Every horse owner knows that horses are, first and foremost, herd animals who thrive on companionship, but not all equine companions have a mane, tail and four hooves.

From cats to camels, hens, pigs and goats, llamas and alpacas – there are a wide variety of unlikely best buddies that have cropped up on the search for the perfect companion animal.

Even top riders have their fair share of unusual animals roaming the yard and keeping the horses company.

  • Eventing power couple Tim and Jonelle Price have a sheep, Milo, who helps bring horses in from the field.
  • Carl Hester has a collection of feathery friends, including a number of guinea fowl who act as a good intruder alarm and a cockatoo who loves to chat.
  • Native pony showing producer Sarah Parker has a pig called Percy who roams her Shropshire yard.
  • Top-level event rider Beanie Sturgis once had a full-sized yard pig who was a regular sight on a lead-rein at horse trials.

Benefits of unlikely buddies

  1. Desensitises horses to other animals, particularly helpful if you come across cows, pigs, goats and other livestock when you’re riding.
  2. Encourages horses to accept and deal with distractions when they’re working.
  3. Horses are herd animals and companionship is important. A different type of animal may be a more affordable alternative, providing you do your homework carefully.
  4. Sharing grazing with certain animals, such as cattle and sheep, can help with worm control.
  5. Companion animals often prove to have stronger instincts than humans. When their equine friend is stressed, they will seek them out to reassure them.

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