I’m not currently horse shopping, but have been thinking about this lately. For those of you who have your own small farms, how do you judge before you bring a horse home whether they will be compatible with your herd, setup, management, lifestyle, etc? Or whether they will have separation anxiety in a small herd that may not manifest in a larger boarding environment?
In my 6.5 years of farm ownership it’s been a bit of a crapshoot and I’ve had surprises in both directions. Examples:
- I leased a fancy GP horse who’d always been on minimal solo turnout, never overnight. I planned to build him his own paddock if needed, but it turned out he thrived on full turnout with my retiree. He was available for lease partially because he was super-attached to the owner’s other FEI horse (a mare), to the point that it made showing both of them impossible. At my place (with no mares, but also a pretty different lifestyle) he showed no separation anxiety whatsoever.
- One of my TBs was described by the longtime owner as pretty easygoing and flexible in his turnout needs. He was turned out with an older gelding when they were up north, but in the winter in FL he’d go out alone because the paddocks were smaller. Here he is quite the little dictator, who likes to move the other horses around just to show them who’s boss, won’t share hay easily, has to drink water first, etc. It’s fine most of the year when there’s plenty of grass to go around, but a pain in the winter when they need to share hay. (To be clear, I don’t think the previous owner was deceptive…I just think these aspects of his personality may not have existed or expressed themselves in her setup.)
I did set myself up for failure a little by planning for a single turnout group. I can do (and have done) two turnout groups in a pinch, but it really impairs my ability to manage my limited pasture (only 3 acres).
So anyway, I’m just wondering if other people have a better way to judge compatibility ahead of time. I guess one thing to do is look for horses that have been successfully managed in a similar setup/lifestyle, but that could really limit one’s options and even then there are so many variables that are hard to account for with sensitive living creatures. Curious to hear your thoughts!