Identify the Horse
"There's something about the outside of a horse that's
good for the inside of a man."
~ Sir Winston Churchill
I don't really
know where all the information I'm finding should go, so this is sort of a
general info page right now. It may eventually be devoted just to ways to
tell the different breeds apart. (It will probably, of course, include
ways to tell different kinds of equines apart--horse vs. donkey, etc. For
example, it doesn't really matter how big or small a horse-like animal is--if
its ears are disproportionately long, like more than half the length of its
face--it's probably at least part donkey!) If you have any suggestions for
this page, please contact me.
At first, it is difficult to tell what breed a horse or pony is, but after a while, it becomes easier. Here are some clues to help you:
If the horse carries its tail high and has a dished profile (a face that curves in), it probably has some Arab blood, such as an Anglo-Arab or a Welsh pony.
If the horse is tall, with long legs, a fine skin and coat, and a light build, it might be a Thoroughbred.
One should not confuse the terms purebred and Thoroughbred. Only about 8 of every 100 horses in the United States are purebred. Thoroughbred refers only to English race horses.
Many of the horses you see are likely to be cross-bred. It can be fun trying to guess which different breeds their ancestors were. Look for pure-bred horses and ponies at:
Horse shows, where there are classes for various breeds.
Stud farms, where horses are bred. (This is probably the best place to find pure breeds.)
The breed's natural surroundings such as the marshes on Assateague Island (for the Assateague/Chincoteague pony).
Racing stables or racetracks (these are the best places to see Thoroughbreds).
Riding stables. At the Spanish Riding School in Vienna, for example, you will see Lipizzaners.
Ask at your nearest riding school if any of their horses or ponies are pure-bred.
Sometimes color can be a clue. Most
breeds are the common colors - bay, brown, chestnut, and gray. However,
some are generally a particular color. For example, the Fjord
pony is usually dun.
You will be able to find some of the breeds all over North America. Others live either in particular areas of the country, or in other countries, so they will be harder to find. Others are very rare indeed; you will probably see them only in zoos, or in a film or on television.
The horse is one of the
most intelligent and versatile of animals, adapting itself readily to any
environment and having a memory good enough to find its own way back to its
stable, as well as quickly learning commands. A horse can vary in weight
from about 300 pounds (a small Shetland pony) to 2,400 pounds (a large draft)
and in height from about 3 feet to about 5 feet 8 inches.
The horse possesses a keen sense of hearing, smell and sight. Its eyes, the largest of any land animal, are located on the sides of the head and move independently of each other. Its wide nostrils help it breathe easier when running or working. The body of the horse is covered with thick hair, grown every fall and shed every spring.
A healthy adult horse should have a pulse of between 36 and 40 beats per minute while at rest.
Horses are the hoofed, herbivorous species that include the zebra, donkey, and mule. There are several groups of species of horses. One contains the zebra, which is native to Africa and another has the donkey, including the kiang and onager of Asia and the wild ass of Africa. The third group contains Przewalski's wild horse, which is now only able to be found only in captivity. The only extant true wild horse, it produces fertile offspring when crossed with the domestic horse. Other "wild" horses can be found, including the mustang. These horses have been seen living in the wild.
One of the most noted characteristics of the horse is that it has only one toe, called the hoof. The hoof has a hard covering, made of keratin. There are several parts of the hoof. A horse's skull is very long, and horses have 44 teeth. A horse uses it's incisors, which form a semicircle, to crop grass and other plants. A horse's skull is composed of 34 bones. There is a gap in-between the horse's premolars and other teeth, which is where the bit is settled when the horse is being driven or ridden. All the teeth have long crowns and pretty short roots. A large horse's stomach can hold approximately 10 gallons at one time.
Male and female horses both are mature enough to reproduce by the age of two. However, they are rarely used for breeding until they are at least three years of age. The gestation period is about 11 months, and single births are the rule. Twins are a rarity, and only a few births of three or more foals have ever been recorded.
You can find more
information of this sort on Riding Techniques. (I took this section from
an email I received so I really don't know where it's from.)
A sound and attractive horse of any breed is pleasing to the eye and shows quality in the "points of conformation." Below are some of the ideals that most light-horse breeds have in common.
or nearly horizontal, according to function of breed, but generally long and
Legs: positioned for a square, solid stance. Forelegs, seen from the front, are straight, with feet set about a hoof's breadth apart. Hind legs, viewed from behind, are straight and perpendicular to the body. Bones are flat, not rounded. Tendons large and well defined. No puffiness in joints.
Pasterns: neither too long nor too short; angle of about 60 degrees is ideal for shock-absorbing function.
Hoofs: rounded, with no cracks or rings.
Hindquarters: clean-cut and muscular.
Back: well blended with front and hindquarters and in good proportion; short is ideal of most breeds.
Chest: broad and deep for good lung capacity.
Shoulders: sloping (i.e., line from withers to point of shoulder), not straight or steep. Good angulation of shoulder and arm provides springiness and resistance to shocks.
Neck: long in most fine breeds, well set into shoulders.
Eyes: prominent, wide-set, expressive of good disposition.
Head: proportioned for balance, i.e., large on a short neck, small on a long neck. Bone structure well defined. Forehead broad and flat, and profile straight or slightly dished. (A Roman nose is characteristic of draft breeds.)
Ears: set wide and forward on forehead, alertly carried. Trivia: Horses with lop ears are often said to have a kind temperament, but beware of the exception to the rule.
