COMPANIONSHIP FOR HORSES IS FOOD FOR THEIR SOULS
My horse Shadow shares a strong bond with his mother and with his special friend (Bad Baby Bella). Although he believes in eating heartily, I had to limit Shadow's grazing privileges this summer to ensure his health. I decided to put a grazing muzzle on Shadow to restrict the amount of grass he could eat while allowing him to still remain in close proximity to his beloved companions. It was immediately apparent that Shadow was not a fan of the grazing muzzle. He constantly popped his lips which is a behavior he exhibits when he is nervous or doesn’t understand something. After a reasonable length of time, Shadow was still showing signs of distress so I removed the grazing muzzle and put him in the paddock paradise with my two miniature horses (Elvis and Nemo). My paddock paradise is a large, fenced circular pathway that contains very little grass. For most of the summer, Shadow remained in the paddock paradise where he and the minis were only allowed to eat hay.
Recently, a friend and I went on a "horse getaway" for a couple of nights in the mountains of NC. Shadow needed the exercise so I decided to take him. Upon our arrival, my friend and I put our horses in separate paddock areas. Since Shadow had not grazed on grass since early spring, his head immediately went down to graze. My friend and I commented that although we were riding and exercising our horses, they ironically stood a good chance of going home a few pounds heavier!
Later in the day, we went for a short two hour ride. Afterward, we led the horses into their paddock areas for the night. When I awoke the next morning, I noticed that Shadow seemed quite nervous. He snorted and ran around inside of his paddock. This seemed odd to me because my friend's horse was quietly grazing and didn't seem upset at all. Shadow remained agitated for quite some time but finally settled down. He stood resolutely at the gate and remained there with his head held low until we went for a ride later that morning. After returning to the paddock, Shadow once again stayed near the gate with his head down. I continued to watch Shadow for the rest of the afternoon. He would briefly move away from the gate to get a couple of mouthfuls of grass and return to stand at the gate. It suddenly dawned on me that Shadow's behavior was due to the fact he was missing his pasture mates. I was awestruck by his sensitivity and desire for his fellow companions. Although we remained for another day, Shadow remained at the gate only to step away for a few mouthfuls of grass. Despite the fact that Shadow was standing in the middle of a virtual smorgasbord, his heart was somewhere else. It's not unusual for horses to prefer companionship over food. When we returned home, Shadow ran into the pasture to greet his companions and to enjoy some "food for the soul" before lowering his head down to graze.
Have a great rest of the week.