Horses are full of charisma, charm, and personality—but they are also full of wondrous secrets, mysteries, and fascinating facts. Since they are easily trained to work closely with humans, it’s easy to forget horses are wild animals. In fact, if a domesticated horse is let loose, it is said that they quickly shed their domesticated coat and adapt to living life on the wild side. Their ability to adapt can also be attributed to their intelligence; horses are much smarter than the world gives them credit for! Anyone who has ever made friends with a horse knows the proof is in the saddle—where horses can practically read our minds, and tricks learned a decade ago, are still strongly implanted in the soles of their hooves.
For those that know the scent of a horse by heart, and also for those yet to step up in the saddle, here are some fun and surprising facts to let gallop around in your mind! Think of it this way, the more fun facts you know about horses, the more you will appreciate just how special your furry stable mates really are!
1. Sleeping patterns
If you spend any time around horses you start to wonder if they ever get any shuteye! As pack animals, horses take turns watching after one another in order to sleep, if you spied on them throughout the night you’d notice they are actually taking turns laying down—even if they live in stalls this pack instinct can still hold strong. Perhaps that’s why horses only get 3- 3 ˝ hours of sleep every day and night! Although, horses do not have to lie down in order to fall asleep, if your horse is very comfortable in his environment you might catch him dozing off on all fours. Just look at this photo of one of our horses George!
When horses lie down,it takes them a moment to stand back up, and then another moment to spin around and take off, leaving them rather vulnerable if ever a predator approached.Even horses that have never had a predator to run from, especially if they are young, still have this awareness naturally ingrained. Therefore, if your horse lies down beside you, they are signaling that they trust you.
Elephants are truly amazing, trust me I’m going somewhere with this, they are the only wild animal that not only buries their dead, but goes back to visit the site and mourn the loss later. Dedicated indeed, one can’t deny that elephants must have fantastic memories; therefore, it’s all the more interesting to find a horse actually has a better memory than an elephant.
Horses have HUGE mouths—they might be vegetarians, but they are packing a lot of teeth! In fact, horse owners foot a bill to have these teeth shaved down regularly to avoid any dental issues, this process is called floating. While female horses typically have 36 teeth, male horses have 40. With such big choppers, horses are able to eat a lot of food, granting them that bulky frame equestrians take for granted. With such a muscular build, many wonder how horses get so big eating a diet that is mostly just a variety of different grasses. The thing is, green foods are full of protein, but because of the water they naturally hold, one has to eat them in large amounts to reap the benefits—as all-day grazers, horses do just that!
Horses have been around for a long time, found in the deep depths of ancient caves are paintings of horses that date back to somewhere around 15000 BC. Australia was a little late on getting horses though; it was not until 1788 that the first horses were brought onto Australian soil. The original team of horses included 5 mares and 2 stallions, from this select pack many more horses began to populate the terrain, their descendants still among us today. Today the Brumby horse lives all over Australia, some wild and others now domesticated, although the majority of the feral population resides in the Australian Alps. Despite the symbolic and cultural heritage the Brumby horse represents to our country, to some they are simply seen as a threat to the ecosystem. In attempts to combat these ‘horse-haters,’ activist groups have sprung up to protect the original Australian horse from any human-induced harm.
5. Similar to humans?
You likely already know that your fingernails and hair are made of the same substance, but did you know that the durable hooves that horses have for feet are also constructed of the same materials?
6. Happy horse, happy life?
Horses might not be able to speak English, but they sure know how to communicate! In fact, they are extremely vocal; one just needs to know the key signs that a horsewill use to communicate how they feel. Their ears are a large component of their language as each one contains 16 muscles, allowing them to swivel their ears 180 degrees. With each horse, the expressions will vary depending on temperament and personality—yet there are a few general expressions to look out for. For starters, a horse with his or her ears pinned back towards their mane is not happy—if a horse does this, pay close attention to what you or someone nearby is doing because it’s not making your horse friend very happy! Ever heard the saying, “happy wife, happy life?” The same can be said for horses—if your horse is happy, you will be too—therefore, if you see those ears go back, see what you can do to appease the situation.
7. Getting close and personal
While it’s good advice to never stand directly behind a horse, the truth is that horses do not kick straight back. If a horse kicks, they are actually kicking out slightly to the side. Therefore, approaching a horse from the rear—either directly behind, or off to the side a little—is not the best idea! In fact the best way to approach a horse is from the front side towards the shoulder as horses have a blind spot directly in front of their head.
8. I’m the boss!
Despite the fact that horses are huge, on average weighing in around 580 kg, they need the comfort of others to feel safe. Horses prefer to live in a herd of other horses between 3 and 20 members wide. When horses live in a barn or a paddock, they basically live in a line known as the pecking order—one horse are always being fed before another when the hay is handed out. Interestingly, horses are aware of this order, and if the same horse chases the others away and is fed first every day they become known as the leader of the pack. Quite often the leader is a female!
9. You are what you eat
Horses are sensitive, if they are given too much of the wrong feed or fed inconsistently, among many other things, they get tummy-aches referred to as colic. When a horse gets sick to the stomach there is little immediate relief, as the horse does not have the ability to throw up. Some people swear by poring a bottle of beer down their neck, but we prefer to call the vet!
10. Hot and cold
If the spot of fur just behind a horse’s ear is cold, that likely means they are cold as well and needs a rug. In the hotter months of the year, we need to make sure the horse is properly hydrated. Pinch a chunk of their neck between your fingers and pull towards you, once released if the skin takes a while to fall back into place it means they are dehydrated.
11. Age is no issue
People often want to know how long horses live, just like with dogs, humans, and any other loved one, the answer is simply: not long enough! Although, horses do live longer than many other animals, ponies live longer—growing well into their forties and even fifties in some cases. Larger horses might start showing signs of ageing around 23, but they can live to be 30 and beyond. As of now the record holder for oldest horse belongs to a cob/shire mix named Old Billy. Born in 1760, the black horse with a white blaze lived to be 62 years old, dying in 1822. These days Old Billy finally has some close competition; currently standing proud and healthy at 51 years old is Shayne, a chestnut stallion living in Brentwood Essex.