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A horse’s markings and hair patterns are so individual, they can be used to identify one horse from another. All horses, ponies and donkeys in the UK now need to have their own passport and their color and markings are recorded here so we know who is who.
Before you see what a horse's passport looks like, you'll need to know the names for the various markings that horses can have.
Grey - This is when horses have a lot of white in their coat. They are normally dark at first and become lighter and lighter with age until they are almost fully white. They can have darker skin, eyes and muzzle than the rest of their body. The horse in the photos is Holy Bull, who raced in America and is now a Darley stallion. You can see that he has become much lighter since he went to stud. His speckled color is called “flea-bitten grey.”
These are the most common colors for thoroughbreds, but in other breeds there are a variety of other different colors and colour combinations, such as:
Markings are the areas of white hair found on a horse's body. In thoroughbreds, this white is found on the legs or the face.
White pastern - where the horse's leg is covered in white up to the top of the pastern
The other markings used to identify horses are chestnuts and whorls.
A whorl is like the top of our head, where the hair changes direction. In a horse, it looks like a little whirlpool of hair, circling around itself. They can be located anywhere and no two horses will have the same pattern. They are usually found somewhere on the crest, the stifle and often on the legs.
Below are the official diagrams that need to be filled in by a vet to go into a horse's passport. There are no photos inside the passport, only these diagrams.
The highest point of the horse is the top of its head, which we now know is called the poll.
As horses can move their heads up and down a lot, it’s very difficult to measure their height from the ground to the poll.
So instead, a horse is measured from the ground to the top of his withers. Can you remember where the withers are? (Hint: have a look at points of the horse).
Horses are not measured in metres and centimetres in the UK, Ireland and the USA like we are. Instead, hands are the unit we use to measure horses.
So, what is a hand?
One Hand = four inches, or about 10cm. It is called a hand because it originally equated to the width of a man's hand.
If a horse is more than an exact number of hands high, the extra inches are given after a full stop. For example, 14 hands 2 inches is written as 14.2hh.
The average height of a thoroughbred is 16.0hh.
Have a look at the height chart to see how the horse grows from one month to four years of age.
The photos below show some different breeds of horse and their average heights:
Horses developed in the wild as prey animals, so their senses are tuned to protect them from predators. They have the same senses as ours: sight, hearing, smell, taste and touch but they work in slightly different ways.
Horses have the largest eyes of any land mammal and are found on the side of the head. This means horses have the widest field of vision possible when grazing and they can see from nearly every direction (see diagram below). Horses can not see what is happening directly below their nose (so their sense of smell and whiskers are very important) or above their head where they are often sensitive to being touched. Neither can they see directly behind them, which is why you should never approach a horse from behind. It is best to approach horses from the side so they can see you properly.
Horses can’t see as well as us, but if an object is visible to both eyes they have very good depth ‘perception’ which means they can judge how far away it is. They can do this much better than us which is why they are so good at jumping. The only other animal like this is the cat and they usually land on their feet when they jump too!
Horses have long ears on the top of their heads and the movement of the ears can tell you a lot about a horse. They use their ears to listen to what is going on in front and behind and can tell the difference between a lot more individual sounds than we can.
However, because they hear so well they don't like loud noises. If you approach a horse from the side you should speak in a calm, soothing voice and this way they can use their sense of hearing to tell that you are a friend.
When horses put their ears forward (like Consolidator above) they are straining to hear and showing a keen interest in what is going on around them. When they put their ears back (like in the photo to the left) they are closing their ears to show they are feeling angry or aggressive.
Horses like to use their sense of smell as much as they can. To do this they will approach with their neck stretched out and their nose pointed towards the object they want to smell.
The sense of smell is very important to horses, as it is how they recognize each other. For example, a mare can identify her foal by its smell and pick it out of a large herd. Because horses have lots of teeth, they have a bigger area inside their nose to help them smell. This means that they can smell over a hundred times better than we can.
If you allow horses to smell the back of your hand and approach them with your arm out-stretched, they will know that you are a friend and can trust you.
Thoroughbreds have much thinner skin than other breeds of horse, which means they are quite sensitive to touch. They use their whiskers to identify an object below their nose and check out the texture of food. Horses also have whiskers (like eyebrows) above their eyes which protect them and warn them if anything is too close to their eyes.
Horses show their friendship by scratching one another with their teeth; you can make friends with some horses by scratching them in certain places where they can't reach, such as the withers. If the horse wants to return the show of friendship he will begin to scratch you with his teeth!
A horse has two sets of teeth during its life and just like we lose our baby teeth, a horse loses his milk teeth during his first few years of life with a permanent set replacing them.
An adult horse should have forty teeth (count yours, how many do you have?) They have:
You can work out how old a horse is by looking at its teeth. Here’s how:
Peas and beans, linseed oil, oats or barley
Lean meat, lentils, beans
Peas and beans, oats, barley or maize
Potatoes, pasta, rice, bread
Sugar beet, bran or hay
Fruit and vegetables, bran flakes!
|Fats and Oils||
Linseed or sunflower oil
Butter, oil, cheese
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