WEST CAPE MAY – While politics may make strange bedfellows, a horse and goat who share a field, living quarters and an owner here are best of friends, sharing a companionship that runs deep and a following by their own fans.
Pets of Taylor Andersen, the duo has been together since Winston, the goat, was first brought home at 8-weeks-old. A Nigerian dwarf goat, Winston quickly became a companion to Huey, a 15-year-old Arabian quarter cross horse.
They can be seen eating together, walking or exercising together, and even playing together with their 26-year-old owner.
"They are best friends," Andersen said. "I tend to think of them as brothers."
Goats are good companions for horses because they are clever and cute, and share some of the same behavioral characteristics as horses, according to a 2017 article published on equimed.com, Horse Health Matters.
Andersen considers them like her "kids," as she has taught them how to behave, and act together and with other people over nearly a year and a half of being together. "I just love them, they are such a big part of my life," she noted.
Andersen, who lives with her parents in Del Haven, worked at a trail riding venue in northern California when she met Huey. "He wasn't behaving as he should have been with riders, so they gave him to me to work with," she said, saying she wouldn't call herself a "horse whisperer."
"After riding him, I just fell in love with him," she added.
Her father, who is retired from the Coast Guard, moved back to Cape May and his daughter returned to her childhood town with him and her mother. She couldn't imagine leaving Huey, so she bought him and brought him back with her.
She works three jobs, including doing maintenance at the Cape May County Park and Zoo, babysitting and pet sitting, to pay for his upkeep. Adding Winston as his companion adds to the expenses, which she described as a monthly "rent payment."
Huey eats a diet with medium protein, high fiber, and no sugar, which Andersen said works best for him. She noted he continually feeds to buffer his stomach from strong gastric acids produced.
"Horses have very sensitive stomachs," Andersen stressed, "so you can't feed them just anything. They can eat carrots or apples, but not lettuce, for example. That could kill him."
Recently, Andersen had to put up a sign asking visitors to stop feeding the pair because of "tummy issues." While goats will eat "anything," they need plant material to stay healthy.
"I didn't realize how big their fan club was until recently," she said. "They even have their own Instagram accounts."
Andersen's mother had horse-and-goat companions when she was younger, her daughter said. Her mother was a veterinary technician so Andersen's love for animals, especially Huey and Winston, is easy to trace.
Her goal is to buy a trailer to take the animals to Pennsylvania, Delaware, northern New Jersey, and other places nearby to ride through the hills and trails, reminiscent of her time in northern California. For now, she's happy to ride at Higbee's Beach when she can.
"I try to exercise them three or four times a week," Andersen said, "but that also depends on the weather. Winston doesn't like the rain."
She's trained Winston to walk on a leash, so when she's riding Huey on the road, the goat trails behind. Once it is near the woods away from traffic, she unleashes it and it trots close by… "He will cry if Huey leaves him behind," she noted.
As a baby, Winston would fold into a backpack during their rides, but Andersen quickly learned that hurt his hips. He would also lay across Huey's back.
"The hardest part is not seeing them and having to leave them to go to work," Andersen said. "I feel guilty if I don't spend enough time with them. It's like having kids, I love them that much."
Does she see herself having human children one day?
"If I find someone who I want to do that with, yes," she said. "But Huey and Winston are non-negotiable. You don't have to love them as I do, but you have to respect that they are a big part of my life."
To contact Karen Knight, email firstname.lastname@example.org.