Friday, June 23, 2017

Do riders generally hang onto the reins when they fall?

It's actually a bit of a bone of contention - and the answer is "It depends."

Holding onto the reins during a fall can potentially injure a horse's mouth and poll. It can also result in you getting tangled in the reins and dragged or pulling the horse on top of you.

On the other hand, letting go can result in a loose horse running onto a road or similar.

Most of us are trained to let go unless there's a good reason to keep hold.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

What is "jackstock"?

Jackstock is a term donkey breeders use for the best stock that they reserve for making more donkeys (rather than making mules which, particularly with larger breeds, is the most common use for donkeys in the west these days).

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

What is a "Jerusalem donkey?"

Most donkeys (except for some breeds, such as the Mammoth Jack, which have had it bred out) have a cross on their backs.

It's a pretty legend that the cross was given to the donkey because he carried Christ to Jerusalem - hence the term "Jerusalem donkey."

The "arm" of the cross is clearly visible on the grey donkey in the foreground. Although the black one likely still has the marking, it is not visible against its much darker coat.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

What is a "catty" horse?

A "catty" horse is an agile horse that turns quickly - it's normally a term used by cowhands to refer to horses that are able to go after a cow easily. It also implies that the horse is surefooted and less likely to fall.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Do old horses get hard of hearing?

Yup. Age-related hearing loss can start to show up at 15, sometimes younger in horses that are exposed to loud sounds a lot (some show horses and horses used in battle reenactment are at risk - think about this for your writing. Artillery horses are likely to end up deaf!).

They generally compensate pretty well for it, though, and horses are less reliant on high frequencies than some animals, so may not even notice the first stages of hearing loss.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Do horses get ear infections?

Not as much as dogs or cats. Middle ear infections are more common than external ear infections. Horses with an ear infection seldom experience ear drum rupture - unfortunately, this is because the infection tends to go down the long head and into the skull, sometimes causing joint fusion in the jaw (ow) and partial facial paralysis (extra ow).

Fortunately, this is pretty uncommon. Horse ears are generally pretty healthy.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Do horses get ear mites?

Ugh, do they. Horses can and do get ear mites, although they are rare. The most common culprit is Psoroptes cuniculi, a mite more commonly found in rabbits (and presumably transmitted by wild rabbits that wander into the pasture).

If a horse does get them, though, it can be a real pain. Because their ears hurt, they don't want to let you near their ears to kill the mites - they often have to be sedated. I know at least one horse who had a major infestation and still doesn't want to let anyone near her ears. And I heard of another that got so ear shy as a result they have to be bridled like a mule!

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

What is "buttress foot"?

Buttress foot is inflammation of the front of the coronary band, causing pain and eventually effecting the shape of the foot. It can also cause bone chips to develop. Buttress foot is generally caused by excessive strain (such as galloping on hard surfaces) and can also be caused by damage to the tendon in front of the cannon bone. It is more common in the hind feet and is treated by complete rest and sometimes removal of bone chips. Some horses never recover.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

What is Potomac Horse Fever?

Something very nasty - it's a bacterial disease that horses sometimes get when pastured next to a body of water.

It's relatively easy to treat, but can be fatal in extreme cases. It causes diarrhea, stomach ache, fever and loss of appetite - so, it's basically stomach flu. It can also cause miscarriage in pregnant mares. There are vaccines, but they are not completely effective (as is common with bacterial diseases). PHF is a new world disease and can also affect dogs and cats, but not humans. It is not directly contagious - it's caused by the horse eating the bacteria along with their grass.

Monday, June 12, 2017

How did they safely have those horses fall on the beach in Wonder Woman?

Stunt horses are well trained - and often they and their riders risk injury. If you watched Wonder Woman, you'll see a couple of horses "die" on the beach.

Traditionally, they used to ride horses into pits and intentionally trip them. Needless to say, this often resulted in injured horses (and sometimes riders). Or they would use something called the "Running W" - again to trip the horse.

In the 1940s, things started to change. Modern stunt horses - "falling horses" are literally trained to go down on command. They normally soften the ground - which might not have been done on the sandy beach, as it was already soft). It's done using a special rein cue.

A trained falling horse is very valuable - not every horse has the combination of athleticism and willingness to do it.

Here's a video of a trick rider practicing the stunt so you can have a better idea how it's done.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Do horses get strokes?

