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Horses: A Guide to Selection, Care, and Enjoymentby J. Warren Evans
SELECTING AND BUYING A HORSE
Considering Basic Factors
SEEKING HELP AND ADVICE
The novice or less experienced horseperson can get help from a variety of people in buying a suitable horse. Most novices consult a friend who is a horseperson before they talk to anyone else about buying a horse. The friend should be an accomplished horseperson, or the advice given may be based on myths and "folklore." Local 4-H Club horse leaders are an excellent source of information and help and have often previously helped new club members buy horses for projects. Most of the horses they find for their members are of the type suitable for novices. Some farriers are excellent horsepeople and sources of advice, whereas others only know how to shoe a horse. A local farrier with a good reputation may help in locating a horse because he or she is in constant contact with local horse owners. Members of local horse clubs may be willing to help a novice find a first, suitable horse. Ranchers can also help locate a horse because most keep horses. A local veterinarian who specializes in horses can be of help and should evaluate the horse for soundness and health. Professional help can be obtained from Cooperative Extension horse specialists, college animal science department faculty members who teach horse-related courses, and professional horse trainers.
The novice may want a trainer to work with a horse to correct deficiencies in its training or to help improve the novice's equitation or to prevent gross mistakes in training or riding. Disappointment usually awaits beginnerswho expect to become accomplished horsepeople without experienced horses and without the aid of a professional trainer. If novices want to break and train their own horses, they need a professional to watch and direct their efforts. Failure to do so usually results in injury to the novice or in an improperly trained horse. The trainer should be carefully selected. Most trainers are specialists--they usually train horses for specific types of performance. Select a trainer who specializes in the type of horse you want. The trainer should be as reputable and well known as you can afford. One who has had years of training and riding experience is usually the most desirable. Previous clients are the best references to check the trainer's reputation. Observe the trainers in action with their current students or horses. They should be kind, considerate, and in command of the situation at all times.
Financial arrangements should be discussed before you hire the trainer. If the trainer is to train the horse or help school the horse and rider, agree on a monthly rate, which should reflect the trainer's talents and ability to train horses and/or riders as well as his or her investment in facilities and equipment. There may be extra charges for grooming and for special training equipment. Some trainers require that the horse or rider be under their supervision for a minimum period. Ask how long each training session is and how regularly the sessions are given. You should be able to observe the training sessions for the horse, so that you will know the hand and leg aids used to ride the horse. It is better if the owner is trained at the same time as the horse so that the animal is not confused when the owner starts to ride it. The trainer should limit the number of horses being trained. Horses seem to learn best from short (20- to 30-minute), intense training sessions 6 days a week. An assistant trainer may do most of the riding, but the trainer should be riding and observing the horse at regular intervals. You should discuss the feeding program for the trainer's stable. The general condition and care of the horses in his or her custody should be evaluated. You should also discuss financial obligations for farriers and veterinary services as well as for expenses encountered if the trainer is to show the horse.
The trainer may want to inquire about the horse owner before agreeing to train a horse, select a horse to buy, or give the owner riding lessons.
LOCATING A HORSE TO BUY
Horses and ponies can be purchased in a variety of ways, each with advantages and disadvantages. Regardless of the way in which a horse is bought and sold, the buyer should be aware that dishonest people can calm horses and mask lameness with drugs. Also, many horses are sold by word of mouth, and facts about the horse become distorted and inaccurate after they have been passed through several people. However, information that comes from someone who is familiar with the horse can be useful. Databases kept by breedorganizations can be accessed to get accurate information about a specific horse's performance and produce records.
Friends can be a source. But purchasing a horse from a friend can often strain relationships, because horses change their behavior in new surroundings and when they are ridden and cared for by new people.
Classified ads in newspapers or horse magazines can be an aid in locating a horse. These horses usually have some type of problem that makes the horse difficult to sell to people who are familiar with it. Problems are indicated by phrases such as "gentle but spirited" or "for experienced rider." Several Internet sites are used to advertise horses that are being sold privately or through auctions. It is a common business practice to advertise more expensive horses, those that have achieved a high level of performance, or those with performance potential. Thus, potential racing horses are highly advertised before an auction sale.
Dealers and Trainers
Local horse dealers keep a variety of horses. Most of these animals have some fault that the dealer can hide or has corrected so that he or she can sell the horse. Some horse dealers have the reputation of not being very honest. Honest horse dealers try to match a horse to the purchaser's needs and experience. A major problem horse dealers encounter is dishonesty by the person buying a horse. They try to impress the dealer or trainer by pretending to be much more advanced horsepeople than they really are. The end result is usually disappointment because the rider is overmounted. Many professional trainers keep horses that are for sale. They may belong to the trainer or to the trainer's clients. Horses should be purchased only from trainers who have a reputation for honesty. Trainers will make an effort to find an appropriate horse for someone who will take riding lessons from them and who will want the trainer to school the horse. They do expect to be compensated for their time and effort. A favorite mount being ridden by you and belonging to the stable where you are receiving instruction can be a safe purchase because you are familiar with the horse.
Breeding farms are good places to look for horses. A breeding farm offers the opportunity to look at horses that are typical of the breed you want. Breeding farms must sell horses that meet clients' needs, or they will have difficultystaying in business. Most breeders are interested in promoting their breeds and want to be sure that a client is satisfied with the horse. Satisfied clients are their best means of advertisement.
Auction sales can result in bargains or headaches. There are several kinds of auctions, including local weekly, breed association, breeder, and specialty performance. Generally speaking, it takes an experienced horseperson to evaluate a horse being sold at auction because there is something wrong with most horses there, particularly the local weekly or monthly auction for all kinds of horses. Breed association auctions tend to be more reputable, and at some auctions only select horses for a given breed are sold. An auction where a breeder sells horses once a year can be a good source if the breeder has a reputation for quality. Some auctions specialize in specific types, such as race, cutting, roping, or polo horses. Quality Thoroughbred yearlings are sold at international markets such as those held at Keeneland, Saratoga, Del Mar, Hialeah, Deauville (France), Ballsbridge (Ireland), and Newmarket (England). International markets are also held for other breeds, such as the Arabian, Standardbred, and Quarter Horse. Buying and selling horses at auction is discussed in detail in Chapter 18.
EVALUATING THE HORSE AFTER ONE IS LOCATED
During the initial contact with the horse's owner or agent selling the horse, there are a number of questions one should ask. These questions allow you to determine if you want to take the next step and visit the horse. One should inquire about registered or grade, age, sex, health, personality, size, training, vices, loading and hauling, whether the horse has been kept in stall or in pasture, compatibility with other horses, period of time owned by the current owner, and approval for vet check.
During the visit to inspect the horse, evaluate weight, soundness, conformation, and personality, observe how it performs for the owner/handler, and watch how it performs for you. Have the owner/handler ride the horse and observe it during catching, leading, grooming, saddling, and while being ridden. If the horse is being bought for a specific purpose, be sure its ability is demonstrated. If you are still interested in the horse, the next step is to ride it and assess how the horse performs for you. Finally, check the registration papers and health certificates and arrange for a vet check. Prior to the vet check, one should negotiate the sales price. A sales contractshould be prepared and signed by both parties to avoid future conflicts. Before taking the horse to where it will be stabled, obtain information about what it is accustomed to eating.
Most major breed associations maintain a database so that one can check the performance record, pedigree, and other information about specific horses. Some performance-based organizations such as the National Cutting Horse Association also keep performance records.
Many factors affect a horse's price. Before the selection process starts, potential buyers must decide how much money they can afford to pay for a horse and then try to find a suitable animal for that price. Be realistic in setting standards for a certain amount of money. The following discussion on selection details many of these factors. It is usually advisable to buy the best horse one can afford, because the costs of keeping a horse are the same regardless of its quality and value.
The breed and breeding of the horse influence its value. Grade horses are suitable for many purposes and are usually sold for less money than horses registered with a breed association. This is not always the situation, however, because some performance contests do not require a horse to be registered. Some grade horses are better performers and command the most money for that particular type of horse. Horses of fashionable, popular, or proven families within a breed registry usually command higher prices. Some may be of lower quality than other horses selling for the same price. The value of certain breeds varies depending on the locality. This is particularly true for breeds such as the Tennessee Walking Horse, Thoroughbred, and Quarter Horse. (Breeds are discussed more fully in Chapter 3.)
Sex of the horse influences the cost. A gelding, the most popular horse for riding and most performance contests, is generally more dependable and costs less than a mare or stallion. The better bred the horse is, the greater the price spread between the sexes. Well-bred stallions suitable for stud duty are quite expensive. Mares that will eventually be bred are worth more than geldings and are selected based on breeding potential as well as current value as a pleasure riding horse.
Some of the most significant influences on price are the level and type of training and the horse's accomplishments. The horse's athletic ability increases its value. Many horses command very high prices because of their past, current, or potential performances or training for certain types of performance.
The horse's age is a prime factor. Young, untrained horses sell for less because of the future investment in training and time that the owner must bear. There is always the possibility of injury or failure to reach the desired level of training. Horses that are 5 to 10 years old are usually higher priced than those younger or older. At this age, the horse is at its peak in training and performance. The younger horse requires more delicate and skillful handling than the older, more experienced horse. Therefore, the less experienced the horse, the more experienced the rider needs to be. An inexperienced rider can gain much experience by working with an older, well-trained horse.
Size influences price. Ponies usually are cheaper because their utility will be limited to a few years before the child (or children) becomes too large. Small horses are priced about the same as average-size horses unless they are smaller than the minimal acceptable standards for the breed. Horses are measured in hands. A hand is equivalent to 4 inches (10.2 cm). The point of measurement is the distance from the highest point of the withers to the ground. Therefore, a 15-hand horse is 60 inches high (152.4 cm) at the withers.
Some horsepeople are interested in certain colors and will pay a premium for them. These horses are used for show, parade, or breeding. If you will accept only a certain color for a specific purpose, the number of horses available for sale that meet your criteria will usually be very limited.
Conformation of the horse and its soundness affect its value. Well-conformed horses almost always sell for more money compared with equivalently trained horses of poor conformation. Horses that are unsound for specific uses have alower utility value. Blemishes detract from a horse's appearance and may decrease the value of horses used for show purposes. (Conformation and soundness are discussed fully in Chapter 2.)
To help buyers form an opinion on value or costs for horses sold at auction, some breed associations and magazines publish the selling prices of the horses sold at various auctions.
