Margie and Magic

New Member
Jan 14, 2020
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Hi everyone!

I just bought my first horse back in Dec. 2019. I grew up around horses and supported myself through high school and college by working with and caring for race and show horses. I did not own or lease any of these horses! I only mention this back history because I do know how to functionally care for a horse but I am inexperienced/not confident with the daily details of owning MY OWN horse.

My pony (11.5 hands) Magic is in her mid 20s. I know she's old but she's perfect for my lifestyle, my property, and I'm the perfect owner for her golden years. I bought her last Dec 2019. I've owned her about 1.5 months. My property is fully fenced and split in half by fencing. The barn and her stable are located in the back pasture. The front pasture is also attached to my back yard and my back deck which runs the full length of the house. I have french doors leading from my bedroom and dining room onto the back deck. Due to the floor plan when you stand at one set, the french doors on the back deck you can see into the dining room, kitchen, and living room. This leads into my problem.

Magic is on a regular feeding schedule. Out of the stable and breakfast in the front pasture between 5-7am. Lunch on my back deck between 12-2. Finally I feed her dinner in her stable between 5-7pm and she remains in her stable overnight. She has had no issue with this routine until about 3 days ago. She will not go to her stable at night unless I lead her out there. This is unusual because since I purchased her I have been able to get her to do everything I want with voice commands or hand gestures. I have had no reason to use a lead for anything. There is one other change in her behavior she used to explore the front pasture during the day or "graze" in between feedings. Now she just stands on my back deck looking in through my french doors watching me work or falls asleep blocking the french doors from opening. I would say she does most of her sleeping on my back deck.

She appears sad when its time to go to her stable for the night. She is NOT nervous and her stable shows no signs of stress. In the morning she is very happy to see me but does not push her way out. She waits until I am ready and then follows me to her breakfast.

She is the only horse I own and I do not have neighbors that own horses. I purchased her from a family that kept her as the only horse for the year they owned her and she was sold to them originally because she could be kept as an only horse and was safe for children. I purchased her because I was looking for a companion, I work from home and also have a hobby farm so I am outside or coming and going from my shop to house through out the day or I am working in one of the pastures. She is not just a lawn ornament, I groom her daily and I randomly take breaks to spend time with her. She will be seen by a farrier this week (first time since I have owned her) and then I plan on long lining her for exercise. I have been waiting to do this because I and my vet wanted to see her gain more weight. Just because she is old does not mean that I am not going to be an hands off owner. She also has toys but does not play with them. My property is very interesting to explore but she seems to have settled on my back deck as the perfect spot to spend the day.

I can see multiple reasons why this is happening but I can't figure out which is the right reason or what I should do.
1) Maybe this is just her personality now that she is settled in to her new home and I have nothing to worry about?
2) Maybe this is because she's finally getting the amount of supplemental food she needs (not just pasture)?
3) Maybe she is lonely?
-note: If this is it I can afford/have the time/have the space (stable, pasture) for a second horse. I do not want to get a second horse and then have both of them on my back deck sleeping/staring at me all day.
4) Health issue?
5) Something I am overlooking?
6) The weather?

I was going to leave her out last night (blanketed) but my husband doesn't feel its safe. I don't know why, he just strongly feels that it is less stress to stable her at night and is safer for her. We don't live in an area where I need to worry about large predators.
 

Jane&Ziggy

Learning together!
Apr 30, 2010
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Lovely to hear from you and to get a picture of your place and your intentions for your horse. We love pictures!

You say you were looking for a companion when you bought her. It sounds to me as though you have got one! She obviously likes you and is eager to bond with you, and I suspect that she doesn't want to be separated from you for that reason.

I wonder why your husband thinks she should be put away at night? My horses live out 24/7, and it's my belief that although many horses are insitutionalised to expect stabling, most horse would prefer to be out the whole time if they could. Since she is normally so biddable, she is telling you clearly that she doesn't want to be stabled, and my first choice would be not to stable her but to leave her stable open so that she can go in there if she likes.

