Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Do horses like dogs?

It depends - on the experiences they've had. No horse likes being chased by a dog, but I've seen plenty of situations where horses and dogs play together, and I've seen dogs hang out in the stalls of very territorial stallions.

So, very much depends on the individual dog and the individual horse.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Can horses jump from a standing start?

Not very well or very high. They can to a point, but horses generally find it much easier and smoother to take a good run at it, and anything high (in relation to the horse) they need to. Mules, on the other hand, can and do jump their own height from a standing start.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Do horses have favorite treats?

Absolutely. I knew one horse who wasn't so keen on apples, but would do pretty much anything for a carrot. Another only liked "natural" treats and wouldn't touch candy or horse biscuits.

Horses definitely have food preferences - although most of them do, indeed, like apples and carrots. Oh, and the supposedly universal sugar lump? I've met more than one horse that hated them.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Why are some horses scared of some things and not others?

I know a horse who is terrified of thunderstorms. I know another horse who will completely ignore them as long as you don't actually ask her to go out in the rain - and she'd probably do that too, except I wouldn't be that mean.

Why are some horses afraid of a stimulus and others not? And what determines what each horse is afraid of?

Basic personality does enter into it. Some horses scare more easily than others, and some horses are actually anxious in the true sense. However, it's more often a result of training. A horse can be trained to not be afraid of specific things - a process called "bombproofing" - and the trainer will generally focus on things likely to be an issue in that particular horse's life. For example, a show horse might be taught to ignore applause (although some show horses will prance - they know it's for them, trust me), whilst it's more important for a trail horse not to be scared of passing trucks.

Sometimes horses may have had some kind of bad experience that makes them scared of an object, a situation, even a color. A horse that's afraid of dogs may well have been chased by one. And occasionally a horse seems to have a genuine phobia - something they've never encountered before eliciting not just a spook but absolute terror. I've heard of horses being randomly afraid of cows, pigs, and even miniature horses - like, really? It's another horse, just small...

So, it's about the animal's personality and it's past and training.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

What is the origin of the unicorn legend?

We don't really know - the unicorn doesn't appear in actual mythology, because people genuinely believed they existed. In fact, the earliest unicorns weren't even horses with horns, but were more like large goats. Narwhal tusks supported the legend until people realized they came from a kind of dolphin.

Another version described unicorns as being akin to wild asses. Rhinos, of course, have central horns, and oryxes often look like they do unless seen from the front (many think the oryx is the actual creature that started the story). Marco Polo described the unicorns he saw on his travels - and he had clearly seen a rhino.

Unicorns in fantasy may be horned horses, but the unicorn of legend is definitely something else. No equine species has had horns as a routine thing, although they do show up as an extremely rare mutation. Most likely the original unicorns were, then, just antelopes.

But it's nice to envision a fantasy unicorn.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Can stallions be ridden/driven with mares?

Absolutely - but both need a bit of extra training (Mares, especially when coming into heat, can be quite intentionally distracting to males - and not just the intact ones either). Despite their high sex drive, stallions can be trained to completely ignore mares in heat around them. It just takes a bit more work.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Is "horse whispering" real?

The idea of the "horse whisperer" who has magical control over horses may date back to the Celts. In the 19th century the Secret Society of the Horseman's Word claimed to have a "secret word" that would give you power over horses. More likely, they were closely guarding their training secrets.

These days, "horse whisperer" is often used to refer to a talented trainer who appears to have better control over horses without doing anything different (and who never uses harsh methods). More likely, it has to do with subtle aspects of body language than "magic" - but controlling a horse with body language alone is possible and quite a lot of people aspire to learn the knack.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Why are bad dreams called nightmares?

...and does it have anything to do with horses?

Actually not. The word "mare" in this sense means "demon" or "goblin" - so, a night demon, an evil spirit that gives you horrible dreams.

That usage of the word "mare" faded out, and only the compound form survived, although for a long time it still referred to the demon or spirit, not the dream itself.

But nothing to do with horses at all.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Why do Quarter Horses have such weird names?

Look at Quarter Horse (or Paint or Appaloosa) show results and you will definitely see some weird names. Here's a few to conjure with - Watch Jo Peppy Bar, Shine O Roo, Maxies Bar Five, Gold Doc Johnny, Smokeys Regal Doc, Im Tuf N Happy.