Hair: an indicator of health; it should be fine, vigorous, with natural sheen, and full in the tail.
The solid colors are classed as follows.
Black (blk): a
rare color, not to be confused with very dark bay or brown; there are no light
Brown (br): brown horses may be anything from deep brown to near-black, with light areas at muzzle and eyes.
Bay (b): a range of reddish hues from sandy bay (light shades), to blood bay (red shades), to mahogany bay (dark shades); distinguishing characteristic of bay horses is that mane and tail, and often lower legs, are black, and ear tips are edged with black.
Chestnut (ch): a range of reddish brown hues, with mane and tail of same color or lighter.
Gray (gr): a blending of white and black hairs; depending on proportion of dark to light, horse may be a very dark gray or almost white. At birth these animals are dark; they lighten gradually as they mature.
White: true white is rare: such a horse is usually an albino.
Palomino (p): a range of golden colors, from cream to orange; mane and tail should be lighter than the body, from silver to flaxen. White leg markings are common.
Roan (rn): a fairly uniform mixture of hairs of different colors: strawberry roan (chestnut with white hairs); blue roan (black, white and red hairs); red roan (bay with white).
Dun (d): a range of dull tans including grayish mouse dun, yellowish buckskin dun, and a creamy color called Isabella; all have a black mane and tail.
Spotted or particolored horses are of two types:
Piebald (p.b.): black
Skewbald (skbld): white and any color except black.
*abbreviations are standard usage for show catalogs, etc.
large patch of white on forehead.
Star: a small white patch on forehead.
Strip: a patch extending from forehead part-way down the face.
Stripe: a thin line of white extending from forehead to the nose or lip. A "calf-faced" horse is one with a predominantly white face.
Snip: a white or skin-colored spot on the lip or nose.
marking on leg as high as knee of the foreleg, or hock of hind leg.
Half-stocking: white on leg about midway to knee or hock.
Sock: white marking from hoof to fetlock.
The way a horse steps or
runs is called a gait. The basic natural gaits are the walk, trot, and
gallop; in addition, there are many variations on these which horses can be
trained to perform. An aptitude for a certain gait has been responsible
for the development of many breeds. The Tennessee
Walking Horse is a prime
example of a horse bred for its gait; riding a sure-footed and restful Walker, a
man inspecting a plantation can spend an entire day in the saddle without
becoming tired and without damaging crops as he moves among the plant
rows. Another example is the Thoroughbred
race horse, developed for galloping
swiftly over comparatively short distances.
A gait may be generally termed as "high" or "low." The Thoroughbred has a "low" action--there is only as much elevation of the feet as is needed for his great pendular strides. The English Hackney and the American Saddle Horse have extremely "high" actions that are intended mainly for show. These breeds are exaggerated examples, however. With any horse, training is required to develop poised and good-looking action, even in the walk. More extensive training goes into developing highly styled, modified gaits, such as the canter in place, the pace, and the rack. For certain gaits, such as the slow canter, the rider "collects" his horse, controlling its impulse to move freely. When collected, the horse appears poised, eager, coordinated, and compact.
How Horses See
The horse's eyes are ideal for its existence as a
plains-dwelling, grass-eating prey animal, and are similar to those of other
prey animals, for example cattle and antelope. Such animals need the
widest possible field of vision so that they can see potential predators
approaching more or less from all directions. Their eyes are set on the
sides of the head, rather than at the front like predators such as cats, dogs
and humans. In their natural state grass-eaters spend a good 16 hours a
day with their heads down, grazing. This position (of the eyes) gives them
the ability to see all around with a small turn of the head whilst still eating,
without moving the body as humans need to do if they want to see clearly behind
them. The only obstruction to the horse's vision in this position is its
four thin legs, so it is ideally equipped for most of the time to spot
danger. This is the main reason for its good survival rate in the wild,
and explains why it is not easy to approach horses in a field without being
The accompanying diagram (which isn't on this website yet!) shows the horse's actual field of vision when it is looking straight ahead. Its vision is mainly "monocular" (single-eyed), that is, it mostly sees its surroundings as two pictures, one from each eye. This indicates that it is probably capable of thinking about two things at once, at the same time as grazing. It has "binocular" (two-eyed) vision directly in front of it for judging clearly how far away an object is, and to enable it to assess accurately the route in front of it when moving.
For many years the horse was described as having a "ramped retina," because its retina (the screen at the back of the eye on which rays of light carrying images focused) was thought to be sloped. This would require the hose to move its head to bring the images into focus. It is now (1990) known that the central part of the retina gives the clearest picture, and this is the reason for the horse's various head movements when trying to see something. It moves its head to direct the rays through the eye lens (which is not so flexible as in human beings) to direct them on to the center of the retina.
The most significant point to emerge is that in order for the horse to have clear vision and, therefore, peace of mind and security, it must have reasonable freedom to move its head and neck as it wishes. If the rider restricts its head unduly, by means of either reins, or equipment such as martingales which "strap down" the head, they are partially blinding the horse. This is one reason why a horse not only goes unwillingly, but may fight for its head. The other reason is that a horse naturally panics if over-restricted. Freedom of its head and neck is particularly important when a horse is moving fast or jumping, as it must have clear vision to judge the ground, and the size of obstacles.
To see clearly close in front of it, the horse must arch its neck and draw in its muzzle into a "collected" position. This directs the rays of light through the top part of the pupil on to the center of the retina. If you watch your horse, you'll see it do this to look at you or something you are carrying when close to it, or to inspect some close-up object or the ground in front of it.