Yes, they can - just the same as humans. Symptoms include an awkward gate, lethargy, difficulty eating, staring into space and difficulty or inability lifting the head.

Just like in humans, some animals recover completely, some have lingering symptoms and some die or have to be euthanized.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

What is "contracted foal syndrome"?

Contracted foal syndrome (CFS) is a common birth defect in horses. The affected foals are unable to straighten one or more limbs and may be unable to stand. Some may also have a twisted neck, wry nose or scoliosis. CFS can also cause birth complications. Foals with severe CFS are often euthanized. Those with mild CFS or only one limb affected can recover with surgery or splinting of the affected limb(s).

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Why do horses sleep standing up?

Horses are known for being able to literally sleep on their feet.

It's a trait they share with other large herbivores including elephants, giraffes, moose, rhinos and bisons. Cows can also sleep on their feet, but tend to lie down more than horses do.


Most of the animals (some birds also do it for other reasons) that sleep on their feet are large prey animals. If they were cornered by a predator while lying down, then they might not be able to get up before it was on them (smaller herbivores such as deer have a higher power to weight ratio and can spring to their feet faster).

So, horses mostly sleep standing up, and only lie down to sleep when somebody else is watching - if you watch a herd of horses (or cattle) you might notice that you will almost never see all of them lying down at once.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Can horses sit like a dog?

Yes, but it's not the most natural thing and they don't generally do it unless some human has taught it as a trick. Sometimes old horses might rest in that position for a while while getting up because it's tricky for them to get up in one motion. It can also indicate a neurological problem.

Monday, June 5, 2017

What blood types do horses have?

Humans have A, B, AB and O - what about horses?

Horses have 7 blood types - A, C, D, K, P, Q, and U. That sounds bad enough, but humans only have one factor - Rh - want to guess how many horses have? More than 30! You'd think the omnivores would be more complex ones.

Oh, and they develop antibodies to donkey blood too. Can't be simple, right?

Friday, June 2, 2017

Why do dressage arenas have letters?

Because dressage is very precise - the letters are used to help the riders know exactly where to make transitions or aim for.

Correctly, the change of gait should happen as the rider's shoulders reach the letter.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

What is a daisy cutter?

A daisy cutter is a horse that moves without lifting its feet much off the ground - it's considered a desirable trait in stock horses because it allows for a much more efficient stride at speed. Some Thoroughbreds also "daisy cut."

It can be a problem when the horse is asked to move through deep going, however.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Do horses know their own name?

Yes - many horses can be trained to recognize their own name. However, unlike dogs, they don't get "set" about their name. It's much easier to change it, and I know at least one horse who responds better to her nickname, "Chicken" than to her proper name - because she hears it more often. They will quite quickly get used to a new name.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Can horses open doors?

Oh, can they. Fortunately, it never occurs to most horses to open their stall door - but when one works it out precautions sometimes need to be taken such as changing the latch, adding a clip to hold the latch down, etc. Some horses will even let the entire herd out!

Friday, May 26, 2017

Do horses sleep walk?

No. When horses sleep standing up, which adult horses do most of the time, they actually lock their legs in place so they can't fall over - which also means they can't move. When they lie down they are in REM sleep - and sleepwalking does not occur in that stage of sleep.

So, no, horses can't sleep walk - although they can certainly walk around while dozing - watch pony ride ponies and you'll see some half-lidded eyes because, well, it's not the most interesting job in the world even for a horse.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Do horses get nightmares?

Had to - mostly for the pun. The answer is - probably. Just like us, horses need REM sleep - dreams - to stay healthy.

Of course, we don't know what our horses dream about, but we do know that horses sometimes seem to panic while asleep and wake up shaking - symptoms similar to night terrors in humans. So, we can assume that our horses, just like us, have at least the occasional bad dream. Probably about being chased...

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Do vets sometimes prescribe marijuana to horses?

Actually, marijuana has been used in horse medicine for a long time - it used to be used all the time to treat colic. And there's a growing body of evidence that marijuana can be a good alternative to bute (which eventually wrecks the liver) for chronic pain in horses. It can also be used to stimulate appetite and, in a slightly higher dose, induce sleep (some horses do get insomnia).

There's now a campaign to restore the use of medical marijuana in horses. I'd definitely like to see a study on how it works as a colic treatment or, again, as an alternative to bute.

Why do horses suddenly collapse?