Some breed associations and sales companies also publish annual analyses of all horses of a certain type or breed sold at auction during the year. Analyses such as those published by The Bloodhorse for Thoroughbreds is given by sire, by type of horse, and by specific auction. For a sire analysis (Table 1-1), data will often include the number of crops, foals, runners, winners, 2-year-old winners, stakes winners, average-earning index, comparable index, number of sales yearlings, minimum and maximum sales price, average sales price, and stud fee. For older stallions, their performance as a sire of broodmares may be given. This analysis may include the number of dams he sired and their produce records, including the number of foals they produced and the number of runners, 2-year-old winners, and stakes winners, and the percentage of runners, winners, and 2-year-old winners. The average-earnings index (AEI) and comparable index (CI) are also given. The average-earnings index of a stallion is a measure of how a stallion's progeny or his broodmares' progeny compare to the average of the breed during the years he had winners or his dams had runners. An average earnings index of 1.00 indicates progeny earning the average of all winners. The comparable index is a comparison of how a sire's progeny compares with progeny from the same mares when those mares were bred to other stallions. About 30 percent of all Thoroughbred stallions have a lifetime AEI higher than the applicable CI, which means they improve the mares' foals relative to the other stallions. By consulting these sources and attending a few auctions, you can determine the current market values for certain types of horses.
Multiple ownership of a horse or horses has been popular in the horse industry. Popular stallions are usually syndicated because they are expensive to purchase and insurance is too high for one owner. Several people will buy shares that entitle them to breed one or more mares per share to the stallion each year. Groups of stallions and/or mares are also syndicated. Participation in a large syndicate allows one to spread the risk over a larger number of horses and to own higher quality horses. Syndicates are managed by a general partner, and the limited partners (syndicate members) have limited rights regarding management decisions. The success of the syndicate depends largely on the abilities of the general partner. Most syndicates are governed by the Securities and Exchange Commission, and detailed legal procedures must be followed.
A gait is the horse's manner of moving its legs during progression. As a species, the horse is more versatile in selecting gaits than any other quadruped and uses several gaits unique to the species.
An understanding of gaits is important to detect lameness, to train a performance horse, or to cue a horse for a specific purpose. Of the several gaits that a horse can use to move, some are natural, others are "artificial or learned," that is, most horses must be trained to execute them.
Several terms and concepts are used to describe the various gaits. The left side of the horse is the near side, and the right side is the off side. Today, these two terms are not so commonly used. A foot (or two feet simultaneously) striking the ground constitutes a beat. The beats may or may not be evenly spaced in time. The support sequence is the sequence of the various combinations of feet that are touching the ground. A step is the distance between imprints of the two forelegs or two hindlegs. A stride is the distance between successive imprints of the same foot. During every stride, each leg goes through two phases: (1) the stance or weight-bearing phase and (2) the swing or nonweight-bearing phase. When horses are racing as trotters, pacers, or runners, the time required for the swing phase is almost constant, at about 0.32 seconds. Time for the swing phase appears to be independent of how fast the horse is racing; therefore, it takes about the same amount of time to prepare a leg for the weight-bearing phase regardless of speed or gait. Maintaining a constant swing during a race is important in keeping the horse sound. If the horse is unable to prepare its leg to begin the weight-bearing phase within the normal swing time, its leg structures are exposed to excessive concussive forces. When the leg is properly prepared for striking the ground, it is being retracted so that it strikes the ground at a relative forward speed of zero. If the necessary swing time is longer, the leg must strike the ground before being properly prepared and traveling at zero speed relative to the ground. The footis thus pounded into the ground with excessive shearing force. This predisposes the horse to many pathological problems resulting from excess concussion, trauma, and strain. A horse's ability to maintain the swing time for a leg is affected by the amount of time that all legs are off the ground (airborne phase), the stance phase for all legs, and the overlap phase (when two or more feet are on the ground simultaneously). In examining the strides (Figure 1-1) of Secretariat (1973 Triple Crown winner of Thoroughbred racing) and Riva Ridge (1972 Kentucky Derby and the Belmont Stakes winner) during the running of the 1973 Marlboro Cup, in which both horses broke the world record for miles (1.8 km), we can determine the effect of the overlap and stance phases. Secretariat ran faster because he spent less time with his legs in the stance and overlap phases; that is, his legs completed their ground contact quicker and more time was spent in the airborne phase.
Detailed analyses of gaits are made with the aid of computer-assisted three-dimensional motion capture. This procedure, which is becoming popular, allows a professional exercise physiologist or veterinarian to detect variances from normal gait and lameness. Often, the variances are not apparent to an observer simply watching the horse move. The analysis can be used to select high level performance horses such as those shown in dressage classes or race horses. It can also be used in a training program to detect and then correct subtle flaws in performance.
Natural and Artificial Gaits
Historically, six gaits of the horse were classified as natural: walk, trot, pace, canter, run, and back. Other gaits were said to be artificial. However, any gait that a horse will execute without training is a natural gait. For example, some Tennessee Walking Horses will execute the running walk without any prior training.
The several forms of the walk all show an even four-beat gait (Figure 1-2). The sequence of hoof beats is (1) left hind, (2) left fore, (3) right hind, and (4) right fore. Therefore, the sequence of beats is lateral in that both feet on one side strike the ground before the feet on the opposite side strike the ground.
The ordinary walk is the most common form of the walk and is used by all horses. The flat-foot walk is the natural walk of the Tennessee Walking Horse. It is slightly faster than the ordinary walk.
The running walk is the fast walk of the Tennessee Walking Horse, faster than the ordinary or flat-foot walk. The hindfoot also oversteps the hoof print of the forefoot by as much as 50 inches (1.27 m) but normally about 12 to 18 inches (30 to 46 cm). The horse travels with a gliding motion, because it extends its hindleg forward to overstep the forefoot print. However, the regular four-beat rhythm is maintained. When executing the gait, the head moves up and down in rhythm with the legs. If the horse is relaxed while performing the gait, its ears flop and its teeth click in rhythm with the legs. The gait is easy to ride and not strenuous for the horse.
The rack is an even four-beat gait but is executed faster than the walk or running walk. The forelegs are brought upward to produce a flashy effect. The hind feet do not overreach the prints of the forefeet as far as they do in the running walk. In the show ring the rack is popular because of the speed and animation, but it is difficult for the horse to perform for extended periods. The excessive leg movement increases the amount of concussion and trauma to the forelegs.
The trot is a two-beat gait in which the paired diagonal feet strike and leave the ground simultaneously (Figure 1-2). Between each beat, there is a period of suspension in which all four feet are off the ground. There are three classifications of the trot. An ordinary trot serves as the basis of comparison. An extended trot is when the horse is trotting at speed and the length of the stride is extended. A racing Standardbred typifies the extended trot, although western pleasure and dressage horses are also expected to be able to extend their trot in the show ring. A collected trot is when the horse slows down and uses extreme flexion of the knees and hocks. The Hackney often characterizes the collected trot.
The two variations of the trot (two-beat sequence) each have four irregular beats. The foxtrot is one of the accepted slow gaits for a five-gaited horse. It is similar to the trot except that the hindfoot strikes the ground just before the paired diagonal forefoot. The paired diagonal feet leave the ground at the same time. When executing the pasi-trote, the Peruvian Paso horse allows the forefoot to strike the ground before the paired diagonal hindleg.
The pace is a two-beat gait in which the lateral limbs strike the ground simultaneously (Figure 1-2). There is a lateral base of support, and a period of suspension with all four feet off the ground occurs between each beat. Because the horse is shifting its weight from side to side, there is a rolling motion to the gait. A variation of the pace is the "stepping" or "slow" pace, which is the preferred "slow gait" for five-gaited show horses (Figure 1-2). It is the same as the sobreandando performed by Peruvian Pasos. The hindleg strikes the ground before the lateral foreleg so that the gait has four irregular-rhythm beats. In the takeoff, both legs leave the ground simultaneously.
The paso Ilano gait is also a broken pace, but the time between the hindfeet and the lateral forefeet striking the ground is longer than the sobreandando (Figure 1-2).
Canter or Lope
This gait is a three-beat gait in which the first and third beats are made by two legs striking the ground independently and the second beat is made by twolimbs striking the ground simultaneously (Figure 1-2). The legs that strike the ground independently are called the lead limbs, and each bears the entire weight of the horse for a short period of time. Therefore, the lead limbs are more subject to fatigue than the other two legs. In the left lead, the sequence of beats is (1) right hindleg, (2) left hindleg and right foreleg, and (3) left foreleg. A period of suspension follows the beat of the left foreleg. If the horse is being circled to the left, it should be in the left lead to maintain its balance. If turned to the right, the horse should change leads to the right lead. The changes of leads occur during the period of suspension (Figure 1-3). When changing to the right lead from the left lead, the left hindleg strikes the ground after the suspension period. The paired diagonals--right hindleg and left foreleg--are the second beat, and the right foreleg is the third beat. Frequently, untrained horses switch leads behind but fail to do so in front, or just the opposite. This is called a cross-legged or disunited canter, and it is very rough to ride.
Horses change leads at will when they are not under saddle. They must be trained to start in a desired lead and to change leads at the appropriate time while being ridden.
The run is a four-beat gait (Figure 1-2), similar to the canter except that the paired diagonals do not land at the same time. The hindleg hits just before the foreleg. The lead limbs bear the full weight of the horse. In the left lead, the sequence of beats is (1) right hindleg, (2) left hindleg, (3) right foreleg, and (4) left foreleg. A period of suspension follows the four beats. If the horse changes leads, it will do so during the period of suspension. Because the legs bearing the weight of the horse become fatigued, the horse should change leads periodically when it is running. On the racetrack, the horse should change to the left lead as it goes around the turn and should change to the right lead along the straight portions to prevent excessive fatigue to the two lead legs.
A horse backs by trotting in reverse, using a two-beat gait in which the diagonal pairs of legs work together.
Common Defects in Gait
There are several defects in the way that a horse may move its feet and/or legs while executing the gaits. Some defects are responsible for limb interference and may be severe enough to cause injury. Others are not serious but prevent the horse from giving its top performance. Some defects in the way of going are related to conformation; others are related to injuries, fatigue, or to improper shoeing and trimming of the feet. Some defects are obvious when the horse travels and some are not. The use of 3-D motion analysis can be used to detect defects that are not obvious.
Cross firing occurs when the inside of the hindfoot strikes the diagonal foreleg (Figure 1-4). It is generally seen in pacers that have long backs. A long back causes the horse to twist or swing its hindquarters. As the hindleg moves forward, it swings inward and strikes the diagonal foreleg, which is extended back under the horse's body.
