Do you guys love horses or what?! We know you do, because Azula has been getting a ton of emails about Equus caballus (that's the scientific name for a horse).
Our big-brained Ara ararauna (that's the scientific name for Azula!) decided to consult with the ASPCA's Dr. Emily Weiss, who is an expert in horse behavior, to tackle your toughest questions. Thanks, Dr. Weiss, for helping us out!
I have been riding for two years, and I really want my own horse. I like spunky, outgoing horses. Could you tell me some breeds that would suit me? And how many horse breeds are there, anyway? ―Sophie, age 11
Sophie, there are literally hundreds of horse breeds. Different breeds often are specially suited to live in certain conditions, like very cold or very hot temperatures, or specially bred to perform certain tasks, such as pulling carriages or traveling long distances.
It would help me to know what you're interested in doing with your horse. If you are interested in endurance trail riding, a Tennessee walker or Missouri fox trotter might be just the ticket. Maybe you are interested in reining or Western pleasure, and in that case the American quarter horse would be a good choice. Hunt seat classes in your future? Maybe a thoroughbred or a Trakehner would have the personality you're looking for--all horses can be spunky and outgoing, Sophie, but in my opinion, these two breeds are especially sassy!
Why do horses bite, kick and rear so much?
Horses can bite, kick and rear for many reasons, Brianna. Here are the most common:
- Play--Horses often buck, rear and lightly bite each other when they play. This is really just pretend fighting, and they don't want to hurt each other.
- Survival instincts--Biting, kicking and rearing can save a horse's life if he is faced with a predator, which is an animal enemy. So sometimes when horses play this way, they're actually practicing in case they get into a dangerous situation later.
- Protecting their turf--Often a stallion will bite, kick and rear to defend the herd from other males.
- Personal space--Sometimes a horse just wants to be left alone! When a horse wants the other members of his herd to move away from him, he may let them know by biting, kicking and rearing. These actions are a horse's way of saying "Give me some room!"
Why do horses have to wear bits when you ride them?
Mallory, this is a great question. Not all horses do wear bits when they are being ridden. In fact, there are many people who train and ride their horses without ever having a bit in the horse's mouth. Special kinds of training can be used together with traditional methods as a way for both horse and rider to learn more.
Why do horses stay in the stable during a fire?
Great question, Jayme! Not all horses do stay in the stable during a fire, but you are right that some do. Sometimes it's simply that their stall doors are closed, and they're trapped and cannot get out without the help of a human.
Sometimes, even when his stall door is open, a horse will choose to stay in his stall. Chances are the horse thinks of his stall as a “safe place” and is afraid to leave. Other times horses will exit their stalls, but then become confused and disoriented and can't find their way out of the stable.
Making sure stable fires do not happen is very important. Making sure no one smokes, decreasing the amount of combustible items in the stable and final safety checks at the end of the day can reduce the chances of a fire. Also, it's smart to have a good emergency plan in place, just in case.
How old are horses in people years? My grandpa said one year is five years for a horse, and my friend said four. Who is right, or are they both wrong?
What a fun question! Julia, both your grandpa and your friend were just a little bit off on this one. Because a horse usually lives between 30 and 40 years, most experts would say that one human year is equivalent to two or three horse years. So if your horse is 10 years old, you could say that she is 20 to 30 in “people years.”
Hi, my name is Sophia. I have three dogs, two cats, two ferrets and some fish. My question is why do horses neigh?
Horses neigh to communicate with each other, and sometimes with us! There are actually a lot of different kinds of vocalizations that horses can make, Sophia. The common loud, high-pitched neigh usually means something like “Where are you? I can't see you! Are you around?” It can also mean that the horse is upset. Horses snort when they sense danger. My favorite horse vocalization is a low nicker of greeting when I come home!
How long should it take to train a two-year-old colt to be ridden?
Good question, Justine. However, the answer depends upon what past experience the colt has had. If he has never been around people, the training will take longer than if he was raised around people. The answer also depends upon what type of riding you want to do with him. Training him to trail behind another horse on a trail ride will not take as long as teaching him specific ways to move about a ring.
I am a strong believer in letting the learner (in this case, the horse) tell me how fast the lesson should go. I had one horse who learned in just a couple of weeks how to be ridden reliably, and another who took over three months to just be comfortable with a simple walk and trot in a straight line. Instead of having a set rule about how long it will take, we can make confident, comfortable horses by being patient and going at their pace.
Is it still safe to ride my 29-year-old pony? He is very energetic and he has no arthritis.
Devon, how cool is it that you have a happy, energetic 29-year-old! If your vet gives you the a-okay, riding your pony would likely be a good way to help decrease boredom for him. Be sure to keep your rides fun for him, and not too long. Enjoy!
What makes horses' stomachs so sensitive?
What a great question! Keenan, believe it or not, horse stomachs do just fine when horses are in their natural environment! It's when they spend their days in stalls, eating grain and other things not found naturally in their environment, that we need to be a little careful.
My horse follows me when I go to school. She jumps the fence and runs after me, and she doesn't stay with her foal or the foal's sire like she should. Do you know why?
Bethany, I think you should write a story about the horse who loved too much! It sounds like your horse has a strong bond with you--and that maybe your fences are a bit too low!
Seriously, it can be very, very dangerous for any horse to get out and be on a road. Please talk to your parents about this--maybe your family can figure out a better way to keep your horse fenced in and safe.
Now, let's work on keeping her from wanting to follow you. How about you give her some very special toys when you leave? I suggest a couple of apples in her water bucket so she can bob for apples! You could also give her a barrel with a few holes drilled in it and fill it with some tasty treats, or try a horse ball or two to play with. If she is distracted by a fun game or tasty snacks, she will be less upset to see you go. Good luck!