The horse's pupil is a horizontal oval rather than a circle, giving it a wide but rather shallow panoramic field of vision, and it can be easily startled by things not quite in view above its head. Young horses backed for the first time are often frightened by a rider sitting up above them. It's advisable for the rider to crouch low over the withers at first, gradually assuming a more upright position.
The inability to perceive depth, except when looking immediately in front of it, accounts for the fact that the horse will shy sideways away from something which startles it because it cannot tell what it is. It will, if permitted, turn and face the object head on, from a safe distance, look at it with both eyes and satisfy its curiosity.
It's keeping its eye on you
When you are riding, your horse can see your legs, whether or not you are carrying a whip, and when you move it to use it (which is why it may often anticipate your whip aid and move before you apply it). When you are riding a bend or a circle, its inside eye can make visual contact with yours, if you position the horse correctly, and you can just about look each other in the eye.
The horse's field of vision enables it to see almost all
around it. This gives it the advantage that while it is grazing, it only
has to turn its head slightly in order to check that there is no danger
approaching from any direction. It is almost impossible to approach
The horse's eyes are set on the sides of its head, and it sees two different pictures, one with each eye. This gives it a very wide field of vision. The small V-shaped area directly in front of its head (shown in diagram; not here) is the only area where it can see with both eyes and therefore clearly judge distances.
The harness of draught horses usually incorporates blinkers to prevent the horse from becoming alarmed by the traffic and other distracting sights that usually surround it in a busy street. The blinkers of these Shire horses belonging to a British brewery keep their attention focused on the road ahead.
An old belief of some horsemen was that horses are color blind. Research shows, however, that they do have similar color-discerning cells in their eyes to those in humans. They can, it seems, see yellow best, and orange and red. They can distinguish green quite well but have difficulty with blue and violet. It is important to school your horse over different colored jumps and use all the colors of the spectrum to accustom it to anything it might meet in the jumping arena.
(There was a diagram with this paragraph that I need to find. It showed the color spectrum in a series of rectangles--from red, through orange, yellow, green, blue, and indigo, to violet. Then there a line through the center of the red rectangle that connected to one that ran along the top until it got to the center of the green rectangle--labeled "horse spectrum"--and also to one that ran along the bottom all the way to the violet rectangle--labeled "human spectrum." If you know where I can find this, or any other diagrams, please contact me; otherwise, I'll keep looking!)
How Horses Hear
Horses are very sensitive to sound, and can hear high- and
low-pitched noises that humans are unable to pick up.
The pinna, or funnel part of the ear, picks up the sound waves and directs them down inside the head where a network of bones and chambers together with the eardrum transmit and amplify them for special nerves to pick up. These nerves in turn transmit these messages to the brain, which translates the sounds into meaning if they are familiar, or alerts the horse to something strange in its environment if they are not.
A horse does not automatically panic at an unfamiliar sound; it will pay attention to it and remember it. If something happens at the same time as the sound, it will, in future, associate the happening with that sound, and this is an important part of training and learning.
Horses' hearing is sharper than that of humans; they can hear things like other horses calling, car engines (which they can tell from each other) and doors opening, before a person can pick them up and from much further away. Horses that are boarded out, for example, soon come to recognize their owners' car engines and associate the noise with the appearance of that particular person. They will often pick up the sound long before the staff in the stable.
Horses are extremely sensitive to the nature of a sound and its volume. There is never any need to shout at a horse unless it is a very dominant animal either attacking or really pushing its weight around, in which case volume can help get the better of it. Tone of voice is usually more effective than volume; a cross growl when the horse is doing wrong, and an up-and-down, pleased tone for praise.
Screaming and screeching often frighten horses, whereas soft monotones calm them down. However, some sounds which might be thought to frighten them, such as blasting in a quarry or police sirens, do not always do so.
Horses are as agitated by constant, raucous sound as humans are. In racing stables, for instance, the best trainers insist on a quiet period during the afternoon after morning work, grooming and the midday feed, so that the horses can lie down and rest or have a sleep.
Some horses prefer a busy atmosphere where they can see and hear what is going on around them, and others like peace and quiet. It is important to watch your horse and try to tell by its behavior and expression which category it falls into. If it seems slightly (or very) tense, its ears flicking around a lot, not resting much during the day, it could be that there is too much noise going on for its liking.
The position of the horse's ears on the sides of its head enables it to hear almost all around it. Each ear can pick up sounds to the front and side, leaving a gap immediately behind it which it can cover with a small turn of its head. (This picture isn't very good when it's downsized to fit this page, so I'll keep a lookout for a better one; still, it gets the point across!)
Experiments carried out with mares at the Irish National Stud
some years ago showed that horses like music, but are selective in their
tastes. Most horses like calming or cheerful instrumental music and are
agitated by heavy, loud unmelodious music such as rock. Vocal music is
also not as welcome to them as instrumental music.
Dressage performed to music is now popular in many countries and the horses really seem to enjoy it. They appear perky, majestic, calm or energetic according to the music chosen for their routine. Like circus horses, they often associate the music with particular movements.
Remember that your horse is a prisoner in its stall. You may enjoy having a radio playing while you work, but see whether your horse enjoys it as much as you do. Never leave a radio on all the time as it can really get on a horse's nerves, and be selective about the programs you tune in to, and the type of music played. The horse has to rely on you for both its entertainment and its peace and quiet.