Sometimes a horse will just collapse - and most of the time? Most of the time it's sleep deprivation. Although horses mostly sleep standing up, they need to lie down to dream. If they don't do this at least once every two weeks (normally, they do it every two days) then they can get narcoleptic.

Why do horses get sleep deprived? Anxiety is the most common reason - the horse simply never feels secure enough to lie down to sleep. This is more common in dominant animals (They don't want to leave anyone else watching the herd) and in animals kept completely alone. Other reasons for sleep deprivation in horses include noise pollution (just as with some humans), sleep terrors/nightmares (We don't know what horses dream, but we can see them freak out), muscle or other conditions that make it painful for the horse to lie down and/or get up or being kept in a stall which is too small. In some cases, the departure of the lead mare can cause the entire herd to be sleep deprived until the hierarchy sorts itself out.

Other reasons for horses collapsing include heart problems or narcolepsy.

Sleep deprivation in horses is most often treated with anti-anxiety drugs, but melatonin can help some.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Why did "Thundersnow" refuse to run in the Derby?

If you saw this year's Kentucky Derby, you might note that one of the horses wanted absolutely nothing to do with racing.


While I'm not familiar with the horse, I could tell immediately why the horse refused to compete and tried to toss his jockey. And no, he was not hurt.

The track was basically a swimming pool - it was deep mud - and some horses just won't run on mud. He slipped a bit coming out of the stall and apparently decided that no, he was not risking it. His jockey made the sensible decision not to push the matter.

The ultimate reason: All of the horse's previous dirt track experience was in the UAE. Where, ya know, it doesn't rain very often.

Here's the official video so you can see a horse saying NO with all its might for yourself.

Monday, May 22, 2017

What are windswept legs?

Windswept legs are a deformity of the legs in foals that make the foal look as if he's being blown to one side. It's a rare disorder that affects either both front legs or both hind legs. It's believed to be caused by poor positioning in the womb or inadequate nutrition. Some foals recover on their own, but some require minor surgery to straighten them out.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Can horses walk on their hind legs?

For very short periods, but it's not really a natural thing for them to do. However, an Arabian horse called Desert Kismet holds the Guinness Record for "Fastest 10m on hind legs by a horse" (9.21 seconds). Teaching a horse to do this requires teaching them unnatural coordination and muscle development. The typical horse can't even stay on their hind legs for that long at a stretch - physically can't. They aren't made to do it.

Here's a video of Desert Kismet doing his signature trick.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Does it really take "ten falls to make a good rider"?

That's a saying that circulates in Britain, and I've heard variants in the US too (usually the number of falls).

I'm well past my ten falls, as it were (I'll be honest and say I'm thinking of this topic because I took a stupid tumble yesterday, off of the tallest horse in the barn, because I do nothing by half measures) - but what the saying really means is this:

If you worry too much about falling off, you will never progress as a rider. An occasional failure to keep the horse between you and the ground is a normal hazard of riding - and something you have to learn to deal with.

It might not take ten falls to be a good rider, but you can't become a good rider without falling off.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Why don't horses generally jump out of a field?

Horses are quite capable of jumping their own height, so why do they stay in fenced paddocks?

There are several reasons. The biggest is that, for the most part, horses simply can't be bothered to jump the fence to get out. (The exception is horses that seriously love to jump, and they often have to be kept in by putting electric wires in a strategic location to teach them a lesson when they try to jump out). They will, though, run out of an open gate.

Most horses, though, are more inclined to stay put as long as they have water, company, and enough food. Why bother going looking for better? (They will, though, often lean over the fence because for some reason the grass outside HAS to be tastier, right?)

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Which side do carriage people put the taller horse?

Ideally, a properly matched pair of horses should be exactly the same height, but that was not always possible. A one or two inch height difference is not uncommon.

So, which side is the taller horse put?

Typically, if driving on the road, you want the taller horse to be towards the edge of the road - that way the camber will help the horses make up the difference. In other words, if you drive on the left side of the road, you put the taller horse on the left, and if on the right on the right.

If in doubt, the taller horse is put to the right - which apparently makes the pair easier to drive.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Can horses see behind them?

Horses can see almost directly behind them - but do have a blind spot in their immediate rear (when told not to approach a horse from behind, we're really saying to stay out of that blind spot - if you approach a horse from behind at an angle they can see you fine).

Friday, May 12, 2017

Do horses hate the rain?

Generally not. In fact, horses that are provided with a free use shelter will often still stand out in the rain. They don't seem to mind it at all.

