It is not unusual to walk down through the barns at a Thoroughbred racetrack, and hear the sound of a goat in the shedrow. It’s a distinct baaaah sound, a little like a sheep only stronger, more commanding. It’s a comforting sound. Goats are herd animals, but seem to do better than sheep, alone. Though non-aggressive by nature, lest it be sparring with other goats, they command respect from a horse, and in return give friendship, kinship, and company. The goat becomes an integral part of that horse’s life.
Some Thoroughbreds are skittish by nature. They are vessels of pent-up energy, so to speak, and since they are in their stalls a great deal of the day and all night, can develop nervous habits, ticks. Some stall walk, going round and round. Some weave, where they stand at the front of their stalls and literally weave their heads and necks back and forth like a pendulum. Some will even pick their feet at the end of each swing, adding momentum to the weaving. Some crib, chewing wood and sucking air out of boredom or neurosis. (The jury is still out on that one.) Some paw and paw and dig holes. None of these habits are healthy for the horse.
Not every horse will be compatible with a goat, but surprisingly, most of them welcome the partnership. Thoroughbreds can be volatile by nature, and let us not forget that Billy Goats can be gruff.
Thoroughbreds are inquisitive by nature, which makes it a rather easy process, to introduce a goat. When there is a goat in the shedrow, all the horses get used to him. He’s kept out of the way during training hours, an empty stall or the hay stall works well for this. And for the most part, the goat is allowed to meander up and down the shedrow while the horses are being done up and groomed.
A little grain on the ground in front of the desired horse’s stall gets the goat further acquainted; horses love to sniff and touch. It goes without saying, but bears mention, the goat should not have horns, and you should not subject the goat to an aggressive horse. The horse and the goat will need to be watched carefully at the start to make sure the two are getting along. We have had goats and horses so comfortable with one another that they end up eating out of the same feed tub.
Goats make great companions for horses’ home on the farm too. I’ve known of goats and horses being together for years. They become attached to one another. They truly do become friends.