Another experiment done at the Irish National Stud was that of playing the sound of a stallion calling to an in-season mare to study the effect this had on the brood mares stabled in a particular barn. It was found that those in season and ready to mate showed signs of being amenable to the stallion even though he was not present, and those not in season came into season after a very few days of the sound being played to them intermittently.
(I don't have pictures to go with the following info yet, but
I'd like to find some.)
The mare has one ear back and one forward, indicating that she is listening to what is going on all around. (With a picture of a mare and foal.)
The horse on the right is interested in what is going on around it, while its companion is showing signs of annoyance. (With two white drafts--possibly Shires--pulling a brewery wagon--?etley?)
The language of ears
The position of the ears is one of the most important indicators of a horse's mood and intentions. Ears pricked forward are a sign of alert curiosity and good mood. Ears turned back are often a sign of relaxation, or even boredom. They may also be a sign that the horse is unwell. The ears pressed flat against the head are a classic sign of bad temper and aggression. It can also signify that the horse is feeling stressed. When the ears flop to either side, it may be a sign of sleepiness or sickness. It is also a typical sign of submission to a more dominant horse.
(This paragraph was accompanied by (and hopefully, will again someday be accompanied by!) a diagram including four sketches of horseheads, labeled, respectively--alert and interested; relaxed, bored or unwell; sleepy, unwell, or submissive; and, angry and aggressive--according to the rules laid out in the above paragraph.)
(Note: I chose to take the entire section below from its source—The Young Specialist Looks At Horses—because it was an older publication and had a lot of information that was somewhat unfamiliar and very interesting to me. The pictures also are taken from the same book. It may be noteworthy that this book was published in England.)
The standard requirements regarding the exterior and interior of
the horse vary with the use for which the animal is intended.
Nevertheless, whatever the purpose, there are several basic requirements for
every horse. If we regard its overall shape, ignoring any minor external
defects (and a perfect horse is as rare as a perfect man!) it should embody the
ability to work and, if possible, the features of a particular breed. A
horse which bears the features of its breed indicates that it is pure bred, and
thus possesses its breed's basic qualities. Clean, well-defined lines,
well-defined muscles, sound foundation, conspicuous points and general noble
appearance enable us to draw conclusions as to its energy, courage, hardiness
and capacity for work.
We require our horses to have plenty of "scope," which means that the animal is distinguished by its good points. The relationship of one part of the body to another is known as conformation; for example, forequarters to hindquarters, length to height. At the same time it means that long lines make up the contour of the horse, that the neck and shoulders are long, the croup and pelvis broad and long, and the chest deep. Thus, conformation is not just an absolute measure of size; for instance, a pony may in certain circumstances "conform" in more respects than a much larger and more powerful heavy horse.
Two other terms used in judging horses must be defined. Shape (format) and calibre. Format is understood to be the relation between the length of the body from neck to rump, and its height at the withers. This proportion varies with sex and breed. The stallion is usually square, the mare rectangular in length and the gelding rectangular in height. Breed also affects the shape, thus the percentage of square-shaped animals of all three kinds is higher amongst the Orientals than in any other breed.
Calibre is the ratio of weight to height.
Now let us examine the exterior of the horse in detail. A small, well-developed light head is preferable to a large, inferior, and bulky one, even though its effect on the intrinsic value is small. Alert, and not too long, ears; large, clear, lively eyes, and wide nostrils, improve the appearance of the head. Nonconformity with the breed is often to be found in the profile of the nose, which may be straight, concave or convex.
The join between head and neck (cheeks) should be light and
fine. The neck itself should, however, be as muscular as possible, broad,
and not too short overall. A very short and thick neck, or one excessively
long and thin, will result in considerable difficulties for the rider.
It is not so important for the withers to be specially high, but they should be long and have strong muscles so that, along with an equally muscular straight back and adequate barrel, a good foundation for the saddle is assured. Faulty backs, such as roach-back or hollow back are unfavourable for riding, and indicate a weak constitution. The horse should have strong, muscular quarters.
The chest should be deep to give the heart and lungs plenty
of room to develop and work. The width of the chest is not so significant
and only of importance in draught horses.
The forelegs are connected to the shoulder by powerful muscles. The arrangement of the shoulder muscles is the deciding factor for action and stance. The longer, more sloping, and more heavily muscled the shoulder blades are, the better the gait. The forearm should be almost at right-angles to the shoulder-blade, and should be well-muscled. By comparison, the cannon-bone should be short. The knee joint should be as massive, broad, well-developed and defined as possible. The remarks regarding the knees also apply to the fetlocks. A supple yet strong fetlock, neither too long nor too short, and a healthy hoof with well developed frog complete the picture.
As the impulse for all movements originates in the horse's hindquarters, it, as well as the muscular connections to the horse's back, must be as powerfully developed as possible. Broad, strong and firm loins are able to transfer the energy and thrust from the rear foot, via the back, to the forefoot. The croup comprises the greatest mass of muscle in the horse's whole body. It should be long, broad, and well rounded—and its muscles should extend deep down both inside and outside. The pelvis should be as long as possible and sloping, with long thighs and strong buttocks. A plummet dropped from the hip joint should strike the broad hock embedded in solid muscle. The same also applies to the hock; it must be massive, broad, well-developed and muscular. The cannons of the hind legs should be as short as possible. A tail set and carried high completes the well-formed croup.
