Although horses make some sounds to communicate, such as neighs, body language is their main way of getting their message across. As prey animals, it’s safest for them to be able to communicate without making any noise. In this post, we’ll teach you about horses’ movements and what they mean.
Horses’ ears can rotate nearly all the way around. Ears that point forward indicate alertness or interest, while those turned toward the back are listening to a noise from behind. Rapid swivelling means that the horse is frightened about a specific noise or overwhelmed by too many stimuli.
If a horse’s ears are fully pinned back, it’s angry and likely about to bite or kick. On the other hand, if its ears are turned toward the side, chances are it’s relaxing or taking a doze.
A horse’s gaze also lets you know its mood or the focus of its attention. Tense facial muscles or darting eyes can both indicate fear or stress. If the whites of a horse’s eyes are showing, the animal is alarmed and likely very upset.
A horse with a fixed stare may be feeling ill. If its eyes are half-closed, that could be a sign that it’s in a good mood.
A horse’s head movements give you more clues about its thoughts. While a lowered head suggests relaxation and a raised one tells you that the horse is focused on something interesting in the distance, a head swinging from side to side signals dissatisfaction or even aggression. Flared nostrils can also be a sign of nervousness.
On a more positive note, a drooping lip reveals that the horse is relaxed or asleep. Chewing when it has no food in its mouth, meanwhile, suggests a relaxed, pensive state.
If you think about a horse’s front legs, maybe you picture a stallion pawing at the ground. This behaviour means that the animal is bored, impatient, stressed, or angry. Raising a hind leg or stomping can also be a sign of irritation.
A cocked back leg, with the edge of the hoof resting on the ground, may be the stance of a relaxed horse, but shifting between legs could also indicate discomfort. Riders are often concerned that a horse will kick with its hind legs. Watch out for swinging hindquarters or other signs of anger.
Although a horse’s tail may seem nearly inanimate, this part of a horse is actually quite expressive. Especially among Arabians, a raised tail indicates excitement, while, among all breeds, a tail clamped between the legs tells you that the horse is nervous or stressed.
A slow swishing is nothing to be concerned about - the horse is likely trying to chase away flies. A rapidly swishing tail, however, can be an expression of irritation or anger.
Do you now have a better idea what a horse is trying to tell you when it swings its head or cocks its hind leg? Let us know in the comments!
Given that humans have been interacting with horses for thousands of years, it’s not surprising that we’ve developed some funny ideas about them. No matter your level of involvement with horses, there are surely some details that you didn’t know about these awe-inspiring, mysterious creatures. In this post, we’ll bust 7 common myths about horses.
1. Horses only sleep standing up.
It’s true that, unlike humans, horses often sleep standing up. Since it takes them a long time to get moving once they’re lying down, standing enables them to run away quickly if there’s any danger.
However, in the wild, some horses will often take the opportunity to lie down while a couple stand on the alert. Lying down allows horses to enter deep REM sleep, which is essential for their health and performance.
2. Horses are colour-blind.
This statement is another one that’s not completely wrong. Unlike humans, horses can’t see all 4 primary colours (blue, green, red, and yellow), let alone all the intermediate hues. Horses can only perceive blue and green, meaning that any other colours appear as either white, grey, or a desaturated blue or green.
3. Horses’ hooves are solid.
Although horses’ hooves may look hard, they’re actually a mixture of bone, tissue, and keratin, a protein that’s also present in human hair and fingernails. The 3 bones in a horse’s hoof are surrounded by laminae, or sensitive tissue that carries blood. The hoof also contains a digital cushion, or rubber-like shock absorber.
4. Horses cannot drink cold water.
If you think about it, in the wild, horses drink from streams and rivers that are often cold. The only caveat is that, as warm-blooded animals, horses may prefer not to drink cold water right after working out.
5. Cold-blooded horses have a different body temperature than hot-blooded ones.
Although you can be forgiven for assuming that cold-blooded horses have cooler blood than hot-blooded ones, this description does not refer to the temperature of the liquid running through their circulatory system. Rather, these adjectives describe a horse’s body and personality type.