Some also have normal names, and "Smart Fancy Cutter" speaks for itself...or does it?

Quarter Horses are traditionally given names that reflect their bloodline - which is why you see so many Docs, Skips, Freckles, Tufs, Peppys, Bars, and Hancocks. Some names may also bring in the dam's bloodline - Smart Miss Chilena includes "Smart" and "Lena," both bloodline names. Occasionally, names may also include the name of the breeder or the breeders' ranch, but if you look at a Quarter Horse's name as well as their sire and dam and know the breed, you can probably tell somebody what build, specialty and even color the horse is.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Will young colts really breed their dams?

Male horses can be fertile as young as 12 months, and I've heard of foals giving it a try at 6 months (usually to be told where to go by the mare).

And yes, they will definitely breed their own dam. Or their older sister. No taboos whatsoever.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

When are stallions most fertile?

Stallions appear to reach full fertility at about three years (although yearlings can and do get mares pregnant - including their own dams). They typically remain fertile into their 20s - as in most mammals, males don't decline in fertility as early or dramatically as females. In fact, stallions are more often retired from breeding because arthritis is making it hard for them to mount mares than because of fertility issues.

Monday, April 10, 2017

When are mares most fertile?

Fertility in mares peaks at about 6 or 7. It drops off significantly at about 15, and most breeders don't breed a first time mare at 13 or older (you can try, but the success rate tends to be very).

However, many mares, especially ones that have been bred frequently, can keep producing into their 20s. I've even heard of a mare foaling at 30 - I assume it wasn't an intentional breeding at that age...

Friday, April 7, 2017

When are foals naturally weaned?

As I said in the previous post, foals start eating solid food very quickly indeed.

Full weaning - when the foal no longer attempts to suckle and is no longer allowed to - takes longer. Typical natural weaning is 10-11 months - right before a wild mare drops her next foal. A mare who has not caught again, though, may let her foal nurse occasionally up until 2 years or so.

Domestic horses are, of course, often weaned sooner.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

When do foals start eating grass?

Very quickly. In fact, foals are so prone to eating solid food quickly - especially grain - that it can cause growth problems if you aren't careful (They steal mom's grain and grow too quickly).

In a natural or pasture state, foals start to sample grass at 1 week and will be grazing significantly by 2 to 4 weeks, although they continue to visit the milk bar for months.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

How old is a foal when they can run?

Almost right away! In the wild, foals need to be able to keep up with the herd from the start, which is why their legs are often not much shorter than their mother's. It's considered a likely problem if a foal is not standing within an hour of birth (although they do sometimes fall over a couple of times).

They can walk within two hours and they should be running within four hours of birth. Pretty incredible, right? (Again, they do sometimes fall over a few times while working it out).

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Do horses cry?

No, horses don't cry to release emotion the way we do. If a horse is crying, then they probably have an eye irritation or a plugged tear duct (which can require surgery).

They do express sadness, of course, but it's mostly in where their ears are, the droop of the head, loss of interest in food. But no emotional tears.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Will horses drink from a hose?

Some horses will - and some horses like to, especially when it's hot. (Be careful, though. Horses have been known to grab the hose and decide you need a bath too!)

Friday, March 31, 2017

Do horses like to run?

Mostly - although it depends on the horse and its breeding. I've certainly met plenty of horses who would be happiest moseying around and only run if they think they're under threat. Draft horses tend to be particularly laid back (although there's always that horse that didn't read the breed manual).

Other horses, well, it's a challenge to get them to slow down. Thoroughbreds and other racehorses tend to have a strong desire to not just run fast, but to run faster than everyone else.

Many horses will run in their pasture just for the sake of it.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Do horses like to jump?

I may have answered this before, but it seems to keep coming up.

The answer is: It depends on the horse.

Some horses like jumping. Some are pretty indifferent to it. And some absolutely hate it.

Most of the high end show jumpers you see like jumping because if they don't it's just hard to impossible to train them to that level. They seem to think it's a fun game to play with their rider. And I've known lazy horses who perk up a lot when they see jump standards.

So, yeah, depends on the horse (and I personally think it's mean to make a horse jump that actively hates doing it).

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Can donkeys really go for a while without water?


In fact, horse people have often accused beach donkey wranglers of cruelty because their donkeys work a full 8 to 10 hour day without water.

