Front Cover
 Origin of the horse
 Functional divisions of the...

Title: 4-H horse program : horse science
Full Citation
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00078697/00001
 Material Information
Title: 4-H horse program : horse science
Physical Description: Book
Creator: 4-H Youth Development Program, Florida Cooperative Extension Service, University of Florida
Publisher: 4-H Youth Development Program, Florida Cooperative Extension Service, University of Florida
Subject: University of Florida.   ( lcsh )
Spatial Coverage: North America -- United States of America -- Florida
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00078697
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved, Board of Trustees of the University of Florida

Table of Contents
    Front Cover
        Page 1
        Page 2
    Origin of the horse
        Page 3
    Functional divisions of the horse
        Page 4
        Page 5
        Page 6
        Page 7
        Page 8
Full Text


The publications in this collection do
not reflect current scientific knowledge
or recommendations. These texts
represent the historic publishing
record of the Institute for Food and
Agricultural Sciences and should be
used only to trace the historic work of
the Institute and its staff. Current IFAS
research may be found on the
Electronic Data Information Source

site maintained by the Florida
Cooperative Extension Service.

Copyright 2005, Board of Trustees, University
of Florida

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

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

Since the time of ancient civilizations, the horse has served
man well. He was first a war machine and that was his principal
role until World War II. Likewise, the modem age has also
relieved him of heavy duty as a beast of burden. But, the horse is
not yet about to be turned out to pasture. He is now serving man in
a greater way than ever before as a means of recreation and escape
from pressure and tension of present-day living. This great
versatility is possessed only by the horse because of his (1)
anatomical structure and function, (2) speed and endurance, and
(3) fear of being hurt. The combination of these characteristics has
made it possible for man to obtain performance from the horse far
beyond what is possible with any other animal.


The 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
mesohippuss). 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


Page 3

Fossil remains have definitely established that the horse
originated in North America beginning with eohippus. There may
have been an earlier five-toed ancestor but no fossil remains have
so far been found.
The third and final stage in the evolution of the horse into his
present form (equus) also took place in North America but this
species completely died out for reasons yet unknown. Fortunately,
some of the population escaped to Asia during the Ice Age (about
one million years after eohippus) by way of what may have been
a land bridge in the Bering Strait area between Alaska and Siberia.
It was, therefore, in Asia and Europe that the horse completed his
development and was domesticated. He did not return to North
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 modem 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.

Q UARE ... R .


June 1989

Horse Science: Behavior and Nature of the Horse


The Head and Neck

The 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

Page 4

closer than four feet. Likewise, the horse cannot see directly
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
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.







June 1989

Horse Science: Behavior and Nature of the Horse

The Forehand Assembly

Although 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 due
to their feet hurting from lack of exercise.


Page 5

The horse is suspended between his front legs. The front legs
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 Assembly

This is the horse's powerhouse or propeller and serves to push
the horse along in motion. The hind feet and legs also offer support
at 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.


June 1989

Horse Science: Behavior and Nature of the Horse

While the horse's center of gravity is located about six inches
behind the elbow, the center of motion, however, is located
approximately over the 15th vertebra. This bony structure is the
most upright member of the spinal column and on a mature horse
is about 10 inches back of the center of gravity. The horse in
motion goes with these two centers in their relative positions. The
position of the center of gravity, however, can be altered by the
rider shifting his weight from side to side or front to rear. The
horse himself can even shift the center of gravity by raising,
lowering or extending his head. In contrast, the center of motion
appears to be rather fixed. A rider's weight, positioned as nearly as
possible over the center of motion, offers the greatest stability and
interferes with motion the least. Weight too far back lessens the
horse's propelling power.

The Power of Association

In 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

Page 6

to teach a horse a particular movement or response, the appropriate
signal must first be given and then followed immediately with
some stronger force or punishment which will result in the horse
responding in the desired manner. Once the horse has learned the
lesson, the punishment must be stopped and not used again except
as a necessary reminder. Reversing the sequence of signal and
punishment will only confuse the horse.
Horses are born with a certain amount of intelligence which
must be developed by training and good habits. What a horse
knows he must be taught by man and, depending on training, this
can either be good or bad.
The horse may shy at unfamiliar objects. He may also shy at
familiar objects not in their usual place. Regardless, the horse must
never be punished in such situations or due to his power of
association he may develop the bad habit of shying at every strange
object he sees. With his attention focused on the unfamiliar object
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.

\ L'


June 1989

Horse Science: Behavior and Nature of the Horse


June 1989

Page 7

1. This document is section 1 of 14 of 4HHSG01, which supersedes CO 201, one of a series of the 4-H Youth
Development Program, Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University
of Florida. Date first printed August 1965. Date revised June 1989. Please visit the FAIRS Website at

2. N. A. Johnson, Montana State University. Debbie Glauer, member of 4-H Animal Science Design Team, Department
of Family, Youth and Community Science, Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural
Sciences, University of Florida, Gainesville, 32611.

Cooperative Extension Service
Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences

Taylor Waddill, Director, in cooperation with the United States Department of Agriculture, publishes this information to further the purpose of
the May 8 and June 30, 1914 Acts of Congress; and is authorized to provide research, educational information and other services only to
individuals and institutions that function without regard to race, color, age, sex, handicap or national origin. The information in this publication
is available in alternate formats. Single copies of extension publications (excluding 4-H and youth publications) are available free to Florida
residents from county extension offices. Information on copies for out-of-state purchase is available from Publications Distribution Center,
University of Florida, PO Box 110011, Gainesville, FL 32611-0011. Information about alternate formats is available from Educational Media and
Services, University of Florida, PO Box 110810, Gainesville, FL 32611-0810. This information was published June 1989 as CO 201, which is
superseded by 4HHSG01, Florida Cooperative Extension Service.

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