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Interesting Facts


                              The Equidae Family


As said in the "Ancient Ancestors" section, the Equus is the nowadays horse. Therefore, all the horse-like animals have descended from the Equus, they belong to a family of mammals known as the Equidae. This family includes horses, zebras, asses, donkeys, and mules.

                                Blind Loyalty


Most animals who live in groups live by hierarchy. It means that their relationship with each other depends on each animal's rank in the group. In most cases it means that the leader(s) commands all the other ranks, and are often the only ones to breed. Animals that are one rank lower than the leaders only obey the leaders, and command all the lower ranks. And so on.


As horses live in herds as well, this is the reason some of them obey humans. Any animal whose ancestors live in groups recognises a human as an animal of its kind of a higher or lower rank. It is not always easy to influence an animal's opinion of a man.


                                      The Sky Horses


The Lippizanner is very famous breed of horses. It is named after the little town of Lippizza, where those horses were first bred. The breed is particularly famous for their talent as show horses - the horses who dance.


There are several kinds of dancing they perform - from walking very beautifully to leaping into the air, landing and leaping again a few times without having their forefeet touch the ground. It also includes the ultimate test of a horse's balance - the Levade. The horse has to rear up on its hind legs, so that the hind leg cannon bones are almost horizontal. A horse can only stay like this for a few seconds. Another trick is standing on hind legs and spinning around. Training a Lippizanner takes about ten years. Then, if the horse is talented enough, the horse is trained the most difficult movements: they are called "Airs Above the Ground." This includes the Courbette (jumping upward with its feet tucked beneath) and the capriole (leaping forward into the air several times without touching the ground with its forefeet. See picture below.) Only stallions are trained or ridden, the mares spent a happy life grazing, never touched or captured.


The Lippizanners were first trained the tricks for military purposes. The horse would jump upward to give the rider a better look around, and leap forward to break through the enemy's line or crash an opponent.

As known to many professional show horse trainers, usually the horse can already do the act, and it is just the matter of making the horse do it on command. In the wild, a stallion would stand on the hind legs, performing the Levade, in order to show off before other horses. Therefore, even the foals do Caprioles, Levades, Ballotades, and Courbettes, but while trained stallions do it for show, the foals do it for amusement.

The Lippizanners are also very special physically. It takes about ten years for a Lippizanner foal to mature. Furthermore, all Lippizanners are born black or chestnut, but they are completely white by the age of ten. Though occasionally, a foal is born that stays dark all its life. One of such foals is often kept in a performing team for good luck.


                              The Aristocrats


The Arab is the oldest registered breed of horses on Earth. It is more than 2000 years old.  The Arabian people carefully keep the pedigree (family tree) of each horse recorded, and kept in a small leather bag which is usually tied around the horse's neck.

The Arabians are counted among the fastest and toughest horses. Days of constant riding in the desert with little food or water, then fighting the enemy tribes with all might, has made the Arabians horses of great speed, power, and endurance.


Arabians are also counted among the most beautiful and graceful horses. When looking at the beauty of a horse, Arabian people look at the head first. If it is wedge shaped, with the muzzle so fine that the horse can sip tea from a tea-cup, has large antelope's eyes set wide apart and low in the face, ears turned outward with the tips pointing towards each other, then the horse is of grand quality. A long, arched neck, high carried tail, and long legs are also the signs of beauty.              


The Arabian people have no real concern for the colour of the horse. All colourings occur in Arabs, except patched and spotted (but dapple-greys are common). The skin underneath the hair is always black, to be protected from the heat. Another notable characteristic of the Arabian horse is its small size. Arabians are nothing like tiny Shetland ponies, but their size is small compared to other light breeds.

Arabians are very valuable horses. In many African countries, selling your horse is a crime. However, Arabian horses are now very popular around the world, they are being bred to other breeds, in order to improve the other breed. Many breeders' challenge today is to ensure that there will always be pure-bred Arabians.


                            The Thoroughbred


The Thoroughbreds are born racehorses. Their racing talents are gorgeous.  


The Thoroughbred breed started not so long ago. It started with three Arabian stallions - Byerly Turk, the Darrley Arabian, and the Godolphin Arabian.