Forging occurs when the toe of the hindfoot strikes the sole area of the forefoot on the same side (Figure 1-5). It usually occurs as the forefoot is leaving the ground. Overreaching is similar to forging except that the hindfoot comes forward more quickly and hits the heel of the forefoot before the forefoot leaves the ground. Both faults occur because the hindfoot breaks over and moves forwardtoo soon relative to the forefoot breaking over and leaving the ground (Figure 1-6). In many instances, forging and overreaching can be corrected by speeding up the breaking over and forward movement of the forefeet and retarding the hindfeet. This is usually accomplished by leaving the heels a little longer on the forefeet (increasing the angle of the hoof wall) and shortening the heels of the hindfeet. This changes the foot flight arc (Figure 1-7) and decreases the possibility of forging and overreaching. If necessary, the toes of the forefeet can be rolled to increase the ease of the forefeet breaking over (Figure 1-8). Also, trailers on the hindfeet will produce drag when the foot hits the ground, shortening the stride. Using heavier shoes on the forefeet than on the hindfeet carries the forefeet farther forward because of inertia and increases distance between the feet.
Interference occurs when one foreleg strikes the opposite foreleg. If the contact is very slight, it is called brushing. Interference is usually the result of poor conformation: toe-wide or base-narrow and toe-wide. The line of foot flight of horses that handle their forefeet in one of three basic ways is illustrated in Figure 1-9. At the left, the horse stands straight, breaks over straight, and has an absolutely straight line of flight. The horse in the center is toe-wide (toes out). The toe-wide conformation fault causes the forefoot to break over the inside part of the hoof wall, swing in an inward arc, and land on the inside part of the hoof wall. This type of movement is called winging, winging inward, or dishing. It may be prevented by corrective shoeing. The base-narrow, toe-wide conformation causes the forefoot to break over the outside part of the hoof wall and then wing inward. This fault almost always causes interference. The horse at the right in Figure 1-9 is toe-narrow (toes in); thus, its line of flight is more likely to be outward, and it will be a paddler. Although the way a horse stands in front usually provides a clue as to the anticipated line of flight of the front feet, this is not always a sure sign.
Paddling, or winging outward (Figure 1-10), is an outward swing of the forefeet. The feet break over the outside aspect of the hoof wall, move in an outward arc, and then land on the outside aspect of the hoof wall. Horses that are toe-narrow usually paddle.
Pounding is heavy contact with the ground and results in excess concussion trauma to the forelegs. Faults in conformation that shift the horse's center of gravity forward tend to make the horse's legs pound the ground.
Rolling is excessive movement of the shoulders from side to side. Horses that are wide between the forelegs and lack muscle development in that area tend to roll their shoulders. The toe-narrow fault in conformation also can cause rolling.
Scalping (Figure 1-11) occurs when the top of the hindfoot hits the toe of the forefoot right after the forefoot breaks over. As the area of impact moves up the hindleg, other terms are used to describe the defect. Speedy cutting occurs when the impact area is in the pastern and fetlock areas. Shin hitting occurs on the cannon bone, and if the hock is hit the fault is referred to as hock hitting. These defects in way of going are usually observed in racing trotters. As the speed of travel increases, the area of impact usually moves higher up the hindleg. Several faults in conformation predispose a horse to these defects in leg movement: short backs and long legs, leg weariness or hindlegs set too far under the body, short front and long back legs, and too long toes on forefeet.
A trappy gait is a short, quick, choppy stride. Horses that have short and steep pasterns and straight shoulders tend to have a trappy gait. It may indicate unsoundness, as in the case of navicular disease.
Winding is a twisting of the moving foreleg around in front of the supporting foreleg. The horse appears to be walking a rope. Horses that are wide in the chest tend to walk in this manner. It increases the likelihood of interference and stumbling.
Consideration of the type and degree of training of the horse by the potential buyer is critical. Beginning riders or horsepeople should select horses that are well trained for the purpose for which the animal is being bought. Older horses that are well schooled make excellent horses for beginners because their behavior and performance will probably remain the same for a long period of time. The beginner can make mistakes without spoiling the horse. Such a horse can be found at training stables or obtained from friends who have learned to ride it.
A beginner or intermediate rider should avoid buying a horse that is untrained or has only limited training. It takes years of experience before one is qualified to successfully continue a horse's training. Beginners have trouble knowing when to discipline a horse so that it associates the discipline with the mistake it made, knowing the fine line between discipline and cruelty, and knowing the fine line between kindness and permissiveness.
Intermediate riders may be successful in finishing the training required of a horse that has good basic training but needs additional experience and refinement of performance. The advice and help of a professional horseperson can keep the rider from making mistakes that would prevent the horse from reaching its performance potential.
A common mistake is buying a horse that is trained beyond the buyer's ability to ride it. Well-trained horses are sensitive to specific cues. Such a horse soon reverts to a lower level of training because it is constantly waiting for the right cues applied at the right time. When the right cues are not used appropriately, the horse becomes confused and does not know what to do.
Previous training should be compatible with the techniques used by the potential buyer. It is time-consuming and very difficult to retrain a horse to recognize a different set of cues.
Accomplished riders may wish to buy a horse and complete its training. They usually prefer to train their horses, because they do not have to buy someone else's mistakes. To train a green horse, the rider must have patience and training experience. Most important, the advanced rider must have sufficient time to train the horse. Irregular training schedules are a major cause of horses failing to become well trained and reach their performance potential. Riders who lack time, patience, and training experience should select horses that are well trained or at least have their basic training.
The desired use for a horse determines how old the horse should be. Generally, the best age at which to buy a horse is between 4 and 12 years of age. Before 4 years of age, the horse is not fully mature and is not ready for hard work and long hours of riding. Beyond 12 years of age, the usefulness of the horse is limited. There are exceptions, of course. The average horse lives about 24 years, but for most purposes has little practical value after 16 years of age. However, there are many horses that are serviceable in their early twenties. The Lippizaners of the Spanish Riding School frequently perform until the age of 24 and occasionally until they are 30. In some instances, an older horse or pony may be more desirable. Old age need not be considered if the horse is sound. A young child will probably become too large to ride a pony before an older pony must be retired because of age. A well-trained older horse serves its purpose for a person just learning how to ride. The inexperienced rider canlearn a great deal about riding from an older, experienced horse. After 1 or 2 years, the rider will be ready for a different horse. Experienced riders buy horses at the peak of their physical development, because they will be exposed to strenuous exercise.
Most people make a mistake by buying a horse that is too young. The experienced horseperson can successfully train and handle a young horse. The inexperienced horseperson usually spoils the young horse, so it never reaches its performance potential. Parents often buy a weanling or yearling because they want their children to grow up with a horse, the rationale being that the children and the horse can learn together. The result is a poorly trained horse and numerous accidental injuries to the children and the horse or both.
Because the value of a horse depends largely on its age, familiarity with indications of age are extremely useful if the horse's registration certificate is not available or if it is unregistered. The teeth furnish the best index to the age of a horse, yet other general characteristics play an important role in determining or estimating age. In estimating the age of a young horse, size is a principal factor. In older horses, the sides of the face are more depressed, the poll is more prominent, the hollows above the eyes are deeper, the backbone becomes more prominent and starts to sag downward, the joints are more angular, and white hairs appear around the temples, eyes, nostrils, and elsewhere.
A horse that has been on the racetrack has a number tattooed inside its upper lip. Thoroughbred horses are tattooed according to a code. The letter indicates the year of birth (beginning with A in 1946 and I in 1980), and the four numbers are the last four numbers of the registration number. American Quarter Horses and Standardbreds do not have coded numbers.
Young horses are referred to according to their age. The young horse is referred to as a foal until it is weaned. The male horse is called a colt until it is 3 years of age, when it is called a stallion. Young female horses are called fillies until they are 3 years old, at which time they are referred to as mares. Some horsepeople refer to horses that are 6 months to 1 year of age as weanlings, 1 to 2 years as yearlings, and 2 years of age as 2-year-olds.
Teeth and Age
The order of appearance of the teeth and the way they are worn down are considered the most important and accurate cues for estimating the horse's age. However, the method is not absolutely accurate because the nature and quality of feed, environmental factors, heredity, and disease materially affect the wear of the teeth. A horse fed soft, succulent feed usually has a younger looking mouth. Horses fed hard feed or kept in dry, sandy areas of pasture may have mouths that appear 2 to 3 years older than normal. Consequently, one must consider all of these factors when examining the horse's mouth to estimate its age.
Up to 5 years, the age of the horse is commonly estimated by observing the appearance of the temporary and permanent incisors (Figure 1-12). Therefore, one must be familiar with the ages at which the temporary incisorsappear and when they are replaced by the permanent incisors. Eruption of the temporary premolars, the replacement of the temporary premolars by permanent premolars, and eruption of the molars are fairly accurate indications of age, but are used infrequently. The ages at which various teeth erupt are given in Table 1-2. The ages of 6 to 12 years are determined by the wear of the dental tables. Beyond 12 years of age, the length and angle of the incisor teeth and Galvayne's groove are used to estimate the age.
To estimate the age of the horse, the horseperson must be able to distinguish between a temporary and a permanent incisor tooth and between the presence and absence of a cup. The temporary incisor tooth has a more defined neck where the crown and root meet at the gum line, is whiter in color, is more rounded, and is not as long as a permanent incisor.
The appearance of the temporary incisors allows one to estimate certain ages (Figure 1-13). The two central incisors on the lower jaw and/or two on the upper jaw are present at birth or appear shortly thereafter. The intermediate incisors on the upper and lower jaws appear at 4 to 6 weeks of age. The corner incisors appear at 6 to 9 months. A rule of thumb is that the incisors appear at 8 days, 8 weeks, and 8 months. The temporary premolars are not commonly used for estimating age because they are present at birth or appear during the first couple of weeks. Therefore, the young horse has 24 teeth: 12 incisors and 12 premolars. Some young horses may have wolf teeth, which appear in front of the temporary premolars. A wolf tooth is a vestigial tooth andhas a very shallow root. It may not fall out prior to eruption of the second permanent premolar tooth (see section on care of teeth in Chapter 9).
At years of age, the central incisors are replaced by permanent incisors. The permanent intermediate incisors erupt at years of age; the permanent corner incisors, at years. The canine teeth, commonly called bridle teeth, erupt in the interdental spaces at 4 to 5 years of age in male horses. They erupt in only about 20 to 25 percent of all mares. Table 1-2 shows the ages at which the permanent premolars and molars erupt. At 5 years of age, the horse is said to have a "full mouth." The mature male horse has 40 permanent teeth, and the mare has 36 to 40 teeth, depending on the number of canines present.