Horses are accommodating creatures, but though she is used to living alone and has tolerated it, again, it's not natural for a horse. If her desire for companionship with you is bothering you (or your husband), and since it's not a financial issue for you, is I were you I would get her a companion. It doesn't necessarily have to be a horse as long as she likes it: sometimes a donkey or, I believe, even a goat will work. But I feel it's not right to get a horse to be a companion for you, and expect her to be happy being shut up away from you for a third of the time.
 

Bodshi

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Apr 23, 2009
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Hi and welcome :) I agree with @Jane&Ziggy above. It does sound as though Magic has settled in, filled herself and is feeling content to be with you.

I'm guessing you're not in the UK (most, but not all people on this forum are in the UK) and stable management might be different in your part of the world to what we're used to - in particular you mention the threat from large predators, which is not something I've ever needed to consider!

Your place sounds amazing, I wish I had anything as nice. I would love to see my horses outside my window while I was working, although I agree blocking your exit via the French windows is less than ideal :p

Would it be possible to get a pony on loan to start with, to make sure Magic is happy with an equine companion? If she is perhaps you could fence off your back deck so they couldn't get quite so close.

Look forward to hearing more about Magic and how you get on with her.
 

Jessey

Well-Known Member
Dec 20, 2004
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Yep sounds to me like she's just accepted you as her herd and isn't so keen on being separated into her stable at night. You could try shutting her off the deck so she can't sleep there all day, ideally she does need a friend though as although some equines tolerate being kept alone they are herd animals and are much, much happier that way :) perhaps until you find a suitable friend putting an unbreakable mirror in her stall might make her more content to go in there at night.
 

chunky monkey

Well-Known Member
May 2, 2007
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Welcome to the forum. It sounds like you have found a lovely horse.
I did wonder why you were feeding her 3 times a day but then you said she needs to put some weight on. Most people only feed twice a day plus grazing/hay in the stable overnight. Maybe shes getting too much food now and therefore not keen to go to the stable as shes not hungry. I would also leave the door open so she can have the choice herself.
Dont forget you could also be getting her too friendly that shes getting seperation anxiety, so if she knows that last feed of the day means separation from you in the form of being shut in, she might think its some form of punishment so is choosing not to go in for feed.
You say shes 20, but unless shes had a hard life 20 is still not old.
Why are you choosing to stable her. Is it because the previous owner was. If the horse is happy out and you have grazing then to me why give yourself work of cleaning out a stable everyday. To me it makes no sense. Leave the door open so its her choice and spend the time long reining her or in hand walks, just enjoy being with her than slave over stable cleaning. (Im biase, my two horses are out 24/7.)
 

Margie and Magic

New Member
Jan 14, 2020
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Thank you all so much for replying with suggestions!

I am very happy to hear that it sounds like she likes me. In the stables I worked in there were so many people that clinically interacted with the horses that I never saw any of the horses have more than a neutral feeling for anyone, including their actual owner.

My husband is really cautious when it comes to our pets, he doesn't want to see them get hurt but he also doesn't want a vet bill for something that was preventable so I think in his mind its less stress for us (him)/safer for her, to be stabled at night.

But after hearing from all of you I'm going to let her choose tonight: stable or deck? :D I'll get that unbreakable mirror ordered today in case she chooses the stable down the road. Jane and Ziggy your comment makes a lot of sense: "But I feel it's not right to get a horse to be a companion for you, and expect her to be happy being shut up away from you for a third of the time."

That pony on loan is a good idea! I hadn't thought about that. Thank you Bodshi. And you're right, I'm from the US. If I start looking now I could probably find a companion for her by late spring early summer. Not a lot of availability in my area.

