain the same rank in a later herd that its mother held when the horse was young.
Horses communicate in various ways, including vocalizations such as nickering, squealing or whinnying; touch, through mutual grooming or nuzzling; smell; and body language. Horses use a combination of ear position, neck and head height, movement, and foot stomping or tail swishing to communicate.
Discipline is maintained in a horse herd first through body language and gestures, then, if needed, through physical contact such as biting, kicking, nudging, or other means of forcing a misbehaving herd member to move. In most cases, the animal that successfully causes another to move is dominant, whether it uses only body language or adds physical reinforcement.
Horses can interpret the body language of other creatures, including humans, whom they view as predators. Humans do not always understand this, however, and may behave in a way, particularly if using aggressive discipline, that resembles an attacking predator and triggers the horse's fight-or-flight response.
Human handlers are more successful if they learn to properly interpret a horse's body language and temper their own responses accordingly. Other methods encourage operant conditioning to teach the horse to respond in a desired way to human body language, but also teach handlers to recognize the meaning of horse body language.
The sclera of this horse's eye shows a bit of white, but it is not rolled back in fear or anger. Tense, backward ear position indicating apprehension. Mouth and lips are also tense, which may indicate an increased tendency to bite.
Ear position is often one of the most obvious behaviors that humans notice when interpreting horse body language. In general, a horse will direct the Penna of an ear toward the source of input it is also looking at.
Similarly, when a horse turns both ears forward, the degree of tension in the horse's Penna suggests if the animal is calmly attentive to its surroundings or tensely observing a potential danger. However, because horses have strong monocular vision, it is possible for a horse to position one ear forward and one ear back, indicative of similar divided visual attention.
This behavior is often observed in horses while working with humans, where they need to simultaneously focus attention on both their handler and their surroundings. Due to the nature of a horse's vision, head position may indicate where the animal is focusing attention.
To focus on a distant object, a horse will raise its head. To focus on an object close by, and especially on the ground, the horse will lower its nose and carry its head in a near-vertical position.
Ear position, head height, and body language may change to reflect emotional status as well. For example, the clearest signal a horse sends is when both ears are flattened tightly back against the head, sometimes with eyes rolled so that the white of the eye shows, often indicative of pain or anger, frequently foreshadowing aggressive behavior that will soon follow.
Sometimes ears laid back, especially when accompanied by a strongly swishing tail or stomping or pawing with the feet are signals used by the horse to express discomfort, irritation, impatience, or anxiety. However, horses with ears slightly turned back but in a loose position, may be drowsing, bored, fatigued, or simply relaxed.
When a horse raises its head and neck, the animal is alert and often tense. A lowered head and neck may be a sign of relaxation, but depending on other behaviors may also indicate fatigue or illness.
Slight tail swishing is often a tool to dislodge biting insects or other skin irritants. The tail tucked tightly against the body may indicate discomfort due to cold or, in some cases, pain.
The horse may demonstrate tension or excitement by raising its tail, but also by flaring its nostrils, snorting, and intently focusing its eyes and ears on the source of concern. Bared teeth, as noted above, are an expression of anger and an imminent attempt to bite.
Horses, particularly foals, sometimes indicate appeasement of a more aggressive herd member by extending their necks and clacking their teeth. Horses making a chewing motion with no food in the mouth do so as a soothing mechanism, possibly linked to a release of tension, though some horse trainers view it as an expression of submission.
Horses will sometimes extend their upper lip when scratched in a wonderful spot, and if their mouth touches something at the time, their lip and teeth may move in a mutual grooming gesture. They can doze and enter light sleep while standing, an adaptation from life as a prey animal in the wild.
Horses are able to sleep standing up because a stay apparatus in their legs allows them to relax their muscles and doze without collapsing. In the front legs, their equine forelimb anatomy automatically engages the stay apparatus when their muscles relax.
The horse engages the stay apparatus in the hind legs by shifting its hip position to lock the patella in place. At the stifle joint, a “hook” structure on the inside bottom end of the femur cups the patella and the medial patella ligament, preventing the leg from bending.
Horses obtain needed sleep by many short periods of rest. This is to be expected of a prey animal, that needs to be ready on a moment's notice to flee from predators.
Horses require approximately two and a half hours of sleep, on average, in a 24-hour period. Horses need to lie down occasionally, and prefer soft ground for a nap.
They only have to lie down for an hour or two every few days to meet their minimum REM sleep requirements. However, if a horse is never allowed to lie down, after several days it will become sleep-deprived, and in rare cases may suddenly collapse as it involuntarily slips into REM sleep while still standing.
A horse kept entirely alone may not sleep well because its instincts are to keep a constant eye out for danger. Horses have a strong grazing instinct, preferring to spend most hours of the day eating forage.
Horses and other equips evolved as grazing animals, adapted to eating small amounts of the same kind of food all day long. In the wild, the horse adapted to eating prairie grasses in semi-arid regions and traveling significant distances each day in order to obtain adequate nutrition.
Thus, they are “trickle eaters,” meaning they have to have an almost constant supply of food to keep their digestive system working properly. Horses can become anxious or stressed if there are long periods of time between meals.
When stabled, they do best when they are fed on a regular schedule; they are creatures of habit and easily upset by changes in routine. When confined with insufficient companionship, exercise or stimulation, horses may develop stable vices, an assortment of compulsive stereotypes considered bad habits, mostly psychological in origin, that include wood chewing, stall walking (walking in circles stress fully in the stall), wall kicking, “weaving” (rocking back and forth) and other problems.
These have been linked to a number of possible causal factors, including a lack of environmental stimulation and early weaning practices. Research is ongoing to investigate the neurological changes involved in the performance of these behaviors.