The movements of a horse with correct position of the fore and hindquarters are far superior to those of a horse with irregular extremities, as any defect automatically results in an inferior performance.
No horse is without some exterior imperfection but a good interior can compensate for any of these shortcomings. (The opposite, however, is not true!) The expression of the eyes, the set of the ears, the carriage of the tail, his reactions to his surroundings, his participation in what is going on around him, and the way he moves, reveal to us his mentality, his temperament, his character, his intelligence and his willingness and capacity to learn and work.
Colours and Markings of the Horse
Even though the colour of a horse has only a slight effect on
his intrinsic value, a detailed knowledge of the colours and markings is
essential for recognition and descriptive purposes.
The horse's outer skin is covered thickly all over with hair. On the eyelids, in the nostrils and on the inside of the hind leg, on the udders, or sheath, rectum and vulva, the hair is very fine. The length and other characteristics of the coat covering the remainder of the horse's body, depend on the breed (the better bred the horse, the finer and more silky the coat), stable temperature, care, feeding and general well-being. The hairs of the coat enter the skin at an angle, and over large areas they lie in the same direction or grain, overlapping like roof slates. Thus they act as a light rain repellent, and offer some protection against the wind. The general direction of the grain runs from head to tail. Places at which the hair meets from different directions—for instance, on the forehead, chest and loins—are called whorls.
The horse changes its coat in spring and autumn. The coat of a healthy horse is short, fine and shiny. The winter coat is long, woolly and not so shiny. During the change of coat the horse is susceptible to illness, and therefore needs plenty of care. Apart from the periodical changes of coat the horse has developed, on several parts of its body, longer and stronger hair which has special functions and which does not change. The hair on the mane and tail is particularly long and strong and has the special task of keeping away insects. The eyelashes protect the eyes from dust, etc. The single sinus and feeler hairs on the mouth and nostrils are particularly important for feeding.
Horses are designated, according to the colour of the hair, as brown, chestnut, black, grey, dun, palomino, pinto, dapple or roan. There are several different shades of bay, chestnut and grey.
Horses with a brown coat, black mane and black tail are termed bay. Depending on the shade, a distinction is made between bright-bay—which often has a black dorsal stripe—mahogany bay, red bay and brown. Bay horses, apart from white markings, usually have black legs. Brown horses are black with a brown muzzle and brown rims to the nostrils.
Chestnuts have golden-yellow to dark reddish-brown coats with mane and tail of the same colour or lighter. According to the shade, horses are described as light chestnut, golden chestnut or liver chestnut.
Those horses which are completely black, except for white markings, are called black. A horse whose summer coat is jet black, but more brownish black in winter is sometimes called a summer black.
Bays, chestnuts and blacks are called roans when odd white hairs are distributed throughout the coat, and most frequently on the head, dock and legs.
Greys, in contrast to albinos—also known as pink greys—are always born black, and only change colour gradually, usually starting at the head. They become lighter in shade each time they shed their coats, until they are almost completely white. This process generally takes ten years to complete, depending to some extent on the breed and the individual horse. In the completely transformed condition, small or large dark patches may be found throughout the coat. Then one speaks of dapple grey.
Isabellas and duns have a yellowish-cream coat, the true Isabella horse having mane and tail of the same, or sometimes lighter, shade. In certain circumstances they may even be white, as in the palomino. The dun has a black mane and tail as well as black dorsal stripes and black legs (e.g. Fjord Pony). A mouse-grey horse with a dorsal stripe and black legs is called a blue dun (e.g. Dülmen Wild Pony).
Piebalds and skewbalds are horses with fairly large irregular-shaped patches, usually brown and black, often brown or black on white background or vice versa (e.g. Shetland Pony, Pinto).
Horses with a pink skin and silky white coat whose whole body is covered with black or chocolate spots—about the size of the palm of the hand or smaller, and round or oval in shape—are said to be spotted (e.g. Knabstrup, Appaloosa, Pinzgau).
White areas of various shapes and sizes on the head and legs of the horse are called markings. The skin under such genuine markings is likewise light in colour, and unpigmented. A sharp distinction must be made between them and patches of white hair caused by pressure from the saddle or harness, or other damage to the skin. The skin beneath such patches is pigmented, and of the same shade as the region surrounding the patch.
White markings on the forehead have different names according to their size and shape. White streaks of various lengths and widths stretching from the forehead to the lips are known as blazes. The blaze may be described as narrow, broad, irregular, broken or full, depending on its size and form. The full blaze reaches down to the upper lip. A blaze which also extends above the eyes is called a flash and is usually a condition of wall-eye, or glass-eye. A bright spot on the upper lip is called a snip. The muzzle may be either white or flesh-coloured.
On the limbs, distinctions are made between white coronets, half-white or white fetlocks. White hair halfway up the cannon is termed a "sock." If the white hair reaches up to the knees or hocks it is called a "stocking."
The hoof horn, usually of dark pigmentation, is often unpigmented when the limbs also carry white markings, or it may be light coloured, pale-yellow or streaky. This is of some importance, for unpigmented hair, skin or horn is, as a rule, less able to withstand external influences than the pigmented.
The Mechanics of the Horse's Movements
As the horse only serves man when in motion, either under the
saddle, in harness, or as a beast of burden, it is of particular importance to
study and understand exactly the mechanics of his movements.
