World of Horses and Ponies
Caring for horses has come a long way! World War I poster in the Library of Congress. Photo Wikimedia Commons, Courtesy chreck, Horst, 1885, Public domain
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- Horse Backgrounds
- How to Pick a Horse - Best Horse Breeds
- About Horse Breeds: - Light, Draft and Ponies
Horses have a mane along the top of the neck and they have a long, flowing tail. These animals move on four legs and generally have four gaits: walk, trot, canter, and gallop. But there are also some, the so-called ‘gaited’ horses like the Tennessee Walking Horse, that have three or five gaits.
A horse's height is measured in hands, each of which is four inches. They are measured from the ground to the top of the withers, or highest point of the back at the base of the neck.
Unless specifically chosen for breeding, most mature male horses are castrated, and are referred to as 'geldings'. An uncastrated male is a 'stallion' and a mature female is a 'mare'. Young juvenile horses are collectively known as 'foals'. Female foals are called 'fillies' and male foals are called 'colts'.
The horse’s history can be traced back almost 75 million years to the now extinct family of Candylarth, a prehistoric group of animals which were about the size of a medium-sized dog. They had five toes on each foot and thickened nails. These animals were the ancestors to horses and all hoofed animals.
The modern horse is the direct descendant of the Eohippus, which lived about 60 million years ago. The Eohippus had four toes on each forefoot and three on each hind foot with each toe ending in a small hoof. It had a pad in the center of the foot much like that of a dog that carried most of the animal’s weight. This pad has become the small growth on the back of the fetlock called the ergot on the modern horse. The Eohippus also had teeth meant for eating shrubs not for grazing on grass. These animals lived in the Americas, Europe, and Asia because at that time there were land bridges connecting the continents.
Horses continued to evolve and adapt to their environment. They became larger and began to eat grass as the climate became drier. The central toe began to bear most of the animal’s weight and the outside toes diminished in size and function.
How to Pick a Horse: Best Horse Breed
Knowing what you envision doing with your horse is an important consideration in determining how to pick a horse. Starting with the horse types and their breed characteristics, will give you a good overview. You can then narrow this down to individual horses that will be the best horse breed for you. Once you have chosen a breed, be patient in selecting your horse. Observe each horses temperament, alertness, and general manner as it is being handled. Also ask to ride any horse before making a commitment to buy.
- Horse breeds come in a wide variety... of sizes, colors, and personalities. To get the right type of horse will take thoughtful analysis. Horses are primarily used for recreation and for competition. Getting the right horse depends upon what you want to do with your horse as well as your physique and abilities.
- Owning a horse is big responsibility... it takes dedication and requires a commitment of both time and money. Horses need daily care, grooming, and exercise. There are many costs involved that include shelter and exercise facilities, feed, medical care, and shoeing; as well as equipment for grooming and riding. Also keep in mind that horses are long lived, with some breeds reaching 30 or more years.
- Carefully review each horse breeds... characteristics, temperaments, and what uses they excel in. Then give some thoughtful consideration to what you and your family wish to use the horse for. Combine your use requirements and riding styles, as well as your physique and abilities, with each type of horse. Narrow your choices down until you have determined which horse breeds will be the best horse breed for you..
- Light Horses
The majority of riding horses around the world fall into the category of light horse. All light horse breeds are originally descended from the Arabian type horse; the Arabian horse is the oldest breed on record with documented lineage. The light horses are considered either “hot” or “warm” blooded. Horses classified as being hot blooded are those resembling the Arab types; warm blooded horses are those breeds into which some heavy horse characteristics were introduced, similar to the European bred competition horses of today.
Centuries of selective breeding for specialized uses, as well as various environmental conditions, have influenced the development of hundreds of different breeds in this horse class. Most of these breeds range from 14.2 hands high to 17.2 hands high, and are generally faster and less bulky than the draft type and taller than the ponies. These horses are widely used for recreation and show.
See More information: Light Horses, Information and Horse Care For Warmblood and Hot Blooded Horse Breeds
- Draft Breeds - Heavy Horses
The heavier draft horse was developed from the bulkier type of equine found in the northern hemisphere. These hardy horses evolved to survive in a colder harsher climate. Draft Horses are much heavier and broader than the light horses. These breeds are referred to as cold blooded, in reference to their quiet and calm temperament. They are heavy in the body, strong legged, and often have “feathers”, or long hair, covering their large hooves.
As early as the roman times, Europeans used these huge types of horses for heavy labor. They were used for pulling heavy loads in cities as well as for farm work. In the middle ages, their great strength and stamina made them a popular war horse, being easily able to carry a heavily armored knight into battle. They range in size from approximately 15.2 to 20 hands high, and are slower but more powerful than the light horse.
See More information: Draft Horses, Information and Horse Care for Draft Horse Breeds
- Pony Breeds
Ponies are generally considered to be 14.2 hands or smaller at maturity, however this is a general rule with many exceptions. Pony breeds have a slightly different appearance than the light horse breeds. They usually have thicker manes, tails and coats. They are proportionately shorter legged and rounder through the barrel. They have somewhat shorter and thicker necks and wider, stronger bones.
Ponies are well known for their superior intelligence and more tractable temperaments. Many of the pony breeds evolved where there was inferior nutrition and which resulted in a smaller breed. Ponies generally require less diligence in their care and often tend to be more independent than the other types of horses.
See More information: Ponies, Information and Horse Care For Pony Breeds
- Horse Care: How To Take Care of a Horse
- Horse Training: How to Train a Horse Using Natural Horsemanship
- Horse Exercise: Horse Workouts for Horse Health and Fitness
- Horse Breeding: Horse Mating, Care of a Pregnant Horse and Baby Horses
- Horse Health: Horse Problems and Horse Vaccines for Common Horse Ailments
- Horse History: Evolution of the Horse Equus caballus
- Horse Class: Classification of the Modern Horse
- Horse Colors: Horse Coat Colors and Horse Color Genetics