The cup in a tooth is shown in Figure 1-14. An outside layer of enamel covers the tooth. On the top of the tooth (table surface), the enamel extends inward, forming a pit commonly called the cup. The cup is filled with a variable amount of central cement. The inside of the tooth is filled with dentine. In the innermost part of the tooth, the pulp cavity contains the blood and nerve supply to the tooth. From the front of the tooth, the pulp cavity extends upward between the cup and front surface. The teeth of the horse continue togrow during its life but are continually being worn down. When the horse eats, a rotary grinding motion wears down the teeth. The table surface is worn down in a characteristic manner. First, the enamel on the table surface is worn off, leaving two rings of enamel around the outside edge and around the cup. As the wear continues, the table surface is worn down so that only the bottom of the cup remains. At this point, the cup is said to have "disappeared," even though the enamel from the bottom surface of the cup is still visible. Later, the enamel may completely disappear. When the cup disappears, the table surface has worn to the level of the pulp cavity. The pulp cavity is called the dental star, and appears at 8 to 10 years. It is first seen as a long, thin yellow line between the cup and the front of the tooth. As wear continues and the enamel on the bottom of the cup becomes dark, very small, and round, the dental star moves toward the center of the cup.
Between the ages of 6 and 12, the age can be determined by the presence or absence of the cups in the incisor teeth (Figure 1-13). Each year, the cups disappear from two of the incisors. At 6 years, they are absent from the lower central incisors. At 7, they are absent from the lower intermediate incisors, and at 8, they are absent from the lower corner incisors. Before age 9, the cups are present in all the upper incisors. At 9, the cups are absent from the upper central incisors, and at 10, they are absent from the upper intermediate incisors. When the horse is 11 or 12, they are absent from the upper corner incisors. At this age, the horse is said to be "smooth-mouthed."
Beyond 12 years of age, it is difficult to estimate the age of a horse and accuracy is decreased. In older horses, three indicators must be used: the incisive arcade, the table surface shape, and Galvayne's groove. When the incisors are viewed in profile, the incisive arcade--the angle formed between the upper and lower incisors--becomes more acute with age (Figure 1-15). In horses 20 years or older, the incisor teeth stick almost straight out. With advancing age, the table surface changes from a rectangular shape to a triangular shape (Figure 1-14). By the time a horse is smooth-mouthed, the table surfaces of the incisor teeth are very triangular in shape.
Galvayne's groove appears as a longitudinal depression at the gum line on the surface of the upper corner incisor at 9 to 10 years of age (Figure 1-15). The groove is recognized as a dark line. In some instances, it is hard to see, but it is always a darker color than the enamel. As the horse gets older, Galvayne's groove grows down the tooth. At 15 years, the groove is about halfway down the tooth. At 20 years, the groove extends the full length of the tooth. It then starts to disappear at the gum line. At 25 years, it is absent from the upper half of the tooth and completely disappears by 30 years of age.
To examine the teeth, first stand to one side of the horse and separate the lips. Determine the incisive arcade, number of temporary and permanent teeth, and presence or absence of Galvayne's groove. If necessary, then examine the table surfaces. Place one hand on the horse's nose and grasp the tongue with the other hand. Remove your hand from the nose and use it to open the horse's mouth or to push the lips out of the way to look at the table surfaces of the upper and lower incisors.
TEMPERAMENT AND BEHAVIOR
The general temperament of the horse is an important quality. A goodtempered horse is obedient, intelligent, easy to train, courageous, confident, and calm. It is free of vices (bad habits) and easy to handle. Before buying, spend considerable time observing and handling the horse to evaluate its temperament. If possible, obtain the opinion of the previous owner, trainer, dealer, and breeder. A horse that has had several owners may have an undesirable temperament, particularly if it has had rough or inconsiderate treatment.
Compatibility of your personality with the horse's temperament should be considered. In most circumstances, opposite types of personalities are the most compatible. A nervous person may be just the stimulation needed for a placid horse to perform. And nervous horses usually are not so excitable when they are ridden and handled by someone who has a quiet, easygoing manner. Nervous people tend to make quick movements, which excite a nervous horse.
Hunters, jumpers, and stock horses need willingness and courage to perform successfully. Children's ponies or horses need to be gentle and obedient. A sluggish horse may not be obedient, and an inexperienced rider will not enjoy riding it because he or she will have difficulty getting the horse to move or preventing it from going where it pleases.
Horses are like humans in that they all have personalities and temperaments. There are at least six general temperament types of horses: quiet, interested, nervous, extremely nervous, stubborn, and treacherous.
The quiet horse that is sluggish and has no interest in its surroundings is usually safe for the inexperienced horseperson. Because of its temperament, such a horse seldom advances to a highly trained state. It does not seem to care, and lacks the spirit and style for a well-schooled performance. The temperament of quiet horses makes them good for rental stables and for teachingbeginners how to ride, because they are unconcerned about how a person moves or works around them.
The most desirable temperament trait is interest in its surroundings: the horse pays attention to what happens around it. When such a horse hears an unexpected noise or sees unexpected sudden movement, it responds by pricking its ears but does not shy or try to escape. These horses are usually easy to train and are willing performers. They have sufficient spirit to have animation and style in their performance. They are safe horses for beginners under the supervision of a knowledgeable horseperson or for the intermediate rider. When these horses are handled, they are sensitive to the handler's requests and respond calmly.
Nervous horses are easily excitable and shy away from strange objects, movement, and noise. They are safe horses for knowledgeable horsepeople. Nervous horses respond to training and are usually capable of reaching a highly trained state. One problem, however, is that they become excitable and flighty, and snort when they are exposed to new surroundings or unfamiliar objects. But as these horses get older and gain experience, their nervous dispositions improve.
The extremely shy and nervous horse is safe for only the very experienced horseperson who understands horse behavior. These horses shy at the least provocation, such as the slamming of a stall door, movement of a dog or cat, seeing a moving shadow, or any unexpected movement or noise. Frequently they try to escape without regard for the handler, even trying to run over or knock down the handler. They flee without concern for their own safety and run into fences, equipment, and buildings.
The behavior of a horse when it is around other horses should be carefully evaluated. Horses are usually stabled adjacent to other horses and kept together in larger paddocks. The horse that continually kicks and bites other horses or kicks the stall wall separating it from another horse is difficult to keep. On trail rides, it is a nuisance because it must be kept separated from the other horses to prevent accidents and injuries.
Horses with stubborn temperaments are difficult to train to be obedient. They are slow to learn obedience and require tact and patience by the trainer. When they get nervous or tired or are asked to perform quickly, they become sullen and refuse to work. Some of these horses reach a given stage of training and then seem to forget everything they learned. The trainer must start the training procedure all over at the beginning level.
A few horses have a treacherous temper and are very resentful. Treacherous horses can be divided into two types, based on underlying predominant motivation or emotion. Horses who behave treacherously because they have been severely or chronically abused are primarily motivated by extreme fear, and they usually will try to flee, escape, or otherwise avoid close proximity to a human if they see any way to do so--and sometimes even if they don't. If they cannot escape approach by a human, they bite, kick, or at least threaten such actions, or they bolt over the person. However, they give plenty of signsof what their intentions are. Such horses are usually labeled "hopeless" or "permanently messed up." They can be retrained if one understands equine psychology and training principles, is willing to commit indefinite patience to the project, and has good control over the horse's environment so that it is handled very consistently by all who come in contact with it. Most experienced horsepeople believe that training the treacherous horse is definitely not a project for a beginner, nor is it economical. Training this type of treacherous horse requires good fences, preferably a high-walled pen, and maybe even a restraining chute. But if the fear can be eliminated, the aggressive behavior is eliminated as well. Punishing these animals for aggressive behavior usually just convinces them even more that they have good reason to behave in such a manner, thereby making the behavior worse, not better. These types of treacherous horses need to be treated in a way that decreases their fear of humans and allows them to learn that people's behavior toward them is predictable and not harmful.
The second type of treacherous horse is the one that has learned to behave in this manner to get its way. This may be typified by the pony that has learned to intimidate a child (or the child's parents, if they are not experienced with horses), or a stallion who has learned to intimidate his handler. This type will suddenly bite or kick to avoid doing something (getting caught, being put back in a stall) or gain access to something (feed, open gate), but shows no extreme fear of people. Of the two types of treacherous horses, this one may be more truly treacherous, and perhaps more dangerous, as it is usually quite obvious that the first type is, indeed, dangerous, whereas it may not be immediately apparent that the second type is a threat. The second type should be punished immediately for behaving aggressively. All too often, the reason for the horse's behavior is that the handler is not experienced enough to immediately discipline the horse or to anticipate that the animal is about to misbehave. The handler may move away in fear or take a moment to regain composure. Then the handler begins repeatedly to strike the horse, jerk repeatedly on the lead shank, and/or scream in a fit of rage. By this time, already too much time has elapsed, and the horse fails to associate the punishment with the undesirable behavior, and excessive punishment could panic the horse. Then the horse gets even more treacherous. Usually only one strike or jerk on the lead shank, delivered as soon as the horse gives an indication of misbehaving, is the recommended punishment.
To be able to evaluate a horse's temperament accurately, we must understand normal and abnormal horse behavior. One of the best ways to judge a horse's "personality" is through its agonistic behavior, which relates to facial expressions, postures, vocalizations, and locomotor patterns that signify dominance, submission, or some intermediate status, or signify an escape pattern.Agonistic behavior causes many problems for the horse owner because it is highly variable and can be very pronounced.
Horses kept together form a dominance hierarchy, which is established by aggression. The introduction of two strange horses to each other usually results in a basic pattern. They approach each other with their heads held high, and they may "toss" their heads. The necks are arched, and the ears are pointed forward. They encounter each other face-to-face by smelling or exhaling at each other's nostrils. During the face-to-face encounter, they frequently squeal, rear up, and threaten to strike with their forelegs. They may continue to encounter by smelling each other's neck, withers, flank, genitals, and rump. The process may be interrupted by one horse laying its ears back, pivoting the hindquarter toward the other horse, and kicking out with one or both hindlegs. A squeal may or may not be emitted when the horse kicks. Sometimes, fighting between members of an established group and a newcomer can be avoided or at least minimized by first penning the newcomer adjacent to the group. This procedure, which requires fencing that is strong, safe, and of sufficient height, works best when the newcomer is obviously not going to be a strong contender for the top of the hierarchy.
Horses that are familiar to each other, but have been separated, greet each other by briefly smelling at the nostrils. Some very aggressive horses meet a strange horse by immediately laying their ears back, running at the other horse with their necks held low, heads extended, and mouths open, trying to bite. At the last moment, they may pivot their hindquarters and kick.
