I love getting questions from people who genuinely want to know more about the horse world. Just as I enjoy learning new things I also enjoy facilitating the learning of others. Unfortunately not every horse person feels this sentiment; many forums and Facebook groups will have a post or three where equestrians complain about questions non-horse people ask or say. Below are ten common things I hear from people, and if you have any other questions please drop me a line at Get in Touch! so I can feature it on the next list or even write an article completely focused on your question!
1.What’s on his face? Is he blind?
If you see a mask on a horse’s face in the pasture this is called a fly mask. It is made of a mesh fabric that allows the horse to see but keeps flies out. This is particularly useful in the hot days of summer when flies and mosquitoes are at their worst. Some horses get eye infections very easily from insects and this helps to keep them comfortable.
Some masks even offer UV protections from the sun. This is particularly useful for light colored horses who are susceptible to sunburn or dark horses susceptible to photo bleaching and overheating.
2. Can I ride your horse?
Assume the answer is no. In fact most people are very uncomfortable when asked this because they really don’t want to come across as rude by saying no. Get to know the person and their horse because it is always case by case.
Horses are a major liability. Some people are unable to allow you to ride their horse because of legal stipulations. Since horses are such unpredictable animals their owners are advised not to allow others ride.
Additionally, not all horses are the same nor are they trained the same. Horse owners put a lot of time into training the horse to the way they see fit and having others ride the horse can interfere with the training.
Moreover, privately owned horses are rarely like the dead-broke ones you ride at the dude-ranch. They are often spookier, more forward, and have minds of their own. They require a different level of skill to ride than just a passenger. Some horses are like that but you can’t assume they’ll be that way.
When you ask a person if you can ride their horse there are a lot of reasons they may feel uncomfortable with the situation. Don’t take it personally and respect their space.
3. I’ve ridden horses before…
That’s great, where? What style? When? What did you do?
Riding a horse at a dude ranch is nothing like riding “real” horses. Yes you are on a horse but often these ranch horses are so well trained to accept passengers that they simply stay in like and follow the leader. Once you’re on a horse that “knows how to horse” the game is changed completely. You need to become a rider instead of a passenger and you need to take control. This is where balance, body carriage, seat, legs, head position, posture, and hands all play a major role. If you want to ride correctly you need to master all of these things simultaneously while handling the half ton animal regardless of the situation.
You also need to have serious control over your reactions and emotions. Horses feel minute changes as you tense under the slightest nervousness. On any horse other than the well broke ranch horse this can cause a multitude of potential adverse reactions; bucking, rearing, and taking off are more possible. An under prepared over confident rider can get hurt very easily in these situations so it’s best to allow professionals to help guide you.
4. What do you feed him?
Every horse has different metabolic and nutritional needs. In general, however, a healthy horse typically needs to eat 1-2% it’s body weight every day. Need real numbers?
Take Blade. He is a 16.1 hand 1100 lbs thoroughbred horse. He’s of a healthy weight and doesn’t work very hard for a living. He tends to have a higher metabolism so he eats a little more than average. He eats 1.5-2.0% of his body weight….roughly 16.5-22 pounds every day. This is everything including hay and grain. Hay doesn’t cover all of his nutritional requirements so the grain helps to cover the minerals he’s otherwise missing. Check out The Inside Scoop: Warrior’s Blade to get a look inside his daily regimen!
5. How much do they poop?
A lot. Is it fair to say a lot? No? Ok then.
Some horses poop more than others (like Blade) but typically 6-8 times per day. With Blade I often expect him to poop 4 times during any training session from grooming him to putting him back out to pasture. He’s well known on our farm as a mighty pooper. At least I know he’s working properly and no blockages in that department!
6. The horse does all the work…
I implore you to take a ride in those stirrups. Horseback riding requires balance, a strong core, a deep seat along with good posture and excellent body control to ensure you’re not throwing your weight around on the horses back. A 50 pound child flopping around on a horses back could pose higher risk of damage to a horse than a 120 pound rider with excellent core and body control. Timing is critical and good overall fitness is fundamental in order to success in any sustained riding.
7. They can’t lay down, right?
Actually they can. Many like to take afternoon naps in the sun or lay down to sleep at night. Because it takes so much energy to get up they rarely do lay down unless they feel totally safe and secure. Some “herds” all take naps together while others take turns napping and keeping lookout.
8. How do they sleep?
Horses have evolved to require much less sleep than humans. Over the course of the day they will often sneak naps several minutes long. In total they might average around 3 hours per day. During their naps they can stand upright. For deep sleep they do lay down but they need to feel safe and secure in order to do so.
9. It’s just a horse…
It’s better if you filter this phrase our before the words leave your lips but it is something I hear often. There is a deep bond between horse-owners and their equines and it is indescribable. Until you feel that connection you may never understand so please be aware and try to understand the existence of this bond.
There is a feeling one gets when you are able to connect with such a massive animal; to communicate with this animal. Most horse owners are able to communicate better with their horse than with other humans. The horse and owner become a team mentally, physically, and dare I say it, spiritually. A horse owner notices the slightest change in a horses temperament or behavior and can sense when something’s amiss. Just the same when the human is feeling blue the horse knows. This is a point of pride among horse people and it’s part of the fiber that makes us who we are. To say the “it’s just a horse” takes away parts of our very being.
10. Where do you keep it, in your backyard?
Not likely. Most people board their horses with others at a private farm. The farm owner and horse owner agree to a monthly fee and discuss the expectations and the horse stays on this farm. Depending on the agreement the farm owner may feed, turnout, and care for the horse or it may be up to the horse owner to provide all the care. This varies from farm to farm so horse owners often need to decide what’s important to them in order to find the perfect situation.