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Home First Posted July 15, 2007Mar 25, 2015

Horse Facts

by Debora Johnson

Nothing is absolute it may be said. However, there are some facts about horses that pretty much follow a standard across the board. Of course, there are variables such as the horse breed, size, health, environment, etc. But, the following are some interesting facts that are rule of thumb. These facts are based on a horse that is 1,000 pounds in weight. This list will continue to grow. This article will be a continual "work in progress." If you have any facts that you would like to add to this list, please, e-mail from the home page. The e-mail address is provided.

  • There are over 167 symmetrical gaits described for the horse.
  • Unlike humans, adult horses average only about three to five hours of sleep per day, with sleep events occurring intermittently throughout the day and night, with most occurring at night.
  • Field of Vision - The entire spacial area from which the complete visual image of an eye is formed is known as the field of vision. In the horse, it is about 215 degrees for each eye. The wide-set eyes of the horse enable it to enjoy a panoramic field of vision even to the extent of seeing everything around itself with slight head movements. Only what is immediately behind the horse's hindquarters is outside its field of view, until it moves its head and neck.
  • Horse Vision
  • Normal vital signs include a heart rate of 32-40 beats a minute; a respiration rate of 8-20 breaths per minute; and a temperature of 99-101F.
  • A horse's stomach can produce up to 16 gallons of acid each day.
  • The normal body temperature range for horses is between 37.5 Celsius = 99.5 degrees Fahrenheit and 38.5 degrees Celsius = 101.3 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • The horse is the only mammal, other than humans, that cools himself by sweating.
  • A temperature higher than that, may indicate an infection.
  • A healthy horse's temperature can vary by 3 degrees depending on environmental factors.
  • Horses tend to have higher temperatures in warm weather and during/after exercise, stress or excitement.
  • A high fever does not always indicate a severe condition, but it is a good idea to take your horse's temperature often and if you his temperature is over 102 F, you should call your veterinarian immediately.
  • Horses are most comfortable at temperatures between 18 degrees if the horse has a winter coat and 59 degrees if the horse has a summer or wet coat.
  • In terms of feeding, energy needs for maintenance of horses increase 1.4 percent for each degree of temperature below 18 degrees. It is best to provide the extra energy as forage (hay). For example, if the temperature is zero, a 1,000-pound idle, adult horse would need an additional 4 pounds of forage each day.
  • Much more heat is produced when forages are fermented, which helps heat the horse from the inside, compared to the digestion and absorption of grains. Most data suggest that the need for other nutrients do not change during cold weather.
  • There are six general classes of nutrients needed in the horse's diet: water, carbohydrates, fats, protein, minerals, vitamins.
  • Clover makes a good addition to horse pastures for two reasons - legumes (like clover) add nitrogen back into the soil, which decreases the amount of nitrogen fertilizer you need to add and helps the grass grow. Also, it adds more protein and nutrition to the horse's diet than just grass alone.
  • An average 1,000 pound horse drinks about 6-10 gallons of water per day or about 5% of his body weight. A good rule of thumb is that a horse needs at least a gallon of water per 100 lbs of body weight. For your average horse, this equals 10 gallons a day. Water requirements vary greatly according to the weather and the level of work that the horse is doing. For instance, if your horse is exercising in hot, humid weather, he may need 2-4 times the minimum amount--up to 20 gallons a day!
  • More than 70% of infectious diseases of domestic animals and wildlife can also infect humans.
  • The average horse produces nearly nine tons of manure a year!
  • Water should be kept at 45 to 65 degrees (use of a tank heater, etc.) to maximize water consumption. Waters should be cleaned regularly (even in the winter), and clean, fresh water should always be available, regardless of temperature.
  • On average, a horse must consume about two percent of its body weight per day in forage: hay or pasture.
  • A 1,000 lb. horse will need from 1 - 3 acres of good pasture to provide enough forage to meet its total nutrient requirements.
  • An average, 1,000 pound horse produces 2.4 gallons of urine a day.
  • Ammonia gas burns delicate tissue of the respiratory tract and the eyes and increases mucus.
  • Surveys show that over 25% of equine vet calls are due to respiratory problems.
  • High ammonia levels have been associated with respiratory problems in foals and other animals.
  • An average 1,000 pound horse produces 45 pounds of manure a day.
  • Horses can lock their legs and doze, but they must lie down for their essential "deep sleep" period. In the wild and in pasture, horses lie down approximately three hours for every twenty-four).
  • A sole bruise is one of the most common causes of lameness. It also is under-appreciated as to the degree of pain it causes the horse.
  • (Some facts below on feeding)