As we noted in our post about horse breeds, hot-blooded horses are spirited and energetic. Cold-blooded equines, meanwhile, tend to be calmer.
6. When a horse shows its teeth or curls its lips, it’s smiling or laughing.
Unfortunately, the horse is not showing its amusement at the joke that you just told. In fact, it’s taking a sniff, in what is known as the flehmen response. A horse’s olfactory glands are buried deep in its nasal passage, so it needs to make a funny face to smell things.
7. The only way that horses can communicate is via neighing or whinnying.
Horses are generally not very vocal, so it would be challenging for them if neighs and whinnies were their only way of communicating. In fact, these animals also use body language to get their point across.
Do you know any other myths about horses? Let us know in the comments!
Have you ever been curious about horses’ life span or stages of growth? You may have observed or heard that these amazing animals’ life cycle is rather different than our own. For example, foals can stand and walk within a few minutes of birth.
In this post, we’ll explore horses’ development from the womb right through to old age.
Pregnancy and Birth
A mare is pregnant, on average, for 340 days, or a little over 11 months. Mares give birth on their own, with even the umbilical cord breaking by itself. Labour normally lasts for 1 hour before they lie down to give birth.
Baby horses start nursing within 2 hours of their birth and are considered foals until they stop nursing after about 6 months. Foals drink up to a quarter of their body weight in milk every day. Thankfully for their mothers, baby horses often start to find solid food interesting after 10 to 14 days and can start to eat foal feed after a couple of months.
From the time that they wean, or stop nursing, to their first birthday, young horses are called weanlings. During this period, they gain a significant portion of their height and body weight. They need regular exercise to encourage muscle development.
Yearlings are horses between 1 and 2 years of age. They have growth spurts that leave them looking off balance with their hind, or rear end, higher than their withers, or the area between their shoulder bones. Over the course of the year that they spend in this stage, horses grow into their bodies, particularly their long legs.
In this puberty period, when horses are between 2 and 3 years of age, their growth rate slows as they approach their mature height and weight. Adolescence is an excellent time to start horses on training as they are quite curious, and the growth plates in their bones have normally closed, allowing them to be ridden.
By the time that it turns 4, a horse is considered a full adult. Adult horses have stabilized their height and weight and normally eat the equivalent of about 2 percent of their body weight daily. People often start breeding horses when they are about 3 years old.
Horses start to show signs of aging, like a sagging back, by the time that they’re in their early 20s, although many are still ridden for several years. For the sake of comparison, a 20-year-old horse is like a human of 60 years of age. Elderly horses need to be checked regularly since they can suffer from health problems like joint pain and kidney and liver disease, and have difficulty regulating their body temperature and weight.
Did you gain a deeper understanding of horses’ life cycle? Let us know in the comments!
You might associate horses most with riding, but humans have used them for a wide variety of activities over the past several thousand years. Horses have been used in war and agriculture, for the transportation of people and goods, and even as a source of meat and milk. In this post, we’ll walk you through some of the most important developments in humans’ relationship with horses.
The history of the horse begins long before their domestication. In North America, over 50 million years ago, there lived a funny little creature called Hyracotherium or Eohippus. This leaf-eating horse ancestor was about the size of a small dog.
Eohippus’s several toes worked fine when it was living in swamps or the tropical rainforest, but, as North America dried out, a change was necessary. The toes transitioned into 1 toe then into a hoof. Horses’ ancestors also gradually became larger and developed more powerful legs that enabled them to run through the prairies.
During this period, some of these early horses were crossing the Bering Land Bridge to Asia and onward to Europe. For reasons that are not entirely clear, all horse ancestors disappeared from the Americas 10,000 years ago.
The Domestication of the Horse
Humans’ first interactions with horses probably involved raising them for meat and milk. It’s difficult to determine an exact timeline for horses’ domestication, but experts locate it between 4000 and 3000 BCE in the steppes north of the Black Sea. Humans likely used horses to pull plows and chariots before they tried to mount them.
Fossils of horse teeth dating back to about 3000 BCE reveal that humans had started using riding bits. The earliest available records of horse training are from about 1350 BCE by a member of the Mitanni people, who lived around ancient Mesopotamia. What’s certain is that, by the final centuries before the Common Era, horseback riding had become well established.
