1. Horse is a common name for hoofed mammals that include the domestic horse and three groups of undomesticated species. One group is made up of the zebra, native to Africa; another consists of the ass, including the kiang and onager of Asia and the wild ass of Africa. The third group contains Przewalski’s wild horse, which is now found only in captivity. Horses belong to the equus family. Equus comes from the ancient Greek word meaning quickness. There are over 350 different breeds of horses and ponies. The horse was the last working animal to be domesticated.
2. A male horse is called a stallion and a female horse is called a mare. A young female horse is called a filly, and a young male horse is called a colt. When the baby is first born it is called a foal. A horse’s father is called a sire and the mother of a horse is called a dam. A pony is not a baby horse. It is a fully grown horse that is small.
3. Most foals are born at night under the cover of darkness and away from possible danger. The mother horse, or mare, is pregnant for 11 months. Most mares give birth in the spring to a single foal although twins are not uncommon. Mares produce milk for their young and will feed them for several months. Within 1-2 hours of birth a foal is able to stand up and walk. When foals are born their legs are almost the same length as they are when they are fully grown. This means their legs are so long they find it difficult to reach down to the grass to eat. Foals can focus their eyes almost as soon as they are born and cut their first teeth within a week. They are fully grown by 3 - 4 years of age.
4. Horses can be either the same color all over or a mixture of colors. The most commonly recognized whole colors are – black, brown, bay, chestnut, cream, dun, palomino and grey. A horse that is a combination of colors is said to have broken colors. These horses include the pinto, paint, roan and Appaloosa.
5. A horse is measured in hands. A hand equals 4 inches or the width of a human hand. The tallest horse ever recorded was a Shire called Samson. He stood 7 feet 2 inches tall (21.2 and a half hands). Sampson was also the heaviest horse weighing in at 3360 pounds (1524kg ). Measurement is taken from the ground up to the withers, the highest point on the horse's shoulder. A light horse such as a Lipizzan measures between 15.1 and 16.2 hands high while a heavy horse such as a Shire is between 16.2 and 17.2 hands high. Ponies are under 14 hands high.
6. It is possible to age a horse fairly accurately up to 10 years of age by their teeth. The oldest recorded horse was "Old Billy", an English barge horse, who lived to be 62 years old. An average life span for a horse is around 20 -25 years, although they can live for up to 30 years.
7. Horses can communicate how they are feeling by their facial expressions. They use their ears, nostrils, and eyes to show their moods. Beware of a horse that has flared nostrils and their ears back. That means it might attack.
8. Horses expend more energy lying down than they do when they are standing up. Horses cannot breathe through their mouths. That's why you'll never see one panting like a dog. Horses have a good memory. If you've been with the same horse for a long time, they will remember you. Horses have 2 blind spots where they can’t see. One is directly behind them and the other is directly in front of them.
9. The four natural paces for the horse are the walk, trot, canter and gallop. Horses that work or travel on hard roads need their feet (hooves) protected by metal shoes. Horses' hooves, like our finger and toe nails, also grow continuously and need to be trimmed. To do this, the horses shoes need to be removed and their hooves trimmed every 4 -6 weeks. After trimming their hooves new shoes are fitted. The person who cares for a horse's feet is called a farrier, or blacksmith.
10. Horses are herbivores and love to eat short, juicy grass. They also eat hay especially in the winter or when they are kept in a stable. Extra high energy food such as barley, oats, maize, chaff, bran or processed pony nuts are good for working horses. Horses have small stomachs for their size and need to eat little and often. When in a field, horses will graze for most of the day. Horses can drink up to ten gallons of water a day. Horses cannot vomit.