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.