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Why Do Horses Wear Shoes? And Other Strange Horse Facts

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

  1. 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.
  2. Horses produce approximately 10 gallons of saliva a day. Yuck!
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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”.
  6. Horses are very smart animals. They are beyond proficient at learning, and can solve advanced spatial or social cognitive challenges. 
  7. The long, silky hairs that cover the lower half of draft horses’ legs are called feathers. Clydesdales and Shires have the heaviest feathering.
  8. 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.
  9. Kazakh horse herders will milk the mares and ferment the milk to make “koumiss”, a mildly alcoholic drink.
  10. 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.

Horse History

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.horses have moustaches

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.

 

Our Draft Horses – The Care and Keeping of Our Happy Herd

How We Keep Our Draft Horses Emotionally and Physically Healthy

At Tally-To Carriage Tours, our herd of gorgeous horses are the heart of our success as a wholesome tourism company. Bred to work, our horses thrive on the company and interaction they receive, which is evident in their friendly, laid-back dispositions. The horses are viewed as partners and as members of our family, and everyone who works with them is committed to ensuring they’re in the best of health. This means they receive the best training, are mentally healthy and happy and are bonded with their drivers and trainers. We love our horses and they love us right back.

The History of the Draft Horse

Breeds like Belgians, Clydesdales, Percherons and Shire horses are known as Draft (or Draught) Horses. Born and bred from a long lineage of working horses, these guys are docile, confident and they love to work. A draft horse can very easily pull vehicles that are six times their weight while only using about 20% of their full strength.

Originating from ancient warhorses, their reputation as gentle giants has made draft horses the top choice for providing transportation and doing farm work for centuries. This long partnership has also led to innate trust among horses and their people. It’s been found that Draft horses that do not have a purpose or a specific role to fulfill exhibit symptoms of depression and anxiety. These guys are social animals and they also love to have a dependable routine.  At Tally-Ho, our herd of sixteen draft horses consists of Belgians, Clydesdales, Percherons, Shires and a Suffolk Punch: all happy, calm horses that thrive on having a job to do.

The Tally-Ho Horses at Work

At Tally-Ho, our trusted drivers and trainer provide our horse companions with the very best tools they need to be able to do their job safely and well. Every horse is given a frequent health check and watched closely for any sign of illness or fatigue. Just like humans, if a horse is not up to a shift of pulling carriages, they are not expected to work. The care team is trained to be able to easily tell if a horse is not feeling their best. This could be indicated by posture and signs of stress or agitation. All horses have easy access to food and water and are carefully monitored during inclement or hot weather.

Pre-Shift Check

At the beginning of every shift, our horses are fed and groomed before being transported to downtown Victoria. Both horse and carriage are thoroughly checked over with a pre-trip check to make sure the horse is in good spirits and mentally / physically ready for the shift. Taking this time to connect with our horses creates a bond that lasts throughout the shift. This bonding time also helps the horse to feel even more calm and sociable towards guests.

Communicating with the Horses

Because humans and draft horses have been working side by side for over 6,000 years, our drivers and horses feel at home with one another. Each horse knows his or her name and forms a special bond with their co-worker (driver) and can be easily guided by hearing their name followed by a standard command. For example, to go faster, the horse must hear their name, e.g. “Sarge” then the command, e.g.  “step up” after a pause. This creates clear communication between horse and driver, maintaining a calm and relaxed environment. The same vocabulary is used for all the horses to prevent any confusion or misunderstanding.

Our horses trust their co-workers implicitly and can only be touched by guests when and if the horse is relaxed and open to the interaction. Because draft horses are so friendly, this is rarely an issue. Horses do get treats from the public from time to time. If the driver allows it and it’s safe for that particular horse to eat, they get to enjoy it for “dessert.”

To keep the job light and breezy, we also have the horses walk, rather than trot. Constant trotting can create a lot of wear and tear on a horses’ joints. The goal is to be as gentle and kind to our horses as we can be, both at work and at home.

