Beneficial Companion Animals for Horses
It’s not uncommon to see horses being pastured with other types of livestock, but did you know that some animals are actually beneficial to keep with horses? I learned this after getting my own flock of free-range chickens (I’ll explain more in a minute). For this post, I decided to look into which other animals could make beneficial companions for horses. Turns out there are several.
Of course, any solitary horse can benefit from having a buddy of some kind. Another horse or two is best, but if that’s not feasible, then one of the following animals may work. Plus, they will provide additional benefits other than just their company.
Goats and Sheep
Goats are one of the more common companion animals, but one of the benefits of grazing goats or even sheep alongside horses is that they carry different internal parasites than horses and can aid with natural parasite control. This works when equine-specific parasite eggs hatch and the larvae move onto nearby grass. If the larvae are eaten by goats or sheep instead of your horses, the larvae won’t mature (or harm the goats or sheep).
Goats can also help keep your pasture in shape since they will eat the weeds and brambles that a horse wouldn’t normally touch.
The main downfall with goats, in particular, is keeping them contained though. You will need proper fencing and possibly even a hot wire-otherwise, they may escape and eat things you don’t want them eating (such as flower bushes!)
Llamas and Alpacas
Personally, I love llamas (and alpacas), but did you know they can also make great livestock protectors? They will help keep coyotes, and other predators or nuisance animals away from your pasture. In addition, if you choose to go with a llama, they are known for having a dislike of strangers (as in humans), and may do a good job of keeping a possible thief away too!
Alpacas are smaller and less menacing than llamas, but can still do a good job of keeping away coyotes, opossums, and skunks.
Chickens and other Poultry
I didn’t realize this when I first got my chickens, but they are great at helping to control insects, ticks, and even parasites in your horse pasture. The same can go for guineas, geese, and turkeys as well. My chickens get along very well with my horses and can often be found hanging out in the pasture.
Poultry can also help with manure composting. Not only do they scratch and break down small manure piles in the pasture (which can dry out and kill worm larvae), but they will also help to compost a big manure pile from your stall or pasture cleanings.
Though poultry can be a little messy sometimes and do require some upkeep, they have other benefits as well. Eggs! Plus, they make for good entertainment.
I’ll just go ahead and say it. Cats are my second favorite animal (behind horses, of course). I had house cats for many years, but since my husband is not a cat person, we compromised and now, I just keep them in the barn. Cats are great to have around the barn because, of course, they hunt rodents. Now, I don’t mind rodents all that much, but I don’t want them getting into my tack room or feed, and the cats make darn sure that doesn’t happen. Some people think that if you feed your barn cats, they won’t catch mice, but that is simply not true. I feed mine twice a day and they still hunt. It’s their instinct.
Here’s my crew (all rescues):
And they get along with my horses pretty well, too!
Please do your research before getting any of the above animals though. Some require more upkeep than others and they all have different dietary and veterinary needs. You may also want to research zoonotic diseases when adding other types of livestock with your horses.
As for me, I’m still trying to talk my husband into getting a couple goats!
Sources and Further Reading: