Behavior and Nature of the Horse
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Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/IR00001417/00001
 Material Information
Title: Behavior and Nature of the Horse
Physical Description: Fact Sheet
Creator: Johnson, Nancy A
Publisher: University of Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agriculture Sciences, EDIS
Place of Publication: Gainesville, Fla.
Publication Date: 1989
Acquisition: Collected for University of Florida's Institutional Repository by the UFIR Self-Submittal tool. Submitted by Melanie Mercer.
Publication Status: Published
General Note: "Date first printed August 1965. Date revised June 1989."
General Note: "section 1 of 14 of 4HHSG01, which supersedes CO 201,"
 Record Information
Source Institution: University of Florida Institutional Repository
Holding Location: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the submitter.
System ID: IR00001417:00001


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NAME_________________________________________________________________________________________ ADDRESS_____________________________________________________________________________________ CLUB_________________________________________________________________________________________ 4-H HORSE PROGRAM HORSE SCIENCE This educational material has been prepared for 4-H use by the Cooperative Extension Services of the U.S. Department of Agriculture and State Land-Grant Universities in cooperation with the National 4-H Council and the American Quarter Horse Association. Trade or brand names used in the publications are used only for the purpose of educational information. The information given herein is supplied with the understanding that no discrimination is intended and no endorsement of products or breeds of horses by the Federal Extension Service or State Cooperative Extension Services is implied, nor does it imply approval of products or breeds of horses to the exclusion of others which may also be suitable. This material was originally published by the National 4-H Council, 7100 Connecticut Avenue, Chevy Chase, Maryland 20815. Programs and educational materials of National 4-H Council are available to all persons regardless of race, color, sex, age, religion, national origin or handicap. Council is an equal opportunity employer.


Horse Science: Behavior and Nature of the Horse Pa g e 3June 1989 Since the time of ancient civilizations, the horse has servedFossil r emains have definitely established that the horse man well. He was first a war machine and that was his principaloriginated in North America beginning with eohippus. There may role until World War II. Likewise, the modern age has alsohave been an earlier five-toed ancestor but no fossil remains have relieved him of heavy duty as a beast of burden. But, the horse isso far been found. not yet about to be turned out to pasture. He is now serving man inThe third and final stage in the evolution of the horse into his a greater way than ever before as a means of recreation and escapepresent form (equus) also took place in North America but this from pressure and tension of present-day living. This greatspecies completely died out for reasons yet unknown. Fortunately, versatility is possessed only by the horse because of his (1)some of the population escaped to Asia during the Ice Age (about anatomical structure and function, (2) speed and endurance, andone million years after eohippus) by way of what may have been (3) fear of being hurt. The combination of these characteristics hasa land bridge in the Bering Strait area between Alaska and Siberia. made it possible for man to obtain performance from the horse farIt was, therefore, in Asia and Europe that the horse completed his beyond what is possible with any other animal.development and was domesticated. He did not return to North Century.ORIGIN OF THE HORSEThe horse had his beginning about 58 million years ago. His original home was in what is now the Great Plains area of North America. He evolved in three stages into his present form. The original ancestor (eohippus) was only about 12 inches high with four toes on each front foot and three toes each on each hind foot. He had a short neck, even teeth and was well-adapted to living in a forested and swampy environment. As the earth underwent geologic changes, the horse evolved into his second stage (mesohippus). Here he became larger (about 24" high), developed longer legs with only three toes on each foot. The middle toe was the largest. He also developed teeth suitable for grazing on the prairie and greater speed and endurance for finding forage and water and for protection and survival. These changes resulted from gradual adjustment to changing surroundings over millions of years. America until brought here by the Spaniards in the Sixteenth An important point is not how the horse developed into his present form but why. Besides having to go further in search of feed and water the horse also had to be able to run further and faster to escape his enemies. The horse is not the fastest animal on foot but possesses great endurance. The horse is, therefore, a creature of the open country and, to this day his first reaction to any strange or frightening object or situation is to panic and run away. This great fear of the unusual, plus the speed and endurance he has developed at the gallop, has made the horse a most valuable animal to man. But, it has also made him one of the most dangerous. Unlike a bull or lion, the horse seldom attacks directly. In an instant of fright, he can become completely unreliable and even pay no attention to his own safety. It might, therefore, be said that the modern horse must depend on man for his safety. The name eohippus or dawn horse is derived from the Greek word eos meaning dawn. The word horse comes from the Anglo-Saxon word hors meaning swiftness.ARABIAN QUARTER HORSE


Horse Science: Behavior and Nature of the Horse Pa g e 4June 1989 closer than four feet. Likewise, the horse cannot see directlyFUNCTIONAL DIVISIONS OF THE HORSEThe Head and NeckThe head and neck serve the same purpose on the horse as on other animal species. So far as behavior is concerned, the most important feature of this portion of the horse's physical make-up is the eye. The eyes of the horse are rather large and are set wide apart on the sides of the head. This gives the horse monocular vision or the ability to see separate objects with each eye at the same time. The horse can also see anything behind him that is not narrower than his body. The horse does not have binocular vision except when interested or excited enough to lift his head and point his ears forward. In such case, the object must be some distance away and not downward and, therefore, can't see what he is eating. Neither can a high-headed horse see the ground directly in front of him. The horse, because of his ability to make a quick getaway, has no need for acute vision as does man. However, his ability to see objects on either side at once, and to the rear, has been a prime feature of his ability to survive. It is believed that horses do not all have perfect eyesight. No doubt, poor eyesight may have an effect on the behavior of certain horses. Shying at unfamiliar objects may be the result of faulty vision. By reason of being ever alert to danger the horse, through his eyesight, is very sensitive to quick movements. Any training procedure involving quick motions, such as roping or polo must, therefore, be started slowly and speeded up only after the horse has become familiar with the motion.


Horse Science: Behavior and Nature of the Horse Pa g e 5June 1989 The horse is suspended between his front legs. The front legsThe Forehand AssemblyAlthough no one foot or leg has a single function, the front feet and legs serve primarily to support the horse at rest. In motion the front feet and legs also pull the horse forward. The horse's center of gravity is located at a point about six inches behind the elbow. At rest the front feet and legs, therefore, support 9 to 10 per cent more weight than the hind legs. The healthy horse at rest cannot shift his weight from one front foot to the other but is continually shifting weight between his hind feet. Only when one front foot is injured does the horse shift weight to the other foot. As a result, the healthy foot may go bad from lack of exercise necessary to promote circulation. To keep his feet healthy the horse must, therefore, have plenty of exercise. Stabled, or closely confined, horses often become nervous and this may well be dueThis is the horse's powerhouse or propeller and serves to push to their feet hurting from lack of exercise.the horse along in motion. The hind feet and legs also offer support are not attached to the main skeleton by any joints, but only held in position by muscular structures. This provides the horse with an almost perfect suspension system for his body. This, along with the elastic and expansive properties of the foot and the angle of the pastern joint, enables the horse to absorb and dissipate a tremendous amount of shock when in motion. For example, an 1100-pound horse carrying 200 pounds weight and running a quarter-mile in 45 seconds with a stride of 20 feet, will absorb and dissipate nearly a ton a second on his lead foot. In so doing, he leaves only a shallow footprint in the dust.The Rearhand Assemblyat rest and catch weight at the end of flight in motion. Although the structure of the hind feet and legs is similar to that of the forelegs, less lameness and unsoundness occurs in the hind feet and legs because of their supporting less weight and doing less work. Proof of this is that the hind feet grow faster than the front feet.


Horse Science: Behavior and Nature of the Horse Pa g e 6June 1989 While the horse's center of gravity is located about six inchesto teach a horse a particular movement or response, the appropri ate behind the elbow, the center of motion, however, is locatedsignal must first be given and then followed immediately with approximately over the 15th vertebra. This bony structure is thesome stronger force or punishment which will result in the horse most upright member of the spinal column and on a mature horseresponding in the desired manner. Once the horse has learned the is about 10 inches back of the center of gravity. The horse inlesson, the punishment must be stopped and not used again except motion goes with these two centers in their relative positions. Theas a necessary reminder. Reversing the sequence of signal and position of the center of gravity, however, can be altered by thepunishment will only confuse the horse. rider shifting his weight from side to side or front to rear. TheHorses are born with a certain amount of intelligence which horse himself can even shift the center of gravity by raising,must be developed by training and good habits. What a horse lowering or extending his head. In contrast, the center of motionknows he must be taught by man and, depending on training, this appears to be rather fixed. A rider's weight, positioned as nearly ascan either be good or bad. possible over the center of motion, offers the greatest stability andThe horse may shy at unfamiliar objects. He may also shy at interferes with motion the least. Weight too far back lessens thefamiliar objects not in their usual place. Regardless, the hor se must horse's propelling power.never be punished in such situations or due to his power of object he sees. With his attention focused on the unfamiliar objectThe Power of AssociationIn the struggle to survive through the ages, the horse has learned to avoid or escape situations in which he might get hurt. He has, therefore, developed a great power of association. This is the basis of horse training. To capitalize on the horse's power of association, signals or cues and punishment in training must be in proper sequence. For example, association he may develop the bad habit of shying at every strange the horse, if he can think at all, blames the object for the punishment. It is, therefore, better to let the horse study the object until he learns he will not get hurt and thereby gain confidence in the rider. This may be a rather new idea to many present-day horsemen but the fact was observed by Xenophon, the Grecian soldier and scholar about 350 B.C.


Horse Science: Behavior and Nature of the Horse Pa g e 7June 1989NOTES


COOPERATIVE EXTENSION SERVICE, UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA, INSTITUTE OF FOOD AND AGRICULTURAL SCIENCES, Christine Ta y lor Waddill, Director, in cooperation with the United States Department of A g riculture, publishes this information to further the purpose of the Ma y 8 and June 30, 1914 Acts of Con g ress; and is authorized to provide research, educational information and other services onl y to individuals and institutions that function without re g ard to race, color, a g e, sex, handicap or national ori g in. The information in this publication is available in alternate formats. Sin g le copies of extension publications (excludin g 4-H and y outh publications) are available free to Florida residents from count y extension offices. Information on copies for out-of-state purchase is available from Publications Distribution Center, Universit y of Florida, PO Box 110011, Gainesville, FL 32611-0011. Information about alternate formats is available from Educational Media and Services, Universit y of Florida, PO Box 110810, Gainesville, FL 32611-0810. This information was published June 1989 as CO 201, which is superseded b y 4HHSG01, Florida Cooperative Extension Service. 1.This document is section 1 of 14 of 4HHSG01, which supersedes CO 201, one of a series of the 4-H Youth Development Pro g ram, Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and A g ricultural Sciences, Universit y of Florida. Date first printed Au g ust 1965. Date revised June 1989. Please visit the FAIRS Website at http://hammock.ifas.ufl.edu 2.N. A. Johnson, Montana State Universit y Debbie Glauer, member of 4-H Animal Science Desi g n Team, Department of Famil y Youth and Communit y Science, Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and A g ricultural Sciences, Universit y of Florida, Gainesville, 32611.