The natural gaits of the horse are divided into three: walk, trot, and gallop (including canter and fast canter). For each of these gaits, according to the length of the step, there are different strides.
The walk is the slowest gait. The feet strike the ground with four distinct and separate hoof beats in a sequence which can be clearly heard. Beginning with the near hindfoot, the following sequence is observed:—
1. Near hindfoot
2. Near forefoot
3. Off hindfoot
4. Off forefoot
The near hindfoot leaves the ground when the off forefoot is
half way forward. The near forefoot leaves the ground as the off forefoot
lands. The near hindfoot lands as the off forefoot leaves the
ground. A distinction is made between the slow gait (middle step), in
which the hindfoot steps a hoof-length beyond the footprint of the forefoot; the
collected gait, in which the hindfoot lands a hoof-length behind the footprint
of the forefoot; and the extended gait, in which the hind foot lands two
hoof-lengths beyond the mark of the forefoot.
The trot is a quick manner of walking with a diagonal foot sequence. The diagonally opposite pairs of legs leave the ground regularly, so that the sound seems like that of only two hoof-beats. It appears as if one pair of legs were still on the ground while the others are elevated.
1. Near hindfoot and off forefoot
2. Off hindfoot and near forefoot
In actual fact there is a short interval between the movement
of each leg of the diagonal pairs, but it is so small that it can be
ignored. A distinction is made between the ordinary trot, in which the
hindfoot follows the tracks of the forefoot; the collected trot, one hoof-length
behind; and the medium and extended trots, one and two hoof-lengths respectively
beyond the track of the forefoot. In both the last named steps,
particularly in trotting races, there is a pause after each diagonal pair
strikes the ground, during which all four feet are off the ground.
The gallop is the fastest of the horse's gaits, being an extension of the canter. A distinction is drawn between a canter to the right and a canter to the left, depending on whether the near or off right pair of legs leads. In the canter to the left the sequence is as follows:
1. Off hindfoot
2. Near hindfoot and right forefoot
3. Near forefoot
Thus, one hears a three-beat gait and then a pause. The
steps are distinguished as for the trot. In a faulty, foreshortened
canter, with too little elevation, the interval is lost and four beats are
heard. Therefore the following foot sequence is observed in the canter to
1. Off hindfoot
2. Near hindfoot
3. Off forefoot
4. Near forefoot
When cantering in this way, the horse is said to "roll."
The pace, very popular in the Middle Ages because it was considered comfortable, is now regarded as faulty and is cultivated only in the five-gaited saddle horse in America; in the racing pacer, and a few mountain breeds (pack ponies). The pace is a two-beat gait in which the lateral legs move together, while the other two act as supports. Racing pacers (flying pace) are distinguished from ordinary pacers only by the length of stride and the more rapid succession of the individual steps.
Jumping over an obstacle is nothing more than a higher and longer galloping jump.
The selection, which has taken place over a long period, to obtain racing performance in certain gaits has brought a specific development in the structure of various breeds. The high withers, long sloping shoulders, powerful back muscles, the often absolutely ideal loins, and the long, sloping croup of the Thoroughbred are a direct result of training and performance in racing at the gallop over many generations. The development of the Trotter took place in exactly the same way. The rigid rump required in trotting racers, after several generations, brought about a degeneration of the back muscles and the development of upright shoulders, low withers and the so-called trotting pitch.
It is often possible to change from one gait to another. A horse with a long walking stride always has a long galloping stride.
(Note: I personally do not believe in evolution; however, I do recognize that the scientific classification of various species, etc, is generally legitimate and can be quite useful, so I have included the classification for the horse family here, as laid out in The Empire of Equus. This source can be found listed on my More Information page. It may be noteworthy that the author included a new subgenus which he proposed--it may be seen with his name, D. P. Willoughby, listed to its right as he showed it in the book.)
GENUS Equus Linnaeus, 1758
A. Equidae with unmarked (or very incompletely striped coats; a
mid-dorsal stripe in all wild forms and in certain breeds of domestic horses;
sometimes a shoulder stripe; sometimes zebra markings on limbs:
1. Subgenus Equus* (H. Smith, 1841)
a. Equus caballus caballus C. Linnaeus, 1758 (domestic horse) Norway.
b. E. caballus przewalskii M. Poliakov, 1881 (Przevalsky's horse; Mongolian wild horse) Desert of Dzungaria, in the western Gobi.
c. E. caballus gmelini O. Antonius, 1912 (tarpan; South Russian tarpan) Steppes of Ukrainia. Now extinct except for "back-bred" zoo specimens.
2. Subgenus Hemionus (P. Pallas, 1775)
a. Equus hemionus hemionus R. Lydekker, 1904 (kulan; kulon; chigetai; dziggetai) The Altai, in western Mongolia.
b. E. hemionus kiang W. Moorcroft, 1842 (kiang) The Ladakh range, in the western Himalayas (elev. 13,000-16,000 ft.)
c. E. hemionus onager P. Boddaert, 1784 (Persian onager) Kasbin, N.W. Iran.
d. E. hemionus khur R. Lesson, 1827 (Indian onager; ghor-khar) Kach.
e. E. hemippus I. Geoffroy St. Hilaire, 1855 (hemippus; Syrian onager) Syria. Now extinct.
3. Subgenus Asinus (J. E. Gray, 1825)
a. Equus asinus asinus C. Linnaeus, 1766 (domestic ass; donkey; jack; burro) Southern Asia.
b. E. asinus africanus L. Fitzinger, 1857 (Nubian wild ass) Eastern Sudan.
c. E. asinus somaliensis T. Noack, 1884 (Somali wild ass) Somaliland, district of Berbera.
