horses to the New World on his second voyage.
Horses belong to the
equus family. Equus comes from the ancient Greek word meaning "quickness." Horses
are mammals, in the same family as zebras, mules and donkeys.
The earliest known domesticated horses were both ridden and
Horse domestication may have begun in Kazakhstan about 5,500
Mare's milk is still consumed in Kazakhstan, where it is
usually fermented into a drink called "koumiss."
The domestication of horses advanced communications, transport,
food production and warfare.
Scientists believe the first horses were actually from the
New World. They evolved in North America, spread to
Asia and Europe and went extinct in the New World about 10,000
years ago. By the time they were re-introduced to the New World
by Europeans, they were fully domesticated. (Scientific
March 5, 2009)
A stallion is a male
horse. A mare is a female horse. A foal is a baby horse.
A filly is a young female horse. A colt is a young male
horse. A foal is a yearling after its first birthday. Sire
is the word used for the father of a horse. Dam is the
word used for the mother of a horse. A pony is not a baby
horse. It is a fully grown small horse.
The mother horse, or
mare, is pregnant ("in foal")
for 11 months. Most mares give birth in the spring to a single
baby (foal), although twins are not uncommon. Mares produce
milk for their young and will feed them for several months.
Within 1-2 hours of
birth a foal is able to stand up and walk. When foals are
born their legs are almost the same length as they are
when they are fully grown. Their legs are so long they
find it difficult to reach down to the grass to eat! Foals
can focus their eyes almost as soon as they are born and
cut their first teeth within a week. They are fully grown
by 3 - 4 years of age.
A hundred or more years
before Oklahoma was settled by Europeans, Kiowa, Comanche,
Cheyenne and Pawnee hunters rode horses into Oklahoma,
following the buffalo.
Oklahoma could not
have been settled without horses. People had to ride long
distances just to find water.
Only California and
Texas have more horses than Oklahoma. There are
325,000 horses in the state, one for every ten Oklahomans.
horse traders used their hands
to measure horses.
They would count hand-widths from the ground to the horse’s
withers, the high part of its back, between the
shoulder blades. A man’s hand is generally about four
inches wide. A horse is generally about 14.2 hands, 14 hands
and two inches, or taller. Anything shorter than that is
considered a pony.
Horses love to eat short, juicy grass. They also eat hay
(which is dried grass) especially in the winter or when they
are stabled. Extra high energy food such as barley, oats, maize,
chaff, bran or processed pony nuts are good for working horses.
Horses have small stomachs for their size and need to eat little
and often - if in a field, horses will graze for most of the
An average life span
for a horse is around 20 -25 years, though they can live
for up to 30 years. The oldest recorded horse was "Old
Billy," an English barge horse, who lived to be 62 years old.
There are over 350 different breeds of horses and ponies.
These fall into four main groups. Light horses
( Thoroughbreds, Quarter Horses, Morgan horses and Arabians)
have small bones, thin legs and weigh less than 1300 pounds.
draft, horses (Percherons, Draft, Clydesdale
and Shire) can weigh up to 2000 pounds and are strong
with large bones and sturdy legs. Ponies (Shetland, Haflinger,
and Caspian) are usually not more than 58 inches tall (14.2
hands and under), making them smaller than a horse. Feral horses
are wild or semi-wild horses. A mustang is a feral horse.
Horses can be either the same colour all over (whole colours)
or a mixture of colours (broken colours). There are thousands
of different colour combinations for horses. The most commonly
recognized whole colours are - bay, black, brown, chestnut,
dun, cream, palomino, or grey. The broken colours include piebald
(often called pinto), skewbald (also known as paint horses),
roan and spotted (Appaloosa) horses.
Horses that work or
travel on hard roads need their feet (hooves) protected
by metal shoes. Horses' hooves, like our finger and toe
nails, grow continuously and need to be trimmed. To
do this, the horses shoes need to be removed and their
hooves trimmed every 4 -6 weeks. After trimming their hooves'
new shoes are fitted. The person who cares for a horse's
feet is called a farrier or blacksmith.
It is possible to age a horse fairly accurately up to 10
years of age by their teeth. Whether they are first teeth,
permanent teeth, the presence of incisor teeth, the length
and slope of teeth all help indicate a horse's age. It is more
difficult to age adult horses by their teeth.
- The four natural paces for the horse are the walk, trot,
canter and gallop.
Oklahoma 4-H Horse Project