“The 5 F's –Flight, Fight, Freeze, Fidget, Faint, Team Connections, vol 3 (no issue given)”. Doi: http://doi.org/10.1016/j.beproc.2006.05.004 Paper R, Receiver H (1992) Social interactions of free-ranging Przewalski horses in semi-reserves in the Netherlands.
Doi: http://doi.org/10.1016/S0168-1591(05)80068-1 ^ Paper RR (1988) Social interactions of the Przewalski horse (Equus przewalskii Polio, 1881) herd at the Munich Zoo. Doi: http://doi.org/10.1016/0168-1591(88)90102-5 “VanDierendonck MC, DE Tries H, Schiller Mph (1995) An Analysis of Dominance, Its Behavioral Parameters and Possible Determinants in a Herd of Icelandic horses in Captivity.
“Instability of Harems of Feral Horses in Relation to Season and Presence of Subordinate Stallions”. Historical and biological consideration of free roaming horses (FRS) 6" (PDF).
Reproduced with permission from the Proceedings of the Beta Specialist Days on Behavior and Nutrition. “We have the technology...” originally published in Daily Racing Form, March 12, 2002.
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Archived 2007-04-07 at the Payback Machine Website accessed February 14, 2007 WILD HORSE BEHAVIOR (Information and graphics courtesy of BLM, Colorado District Office) The natural structure of a family of horses is the band.
His role is to protect his band from danger and increase his harem of mares and foals. The band is led in its daily routine of grazing and watering by the lead mare.
A wild horse's natural instinct for defense is flight, but a stallion can show aggression when he fears his family is being threatened. These large piles of manure are territorial markings left by rival males.
The banished youngster will continue to follow the band at a distance until he finds other ousted young males to join up with. Cautiously she will lead the band of mares and foals to new forage areas and watering holes.
The stallion will bring up the rear, ready to protect and defend his band from any attack. Ritual posturing and snorts often resolve a confrontation between stallions but fighting does occur.
Horse pawing is used for communication, breaking ice in water holes, digging in deep snow for winter forage, and enlarging water holes. Horses have an innate ability to get along with a variety of other livestock and farm animals.
Donkeys can even share a place in the barn or cozy up in a smaller stall adjacent to your horses. Donkeys, in general, are lower maintenance to keep than horses, often surviving off solely or mostly grass when pastures are lush.
As an added and unexpected bonus, though, some donkeys can serve as “guard animals” for a farm. Though both require the same veterinary appointments and shots, as well as farrier work like a regular horse, ponies and minis eat far less and therefore need much less hay and grain.
For those shy larger horses, not only will they have the benefit of a friendship, but they’ll also have the security and comfort of having a strong yet not threatening leader. They can even be a little too clever for their own good, so be prepared for the occasional escape artist or argumentative equine.
Also, just because you are used to horses doesn’t mean you are automatically equipped to raise goats. Llamas make excellent companions for pasture-kept horses, mostly due to their larger size.
One llama is ideal, two is fine, but three or more should be avoided if the goal is companionship for a horse. The main difference with llamas is that you just can’t walk up to them in a pasture and halter them, but you need to establish a trusting and trained relationship first.
In fact, most llamas subsist almost totally on grass in the summer and hay in the winter, with smaller quantities of grain or supplements added in. Llamas are also easier to keep in terms of time, as they don’t require the same amount of grooming effort as horses.
They easily share a pasture, meaning they can graze in peace and companionship. But, the good news is, horse feeds are generally safe for cattle.
Not only will they be an entertaining friend for your horse, but they are also great pest reducers, as they munch up annoying bugs. Geese are similar to donkeys in temperament, in that they are territorial and will alert you and deter intruders and unwanted animals.
They’ll also be a little more work, in the sense that they don’t share many living habits in common with horses. You’ll need special feed and a separate stall or living area for your geese.
While they do provide companionship, a goose is less likely to form a special bond with a horse. Their relationship will be more “on the surface” and casually entertaining than true deep friends.
These hardy little horses are famous for weathering harsh conditions, hurricanes, storms, and a growing human presence on the Outer Banks. The DNA tests are in and it's official: our beautiful Corolla horses are derived directly from Spanish stock from the 16th century.
How they arrived at the Outer Banks is a long and complicated story (read it here), but it's most likely that they are the living remnants of our nation's early colonization. A combination of trade, lost goods, sunken ships and bloody battles for land left livestock (and equines) stranded here.
The Spanish Mustangs of Corolla roam over 7,500 protected acres on the Curricula Banks. If you own a 4-wheel drive vehicle that can handle the beach (meaning, it has the proper off-road ground clearance and reduced tire pressure), you can drive up the beach from Corolla (where Highway NC 12 ends at the horse fence).
These tour guides know the best spots to see horses and can give you some history (and answer your questions) along the way. Click here to see a list of Corolla Wild Horse Tour companies.
While it's true that these tough little horses have survived hurricanes, humans and more, they have a surprisingly delicate digestive system. The Spanish Mustangs have one fewer vertebrae in their spines than most horse breeds, a nod to their Arabian ancestry.
If you were to compare one of these small horses with a true pony, you would see the differences in bone structure and conformation. As a result of their feral status, the Corolla horses are considered a “non-native invasive species” according to the United States Fish & Wildlife Service.
What was great for tourists became dangerous for the horses, and many were hit by cars and injured. As a result, in 1989 the Corolla Wild Horse Fund was founded and their first mission was to “create a sound-to-sea fence, install a cattle guard in the paved road, and move the remaining horses north of the populated areas of Corolla.
Plans are being made to introduce new stallions and mares from the Shackle ford horses, which are also pure Spanish Mustangs. Feel free to visit the Museum Shop, which is open all year round.