To establish dominance, a dominant animal threatens aggression or may fight the subdominant horse. It may be a traumatic experience, in which one or both horses are injured, or there may be little if any physical contact. Once the dominance hierarchy is established, only threats of aggression are necessary to maintain it, although fights occasionally occur. Threats of aggression are visual gestures that may be accompanied by sound. They are enforced by physical contact if necessary. The mildest threat is laying back the ears and looking at the subordinate horse. The most common threat is biting. The horse lays its ears back, exposes its teeth, opens its mouth, and nips in the direction of the other horse. About 30 percent of the bites are completed. Kicking threats are used less frequently than biting threats. In a mild threat, the horse may make a gesture to kick with one hindleg in a restrained manner. Serious kick threats are usually made by a squeal and a gesture to kick with both hindlegs.
Because submissive horses seldom challenge a dominant horse, the horses learn to get along together without very many injuries. From a management standpoint, the submissive horse must have adequate room for retreat and escape. When a new horse is introduced, the group should be observed until the dominance hierarchy is re-established. If serious fighting occurs, the new horsemay have to be removed. Putting two boss mares together usually causes serious fighting.
Most dominance hierarchies are linear, but in some groups of horses they are more complex. If a complex hierarchy exists, one horse that is low in the order may be dominant over a horse that is at the top.
Young foals exhibit submissive behavior to older horses that allows the foals to move about in the herd. The foal extends its head, directs its ears sideways, and moves its lower jaw up and down. The foal also receives some protection from aggression by other horses when it is at its dam's side. Her position in the dominance hierarchy determines the amount of protection for the foal.
Social attachments occur between members of a group of horses. The social bonds may be at the family level or between horses that are not family members. A mare's reciprocal attachment with her foal begins about 2 hours after birth. The attachment continues to strengthen for a couple of weeks and then begins to weaken. By 6 months of age, the foal can be weaned with a minimum of stress if two or more foals are weaned together. Horses that are kept together for prolonged periods exhibit a preference to stay together. In a herd, some individuals form pair bonds. Some bonds are very strong and others very weak. When horses that have formed strong pair bonds are separated, they display considerable anxiety and call for each other by whinnying. This can cause problems when one is to be shown or ridden without the other present.
Epimeletic and Et-Epimeletic Behaviors
Epimeletic behavior is involved with giving care or attention. This is a very common type of behavior in horses because they seek care and attention from each other. Epimeletic behavior is displayed several ways.
During the fly season, horses stand head to tail and mutually fight flies for each other. They also practice mutual grooming, nibbling each other with the incisor teeth. The nibble areas include the neck, base of the neck, withers, back, and croup. Each horse seems to have a regular grooming partner. Mutual grooming is most frequent during the spring, when the winter coat is being shed, and during the summer, when horses stand under a shade. Licking another horse is usually limited to a mare licking the foal after parturition for about 30 minutes.
Mutual grooming behavior can be taken advantage of when handling horses. For example, it is wise to approach or try to touch a strange or untrained horse about the withers and other mutually groomed areas and then work toward other areas such as the head or legs.
Et-epimeletic behavior is the signaling for care and attention. It is used by all age groups and is most frequently observed when horses are separated from each other. A young foal becomes very nervous when separated from its damand will nicker or whinny for her. Mares also call for their foals by whinnying, and they quietly nicker to a foal to indicate protection. Mature horses accustomed to being kept together become upset and call for each other when separated. If a strong pair bond has been formed, it may take 3 to 4 days for the horses to settle down after they are separated. During this time, they will repeatedly whinny for each other and be very nervous. At first, they may be excited enough to run over or through fences and other objects just to get together. Therefore, one must be careful about separating horses so that injuries and accidents do not occur.
Horses exhibit varying degrees of contactual behavior, although this type of behavior is not well developed. During inclement weather, they may huddle together. They will form a group when danger exists.
Other types of behavior, in addition to those resulting from interactions with other horses, may be useful in determining whether the horse is ill, eating properly, or normal. For example, horses become conditioned to being fed or exercised at a regular time. At feeding time or nearing a time when the horse is turned out for free exercise, the horse may start nickering. Some horses wait until they see their owner or handler. At other times, they may pay no attention to the person.
A horse's first reaction to a strange object in its surroundings is to raise its head and investigate. If the object appears to be a threat, the neck remains raised (sometimes with a pronounced arch), ears directed forward, nostrils dilated, and tail slightly elevated. The horse may move about nervously with hesitant steps, while obviously prepared to run. It emits loud, explosive blows of air (snorts) through its nostrils. The horse may advance toward the object for further investigation or may decide to escape. Once it has decided that the object is not a threat, it resumes its prior activities but may continue to display a certain caution.
Other horses may respond to the cues given by the first horse to see the object. They usually react in a similar manner. If they are kept together in a large paddock or at pasture, they may move together to investigate it at a closer distance. If one horse decides to flee, the others usually follow.
Investigative behavior is the horse's inspection of its environment by use of the senses and movement. Horses are very curious about their environment and will use all the necessary senses to investigate it. When a horse is placed in new surroundings, it will investigate everything very thoroughly by use of its sight, smell, touch, hearing, and taste senses. Until the investigation is completed, the horse may be nervous and overreact to sudden noises or movements. When frightened, it may run into a fence or other object that it would usually avoid. If a new object is placed in its paddock, the horse normally cannot resist smelling, touching, tasting, and listening to the object. If not allowed to investigate, the horse will be apprehensive about it. Some horses must smellor touch new tack before it can be used on them without their becoming nervous. Investigative behavior can lead to accidents or other problems around a stable. While investigating a stall, a horse may learn to operate a latch and open the stall door. Horses can learn how to turn on water faucets and operate light switches because they play with objects during the investigation.
Most young foals go through a period during which they chew and taste anything that interests them. During this phase of investigative behavior, they may want to nibble on your hands or clothing. Normally they outgrow this phase without a lot of discipline, but such behavior can develop into a vice, so one must be careful to avoid the foal's nibbling or biting so that it does not become a bad habit.
Horses maintain their hair coats by several methods. Besides mutual grooming, horses also groom themselves. They enjoy rolling in dry, fine soil such as sand and dust or in wet areas. Before rolling in a dry spot, they paw the area. After pawing, they lie down and roll on their backs. After they get up, they shake their whole body as if to dust themselves off. In fact, they do this after lying down for any reason.
Irritating insects cause horses to rapidly contract the superficial muscles on their trunks and forelegs. The muscle contraction causes rapid skin movements. They use their heads to displace insects on the foreleg, shoulder, and barrel areas. Insects on the belly are displaced with the hindleg, and the tail is used on the hindquarters. Itching is relieved by rubbing on a fixed object or by scratching itself. The head is used to scratch or bite the forelegs, sides, croup, and hindquarters. The hindfoot is used to scratch the head and neck.
Elimination and Ingestion
Eliminative behavior is associated with urination and defecation. All horses have the same characteristic stance while urinating. The neck is lowered and extended; the tail is raised; the hindlegs are spread apart and extended posteriorly. The flaccid penis is extended by the male. The mare contracts and relaxes the lips of the vulva, exposing the clitoris several times after each urination. The interval between urinations is usually 4 to 6 hours.
Most horses will urinate in a stall or trailer. However, some are reluctant to do so, and they should be allowed out of the trailer every 3 to 4 hours to urinate. If they are not taken out of the trailer, they start nervously moving around and may start kicking. They do not like to urinate on hard surfaces because the urine splatters on their legs. If they are kept in stalls or small paddocks, most horses will urinate in the same area because the area becomes soft and the urine does not splatter as much.
Defecation occurs about every 2 to 3 hours. To defecate, the horse raises its tail and may also hold the tail off to one side. Ponies almost always stop moving to defecate, whereas horses will defecate when they are moving about. Stallions prefer to defecate in a small area when kept in a stall or small paddock. They usually back up to the pile and then defecate. They avoid walking on the manure pile if they can. Mares and geldings tend to have no particular place to defecate and scatter the feces in the paddock. Therefore, it is harder to keep the bedding in their stalls clean.
In pastures, a stallion smells the area and walks on or backs up to it to urinate or defecate. Thus, a stallion wastes very little of the pasture areas. Because of the mares' and geldings' behavior, however, the defecation area may become larger. Horses refuse to eat grass growing in these areas, so the manure must be scattered over the pasture with a rake to prevent the formation of defecation and urination areas.
Horses usually defecate when they get nervous. Rope horses commonly defecate on entering a roping chute. Some horses defecate immediately upon entering a trailer or immediately after being unloaded.
Horses practice coprophagy--the eating of feces. Young foals will eat the feces of mares they are housed with. Adult horses will eat their own feces or the feces of other horses, a practice that does them no harm.
Ingestive behavior is the taking of food or water into the digestive tract. Foals may be stimulated to start eating solid food when they are only a few days' old. They start by nibbling on the feed and rapidly learn to eat it. If given the opportunity, horses prefer to eat small amounts of feed throughout the day. Horses kept at pasture are able to eat in this manner. Horses kept in stalls and small paddocks eat at the convenience of the owner or handler. Very few horses eat small amounts of their feed at one time so that it will last for a 24-hour period, unless the horse is fed ad libitum (freely; food is always available). If fed ad libitum, they usually overeat and may get digestive disturbances. Preventing overeating is an important aspect of horse management.
Horses graze by taking a bite of grass, taking one or two steps, and then taking another bite or two of grass. Therefore, they are moving about most of the time they are grazing, and they prefer to graze over a large area. If sufficient grass is available in the pasture, they eat the top part of the grass and leave the bottom portion. Typically, they graze down small areas in a paddock or small pasture and keep the grass at a minimum height. As the grass grows in these areas, it is succulent and high in quality. When the pasture has been overgrazed, the horse eats the grass down to the ground surface. Under these circumstances, horses will graze the defecation areas but are reluctant to do so unless the area has been harrowed routinely to prevent the accumulation of feces.
Some horses do not adjust to being kept in close confinement such as a stall for long periods of time. This may be because they have a strong desire to graze and move about, and short vigorous daily workouts may not accommodate their desire to walk around and graze for 8 to 12 hours each day.
Horses enjoy playing. One of their favorite forms of play is running, either alone or in a group. When running alone, they frequently buck, slide to a stop in a corner, and jump and shy at familiar objects. When running in a group, they frequently push and nip other horses. They may chase each other. Two horses may be observed playfully nipping at and swinging their heads toward each other while rearing on their hindlegs and pawing at each other. This type of activity is also observed in young colts.
