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Oklahoma Agriculture in the Classroom

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Agricultural Facts

Horses


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