In fact, donkeys, as desert animals, can go for 3 days without water without experiencing any ill effects whatsoever, although they are best off if watered at least once or twice a day (unlike horses, who should always have free choice water and be offered water during the work day if the opportunity arises).

Only one domesticated animal needs less water to be healthy than a donkey: A camel.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Are donkeys harder to train than horses?

Many horse people find them harder to train. Donkeys are a bit less social than horses and have a stronger fight mechanism (donkeys make good stock guardians), and they are a lot more territorial.

So, they have to be trained in a bit of a different way - the problem comes when people apply horse techniques to donkeys. Or "natural horsemanship," which assumes psychological tendencies donkeys just don't have.

Donkey stock guardians in Switzerland. They wanted treats.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Can horses recognize facial expressions on humans?

I've always thought the answer was no - I've always thought they cued off of other things to establish a handler's mood, like voice and body language.

Turns out? I'm wrong. A study done in 2015, which I somehow missed, demonstrated that horses can distinguish between a smile and a frown on a life-size color photograph (i.e., with no other cues as to the handler's mood). They got much more stressed when the photograph was frowning. (Of course, they used lesson horses, who are probably better than average at recognizing the mood of a stranger).

Take home: Smiling at a horse is helpful. Because they can tell you're smiling and they know what it means.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Do horses get runny noses when it's cold?

You know - when it's a cold day and your sinuses back up a bit and your nose runs a bit.

Horses absolutely do seem to suffer from the same effect. That is to say, I've definitely seen a bit of clear discharge in a horse's nostrils at the same time I'm reaching for a tissue myself. Given a runny nose in cold weather is partly caused by basic thermodynamics, it makes sense that horses get it too. (That said, if the discharge is thick, accompanied by a cough or, worse, only in one nostril, then it might well be a sick horse). Another clear sign that it's just the weather: When it's every horse in the herd.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Do show horses ever get stage fright?

The general answer is: No. Most horses don't seem to actually be stressed by an audience per se, although some horses may become afraid of specific things. For example, I have known more than one horse who was terrified of applause. Some horses are also bothered by flash photography, umbrellas, dogs, and small children. Riders, of course, get stage fright - and the negative performance effect sometimes seen when in the show ring is more likely because the rider is tense and not performing well.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Do horses sit like a dog?

Not often. Trick horses are often trained to "sit" - and a few horses will do so to scratch an itch on their butt. It's not a comfortable position for them.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Do horses get stressed?

Absolutely. Horses like routine, and can get stressed when their routine changes (One of the qualities of a good show horse is a high tolerance for stress and being able to deal well with being moved around, being in different stalls, etc).

Stress can also be caused by training - many young or green horses go through a "rebellious" stage at some point during their education, which may be caused by being overwhelmed by training. Most commonly, though, I've seen it when the horse first starts to learn correct carriage - but are unable to physically perform it because the only way to develop the muscle to carry a rider correctly is to do it, and thus the horse becomes frustrated and stressed. Stall rest can cause major stress for a horse. So can separation from a long-term companion. Some horses also become stressed when transported, and there are strong indications that this may be caused by poor hauling conditions (If your horse won't load, you may just be a bad driver).

Some horses get stressed if they are handled and ridden by different people, or forced to deal with people or horses they don't like. The final cause of stress is rider/handler stress - the horse can pick up on this and get stressed themselves.

Symptoms of stress in horses can include weight loss, stall or fence walking and other stable vices, excessive yawning, tooth grinding, bad behavior under saddle, diarrheoa, excessive urination, trembling/shaking, excessive licking or chewing, elevated pulse and respiration, "breaking out into a cold sweat," bolting their food, biting and even ulcers.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Do horses like to show off?

Depends on the horse - but yes, quite a few of them love having an audience. (Sometimes they love having an audience a little bit too much).

They are highly social animals who like attention and the best show horses strut naturally without any real input from their handler.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Do horses deliberately kill other horses?

Very rarely. Most incidents of a horse injuring another horse fatally are accidents - they're large, powerful animals. Horses generally do not fight to the death, but they can fight quite badly. I know a mare who got into a fight with more than one pasturemate, which culminated in her killing another horse and being condemned to being turned out alone for the rest of her life (clearly she should have been isolated sooner, but she had previously been okay with a different companion).