Horses also enjoy playing with objects they find in their paddock. They pick up small sticks and toss them about the paddock. They pick up and shake rags and pieces of paper. And they play with balls or other objects suspended in a stall to relieve boredom. They will play with a latch on a stall door or gate for long periods of time. They can even learn to open the latch.
The young foal plays during the first 3 weeks by running small circles around its dam. The circles get larger and the foal starts to play with other foals. They chase each other and frequently change roles of fleeing and chasing. Young foals will mount each other during play, which is normal play behavior that occurs long before either sex reaches puberty. Colts seem to mount more frequently than fillies. Play by young foals is "contagious" behavior that is very conducive to social facilitation. Peak periods of playtime are usually observed in the early morning or just before sunset. Absence of play at these peak playtimes may be the first indication that a foal is ill.
Allelomimetic behavior, or mimicry, is common among horses. They learn to copy the behaviors of other horses at a very young age. A young foal learns to chew on its tongue by watching its dam or another horse do so. A foal can become addicted to sucking air by observing a wind sucker. Wood chewing is rapidly learned from other horses. A horse that is difficult to catch because it runs away each time it is approached will be watched by other horses, who thus learn to run away. When one horse in a group decides to run and play, other horses usually join it. Therefore, it is important to separate horses with vices from other horses before the others learn to copy the undesired behavior.
The horse can be taught many different tasks. It usually excels at tasks that are athletic in nature, but it also has a good capacity for pattern discrimination learning. A horse first learns how to learn, and several factors influence this ability. The ability to learn how to learn is evident during pattern discrimination learning. It takes the horse numerous trials to learn to discriminatebetween the first two patterns. After it learns the correct response for a few patterns, fewer trials are needed to learn additional patterns. The horse can remember the correct response for several months. Once a horse has learned a specific type of athletic performance, it will remember it for years. After several years, the response may not be perfect, but the horse can then be retrained to reach a high level of performance much more quickly than it took for the initial training. More difficult maneuvers or tasks are forgotten at a faster rate than easier tasks.
A horse has the ability to learn temporal patterns very quickly. That is why they learn the wrong things so quickly when they are being trained. Thus, it is most important that reward/punishment is concurrent with targeted action. Also, training procedures or actions must be well planned and consistent. A trainer must avoid personal behavior patterns that may become cues to allow the horse to anticipate, establish, or follow particular actions that one does.
Early experiences affect the horse's ability to learn at a later time. Young foals can be taught to be led and handled. Early contact with humans under the proper environmental conditions results in a docile foal. Docility enhances later learning ability because the foal is not nervous about being handled. The docile horse pays attention to what it is being taught. But fear inhibits learning. Many people falsely believe that the only thing a horse really understands is fear and that the horse must fear them if they are to successfully and consistently control its behavior.
Sleeping and Waking
The way horses sleep and wake normally can help owners recognize abnormal behavior in illness. There are four recognizable stages in the sleep and waking cycle. Each has characteristic body and brain functions. The horse spends an average of 19 hours and 13 minutes awake. During this period, the horse is alert and active. It spends an average of 1 hour and 55 minutes in a drowsy state. Therefore, it is awake for an average of 21 hours and 8 minutes each day.
A horse sleeps for a total of about 2 hours and 52 minutes a day. There are two types of sleep: slow-wave and REM. Slow-wave sleep is characterized by slow, regular brain waves, as monitored by an electroencephalograph. The slow, regular brain waves indicate that the mind is not functioning, and slow-wave sleep has been called "sleep of the mind." During slow-wave sleep, the muscles are not fully relaxed. The horse may enter slow-wave sleep while lying down in the sternoabdominal position or while standing up. The horse can sleep standing up because it can lock its knees and hocks by using the stay apparatus, which is a series of tendons controlling leg flexion. The horse spends about 2 hours and 5 minutes per day in slow-wave sleep. This time is broken up into about 33 periods lasting 3.5 minutes each.
Between each period, the horse wakes up or enters a period of rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, characterized by irregular, rapid brain waves similarto the awake state. However, REM sleep is a deeper sleep than slow-wave sleep. The mind is very active, but there is almost a complete loss of muscle tone. During REM sleep, the horse usually is lying on its side with its neck and head extended and resting on the ground. During the time it drifts back into slow-wave sleep, it may go back to the sternoabdominal position, or it may continue to lie on its side. It is not known if the horse must be on its side to go into REM sleep. There are about 9 periods of REM sleep that last about 5 minutes each, so that the horse spends an average of 47 minutes in REM sleep.
Changes occur in body functions as the horse sleeps. As it enters the drowsy state, the heart rate, respiration rate, and muscle tone decrease. They continue to decrease as the horse enters slow-wave sleep. During REM sleep, there is a slight increase in respiration rate and heart rate, but the rates are less than during the drowsy state. Muscle tone continues to decrease and is minimal during REM sleep. The eyelids indicate the horse's state of alertness. They are partially closed during the drowsy state and are barely separated during slow-wave sleep. During REM sleep, they are fully closed.
The horse spends an average of 22 hours standing and 2 hours lying down each day. About 80 percent of the standing time is during the daylight hours. There are usually about 4 to 5 periods of recumbency each day.
The horse lies down by going through the same maneuvers each time. The hindlegs are brought under the body and the forelegs are directed back under the horse so that all four feet are close together. The head and neck are lowered. At this time, the horse may move around in a small area to decide exactly where it wants to lie down. The forelegs are flexed and the head is elevated as the horse touches the ground with its knees and sternum. Next, the hindquarters are lowered. Once down, the horse may lay on either side with its neck and head extended outward and resting on the ground. The legs are extended. The horse may rest in an asymmetrical sternoabdominal posture (right or left). When resting in this position, the legs are flexed and the limbs on the side the horse is lying on are underneath the horse. The horse rises from a lateral recumbency position to the sternal position by first extending its forelegs in front of itself. The forelegs are used to raise the forequarters off the ground. When the forequarters are raised, the flexed hindlegs are extended to raise the hindquarters.
Vices (Bad Habits)
Abnormal horse behavior can have a variety of causes. Some atypical behavior may indicate illness or injury. Other types are referred to as vices. Usually, a vice affects a horse's usefulness, dependability, or health. Vices such as charging, striking, kicking, biting, and bucking are aggressive vices directed against a handler and may cause injury to the handler. Some of the same vices may be directed against other horses and cause them injury. Flight responses such as rearing, balking, shying, halter pulling, and running away can injure the rideror handler. Stall vices may cause injury to the horse, may cause poor performance, or may waste energy. These vices include stall kicking, wood chewing, cribbing, weaving, stall walking, bolting food, pawing, tail rubbing, and eating bedding or dirt. Bad habits are difficult to eliminate and require a lot of thought and effort on the part of the owner or manager.
Abnormal behavior as a result of illness or injury is discussed in Chapter 9. Horses should be observed at least once or twice a day to determine if they are injured or sick.
Stall vices are sometimes called "nuisance vices." They usually arise out of boredom from lack of exercise or insufficient activity out of a stall. Horses that receive enough exercise seldom develop stable vices. Providing sufficient amounts of bulky food for the horse to nibble on all day gives the horse something to do, and horses prefer to eat frequently. Boredom can be eliminated by providing toys such as plastic jugs hung from the ceiling. A horse may toss or carry about short lengths of plastic hose or a small stick. Occasionally, a horse will carry a small rock around in its mouth to play with. Stable vices are contagious because horses mimic each other.
Other causes of vices are poor management, mishandling, or bad treatment at some previous time. Some people make a mistake of teaching a foal to do cute little things (such as nibbling tidbits from a hand) that cause the horse to lose respect for the horseperson when it grows up (such as biting).
The prospective horse should always be checked out for vices. Many vices can be detected by observing the horse in its stall or paddock, handling the horse, or riding it. When the horse is approached, it should not lay back its ears and threaten you with its mouth. By feeling all over the horse, you can detect any unusually sensitive areas. A tendency to kick can be detected when the horse lays back its ears and shifts its weight off the hindfoot nearest you.
Biting is a vice acquired as a result of incompetent handling. If a horse is consistently fed sugar cubes or other treats by hand, it learns to expect these treats when handled. It soon begins nuzzling the hands and nosing the pockets of the handler each time he or she is within reach. The nuzzling develops into a nip, because the horse is disappointed. Before long, the horse starts to bite very hard, which can cause injuries. To prevent development of this vice, all treats should be placed in the feed manger.
Rubbing a horse's nose while petting it also teaches it to bite. The horse should be petted on other areas of the body and only occasionally on the nose.
Once a vice is learned, it is difficult to eliminate. Some horses respond to being slapped quite hard on the side of the mouth or face. An effective way to retrain the confirmed biter is to use a war bridle (Chapter 6). Each time the horse attempts to bite, one or two quick jerks on the bridle punish the horse quite severely. This is continued until the horse associates the punishment with biting. If it persists, a wooden gag can be used. A block of hard wood, about5 inches long (12.7 cm) and inches square (9.68 cm2), with a chain run through a hole drilled through the center long ways, is attached to the halter. The gag is adjusted so that it fits in the area of the bars. Each time the horse bites, the edges place pressure on the gums. It usually takes a few lessons to overcome most biting.
Sometimes a horse bolts grain (gulps it down without chewing). This vice is undesirable because the whole grain passes through the digestive tract without being digested, leading to digestive disturbances such as colic. There are several methods to prevent bolting. The grain can be spread out in a large feeder with a flat bottom so the horse cannot get very much in its mouth with each bite. Large stones can be placed in the feed box so the horse must move the stones around to get to the grain, which slows down the rate of eating. The grain can be mixed with chopped hay to help induce chewing. Hay can be fed first, and grain can be fed after most of the hay ration has been consumed. The hay reduces the horse's appetite, so the horse is not inclined to eat as fast.
Charging or savaging is a deliberate attack on a person. Not many horses are actually vicious, but they must be controlled. Stallions are prone to becoming unmanageable unless they are handled by a competent horseperson. The vicious horse must be taught to obey, or to suffer accordingly. However, it must become confident in the handler, so the training must not inflict pain. The most effective means is to humiliate the horse by either pulling it to its knees with a "running W" and holding it there until it becomes calm, or by laying it on the ground with a throwing harness and holding it down by restraining its head. This causes the horse no physical pain but does humiliate it. These procedures should be attempted only by competent personnel.
Cribbing is a vice in which a horse sets its upper incisor teeth against an object, arches its neck, pulls backward, and swallows large quantities of air. The vice leads to colic and other digestive disturbances caused by the excessive amount of air in the digestive tract. Most cribbers are hard to keep because of the digestive disturbances and the fact that they would rather crib than eat. Moreover, it wears off the front edges of the incisor teeth. Wind sucking is similar to cribbing, but here the horse does not set its incisor teeth on an edge of an object. These vices usually occur as a result of boredom or frustration.
