Learn all About Horses and What Makes Them So Unique
Have you heard of the expression “no hoof, no horse”?
Horses’ hooves are a key element to their overall health and lifespan. They are made of keratin, which is the same protein as human hair and fingernails. Horses also have a spongy pad inside each hoof called the “frog” which helps with circulation and shock absorption.
As each foot must be able to individually bear the full weight of the horse, hoof health is extremely important. Professional farriers (horse shoers) are experts in hand-forging steel shoes for horses that provide additional support to muscles and bones, and balance the horses body.
At Tally-Ho Carriage Tours our Certified Journeyman Farrier customizes a new shoe for each of the horses’ hooves every 5 to 7 weeks.
10 Quick Facts About Horses
- The tallest horse recorded in the Guinness World Records book (2011) was a Belgian gelding named Big Jake. He stood 20 hands 2.75 in (210.19 cm, 82.75 in) and lived at Smokey Hollow Farm in Poynette, Wisconsin, USA.
- Horses produce approximately 10 gallons of saliva a day. Yuck!
- The record of “longest jump over water by a horse” was done by “Something” who jumped 27 feet, 6 ¾ inches in 1975 Johannesburg, South Africa. Yes, that was actually the horse’s name.
- Horses with pink skin can get sunburned, however horses with white or dark skin typically don’t. At Tally-Ho we apply sunscreen in the summer to the soft pink noses of our Clydesdales.
- When foals are born, their hooves are covered in a soft tissue to protect the mother’s birth canal and uterus. The most notable nickname for this protective covering is “fairy slippers”.
- Horses are very smart animals. They are beyond proficient at learning, and can solve advanced spatial or social cognitive challenges.
- The long, silky hairs that cover the lower half of draft horses’ legs are called “feathers”. Clydesdales and Shires have the heaviest feathering.
- Horses are measured in “hands”, or four–inch increments, a measurement that originated in ancient Egypt. For example, a horse that measures 58 inches from the ground up to the top of the withers is 14.2 hands high (hh). Any horse shorter than 14.2 hh (58 inches) is considered a pony, and any horse shorter than 8.2 hh (34 inches) is a miniature horse.
- Kazakh horse herders will milk the mares and ferment the milk to make “koumiss”, a mildly alcoholic drink.
- The record for “highest jump by a horse” was done by “Huaso” who jumped 8 feet, 1-¼ inches in 1949 Vina del Mar, Chile.
About 50 million years ago, the original “horse” may have looked like a small goat, or deer: This creature was called “Hyracotherium”, which is also known as the “eohippus”, which translates to “The Dawn Horse”.
Horses went extinct in North America approximately 8,000-10,000 years ago, but in the early 1500’s European settlers reintroduced them. In fact, horses that would be regarded as “wild” aren’t wild at all. They’re actually feral horses whose ancestors escaped captivity. The only true “wild” horses preside in Mongolia and they’re called “Przewalski’s horse” (pronounced pshuh-vahl-skeez). Now that’s a mouthful!
We Are Family
While it’s common knowledge that zebras, asses (wild donkeys), and donkeys are all related to the horse, rhinoceroses and tapirs are the closest living relatives outside the horse family.
A Body Built to Last
The average horse has about 205 bones in their body, which makes that 1 less than a human. Horses can live to be more than 30 years old, and the longest living horse was recorded in the 19th century. His name was “Old Billy” and he lived to the ripe old age of 62 years. You can actually estimate the age of a horse by its teeth, so if a horse is looking long in the tooth, you know they’re getting old!
Are Horses Colour Blind?
Horses have bigger eyes than any other land mammal. They were thought to be colorblind, but their monocular and binocular vision can see yellows and greens better than purples and violets. Because their eyes are on the side of their heads, they are capable of seeing nearly 360 degrees (except for the small blind spots in the front and back of them). Although they can see better at night than a human, it takes them much longer to adjust their pupils.
Horses Can Hear You Really Well
While a human has 3 muscles in their ears, horses have a whopping 10! This allows them to rotate each ear individually 180 degrees. Although horses have similar hearing to humans, they can hear a wider range of frequencies than we do.
Did You Know Horses Can’t Throw Up?
They aren’t able to burp or even breathe through their mouths due to the strong muscles and ligaments around their neck. They are only able to breathe through their nostrils. It’s a good thing they have such strong necks as they have no collarbone, and their head consists of about 5% of their entire body weight.
What Do Horses Eat?
Horses are herbivores, and the average 1,000-1,800 lb horse needs a total of about 20lbs of food a day. They prefer sweet flavors, and avoid bitter or sour tasting foods. Our 2,000 lb draft horses at Tally Ho eat about 50 lbs of food per day, consisting of a specially formulated haylage crop, plus supplementary grains (as recommended by a feed specialist); and drink over 50 gallons of water. Horses have the smallest stomach relative to their body size compared to any other domesticated animal. That means they require small, frequent meals throughout the day for optimal digestion and health.
Let’s Get Social
Horses are extremely social animals, and they will get lonely without companionship. They will also mourn the passing of a friend! Wild horses gather in groups of 3-20 animals, and without human training they adhere to a strict social structure. Typically, a mare (female horse) will decide where the herd moves while one or two stallions (male horses) will stay with the herd. Fillies (young female horses) and other mares will stay with the herd, while colts (young male horses) are typically cast out at 2 years of age by the stallion. Don’t worry, the colt will go find his own filly!
The Tally-Ho horses are kept in herds of up to 10 horses per field (or paddock) to enable them to exercise their natural social habits.
Is That Horse Laughing?
Horses use their ears, eyes and nostrils to communicate. They use facial expressions, and vocalizations, which are called “whinnying” and “neighing” to communicate as well. Have you ever seen a horse look like it’s laughing? While that may look like it, they’re actually engaging in a special nose-enhancing technique called “flehman” to determine whether or not a smell is good or bad. So they probably didn’t think your joke was that funny….
Horse and Equestrian Culture Today
With approximately 400 breeds, and over 60 million horses around the world today, what are they all up to?
Most domesticated horses are still used to ride, do farm work, or ranch work. The horses mainly used for farm work are known as draft horses. These are a special breed that thrive on hard work and have no problem pulling a carriage or plow. At Tally Ho, we have a very special bond with our herd of 16 wonderful draft horses.
Some horse breeds are still bred for racing, and others compete in rodeos or horse shows. Some are specially trained for dancing or acrobatics. In many places around the world, horses are still used for ceremonies and historical re-enactments.
Some horses are simply kept as pets, for companionship, or used for equestrian rehabilitation and therapeutic purposes. “Equine assisted therapy” is a growing field where horses help people with a wide variety of mental issues. These majestic creatures can help build trust, respect, compassion, communication, and self-confidence.
One More Quick Fact: Some horses have moustaches! All of our Clydesdales have excellent moustaches, with half brothers Jerry and Clay sporting the best ones.
Come enjoy a carriage ride in Victoria and we’ll be happy to tell you more about the history, care and passion that drives Tally Ho Carriage Tours. You’ll never look at horses the same way again once you meet our gentle giants! For more information or to book a tour, please contact us by email or by phone.