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Interesting Horse Facts

The Horse

Horses belong to the equus family. Equus comes from the ancient Greek word meaning quickness.
Horses are mammals in the same family as zebras, mules and donkeys.

Did You Know?

a stallion is a male horse
a mare is a female horse
a foal is a baby horse
a filly is a young female horse
a colt is a young male horse
a yearling is a foal after its first birthday
a sire is the word used for the father of a horse
a dam is the word used for the mother of a horse
a pony is not a baby horse. It is a fully grown small horse
a horse's height is measured in hands. One hand = 4"

Mare and Foal

The mother horse, or mare, is pregnant (or "in foal") for 11 months. Most mares give birth in the spring to a single baby (foal) although twins are not uncommon. Mares produce milk for their young and will feed them for several months.
Within 1-2 hours of birth a foal is able to stand up and walk. When foals are born their legs are almost the same length as they are when they are fully grown - their legs are so long they find it difficult to reach down to the grass to eat! Foals can focus their eyes almost as soon as they are born and cut their first teeth within a week. They are fully grown by 3 - 4 years of age.

What do horses eat?

Horses love to eat short, juicy grass. They also eat hay (which is dried grass) especially in the winter or when they are stabled. Extra high energy food such as barley, oats, maize, chaff, bran or processed pony nuts are good for working horses. Horses have small stomachs for their size and need to eat little and often - if in a field, horses will graze for most of the day.

How long do horses live?

An average life span for a horse is around 20 -25 years, though they can live for up to 30 years. The oldest recorded horse was "Old Billy," an English barge horse, who lived to be 62 years old.

How many breeds of horses are there?

There are over 350 different breeds of horses and ponies. These fall into four main groups:
"light" horses with small bones, thin legs and weighing less than 1300 pounds; e.g. Thoroughbreds, Quarter Horses, Morgan horses and Arabians "heavy" or draft horses which can weigh up to 2000 pounds and are strong with large bones and sturdy legs; e.g. Percherons, Draft, Clydesdale and Shire horses ponies which are usually not more than 58 inches tall (14.2 hands and under), making them smaller than a horse; e.g.Shetland, Haflinger, and Caspian ponies feral horses which are wild or semi-wild horses. A mustang is a federal horse.

What are the different colours of horses and ponies?

Horses can be either the same colour all over (whole colours) or a mixture of colours (broken colours). There are thousands of different colour combinations for horses. The most commonly recognized whole colours are - bay, black, brown, chestnut, dun, cream, palomino, or grey. The broken colours include piebald (often called pinto), skewbald (also known as paint horses), roan and spotted (Appaloosa) horses.

Why does a horse have to wear shoes?

Horses that work or travel on hard roads need their feet (hooves) protected by metal shoes. Horses hooves, like our finger and toe nails, also grow continuously and need to be trimmed. To do this, the horses shoes need to be removed and their hooves trimmed every 4 -6 weeks. After trimming their hooves new shoes are fitted.
The person who cares for a horse's feet is called a farrier or blacksmith.

What do they mean when they say a horse is so many "hands" high?

Horses are measured by the width of a human hand - 4 inches or 10 centimetres. Measurement is taken from the ground up to the withers, the highest point on the horse's shoulder. A light horse such as a Lipizzana measures between 15.1 and 16.2hh while a heavy horse such as a Shire is between 16.2 and 17.2hh. Ponies are under 14hh.

How can you tell how old a horse is by looking at their teeth?

It is possible to age a horse fairly accurately up to 10 years of age by their teeth. Whether they are first teeth, permanent teeth, the presence of incisor teeth, the length and slope of teeth all help indicate a horse's age. It is more difficult to age adult horses by their teeth.

What are the different paces of a horse?

The four natural paces for the horse are the walk, trot, canter and gallop.


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