There are several ways to prevent a horse from cribbing--punishment, medication, or surgery. However, once the vice is acquired, it is impossible to eliminate the habit if the opportunity to crib presents itself. Surgical procedureshave been developed that stop some horses from cribbing. The most common preventive device is a neck strap that is placed rather tightly around the throat. When the neck is arched, the strap places pressure on the trachea, and the discomfort overrides the urge to crib. A spring-loaded strap that causes sharp, pointed nails to prick the horse when it arches its neck is more effective on those with a strong drive to crib. The straps cause the horse no discomfort when it is not trying to crib. There is some promising evidence that injecting the horse with a narcotic antagonist will stop cribbing for several months. Currently, medications are too expensive.
Fighting is aggressive behavior by dominant individuals. Once the dominance hierarchy is established, there are seldom fights within the group. Sometimes two very dominant horses fight quite often because one is constantly challenging the other. In this situation, it is advisable to separate the horses before they injure each other.
Halter pulling can injure the horse's neck muscles--and the handler if the horse lunges forward after pulling back. After the horse pulls back one or two times and manages to break loose, it usually forms the habit. A confirmed halter puller breaks halters and lead ropes as it pulls back, and it can then escape. And, of course, a horse running loose around a stable can cause accidents. Three hitches are commonly used to overcome the habit. As soon as you discover that the horse is testing its halter when it is tied, tie a strong rope that the horse cannot break around the horse's throatlatch. Tie the rope with a bowline knot, so that it cannot slip and choke the horse. Run the rope through the ring in the halter and tie it to an immovable object. After the horse has been tied this way, it soon learns that it cannot break away and stops trying to do so. At this time, a lead rope can be used to tie the horse. However, if a horse has escaped several times and the habit is formed, more severe measures must be taken. A rope can be run around the horse's chest and placed just behind the withers. Secure the rope with a bow-line knot, and run the free end between the horse's forelegs and through the halter ring and tie it to an immovable structure. When the horse pulls back, it cannot tolerate the pressure being applied behind the withers. Some horsepeople prefer to place the rope around the horse's back in the area of the flanks. Form a small, stationary loop in one end and run the free end through it, between the front legs to the halter ring, and tie it so the horse cannot escape. As soon as the horse feels pressure around its body, it moves forward. After a few struggles and attempts to break away, it learns not to pull back. One must be careful that the equipment does not break, the structure the horse is tied to does not break, the horse does not jump or fall on the handler, and the horse does not hurt itself.
The horse that habitually kicks at other horses or people is dangerous to own or to handle. The vice usually results from incompetent handling. As soon as a horse makes an attempt to kick, it must be corrected. If the horse is continually corrected in the formative stages, the vice can be eliminated. The confirmed kicker is difficult to correct, however. Handle such horses cautiously, so that you are never where the horse can kick you. A horse that kicks other horses should be tied up away from them and should be ridden at the back of a group of riders.
Many horses that kick acquired the vice because they were fed too much grain and were not exercised. At first they playfully kicked the wall. Later, the kicking became a habit. Stall kicking can cause serious injury to the hindlegs and hocks. Some horses kick the walls of their stable for no reason other than just to kick. Other horses kick the stable wall at feeding time to display their impatience. Some horses only kick at night; a light in their stall will stop the kicking. An uncongenial horse kept in an adjacent stall will provoke some horses to kick. Often, placing the horse in another stall solves the problem. However, it is difficult to correct a confirmed stall kicker. Padding the stall wall stops some horses, because the lack of resistance or noise when a pad is kicked removes the desire. A rubber ball or stick attached to the fetlock with an elastic band is an effective corrective device for some horses. When the horse kicks, the ball or stick sharply strikes the leg. Some horses simply cannot be corrected.
Pawing the stall floor is more a nuisance than a serious vice. It wastes energy and digs holes into the floor that must be filled periodically.
Rearing is one of the most dangerous vices a horse can have. When the horse rears up, the flailing forelegs can cause serious injuries to the handler, especially to the head. Such horses must be corrected with a lead shank or a whip by a knowledgeable trainer because of the seriousness of the vice. A horse that rears while being ridden should not be ridden by beginning or intermediate riders. An experienced trainer can usually find the cause and correct the vice.
Shying at unfamiliar objects makes a horse dangerous to ride for even the experienced rider. It is a long and difficult task to overcome the habit. The horse must continually be taken to new surroundings and over new trails until it learns that nothing will harm it.
Stall walking is a nervous habit that wastes energy. Stallions often walk constantly or pace circles around the stall or paddock. Frequently, they start walking to work off excess energy and to calm their nervousness. Decreasing the energy content of the ration and giving regular exercise periods may eliminate the vice. Once horses start to stall walk, it is difficult to get them to stop. Placing a companion such as a goat, pony, or dog in the stall with them can be effective.
Striking with the forefeet is a dangerous vice, because the handler is always vulnerable to injury. While leading, grooming, and saddling such a horse, always remain alert and try to stay at the horse's side, not in front of it. Each time the horse attempts to strike, punish it with a war bridle or whip.
Tail rubbing is usually started by horses whose tail areas are irritated by internal parasites, especially pinworms, or by a skin problem. Once the vice is acquired, the horse may continue to rub its tail even after the conditions that caused the initial irritation have been corrected. Tail rubbing is a common vice of Saddlebred horses that wear tail sets (device that trains the tail to stay in a certain position desired during performance events). To prevent the vice, a 2-inch X 12-inch board (5.1 X 30.5 cm) is used to construct a shelf that runs around the entire stall at a height just below the point of the horse's buttock. This tail board makes it impossible for the horse to rub its tail.
Horses' tails should be wrapped or protected with a leather tail guard when horses are shipped long distances in a van. If not, their tails will involuntarily be rubbed on the butt chain. One must be careful when wrapping a tail. If wrapped too tight, the blood circulation will be cut off and cause the hair to drop out or part of the tail to necrose.
Weaving is a rhythmical shifting of the weight of the forehand from one forefoot to the other. This is a nervous habit that expends a tremendous amount of energy. It results from too much food and insufficient regular exercise. It is almost impossible to eliminate the habit once acquired. A stable companion or suspended play toy may be beneficial. Turning the horse out in a large pasture also helps. The vice is rapidly learned by other horses, so the weaver should be isolated from their view.
Wood chewing is one of the most common vices. All horse buildings, paddocks, and fences must be designed so the horse cannot chew them. It takesonly a few hours for a horse to chew through a 2- X 12-inch board (5.1 X 30.5 cm). Some horses chew wood every chance they get; others chew wood only when the weather changes. The habit is dangerous to the horse because it can swallow splinters of wood. Also, it causes abnormal wear of the incisor teeth. The vice is expensive for the stable owner because of the need to continually replace badly chewed boards. Chemicals can be applied to wood to discourage the horse from chewing it or an electric fence wire can be used.
Many other vices can make it unpleasant to work with a particular horse. Some horses do not like to be groomed and will not stand still. Others do not like to be saddled and will jump around when the saddle is placed on their backs. A horse may inhale and hold the air while it is being cinched. After the horse is led around or ridden for a few minutes, the cinch can be tightened. Bucking is a serious vice that will get worse unless the horse is corrected by an experienced rider. Horses that are difficult to catch are a nuisance. All these vices detract from a horse's value and usefulness. If possible, one should avoid buying a horse that has one or several of them.
The color of a horse is not normally a consideration in selecting most horses. However, it may be important if the horse is to be used for certain purposes. If a breed registry has certain qualifications for registration that are based on the color or color pattern, the color pattern is very important. The registration associations of Appaloosas, Paints, Pintos, Buckskins, and Palominos are based almost solely on color. Other breed associations, such as the American Quarter Horse Association, may disqualify for registration horses that have certain types of color patterns (see Chapter 3 on breeds and breed associations). Breeders must be knowledgeable about the inheritance of these color patterns, or they may produce individuals that cannot be registered. The color or color pattern of a horse may make it more or less desirable for certain types of performance classes where a horse's or rider's ability is judged, because some colors or color patterns seem to attract a judge's attention.
Finally, the color and color pattern of a horse serves as a basis for identification because it is one of the animal's most conspicuous traits (see Chapter 17 for information on the genetic inheritance of color and pattern).
The head markings of a horse usually consist of white hairs in specific areas. The most common head markings are illustrated in Figure 1-16. We lack knowledge concerning the inheritance of head markings. It is not clearwhether they are caused by dominant or recessive genes, although the chin spot is believed to be caused by two recessive genes.
Common leg marks are shown in Figure 1-17. Very little is known about their inheritance. The distal spot is a small spot of dark hair that is located just above the coronary band in a white area. The marks are carried by a dominant gene.
There are several basic body-coat color patterns and several variations. The inheritance of some coat color patterns is known, whereas knowledge of the inheritance of others is only theoretical. It is difficult to predict the coat color of foals because the mode of inheritance is complex.
The black horse is a uniform black color on the body, mane, and tail. The uniform black color pattern is referred to as "jet black" if the coat color does not fade when the horse is kept out in the sun for several days. The black coat color of other horses fades in the sun to a "blackish bay" color pattern.
The bay color pattern is characterized by a black mane and tail, black points (black hair below knees and hocks, black muzzle, and black tips on the ears), and a reddish body. The color of the body may vary from a light to a dark reddish color. The dark reddish bay color is called a "blood bay." The basic color of the bay horse is black, but the black color is restricted to the mane, tail, and peripheral parts of the body. Some bay horses have zebra markings--a dark stripe down the back and extending down each shoulder and transverse bars on the forearm.
The seal-brown color is another modification of the black coat color. It is recognized by the brown hairs located in the flank areas, on the muzzle, under the eyes, and on the tips of the ears. A dark seal-brown horse may be difficult to distinguish from a black horse that fades in the sun. Those that have a lighter colored body area are easier to recognize and are normally called "brown" horses.
The chestnut or sorrel horse is another basic color pattern. The skin color is black or brown, and the hairs are red. The lighter colored horses are called "sorrel" horses, whereas the darker pattern is the "chestnut." The very dark red chestnut horse is called a "liver chestnut."
White horses are born and remain white throughout their lives. They have pure white hair, pink skin, and blue eyes. The white horse has a dominant gene for the white pattern. Two other white coat color patterns are modifications of the chestnut and black coat color patterns. The cremello pattern, a modification of the basic chestnut, is an off-white or cream-colored body and blue eyes. Some cremellos have a lighter mane and tail. The outlines of face and leg markings are evident. Perlino horses are modifications of the black coat color pattern. Their bodies are an off-white or pearl-white color. The mane and tail are a light rust color.