  • Bush hogging or mowing pastures can help with weed control by altering the amount of sunlight and shade that grasses, clover, and weeds have access to. More sunlight encourages the grasses, so clipping the weeds regularly and before they go to seed can go a long way in helping manage a healthier pasture.
  • Most stabled horses need a good-quality grass hay fed at 2 pounds per 100 pounds of body weight.
  • Never give your horse or pony grass clippings. Grass clippings ferment quickly and can cause colic.
  • If you have gardens next to your field, warn the neighbor not to feed your horse.
  • A 1,200-pound mature pleasure horse needs to consume 24 pounds of hay daily, feed at least 10 percent more hay, or about 27 pounds. If the horse cleans up this amount of hay, feed more if it is needed to maintain or increase body condition. Feed less hay if the horse leaves some.
  • The concentrate portion in grains are higher in energy and lower in fiber than roughages.
  • Oats are the most popular and safest grain to feed to horses. What makes oats a safe feed is the fiber content--about 13 percent. This means oats have more bulk per nutrient content, and horses have to eat more to satisfy their nutrient requirements. Bulk makes it more difficult for the horse to overeat and get colic or founder.
  • Barley is very similar to oats as a feed except for some characteristics that affect how it is used. Barley is lower in fiber than oats and is classified as a "heavy" feed. If the barley kernel is crushed or ground, it is too heavy and can cause colic unless mixed with a bulkier feed such as wheat bran.
  • Corn is one of the most energy-dense feeds and contains a high content of carbohydrate. Corn contains approximately three times the amount of energy as an equal volume of oats. Corn's high energy content has led to it becoming known as "too hot" as feed for horses.
  • Beet pulp can be dehydrated and used as a source of fiber and energy. It is relatively high in energy and calcium but low in protein, phosphorus, and B vitamins. It contains no carotene or Vitamin D. Beet pulp is included in many high-performance diets to help ensure adequate fiber intake while meeting energy needs.
  • Whether it is the grain, hay, or time on pasture, any change in the horse's diet should be spread over several days or weeks.
  • When introducing a new type of hay or grain to a horse, the new hay or grain should replace the old feed at a rate of 25 percent every other day, taking a total of six days until the horse is completely on the new feed.
  • Increases in the amount of grain given to a horse should be added at approximately 0.5 pounds per day until the desired amount of grain is reached.
  • When a horse is to be turned out on pasture all day, especially if the pasture is lush and green, time on pasture should be gradually increased to avoid overeating and founder, in a manner similar to increasing the grain. Horses should be provided with all the hay they want to eat about a week prior to the start of complete pasture turnout.
  • When turning your horse out on pasture the time on pasture should be increased by one hour each day for four to five days. Then, before the horse is going to be turned out completely on pasture, a hay meal should be provided. This helps to reduce the chance of founder.
  • Grasses - Grasses commonly used for forage for horses include Bahiagrass, Bermudagrass, Kentucky Bluegrass, Orchardgrass, Smooth bromegrass, Tall fescue, and Timothy. Teff grass is being grown on an experimental basis, in the USA, as another viable source of food for livestock including horses.
  • Legumes - A legume has bacteria in its root nodules that can use nitrogen from the air and produce higher levels of energy and protein than found in grasses. Legumes also have a much higher calcium content than grasses. Legumes include alfalfa, birdsfoot trefoil, red clover, and lespedeza.
  • In late winter and early spring, as the temperature rises during the day and falls at night, the ground begins to go through a freeze/thaw cycle. This opens cracks in the ground for a short period of time. Clover can be broadcast (sprayed out over the ground) and will do a very good job of getting worked down into the soil where it can germinate and grow if its spread during this time of year. Of course, this depends on where you live and what kind of climate you have.
  • A horse needs six types of nutrients: water, carbohydrates, fats, proteins, minerals, and vitamins.