I'm feeding her 3x a day primarily because that is what my vet recommended because of how bad of shape she was when I returned to pick her up a week after initially looking at her also because as I've owned her my vet and I have found discrepancies between what I was told by her owners and what my vet and I have observed. Basically what it boils down to is she wasn't receiving that great of care (due to ignorance) and that is why she appeared older than she was when I purchased her. But after owning her a bit I'm very curious about her history. She is so well trained, someone put hours of training into her and I haven't even gotten to see how she does when saddled. She has a beautiful trot and is great at climbing. My property is on a slight slope and has a bunch of naturally occurring terraces on one side that she climbs, jumps between, and trots down. I'm incredibly excited to see what she is like this spring/summer because I intentionally purchased a senior horse (previous owners and their vet said she was 30+ yo) but actually got something else entirely and I cannot wait to see the final result!

Her previous owners told me they never gave her hay because she would never eat it, and I do believe that. The only way I can get her to eat hay is to either buy it cut or cut it down myself and mix it with her pellets. Magic has an appt for the first week of February to have her teeth floated so I will know if its a preference or a dental issue. My vet didn't see any red flags but they did tell me her teeth needed a tune up.

I initially stabled her at night just because that is what I am accustomed to and because this is my first winter on this property and I was concerned about hoof rot. I will be honest I seem to have hit the jackpot with Magic, she does defecate/urinate in her stall but she only does it in one corner and she never walks through it so its super quick to clean out.

Thank you all so much for the different ideas and clarifying the issue for me!
 

Feawen

Active Member
Jan 12, 2012
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It sounds like you have found a lovely horse to share your space with. Do you have plans to ride or drive her eventually, or is her job to be a companion to you?

I don’t want to speak too strongly, as I think you might be in an unusual position, with the amount of time you are able to spend with your horse. And clearly you care about her health and well-being. However, I have always been taught that it is unacceptable to keep a horse without equine companionship. I would never plan to keep a horse alone and think you should seriously consider getting her a friend – preferably something small and quiet, given that you say she an older mare who could be in better condition.

Your home sounds wonderful! And I think you are right to give a third feed, particularly for a horse who might not be eating much forage and needs to gain some weight.

So far as turnout is concerned - if a horse is happy and healthy at pasture then that is usually best for them, as it's closest to what their natural lifestyle would have been, with constant access to grazing and freedom to move around. But seeing as you have the freedom to offer her a choice, that's what I would do too. Some horses will choose to come inside at times, either because of past experiences and associations, or maybe because they like to have hay, water and shelter! My own horse had very limited experience of turnout before I bought him, and is visibly more relaxed in his stable, though he does go out daily. Others would never come in by choice!

All the best with your new girly.
 

Margie and Magic

New Member
Jan 14, 2020
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It sounds like you have found a lovely horse to share your space with. Do you have plans to ride or drive her eventually, or is her job to be a companion to you?

I don’t want to speak too strongly, as I think you might be in an unusual position, with the amount of time you are able to spend with your horse. And clearly you care about her health and well-being. However, I have always been taught that it is unacceptable to keep a horse without equine companionship. I would never plan to keep a horse alone and think you should seriously consider getting her a friend – preferably something small and quiet, given that you say she an older mare who could be in better condition.
Thank you for the advice. I'm going to take it slow because she is bit of a mystery. The farrier came yesterday (first trim since I have owned her) and she was great. With her feet trimmed and having gained weight (still needs to gain more) I feel confident to start working with her. So far I was going to start to long line and take her for walks next to me. All her tack came with her so eventually I could ride her but I'm in no rush.

Don't worry about strong opinions, I didn't originally plan on having a single horse on my property. Originally I was going to board whatever horse I purchased at a stable about 20 min from my house. The stable seemed perfect because a few owners kept their minis and ponies at this stable and I knew I wanted a pony. Magic would've been in a pasture with horses her size and smaller. However once the owners met me they wanted me to lease to buy one of their geldings. I did meet him but that horse and I did not like each other. The gelding did not fit any of my requirements (size and age) so I do not understand why they thought I would be a good owner for him. I ended up going to see Magic as planned with the intent to board her at that stable.