Grulla horses have black manes, tails, and peripheral parts like bay horses except the body is a dilution of the black hairs on the body to a sooty black.
The dun and buckskin color patterns are further modifications of the bay. The dun color is a modification of the dark bay, whereas the buckskin is a modification of the light bay color. Both color patterns are characterized by the black mane, tail, and legs. They may or may not have the dark stripe down the back, on the shoulders, and across the forearm. The buckskin color pattern has a light yellow body. The body color of the dun is darker than the buckskin and may be described as a dingy yellow. The mane and tail may not be as black in some dun horses.
The palomino color pattern is characterized by a yellow body color and a lighter mane and tail which may be almost white or flaxen.
The coat color of gray horses is characterized by white hairs mingled with hairs of the basic color. As the horse gets older, more white hairs appear in the coat. The foal may be born a solid color, or it may have a few white hairs in the coat. The skin is one of the two basic colors. Colored hairs are continuously being replaced with white hairs, so that older gray horses are almost white. When black horses with the gray gene have a higher proportion of black hairs than white hairs, the horse is referred to as an "iron" or "steelgray" horse. Red grays are modifications of the bay pattern, and chestnut grays are modifications of the sorrel and chestnut colors.
The roan pattern is a mixture of white and colored hairs. The roan color is present at birth and does not change when the horse gets older. A blue roan is a mixture of white and black hairs. The roan pattern superimposed on the basic bay pattern is called a "red roan." Strawberry roans are sorrel or chestnut horses with white hair mixed in with the colored hairs. Unless one knows the pedigree or history of a gray or roan horse, one cannot tell them apart.
Paint and pinto horses have four color patterns. The main distinguishing character of these patterns is the white spotting. In the tobiano pattern, the white spotting crosses over the top of the horse's back and extends downward. The white extends from the belly and legs toward the back in the overo pattern. Horses with black pigmented skin and coat color are referred to as "piebald," whereas brown pigmented horses are called "skewbalds." There are piebald tobianos, piebald overos, skewbald tobianos, and skewbald overos.
Appaloosa horses have a variety of spotting patterns, but they must meet three minimum requirements if they are not spotted: mottling of the skin, striped hooves, and an unpigmented sclera (surface of the eyeball, except for the cornea). The mottled or particolored skin appears particularly on the nostrils, muzzle, and genitalia. The striped hooves have alternate vertical stripes of white (unpigmented) and dark (pigmented; black or brown) colors. White around the cornea of the eye is a white sclera.
There are many coat color patterns, and all have at least one of the three characteristics previously described. All of the spotting patterns are of two basic patterns. The leopard color pattern is a white coat with dark spots scattered over the horse's body. The other basic pattern is the blanket pattern in which a white blanket, usually containing dark spots, crosses over the horse's croup, loin, and/or back. There is considerable variation in the distribution of white hair and of spots from the classical basic pattern. In the mottled pattern, unpigmented hairs are grouped together into small, uneven areas of white that are not always continuous with one another. Pigmented spots may be found in the white areas. The pattern is usually located over the dorsal area. Speckled patterns are characterized by small clusters or specks distributed rather evenly throughout the pigmented area involved. Some horses have dark spots distributed over a colored coat pattern that contains no white areas. The Appaloosa may also have a white blanket that contains no spots.
The genetics of coat color inheritance is complex, and our knowledge is largely based on theory. The present concepts of coat color inheritance are discussed in Chapter 17 on genetics.
The sex of a horse influences its value and behavior and thus its desirability for certain potential uses. Some horsepeople prefer a mare because of her potential as a brood mare if she has good conformation and becomes well trained. Others do not use mares because of their behavior when they are in estrus. Before deciding to buy a mare to show in performance classes, it is advisable to determine her behavior during estrus. Some mares do not show the characteristic signs of estrous behavior unless they are actively teased by a stallion. Very seldom do their estrous cycles influence the performance of such mares. Other mares display estrous behavior when they are exposed to any strange horse. Their behavior does not allow them to be shown when they are in estrus. Some mares develop an erratic and sour disposition during estrus and are not attentive to the rider. If the mare will never be bred, she can be spayed (ovaries removed) to eliminate the mare's estrous cycle. The surgical procedure is simple, and the mare can be worked 10 to 12 days after surgery. Estrous behavior can also be controlled with the use of the oral progestin, Regumate®.
Only accomplished horsepeople should select stallions to be ridden or worked unless they are to be used for breeding. Their behavior usually causes problems and makes them difficult to handle unless the handler is competent.
Because of their aggressive sexual behavior, stallions must be kept separate from other horses. Their paddocks and stalls must be well made because most stallions will kick or run into them periodically to see if they can escape. It is difficult to haul them with other horses. If they are isolated in a trailer or van so they cannot see other horses, mentholatum can be rubbed in their noses to prevent them from smelling other horses and becoming aggressive. Some stallions are well behaved and have good manners because they have been competently trained and handled. However, if they are not continually corrected, they soon become difficult to handle. They should never be trusted, because even the most docile ones occasionally exhibit erratic behavior for a few moments. During these few moments, injuries can occur. Very few stallions consistently give a good performance when shown or worked.
Geldings--castrated male horses--are the most popular horses to ride and use because of their attitude. Their behavior is predictable and usually stays the same. They can be kept together or with other horses. Some geldings will mount and copulate with estrous mares, but most do not display any sexual behavior. Horses are gelded or castrated between birth and 2 years of age, but older stallions can be castrated. Colts that have poor conformation and/or a poor pedigree are gelded as soon as their testicles descend into the scrotum. The testicles may be descended at birth and, if not, usually descend by 10 months of age. Well-conformed colts may be given a performance test and are castrated if they do not perform or train as expected. Older stallions that do not produce quality foals should be castrated. Cryptorchids (only one or neither testicle descended into the scrotum) should be heavily discriminatedagainst in breeding. They are referred to as "ridgelings" after they are 18 months of age. Ridgelings display intense sexual behavior and retain their stallion attitude for several months after castration. They are difficult to castrate, because a flank incision must be made.
One of the decisions the potential buyer must make is whether to buy a registered or an unregistered (grade) horse. Many grade horses are excellent horses and are suitable for many purposes. A large percentage of pleasure riding horses are unregistered, as are many horses used by riding stables and by ranches. Some horse shows or specific classes in a horse show do not require a horse to be registered. Some high-quality grade horses that have excellent performance records command a high price.
Breed associations have been formed to issue registration certificates and to maintain records of lineage and performance. Registration procedures continually change so that one must contact each breed association for correct forms and procedures. The stud books published by the breed associations give name, registered number, sire, and dam for all horses registered each year. Buying a registered horse has several advantages. The horse may have a performance record with a breed association, which is important in evaluating the horse for future performances or for possible value (prepotency) as a breeding animal. The horse's ancestors can also be evaluated in terms of their performance ability or ability to produce quality foals. For example, the following records can be obtained for horses registered with the American Quarter Horse Association: pedigree, racing activity, arena performance, dam's produce, and get of sire. Equine Line 2000, a part of Jockey Club Information Services, keeps racing records on Thoroughbred horses. For a fee, it will provide a five-cross pedigree by tracing the horse's ancestors in the American Stud Book, which is the record of foals registered by the Jockey Club. It uses other records to provide race records, produce records, crop analysis of sire, and domestic family histories. Their record service can provide a breeder's statistical report for all the racehorses that are racing and are bred by an individual, a monthly brood mare statistical report for all the foals of a mare that are racing, and a weekly stallion statistical report for all the horses a stallion has sired that are racing. Specialized reports can be obtained from the database.
Racing data for Quarter Horses and Thoroughbreds are published in the American Racing Manual and the Chart Book. The American Racing Manual is published yearly and contains the records of horses, owners, trainers, jockeys, breeders, stallions, yearling sales, stake race purse distribution, and many other statistical analyses. The Chart Book is published monthly and contains the official charts of all races run at recognized North American tracks duringthe month of issue. The charts can also be obtained on a weekly basis. The quality of a horse can be determined from these records, and a horse's pedigree can be a valuable aid for selecting young horses before they have had a chance to prove their performance ability.
Other breed associations keep similar data that is available to members or to the public for a fee.
When buying a horse, make sure that the animal being purchased is the same one described on the registration papers, or if it is not registered, make sure the horse is actually owned by the seller. There are numerous ways of identifying horses. A description of the color pattern(s) is found on the registration papers, but that offers little to identify solid colored horses. Photos of unique markings and patterns in a horse's hair, whirls, or cowlicks are effective in identification. Breed associations may require photographs to be submitted with registration applications. All race horses that have run in a race will have a number tattooed on the upper lip, and many horses have brands that are legally registered in the name of the owner with a breed association or the government.
The hot iron brand for horses has largely been replaced with the freeze brand, which is painless, does not scar or damage the skin, and produces a clear legible mark. By varying the application time, the hair will become white or absent since the intensely cold branding iron alters or destroys the pigment-producing follicle and/or the hair shaft follicle. The time that the iron is applied to the skin varies depending on the metal in the iron and the color of the horse. The correct time is determined by trial and error.
The procedure for freeze branding is as follows. The irons are chilled in liquid nitrogen until only very small bubbles rise. Hair is clipped from the brand site. The skin is soaked with alcohol to remove the skin oils and to aid in the transfer of cold temperature through the skin. While holding the horse still and immediately after soaking the skin with alcohol, the branding iron is applied to the brand site. The iron must be gently rocked back and forth and from side to side to ensure even contact. Sufficient pressure must be applied to indent the skin. Timing is critical, and the correct time must be determined for each set of irons (Table 1-3). The person applying the iron should indicate when the iron touches the skin and the person timing the procedure should indicate when to remove the iron. For a set of irons, the time for a "white hair" brand is about 8 to 12 seconds; for a hairless brand, about 15 to 20 seconds. After the iron is removed, a clear indented pattern should be evident. After 5 to 10 minutes, the brand pattern thaws and swells and will remain swollen for about 4 days. The superficial layer of skin sheds after 1 month and white hairsappear after 2 months. A white hair brand is complete after 3 months. Arabian horses are freeze-branded under their mane with a code sequence consisting of date of birth, sex, and identification number.
Horses can be identified by microchip implants, which are tiny transponders encapsulated in biocompatible glass and placed in the horse's upper neck. Although this method is not visible, each implant has a unique code that can be read with a scanner. Implanting is simple, relatively painless, and does not change the horse's external appearance.
Copyright © 1981, 1989, 2001 by W. H. Freeman and Company
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