Just as we humans have good friends, so do most of our equines. My Appaloosa mare, Cinnamon, and our Arab gelding, Monte, have been together for about 25 years. They have lived in three different barns, played polo together, done many, many miles of trails together and seen other horses come and go over those years.
Their stalls are side by side and they often hang out with their heads together. Admittedly, there are episodes of ears back and gnashing of teeth when Cinnamon finishes eating first and reaches over and around the stall wall to bug Monte. But when Monte was feeling off this fall, Cinnamon gave up hiking down the lane to the big part of the pasture with the best grazing and stayed near Monte.
Crispy, the Quarter Horse mare joined the group about 18 years ago. Like Cinnamon, she is a horse who basically gets along with everyone. (Monte was a bit of a tough guy with a swagger in his youth – especially to other geldings. He was gelded at 5 years of age, so that may be part of it. He has mellowed.)
Crispy is usually a part of a tight trio with Monte and Cinnamon. That friendship gets a bit strained when one of the mares is in heat. Monte then hangs out with the mare in heat and ignores the other mare. Sounds a bit like high school drama, doesn’t it? We get some squealing and kicking during those times, but generally there is peace in the pasture.
When any one of the three is taken out separately there is neighing, a bit of running about and definite concern. Crispy developed EPM (Equine Protozoal Myelitis) years ago and was at Cornell for a few days. Her return was heralded with wild neighing, sniffing, snorting and then some running and bucking by the whole group.
Of course, we are happy that our horses have friendships but friendships can go wrong. Years ago my sister had a Connemara mare named Misty. Her attachment to our other horses was intense. Misty was so “herd bound” that it was almost impossible to ride her alone or away from the barn. I remember her backing a half-mile down our gravel road as she refused to go any further forward alone. When she was sold to a new owner who did not have another horse she was fine. Without a horse friend to fixate on, she gladly went off trail riding and to shows.
With Monte, Cinnamon and Crispy all around 30 years of age, we know there will be a loss at some point in our mini herd. We thought we might lose Monte this fall but he rallied and is looking good now. The last time we lost a horse was Johnny, my husband’s OTB. He was never one of the “in kids” with the group but they did all hang out together. His removal didn’t seem to bother the “in crowd” at all. Kelsey, my daughter’s Quarter Horse, went off to join Horse Journal editor Cindy’s herd a few years ago. Again, the main threesome didn’t seem especially bothered.
I dread the day we lose Cinnamon or Monte however. I expect the horse(s) left behind will truly feel the loss. Yes, I know that is a bit anthropomorphic but I think we now know enough about animal behavior to accept that they grieve.
Have you had two horses who were soul mates and enjoyed many years together? Do you have two like that now? Share your “partners” with us, you can email us stories and photos to: [email protected].