The Chinese developed the first good harness around 200 BCE. They also dreamt up the stirrup not long afterward. The stirrup meant that warriors had their hands free to use weapons like spears and bows and arrows.
The Return of the Horse to North America
Spanish settlers brought horses to New Mexico in the late 17th century. Indigenous groups living on the plains could use horses to hunt buffalo and to travel much farther and faster than they had previously. These beautiful animals quickly became status symbols and an important component of indigenous trading.
During the 1680 Santa Fe Rebellion, hundreds of horses were captured or escaped. They would go on to form a mustang population of several million animals roaming around the Great Plains.
Today, in many parts of the world, people use horses more for leisure than for work. It’s interesting to think, however, about all of the essential roles that they have held over the years.
Did you learn something new about the history of riding? Let us know in the comments!
Have you ever wondered what horses need to eat to make sure that they have enough energy and nutrients to take you for a ride? Maybe you picture a mare grazing in a field or reaching out to take a bite from an apple or carrot.
Horses are herbivores, so these are all good guesses. In this post, we’ll enter into horses’ diet in more detail, then we’ll finish by discussing how often to feed horses.
What Horses Eat
Grass is horses’ natural food source and passes smoothly through their digestive system. It also contains silica, which is essential for their dental health. Wild horses can nibble on grass for up to 17 hours a day.
Since it’s often not practical to leave horses out in a pasture all the time or for the whole year, hay or haylage is another option for meeting horses’ dietary requirements. Hay consists of completely dried grass that’s stored in bales. Haylage is semi-dried grass that’s wrapped in layers of plastic and conserves more nutrients than hay.
In their diet, horses need a balance of carbohydrates, protein, fat, vitamins, minerals, and water. Most carbohydrates should come from grass or hay, but it’s possible to supplement horses’ diet with grains like oats, either plain or mixed up as concentrates. Combining grains with other ingredients is a way to add extra vitamins and minerals.
It’s okay to feed horses a treat, such as an apple or carrot, every once in a while. Horses also enjoy licking salt blocks, especially in the summer. A salt-vitamin-mineral mix helps meet horses’ nutritional requirements while satisfying their salt craving.
There are certain foods that you should not feed to a horse, including sugary foods, bread, meat, and brans like wheat bran. Members of the cabbage family, such as turnips and broccoli, cause horses discomfort, while potatoes and tomatoes can be toxic for them.
On average, an adult horse should eat enough dry matter daily to be equivalent to about 1.5 to 3 percent of its body weight. The quantity of food and water that a horse requires varies depending on its age, mass, activity level, and metabolism.
Good doer or easy keeper horses easily maintain, and even gain, weight. Hard keeper horses, on the other hand, struggle to maintain an adequate weight.
How Often to Feed Horses
Horses like to eat small amounts of food frequently. They’re happy to just keep grazing all day. Ideally, they have constant access to grass or hay, as well as water.
If they’re inside a stable and that’s not possible, horses should be fed 2 to 3 times a day, with a maximum gap of 8 hours between every feeding. Horses prefer receiving food at the same time every day.
Horses need approximately 5 to 15 gallons of clean water per day. If they don’t have a steady supply available, they should be given water at least twice a day.
What did you learn about horses’ diet? Let us know in the comments!
Did you know that there are approximately 350 registered horse breeds, plus about 100 pony breeds? In this post, we’ll explore ways to classify horses then some of the most popular breeds.
When horse lovers mention the temperature of a horse’s blood, they’re describing its temperament, features, and bloodline. Cold-blooded horses are known for being calm and steady. Hot-blooded horses, by contrast, are energetic and excitable.
Warm-blooded horses are middle of the road in terms of weight and personality. They’re tall and powerful but not too high-strung.
You may hear about purebred, crossbreed, and grade horses. A purebred, as you would imagine, has a pure bloodline without any influence from other breeds. Crossbreeds are intentional combinations of two breeds, while grade horses are unplanned crosses.