B. Equidae with striped coats:
4. Subgenus Dolichohippus (E. Heller, 1912)
a. Equus grévyi E. Oustalet, 1882 (Grévy's zebra) Abyssinia.
5. Subgenus Hippotigris (H. Smith, 1841)
a. Equus zebra zebra C. Linnaeus, 1758 (mountain zebra; Cape mountain zebra) Certain mountain ranges in the south or southeast districts of Cape Colony (formerly included Southwest Africa also).
b. E. zebra hartmannae P. Matschie, 1898 (Hartmann's zebra) Between the Hoanib and Unilab rivers, Southwest Africa.
6. Subgenus Quaggoides, subgen. nov. (D. P. Willoughby, 1966)
a. Equus burchelli burchelli J. Gray, 1825 (Burchell's zebra; Dauw; Bontequagga) Plains of Cape Colony, south of the Orange River.
b. E. burchelli böhmi P. Matschie, 1892 (Böhm's zebra; including Grant's zebra) Pangani, on the east coast of Tanganyika (now Tanzania) near the Kenya border.
c. E. burchelli selousi R. Pocock, 1897 (Selous's zebra) Mashonaland and possibly eastward into Mozambique south of the Zambesi (Zambezi) River.
d. E. burchelli antiquorum H. Smith, 1841 (Damaraland zebra; Chapman's zebra) Southwest Africa, northern part; including Benguella district of Angola.
e. E. quagga quagga J. Gmelin, 1788 (quagga; Cape quagga) Now extinct; formerly the plains of Cape Colony south of the Orange River.
f. E. occidentalis occidentalis J. Leidy, 1865 (Western quagga) found in fossilized form in the tar-pits of Rancho La Brea, Los Angeles California.
* Since the genus is also Equus, to avoid confusion the writer (Willoughby) prefers the name Caballus for Subgenus 1.
(The following note is taken from the paragraph that followed the above chart in Mr. Willoughby's book.)
The above list comprises only those equine forms described or reviewed in the present volume, and which can with some confidence be classified subgenerically. The number of named fossil species and subspecies of Equus NOT considered here is very large, possibly as many as a hundred forms.
(The following chart is taken from the above book also.)
Systematically expressed, the zoological classification of the common or domestic horse is as follows:
(animals in general)
(animals with backbones)
(warm-blooded animals that give milk to their young)
(mammals that bring forth living young)
(placental mammals. Excludes monotremes and most marsupials)
(carnivores and hoofed mammals)
(in which the leg is in line with the middle toe)
(odd-toed, non-ruminating, hoofed mammals, comprising the horse, tapir, and rhinoceros)
SUBORDER Hippomorpha SUPERFAMILY
(of which the members of the horse family are the sole surviving representatives)
(the Perissodactyla, exclusive of the tapir and the rhinoceros)
SUBFAMILY Equus GENUS Equus
(horses, zebras, asses, and hemionids)
(true or caballine* equidae)
SPECIES Equus caballus
(existing or recently extinct forms include only the domestic horse, Przevalsky's horse, and the tarpan)
SUBSPECIES Equus caballus caballus
(the domestic horse in all its breeds)
* By caballine is meant typical horses (those characterized by having broad hoofs and low, broad pelves), as contrasted with the narrow-hoofed, narrow-hipped zebras, asses, and the so-called Asiatic "half-asses" or hemionids.
(Note: The following is included as possibly helpful or at least interesting information. It is written, at least in part, from an evolutionary point of view, but the facts themselves are true.)
The various existing members of the horse
family (horses, zebras, asses, and hemionids) have these distinguishing
limb-bone and dental characters in common:
The digits, or toes, consist of a single functional one in each foot, the digit III or cannon-bone; while the lateral digits II and IV are represented by the splits (or splint-bones) alone. Hence, horses and their kin walk upon the terminal bone of the third digit only, this bone being encased during life in a large, solid hoof. To draw an analogy, in a human being this would be equivalent to walking, not just on the two middle fingertips (or toetips), but on the nails of these digits! In horses, what corresponds to the human wrist is called "knee"; and what corresponds to the human heel is called "hock"; and both these joints are located high off the ground, giving to the horse its distinctively long limbs and running ability. In true horses the hoofs are roundish, sometimes fully circular; while in the zebras, asses, and hemionids they are elongate or oval-shaped.
In all these animals the upper incisor (cutting) teeth number three on each side, each tooth being chisel-shaped and slightly concave on the distal (tongue) side. The canine teeth are developed only in males, and are separated by a short space from the outer incisors and by a longer space, called diastema, from the first premolars. The premolars in the upper jaw usually number three on each side, but occasionally include a very small additional one, PM1, present at the front end of the tooth-row. In the lower jaw the number of teeth is the same, with the exception that PM1 occurs only rarely. The premolars in each tooth-row are normally three in number (PM2, PM3, and PM4), as are also the molars (M1, M2, and M3). Thus the tooth formula for males is normally 6 incisors, 2 canines, and 12 grinding teeth in each jaw, making a total of 40 teeth; while the number in females, which lack canines, is 36. . . .
