The horse is a mammal which before the advent of mechanized vehicles was widely used as a draft animal and riding on horseback was one of the chief means of transportation.
Under domestication the horse has diversified into three major types, based on size and build: draft horses, ponies, and light horses. From the dun of the primitive horse has sprung a variety of colours and patterns, some highly variable and difficult to distinguish. Among the most important colours are black, bay, chestnut (and sorrel), palomino, cream, and white.
Form and Function of the Horse:
A mature male horse is called a stallion, the female a mare. A stallion used for breeding is known as a stud. A castrated stallion is commonly called a gelding. Formerly, stallions were employed as riding horses, while mares were kept for breeding purposes only. Geldings were used for work and as ladies’ riding horses.
Recently, however, geldings generally have replaced stallions as riding horses. Young horses are known as foals; male foals are called colts and females fillies. The horse’s general form is characteristic of an animal of speed. The rounded skull houses a large and complex brain, well developed in those areas that direct muscle coordination.
Nutrition and Behaviour:
The horse’s natural food is grass. For stabled horses, the diet generally consists of hay and grain. The animal should not be fed immediately before or after work, to avoid digestive problems. Fresh water is important, especially when the horse is shedding its winter coat, but the animal should never be watered when it is overheated after working.
Oats provide the greatest nutritional value and are given especially to foals. The horse’s nervous system is highly developed and gives proof to varying degrees of the essential faculties that are the basis of intelligence: instinct, memory, and judgment.
History of the Horse:
In prehistoric times the wild horse was probably first hunted for food. When its domestication took place is unknown, but it certainly was long after the domestication of the dog or of cattle. It is supposed that the horse was first used by a tribe of Indo-European origin that lived in the steppes north of the chain of mountains adjacent to the Black and Caspian seas. Influenced by climate, food, and humans, the horse rapidly acquired its present form.
Importance of the Horse:
The relationship of the horse to humans has been unique. The horse is a partner and friend. It plowed fields and brought in the harvest, hauled goods and conveyed passengers, followed game and tracked cattle, and carried combatants into battle and adventurers to unknown lands.
It has provided recreation in the form of jousts, tournaments, carousels, and the sport of riding. The influence of the horse is expressed in the English language in such terms as chivalry and cavalier, which connote honour, respect, good manners, and straightforwardness.
Thus, the horse is an important mammal on the land. It is of great help to the humans and with a fine sense of smell and hearing, which enables them to sense water, fire, even distant danger. An extremely well-developed sense of direction permits the horse to find its way back to its stables even at night or after a prolonged absence.