Magic and I hit it off immediately! So once the work week arrived I began arranging everything to bring her to that stable. When I told the stable owners I was purchasing Magic and was ready to sign the contract they wanted to know if I would still like to lease their gelding. I said no, just board Magic for now. They didn't like that answer and kept trying to dissuade me from purchasing her. I held my ground and when they realized I was NOT interested nor ever would be interested in their gelding they refused to let me board Magic. So I was picking her up in 2 days and had no where to board her.

I didn't want flake on Magic's current owners so I busted my butt and got our barn ready for her. Which I think turned out good because her owners stopped feeding her pellets because they didn't want to buy more or tell me so I could pay them back since I knew I was going to buy her. So when I arrived to pick her up her ribs were showing and so were 3 vertebrae. She did NOT have any of those bones showing when I originally went to look at her. Once Magic arrived at my house I was contacted by the owner of a min pony that I had originally contacted a week prior to Magic's owner. The owner of the mini never replied, so I contacted Magic's owners and I was able to meet her right away. Three weeks after originally contacting this person we chat and it turns out that her mini would be a good fit. I was honest and let them know that I had purchased another pony because I never heard from them but I would be interested in their mini. We were going to set up a time but the day that worked for them I had a vet visit for Magic. Then after that they said they were pulling their mini from the market because it was too icy to visit and too dangerous to bring a trailer to pick her up. I told them that if after talking on the phone they thought I would be a good forever home for their mini than I would appreciate it if they saved my number until spring. I have no idea if they will.

All this happened the last 3 weeks of Dec. 2019. What a headache!

I did continue looking for a stable in my area but gave up after New Years. The stables with availability were either too far away or they stated in their ad that they did not allow owners to visit their horses everyday because they didn't want the extra traffic on their property. Magic didn't seem to mind being the only equine, that is until a couple days ago. The last couple nights she has chosen the deck and seems to be much happier!

After Bodshi suggested leasing a companion horse I have started looking. I am hoping to have a companion for her by late spring early summer. There isn't a lot of availability in my area. That is before factoring in my requirements (age and size). I'm also still trying to figure what personality I need to look for in a second horse. I don't want the risk of injury or the emotional roller coaster of failed attempts or having to return a horse.

Do you think a gelding or a mare would be a better companion for Magic? Personally I would prefer a mare.
 

Feawen

Active Member
Jan 12, 2012
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Wow – that sounds like an incredibly stressful few weeks, and in the circumstances I can see why you brought your new horse to your own place. I guess the stables were only interested if they could make a sale, however unsuitable.

I hope you are able to find a suitable companion for your mare, but I appreciate you were placed in a very difficult position by her previous owners and the barn situation!

Others might be better placed to answer the mare or gelding question. My old gelding can’t be turned out with mares because he becomes very possessive and is difficult to separate from them. He is otherwise a lovely horse with excellent manners. I believe he is an exception, though, and plenty of owners turn mares and geldings out together with no problems.
 

Jessey

Well-Known Member
Dec 20, 2004
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I've always mixed mares and geldings without an issue, I have another of those exceptions, my mare really doesn't often get on with other mares, she'd much rather be in a group of boys :D

My opinion, it doesn't really matter on the sex so much as the personality, if she is a very calm, chilled out lady who likes to snooze and relax then adding a young, hyper, playful companion is probably not optimal, one who is more likely to fit in with your existing equine is better :)

And I speak from experience there, with my current mob. I had an arab gelding who was a few years older and a bit riggy (stud like) and my QH mare, she was always subservient to him as I brought her in as a yearling. When he passed I got a little Shetland without much knowledge about him, he is hyper and playful and unfortunately that has meant he has received many a beating from the mare as she is not. So I got the companion a companion ;) in the form of another Shetland, who it turned out is not hugely playful and would much rather hang out with the quiet mare given the choice (although he will play sometimes), my most recent addition a QH gelding is said to be very playful so I am hoping the 2 playful ones will buddy up and the 2 quiet ones will buddy up and calm will be restored - I'm hoping to introduce the most recent arrival this weekend....wish me luck :)
 
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