The premolar and molar teeth have high (vertically long) crowns, which gradually push upward (or, in the upper jaw, downward) as they wear with use. At one time it was believed (and is still occasionally asserted) that the long-crowned teeth of horses grew continuously throughout life, but now it is known that these teeth reach their full length at four or five years of age. The continuous elevation of the occlusal (chewing) surfaces of the teeth is caused by regular bone growth at the bottom of the alveoli (tooth-sockets), which pushes the teeth outward and reduces the depths of the sockets. The crown of each tooth thus shortens with wear until the abraded surface reaches the neck of the teeth.
The limbs of equine animals are clearly adapted for swift running over hard ground; and the teeth for cropping and masticating the coarse grasses and other herbage of the open plains comprising these animals' natural habitat. Foals are capable of rapid running within a few hours after birth. Horses and their relatives are gregarious, and they breed once in about every two years, normally giving birth to a single foal at a time. Mares have two nipples, located on the lower abdomen. The winter coats of horses grow in the fall, beginning about September, and are shed in the spring, when they are replaced by short summer coats. The truly wild species and subspecies assigned to the genus Equus, consisting of horses, zebras, asses, and hemionids, are today found only in Asia and Africa.
Further to the foregoing general description of the existing Equidae, the following particulars apply specifically to the domestic horse (inclusive of its numerous varieties and breeds):
While the sexes are much alike in general appearance, males (stallions) are slightly taller, heavier-boned, thicker-bodied, and generally larger than females (mares). The necks, in particular, of stallions are visibly thicker than those of mares, while the width of hips may be slightly less. The greater docility of gelded males, and the circumstance that one stallion can serve 80-100 mares has led to the practice of castrating almost all yearling males (colts) except racehorses. A gelding loses neither strength nor speed, but may to some extent lose endurance; and he does not have the thick, high-crested neck of the stallion. As to the size and proportions of a horse's body, they vary according to breed, especially as to whether the individual is of "light horse" type or heavy draft build. . . .
Taking the Norwegian horse (specifically the Fjord pony* of western Norway) as a valid representative of the type of domestic horse familiar to Linnaeus, a listing of its principal physical characteristics would show these points (some of which are in marked contrast to those of wild forms of Equus caballus): head and ears relatively small; mane long and pendant, with a forelock; tail-tuft long and more or less fully haired to the root; general coloration dun (yellowish bay), with a dark mid-dorsal stripe running from tail to forelock through the mane; legs below knees and hocks usually dark; hoofs (especially those on the forelegs) broad and rounded; chestnuts small and usually on all four legs; number of lumbar vertebrae usually 6.
Paleontologists, when comparing fossil equids with living species, generally prefer to use the skeletal elements of wild equines rather than domestic horses, on the premise that the domestic animals have been appreciably altered by artificial selection and breeding. However, Otto Antonius, a Viennese authority on the subject, points out that "Perhaps no animal, except the camel, shows so little change of the skull due to domestication as does the equid type." To this statement the writer would add that the proportions of the limb bones, also, in domestic horses show surprisingly little differentiation from those of Pleistocene species. In fact, the modern Arabian horse--with the exception of its enlarged hoofs--presents in the relative lengths of its limb bones proportions almost identical to those which express the average of the entire genus Equus. (Note: I have included this paragraph partly because it has useful information despite the evolutionary references and also because I really think it somewhat supports a creationistic point of view. No room or time to illuminate on that thought right now though!)
* Various sources, including Webster's New International
Dictionary, define the term "pony" loosely as a horse not over 56 or
57 inches in height, although the so-called polo pony, which is a type rather
than a breed, may range up to 64 inches! The broncos, mustangs, and
cayuses (Indian ponies) of the western United States are sometimes called ponies
regardless of size. In Germany, where an effort has been made to be
systematic in the matter, the term "pony" is restricted to horses not
over 120 cm (47 1/4 inches) in withers (shoulder) height, while those that
measure between 121 cm (47.6 inches) and 147.3 cm (58 inches) are known as kleine
Pferden ("little horses").
Another chapter of the above-mentioned book, The Empire of
Equus, was on The Immediate Ancestors of the Domestic Horse. While I
can't say I agree with all of it, and while it is too in-depth to include much
here, I would like to draw some thoughts from it. I do recommend a reading
of the original when possible.
It seems that most, though not all, scholars believe that modern horses descend from more than one root species or breed. Some suggest that Przewalski's horse and/or the Tarpan are the main root(s). Others suggest three possibilities. A Dr. Ewart felt that the three ancestral forms, which he called the plateau or Celtic variety, the steppe variety, and the forest variety, could be represented by the Connemara pony, the Mongolian Wild Horse (Przewalski's), and the Norwegian Gudbrandsdal horse. Another scholar, Duerst, replaced Ewart's Celtic type with a desert or oriental type, while replacing the steppe type with a large draft-horse form native to central Europe, and the forest type with one similar to the Celtic pony.
As if this weren't confusing enough, other scholars have had other ideas, including one who had five different "originals" (not described in detail in this book). One felt that the so-called "forest tarpan" (described elsewhere, apparently) was probably the ancestor of domestic horses in the east-central European region (Poland, Czech Republic, etc.). Another referred to three ancestral types in Europe, called the Northern, Southern, and Western groups, containing horses from Scandinavia, the Near East and North Africa, and heavy European horses, respectively.
At any rate, I think it's plain enough that there has always been more than just one type of horse and whether evolution is true or, as I believe, God chose to create several kinds of horses, it makes for a fascinating study to see how these types have become the many breeds that exist today.
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