                             Byerly Turk



                          Darrley Arabian



                        Godolphin Arabian

These horses were sent to the King of France as a gift from the Sultan of Morocco. But they arrived in France in a poor, half starved condition, as the ship that escorted them to France did not have enough food for the journey.

The King of France laughed at the Sultan's advice of improving the French Barb breed with the mighty sons of desert, who looked like wretched old nags by the time they arrived. The horses were sent to do unmeant jobs - cart pulling, plough pulling, and others. The Godolphin Arabian was sent to pull a cart, but was stolen and sold to another person, who, also, made him a cart horse. A rich man was looking for a horse for his son to ride, and bought the poor Arab.

However, the golden-bay, fiery Arab proved to be an unsuitable riding horse, and was sold to a horse stud owned by the Earl of Godolphin, who was looking for a sire to start a new breed of horses. There, the Godolphin Arabian was unintentionally bred with a grey Barb mare named Lady Roxana. She was originally meant for a stallion Hobgoblin. He was supposed to be the sire to start a new breed. Both the stallions fell in love with Lady Roxana, and fought. The Godolphin Arabian won. The Earl of Godolphin, angry with the Arab, sent him away. But a year after, Lady Roxana gave birth to a foal, whom the Earl had named Lath. He was the first son of the Godolphin Arabian. The Arab was returned, named as he is known today, and left to sire more horses.

Reading the book 'King of the Wind' by Marguirite Henry is recommended for more details.


Which is how the breed of the talented racers began - the Thoroubreds.


                             Mythical Horses   





Horses gave rise to all sorts of different myths and legends. There is probably no person who haven't heard about the unicorn - the mythical horse with a horn growing out of its forehead. In heraldry, this "horse" had a lion's tail, two-toed hooves, and its horn was twisted into a spiral. Not to mention the beard and the feathered feet. 




The myth of centaurs - half-men, half-horses had probably arisen when the people of ancient Greece had seen the horsemen of Thessaly. As they were not familiar with horseback riding, they believed they were seeing a new form of beings.




Legend has it that when Perseus had killed the Medusa, Pegasus - the winged horse - had sprung from her blood. But Athena had managed to tame Pegasus with a golden bridle.






In ancient Greece, it was believed that a team of four horses would pull a chariot with the Sun in it across the sky.


In the times of the Trojan war, the legendary hero Odysseus had tricked the Trojans using a wooden horse. When the Greeks were close to losing the war, Odysseus built a giant wooden horse out of the wood from wrecked ships, filled it with soldiers, and one of his men gave it to the king of Troy as a gift. The Trojans accepted the gift, and rolled it into the town, believing that the war was over. When it was night, the Greeks came out, opened the gate, and let the rest of the army inside.

Of course, the imagination of people has also created creatures like Hippogriffs, men with horse-legs, winged unicorns, flying centaurs, and some simply beastly horses.



                      Other Facts & Definitions   


Stallion - an adult male horse

Mare - an adult female horse

Gelding - a gelded adult male horse (a horse which had its reproductive organs removed)

to geld - to remove a stallion's reproductive organs

Foal - an immature horse

Colt - a male immature horse

Filly - a female immature horse

Dam - a horse's mother

Sire - a horse's father

to sire - a stallion mates a mare, and the mare gives birth to a foal - the foal is sired by the stallion

Pedigree - a horse's family tree

Stud - a farm where horses are bred

Most horses, except for certain breeds, become physically mature at the age of four years.

Other words for horses - steed, charger, nag (old horse), dam, sire, pack horse, outrunner, stud horse, trooper, troop-horse, cart-horse, work-horse, draught horse, wheelhorse.

to gallop - to run at full speed

to trot - to run a slow pace, bouncy, slightly faster than a walk

to canter - to run a slow gallop

to pace - to run at a fast pace, with the fore left foot setting out at the same time as the hind left foot, and same with the right

to rear - to stand on the hind legs


to buck - to bounce with the withers up and head down


to perform a Courbette - to jump without touching the ground with the forefeet

to perform a Capriole - to leap forward several times without touching the ground with the forefeet

to perform a Levade - stand on the hind legs so that the cannon bone is almost parallel with the ground



Copyright(c) 2003 Ekaterina Romanova. All Rights Reserved.