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Facts On Horses | A Few Interesting Horse Facts

Posted By: JR

Here are some useful horse facts that you might not know:

A hand is the unit of measure for telling how tall a horse is. A hand is four inches, and horses are measured from the ground to the withers, which is the point where their neck joins their shoulder. Most riding horses are between 15 and 16 hands tall. Drafters can be 18 hands tall. Ponies can be 13-14 hands or shorter.

A Pony is not a small horse, it’s a separate breed. Baby horses are called foals when they are born. If the foal is a boy, it’s a colt. If it’s a girl, it’s a filly. Once a male is castrated, he is called a gelding. When foals are three years old, the female will be called a mare and the male will be called either a stallion (uncastrated) or a gelding.

Ponies generally only grow to about 13-14 hands, although they can be as tall as 14.3 hands, measured at the withers. Ponies tend to be hardier than their larger counterparts, with more solid hooves. There are different breeds of ponies, just as there are in horses. Some are larger and more sturdy, while others are dainty, and may be more fragile of limb.

Before a horse or pony can be ridden he must be “started”, a process that used to be called “breaking”. You don’t often see cowboys breaking bucking broncos anymore. Nowadays, most horses are started by lungeing around their handler in a circle, on a line called a lunge line or longe line. Gradually, tack or weight is added to his back, and he gets used to the feel of weight on his back. After a good deal of ground work, the first rider of the horse will mount up and let the horse walk around while he becomes accustomed to having someone atop him. Some horses never do get used to this, however – then you might see the cowboy/bronco riding show after all.

After the horse is “broken”, he learns the different cues and/or verbal commands that will be used when he is under saddle. Walk, trot, canter and whoa are the most important verbal cues. These are reinforced by the rider’s legs on the horse’s sides, and his hands connected to the horse’s mouth by means of a bit and reins.

Horses spend a good deal of time under saddle before they are taught more advanced maneuvers like dressage moves or jumping. In dressage, the horse is trained to become supple, and very attentive to his rider’s cues. In jumping, the trainer will start the horse out with ground poles to develop rhythm, and gradually move the horse along until he can jump small fences. It’s wise not to over-fence a young or “green” horse, as it may make them nervous and cause them to stop at the fence, or try to run around it. Neither one of these puts the rider anywhere he wants to be.

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