The Horses at Home

Our happy horses have a short commute of 25 minutes to and from Hidden Acres Farm before and after every shift. There, they enjoy a lush pasture and complete privacy in their horse paddock with their herd of humans, cats, dogs, ponies and our retired carriage horses. The horses love to play and they are positively spoiled by their trainers and caregivers. At the end of their shift, they’re immediately brought home to their relaxed and private farm for treats, social time, and a well-deserved rest.

The Horse’s Diet and Nutrition

draft horses the care and keeping of our happy herd

Draft horses weigh a ton (about 1800 pounds on average) and eat a ton too. In a single year, our herd of working horses eat 400 tons of a specially created high-quality feed. This consists of haylage crop plus 36,000 pounds of supplementary grains. The supplements are designed by feed specialists to be tailored to each horse’s individual nutritional needs. The supplements given to each horse varies by age, body weight, workload and physical condition. They’re also given gallons of clean water around the clock, to ensure proper hydration.

The Horses’ Veterinary Care and Hoof Care

The Tally-Ho horses receive personalized care that goes far beyond basic horse care. Our horses have an entire team of specialists tending to their every health need. They receive routine treatments like deworming and shots. A veterinarian closely monitors each horse’s individual requirements, body condition score and any weight loss or changes. Any specific needs are tended to immediately. The herd also receives specialized dental care, as well as adjustments by equine chiropractors and treatments by equine massage therapists. The horses sometimes like to snooze during these treatments, which are designed to ensure optimal muscle and joint health, but the horses regard it as more of a spa experience. 

As any equestrian or horse owner knows, a horse’s hooves must be kept in tip-top shape. Farriers visit weekly and by appointment to provide pedicures to the herd, where each horse is carefully examined for hoof health. This includes providing custom-made shoes for each horse, checking for proper gait and balance to ensure long-lasting joint and muscle health. Above all, we work hard to ensure that the horses are happy and comfortable in their shoes.

The Horse’s Retirement

The Tally-Ho draft horses in our herd range from 9 to the mid-twenties (the normal lifespan for draft horses). Our horses retire generally between the ages of 19 and 25, depending on their physical and mental conditions. After retirement, our senior horses enjoy many happy years as beloved pets on Hidden Acres Farm, with many living well into their thirties due to the gentle nature of the work they perform and their overall care.

How You Can Help Take Care of the Tally-Ho Horses

The Covid-19 pandemic has had quite the effect on the tourism industry. Having to shut down and reduce tour hours has meant a dramatic decrease in funding for the care and keeping of our beautiful horses. To help ensure that the horses continue to get all the spa treatments and specialized diets they require to be happy and healthy, you can now sponsor a horse of your choice. 

To sponsor a horse, just choose your favourite, choose a package and know that your generous contribution will go to ensuring that the Tally-Ho horses receive all the veterinarian care, shelter, food and tools they need.

Proper care and keeping of our horses is essential for providing the best experience with Tally-Ho Carriage Tours. After all, our equine friends are the stars of the show. Serving downtown Victoria for over 115 years, and now serving the Saanich Peninsula, we welcome you to join us for an old-fashioned horse and carriage tour. 

This summer, we’re offering our exclusive Tally-Ho and Sea Cider Picnic experience, a beautiful countryside carriage tour through Central Saanich, complemented with a delectable picnic lunch, organic coffee and a tasting of award-winning, organic ciders. We have also created our new Tally-Ho Farm Tour, providing guests an exclusive opportunity to meet the horses up close and learn about their daily care.  Reservations for all tours are recommended. Contact us by phone or email to book your tour today!

 

Farrier Fridays – Trimming

This week in our Farrier Friday instalment, featuring Major and Trace, we check out the first steps in the shoeing process, removing the old shoe and trimming the foot. Will tells us what they are looking for when trimming the hoof and we get a look at Majors ENORMOUS size 12 shoe!