However, some horses do seem to hate the rain. And most horses will seek shelter if they hear thunder - they're tall and don't want to be hit by lightning. Horses will also try to turn their back to the rain or wind and may get mad with a rider who won't let them do that.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Why are "parallel" fences difficult for horses?

Okay, so I was jumping an older schoolmaster mare yesterday, having some fun with her, but when presented with a fence with the front and back rails the same height, she stopped. Why?

Horses, compared to us, have kind of lousy depth perception and a little bit of a difficulty with object permanence. When they are faced with a fence like this:

(Image source: Craig Macubbin via Wikimedia commons)

...that back rail "jumps out" at them at the last moment, they may not even properly see it until they start to take off. Even international show jumpers will have a moment of fear at a fence like this and may stop, especially if being ridden by an unfamiliar rider.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Can draft horses jump?

You might hear that they can't. Actually, draft horses are perfectly capable of jumping and some draft crosses can be really good at it. Pure draft horses tend not to be very good at jumping, but many will give it a try anyway. They tend to jump a bit awkwardly (draft horses, cobs and some ponies will kind of go up, across, down rather than forming a proper arc) but they certainly can.

Of course, you don't want them hitting your jumps - they're rather more likely to break the equipment than a light horse.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Why do horses spook at orange and yellow?

Horses have dichromatic color vision. Light orange and yellow stand out more to them than other colors, and that can result in the horse being startled, especially if the item colored that is flapping or moving. (The barn I rode at as a kid had a single orange jump pole and that thing elicited more stops and runouts than any other obstacle used!)

Monday, May 8, 2017

Do mares steal foals?

Sometimes, although other animals are worse.

The textbook case is a mare who is about to foal who doesn't seem to realize her foal isn't there yet and tries to take somebody else's. More rarely, a maiden mare will try to steal a foal. The only solution is to separate the animals - it can result in fights between the mares, the foal getting hurt, or the "victim" mare losing her milk.

A mare who has lost her foal will also sometimes try to steal another mare's foals - a behavior pattern that can be made use of if you have an orphaned foal.

I've also heard stories about donkeys trying to steal both foals and calves!

Friday, May 5, 2017

Do stallions recognize their own offspring?

Absolutely - probably by scent - and this despite the fact that the mares generally move a distance from the herd to foal.

Stallions will not cover their own daughters, so they remember which foals are theirs even 2-3 years later (colts will, though, cover their own dams...probably because that situation would not happen in the wild, where colts are driven out of their birth herd before puberty). In captivity, stallions have been known to kill foals that they did not sire, and love on and play with ones they did.

So, yes, they seem to know when they are "daddy."

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Do wild stallions "steal" mares?

The idea that wild stallions "steal" mares is a basic one - but the truth is far more nuanced.

Many years ago I was riding on either Dartmoor where they run ponies out. I was on a larger pony mare who happened to be in heat. We rounded the corner and there was a breeding band complete with stallion.

The interaction which followed was a little scary, but interesting to watch. The stallion immediately began display behavior - which in stallions is the head and tail coming up and trotting with exaggerated action, intended to make him look big, impressive and show off how he can move. (We channel these same motions into advanced dressage, most particularly piaffe and passage).

The mare I was riding, who was probably horny as anything, started to sidle towards the stallion.

One of the mares in his band took up a station between him and the band know what they say about mare face?

I have never seen such mare face. It was very obvious to me or any competent horse person that she was saying "You come back here right now or you are in real trouble."

One of the wranglers rode at the stallion riding a whip and between that and the looks he was getting from his "queen" he decided not to try anything further and trotted/bounced back to his harem.

I did not see "snaking" behavior, which is how a stallion herds mares (and how a trained horse herds cows, quite interesting to be on the horse when they do that) but I don't think he got close enough. However, the interest of the mare in the stallion was equal.

"Stealing" of mares often occurs when a young stallion approaches a dominant herd. However, in wild interactions, most of the "stolen" mares are actually the fillies born in the herd - because the dominant stallion, if he hasn't already simply chased them off (or their mothers haven't) is able to identify them as his own offspring and won't breed them. If another male shows up, then the dynamic is often that the male will be allowed to leave with a daughter or two. (This is how horses avoid inbreeding).