Horses can be aggressive, but generally not murderous. Most horse fights happen when animals that don't get on are put together in a smaller pasture where they don't have space to leave each other alone.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Do horses fall in love?

Nope. Horses are harem breeders and do not form long term sexual or "romantic" bonds. Instead, their close bonds are more like what we would call friendship. (This doesn't mean horses don't have sexual preferences and experience different levels of attraction to different individuals).

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Are horses ever gay?

I found a video earlier on Youtube of a gelding clearly in the throes of sexual excitement - dick out of its sheath, prancing, head arched.

The owners said it couldn't possibly be that because "there were no mares around."

I've also witnessed homosexual mounting between young colts who are turned out together. Although geldings exhibit less libido, they aren't completely sexless.

So, are horses gay?

The answer is: Probably not.

A gay horse would be a male horse who preferred to sexually display to, and mate with, other males when females are available.

Most homosexual activity observed in horses is seen in animals that do not have access to the opposite sex.

I have not personally met a horse that prefers their own sex - although they could be out there (I have, however, known a dog that would definitely ignore bitches to flirt with other males).

Like sailors at sea so long their bunkmate starts to look good to them, they aren't gay - just horny.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

What is "chase me charlie"?

A jumping event in which the horses follow each other over a progressively higher fence. Any pair that knocks the fence down, refuses, runs out, or falls is eliminated. In the UK it is sometimes called "higher and higher."

A regional UK usage of "chase me charlie" that, as far as I know, is limited to the English Midlands, is a contest where the jump is made up of small barrels and instead of getting higher, it gets narrower and narrower.

Monday, March 13, 2017

What is "ride a buck"?

No, it's not another word for a bronc rider. "Ride a buck" is a fun class sometimes seen at playdays and schooling shows, where riders are challenged to perform ever more complicated activities (sometimes bareback) without losing a dollar (real or fake) placed between their leg and the saddle. It's seen as a test of the rider's ability to keep their seat. It's also known as "sit a buck," "bareback dollar," and various other names.

Friday, March 10, 2017

What is "best turned out?"

A showing class that is judged entirely on the cleanliness of the horse and tack, apparel of the rider, etc.

In the UK, a "best turned out" award is also given to the groom of the cleanest horse in a day of racing (A custom I wish would spread further!)

Thursday, March 9, 2017

What is a "turnout?"

In driving, the turnout is the entire thing - the horse, harness, vehicle and even the clothing and accessories on the driver and any passengers. "Well turned out" can refer to a smart carriage, etc. It can also refer to a saddle horse that is clean, well groomed, wearing good tack and ridden by a well-dressed rider.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

What is "putting to"?

To "put a horse to" means to harness it and hitch it to a vehicle. It's most often used in a descriptive context.

For example, "The bay cob was put to a handsome buggy."

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Why do drivers wear aprons?

The answer is simple: When you're sitting behind horse(s) while driving them, they throw up dirt. So you wear an apron to protect your clothing from getting muddy. You might see people drive without an apron if the front of the carriage is high enough to provide enough protection.

In winter, wool aprons also help keep your feet warm.

Monday, March 6, 2017

What is a swing horse?

In a six or eight in hand (imagine that) the "swing" horses or "swing" teams are the teams in the middle, neither at the front nor the back.

Friday, March 3, 2017

What is a wheeler?

The wheeler is the horse or horses closest to the carriage - that is to say, closest to the wheels.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

What is a leader?

Because I realized I forgot this one. In driving terms, a "leader" is the front horse or a member of the front pair.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

What is a random hitch?

No, it's not a random number of horses. It's also sometimes spelled "randem" - it's three (or more) horses hitched in a line. Like the pickaxe, it is extremely hard to drive.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

What is a pickaxe?

A pickaxe is generally a hitch of three horses in front and two in back. The term is also sometimes used to refer to a reverse unicorn - two horses in front and one in the back.

Pickaxes are considered an extremely tough hitch that should be left for professional drivers.

I wasn't even able to find a picture of one that I could use as they're so rare.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Cinematic Oops: The Great Wall

Just watched this movie last weekend, and overall the horse action was pretty good. They didn't mount steppe nomads on nice, shiny stabled horses, but let their mounts be a bit scruffy.

Unfortunately, they made a major mistake early on that had me and my husband groaning and facepalming.