Draft horses are your typical work horse, like the Clydesdale. These calm, cold-blooded creatures have been used for centuries to haul loads ranging from farm equipment to soldiers weighed down with heavy armour. They can briefly pull loads of over twice their weight.
With their thin legs and small bones, light horses are fast and great for any type of riding. Their weight and appearance vary, from the patchy pinto to hot-blooded Arabians.
Gaited horses, like the Tennessee Walking Horse, are light horses that move particularly smoothly. These horses used to be known as “gentleman’s horses” because wealthy men enjoyed riding them. Today, you might experience a stepping pace or fox trot if you ride one of these beauties, but the one thing that you’re unlikely to do is fall off.
Some people are confused about how ponies relate to horses. Ponies are basically small horses, always measuring less than 14.2 hands. They’re smart and stocky, with duties ranging from pulling loads to giving children their first rides.
Specific Horse Breeds
The Spanish brought splotchy American Paint Horses with them to the United States. Paint horses are good all-around horses for different types of English and Western riding.
American Quarter Horses are some of the most popular mounts for both beginner riders and professionals. These animals are both sporty and gentle. Their colour varies enormously, and some animals have white markings on their head and legs.
You can recognize an Appaloosa right away because of its distinctive spotted coat. If you look more closely, you’ll notice that it has striped hooves. This breed is hardy and an excellent choice for long-distance trail riding and herding.
Arabians are one of the oldest breeds in the world. All light horse breeds have their origin in the Arabian. These gorgeous solid-coloured horses are spirited and powerful but loyal.
Thoroughbreds are best known for their success in horse racing. With their lean bodies and long, flat muscles, they can reach speeds of over 60 kilometres per hour.
We hope you enjoyed our overview of horse breeds. Is there anything that you would like to know about horses? Let us know in the comments!
You're new to the horse world, and some of the words that you hear around the stable make you stop and wonder what people are talking about! Your first step into your horse world journey is to know the terms and what they mean.
Mare - Adult female horse (3 years and older)
Gelding - Castrated adult male horse (3 years and older)
Stallion - Uncastrated adult male horse (3 years and older)
Pony - A full-grown small horse (14.2 hh and under)
Foal - A newborn baby horse (before weaning)
Weanling - A colt or filly who is 6 to 12 months old
Yearling - A horse who is between 1 and 2 years old
Colt - Male horse (3 years and under)
Filly - Female horse (3 years and under)
The Horse's Body:
Conformation - The shape of a horse's body. A horse with good conformation is stronger and more likely to stay sound than one with weak conformation. When judging a horse's conformation, you take into consideration features like the length of their back and the angles of their legs and hooves.
Hand - Yeah, you're right, horses have hooves, not hands! Did you know that we use hands to indicate how tall a horse is? One hand is equivalent to 4 inches.
Lame - Nope, we are not talking about popularity here! We are telling you that your horse is sore. If your horse is "lame," it has an injury that is causing it to walk with a limp.
Sound - Check check 1, 2, 3, can you hear me? Just joking! A sound horse does not have any injuries that would interfere with its gait and movement.
Points - This word is used when describing the color of a horse. His "points" are his mane, tail, and lower legs, and the tips of his ears.
Gait - The different speeds that a horse can travel: walking, jogging, loping, and galloping.
We are throwing back to the pony of a lifetime, Xeena. This was my childhood pony who taught me many life lessons and who made me spend a whole lot of time in the dirt... ponies 🙄
I am so excited to announce Christmas at the Ranch! A place for the whole family to enjoy this Christmas. What can you expect at Shelby Ranch during the Holiday season? A whole lot of adventure, that's for sure. Bring your family out to the ranch on November 23rd and 30th and December 7th, 14th, 21st, and 22nd from 11am to 3pm. Enjoy Pony Rides, a Petting Farm, a Mechanical Bull, Axe Throwing, Archery, Wagon/Sleigh Rides, and let's not forget Santa & Mrs. Claus! Shelby Ranch will also have a Christmas Tree Maze.
Hello, My name is Shelby Gatti, and I am the owner of Shelby Ranch. I love being able to share my passion for animals with you and your family. At Shelby Ranch you can expect a ton of family adventure from horseback riding to mechanical bull riding & axe throwing.