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.

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!)