A group of characters were being chased through canyon territory by "nomads." (We don't get to see why). They have the horses they're riding and four pack horses.

One of them decides it's a bright idea to cut the pack horses free. With no prompting, chasing, yelling or anything, the pack horses go down a different canyon, leading the pursuers astray.

This would never happen.

A horse that's loose will do one of two things:
1. Follow their buddies.
2. Try to go back to their own territory.

As these horses were at least supposed to be a good way from home, they would have followed their buddies. Period. To get them to go down a different canyon would have required yelling and probably a smack or three with a hand or even a whip. Something.

Remember: Basic horse psychology is that horses feel more secure in a group. They don't go away from the herd without a reason.

Friday, February 24, 2017

What is a unicorn (other than a horse with a horn)?

A unicorn is a driving configuration with two horses behind and one in front. It may be the most difficult configuration to drive and requires a very special lead horse (if you look at ads for driving horses, if the horse has experience leading a unicorn it will be mentioned).

It's also called "randem tandem" and was often used by farmers who needed to make tight turns - or if a coach needed to go somewhere and one member of the four-in-hand was lame. In some periods, also, driving unicorn was a way of showing off one's skill with the lines.

This unicorn rig is being inspected by a judge after completing an obstacle course (or before starting, I can't be sure). Unicorns are, these days, mostly seen in competition - as a way of showing off one's skill with the lines, of course. Image source Eponimm via Wikimedia Commons.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

What is a tandem?

In the context of driving, a tandem is two horses hitched one in front of the other. It's considered one of the hardest configurations to drive.

Image source Les Meloures via Wikimedia Commons.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Why is a team of four horses in two pairs called a four-in-hand?

Because correctly, when you drive a team, you hold all of the reins (yes, all four sets) in one hand.

So, you have four horses in one hand, which rapidly contracts to "four-in-hand." (And no, I'm imagining it's not easy, although I've only ever driven a single myself).

The driver in this shot has the reins in the left hand but is "assisting" with his right hand - this is top British driver George Bowman. Image source, Vickusin via Wikimedia commons.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Why do modern jousters use draft horses?

Because, to be honest, we've mostly lost the "great horse" or "destrier."

Draft horses are often the only animals that can handle the weight of 100 pounds of armor plus maybe 150-200 pounds of jouster plus the weight of the barding. They are also mostly (but not always) easy to desensitize to crowd noise, rattling armor, etc.

Ring jousters and some jousters who "fake" it at RenFaires often use lighter horses.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Do stallions get ED? (NSFW)

Uh, yes. Stallions can get erectile dysfunction.

However, unlike with humans, when a horse can't get it up it is as likely to be psychological as anything else. Sexual dysfunction in stallions is often caused by management issues such as breeding fatigue (expecting the stallion to cover too many mares too quickly) or overall poor handling. In some cases, young or timid stallions may be, uh, too intimidated by the mare to perform. And very young stallions can sometimes have, uh, issues finding the hole.

Lack of performance in stallions can also be caused by pain in the back or rear legs (in other words, anything that makes mounting the mare uncomfortable or painful).

And there are also instances of a stallion simply not fancying the mare presented to him. I once knew a stallion who absolutely refused to mount pinto mares. No reason or trauma behind it - as far as anyone could tell he just found them unattractive. In these cases, artificial insemination (if legal for the breed) is often used to get around the problem.

Friday, February 17, 2017

How old a mare can have a foal?

Horses do not go through menopause and mares as old as 30 have safely given birth. However, there is a tendency for fertility to start to drop at the age of 15. Most vets do not recommend breeding a mare for the first time past this age, as older maiden mares are more likely to have complications.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

What is a red bag foal?

A "red bag" foal is when the placenta separates prematurely before or during foaling. It's rare, but can lead to the death of the foal. The mare will require assistance - the red bag will cover the foal's nose and possibly cause hypoxia. Red bag foals are often weak and more vulnerable to infection.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

What is developmental orthopedic disease?

Basically - anything that causes problems in a growing horse's limbs or joints falls under this banner, including "growing pains" and some limb deformities.

Most of these problems are caused when people feed young horses too much - horses are meant to grow off of lots of low energy feed, so when people start giving foals grain it can cause all kinds of problems. The incidence is pretty high, and the cure is generally to feed the baby less.