Stallions will though approach domestic mares, and the issue is often that the mares are without a male presence or the only males present are geldings, whom the stallion sees as subservient. From his perspective, he's assuming (as with the mare I was riding) that these mares are either young fillies who left their own herd, or part of a herd who's stallion has been killed, so of course he's seeing an opportunity to impress (hence the display behavior) these unattached females. What we see as "stealing" is, of course, simply courtship - a mare who doesn't want to be "stolen" will give the stallion a solid kick for his troubles!

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Why would you blindfold a horse?

Just found a video where some idiots thought it was a good idea to blindfold a horse and then jump on it. An unbroken horse.

That's ridiculous, but using blindfolds is perfectly legitimate under certain circumstances.

The most common time when a good handler blindfolds a horse (in an emergency you can use a sweater) is to get the horse out of a fire. Horses are really dumb when scared and will run back into a burning barn because they see their stall as the safe place. Occasionally, in an emergency, you might blindfold a horse that won't load to get it on the trailer.

Horses may also be blindfolded for some medical procedures. Dentists might blindfold the horse so the lights they are using to look at his teeth don't catch him in the eye. It is also traditional to "cup" the eye (put a hand behind the eye on one side so the horse can't see what's going on behind him) when giving injections. Blindfolding a horse can help diagnose certain neurological conditions by determining how much the horse is relying on its vision for balance. If you see a vet blindfold a horse that's just fallen at a race or event, they're checking for concussion.

Because of this, good horsemen blindfold train their horses so that they don't panic when their eyes are covered. This training is sometimes tested in competition - if you watch trail classes or "cowboy races" you might see an obstacle where the cowboy has to get off, blindfold his horse, then lead it through an obstacle.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Are horses afraid of snakes?

Generally, yes, and some horses are even afraid of anything that remotely resembles a snake (the hose moving apparently on its own because they can't see the person pulling it can be a major horse eating monster).

They are instinctively afraid of snakes, although snakes are one of the few things a horse is more likely to fight or kill than flee from. Like anything else, though, horses can be trained not to be particularly bothered by snakes.

Monday, May 1, 2017

What is balking?

I may already have posted this, but if I did it's long enough ago that a reminder won't hurt.

A horse that "balks" is refusing to go in the direction his rider or handler wants. A balking horse might stop and plant his hooves, or might go in other directions - spin to go the other way, backwards, sideways, even up (rearing).

Balking is an expression of a strong desire not to go in the intended direction and is most often caused by not wanting to move away from the herd. It can also be caused by the horse being uncomfortable with the ground - often, horses will balk if asked to go into water if they cannot see the bottom, some horses won't walk through mud puddles, etc.

Basically, a horse that balks is saying "I don't want to."

Friday, April 28, 2017

Why do some horses try to do everything quickly?

Several reasons.

In some cases, it's just personality. Off the track Thoroughbreds often have a strong drive to go fast - because it's been bred into them for generations. The same can be true of stock horses from "running" lines - bred to race or run barrels.

Lack of balance and fitness can also cause rushing - horses have to develop their abdominal muscles in a particular way to carry a rider properly, and the only way they can develop those muscles is to be ridden (just as there are muscles riders can only develop by riding).

Some horses rush because they are anxious and worried. Horses are flight animals and worry makes them want to go fast.

A horse that has had some time off might rush around, especially if they've been sick or lame and unable to run for a bit, just because they have too much energy.

Finally, some horses will rush through an exercise because they want to get it done and stop working or go back to their buddies. I.e., ironically, some horses that go really fast are actually being lazy!

Thursday, April 27, 2017

If a horse behaves perfectly, are they enjoying their work?

Sometimes yes, sometimes no.

In fact, horses that really enjoy their work can sometimes show a little bit too much enthusiasm for it. But a horse that enjoys its job will often try their best to do everything right.

However, there can be other motivations too. I used to know a little mare, a lesson horse, who would balk dramatically every time she was asked to do something on her own. She'd plant her hooves and go "No, MAKE me"

But once you got her out, she would do whatever she was asked perfectly. Why? Because she was older, smart, and knew that if the person was going to make her do it, then the best thing to do was get it right first time so she could go back to her buddies where she wanted to be. A well-trained lazy horse can also be very well behaved because they know that if they do it wrong, they'll have to do it again. (Which is how we train them to do it right - make them repeat it until they get it, just like a kid doing math problems).

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Will a horse play with a ball?

Yup. Horses like toys and games and will play with large balls or small balls with a handle on them (so they can grab them).

They'll even play with balls bigger than they are, like this baby mini.

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.