  • A nutrient is defined as any feed constituent that is necessary to support life. Nutrients give a horse energy, are components of the horse's body structure, are necessary for chemical reactions in the horse's body, transport substances, regulate body temperature, and affect feed palatability and consumption.
  • A horse farm with 2 horses that are kept in stalls 12 hours per day will collect 15 tons of manure and dirty bedding per year.
  • Choosing low-dust feed (e.g., complete feed pellets) and bedding (e.g., wood chips or shredded paper) will significantly cut dust levels in the barn, potentially by as much as 97%.
  • A healthy horse's hoof will grow out completely within 1 year.
  • Normally, the hoof wall grows at the rate of about three-eighths inch per month. New layers of hoof wall are produced continuously from just below an area called the coronet at the junction of the skin and the hoof wall.
  • Horse's teeth continue to grow throughout their entire life.
  • It is advisable to feed more hay in the evening (60 percent) and less in the morning (40 percent).
  • Eating straw can cause colic.
  • Water, trace mineralized salt, and adequate exercise are necessary components in the feeding.
  • Manuka honey can kill the toughest bacteria even when diluted 10 times. Ongoing studies are being done in the equine community.
  • The chestnuts on the inside of the horse's legs are prehistoric toes.
  • The farrier should individualize to each horse. Correct shoeing is scientific. There is no prescribed formula. 45 degrees is not the angle of choice for all!
  • Thoroughbreds are "aged" from January 1 and other horses from April 1.
  • The standard measurement for a horse's height is "hands." One hand equals 4 inches or 10 cm.
  • This measurement is always taken at the highest part of the withers (where the horse's neck meets his back at the raised point). From that point you run a straight measure to the ground. A split measure cross bar is used for an accurate measurement. No shoes are allowed. The horse must be standing on level ground, straight and square.
  • The age of a horse can be determined by referencing his front (incisor) teeth.
  • General rule of thumb: A pony is 14.2 hands or less a horse is 14.3 hands and above. This is not hard and fast depending upon breed and other factors.
  • To measure a horse's "bone" refers to the measurement taken around the foreleg immediately below the knee. For example, a hunter with good bone should measure 8 1/2 inches or 21.75cm. If the measure falls short the horse is said to be "light of bone."
  • A foal is from birth to up to January 1 following birth.
  • A colt is a young male up to 3 years of age (at birth, a colt is a foal).
  • A filly is a young female up to 3 years of age (at birth, a filly is a foal).
  • A yearling is the year after birth.
  • A two year old is in the second year of birth.
  • A gelding is a castrated male of any age.
  • A stallion or an entire is an uncastrated male horse.
  • A mare is a female horse of any age.
  • A star is a white mark on the forehead.
  • A strip is a narrow white mark down the face.
  • A blaze is a broad white mark down the face which extends over the bones of the nose.
  • A snip is a white mark between the nostrils, which in some cases extends into the nostrils.
  • A wall eye is one which shows white or blueish white coloring in place of the normal coloration.
  • Wall eyes or "Appy eyes" tend to be more prone to problems. Wall eye is one which shows white or blueish white coloring in place of the normal coloration.
  • An ermine spot is a black spot that occurs on white markings. This is usually seen around the pastern area.
  • Colic causes the most deaths in horses.
  • Researchers have found that the risks of anaesthesia are greater in horses than any other animal species.
  • The bigger the animal, the more difficult anaesthesia can be, especially keeping the lungs oxygenated.
  • A horse does not have reverse peristalses. (He cannot throw-up. It only goes down, not up)
  • A horse's skin is seven times more sensitive than yours.
  • Rain scald (rain rot, dermatophilosis, or streptothricosis) is a summertime skin disease caused by the organism Dermatophilus congolensis.
  • The forelimbs of the horse bear 60-65% of the animal's weight.
  • Horses have 205 bones in their skeleton.
  • The forelegs have 20 bones each.
  • The hind legs have 20 bones each.
  • The regular removal of dung from pasture is the single most effective means of reducing the worm burden in a paddock.

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