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The Magestically Beautiful Horse

Updated on February 4, 2014

Horses: Companions to Humans

Horses are magnificently beautiful but large and strong animals, with hoofs and a long mane and tail. People use horses for riding. Horses are also used to carry heavy loads or pull wagons, carriages, plows, or just for recreation.

For thousands of years, the horse has been one of the most useful animals. They stood beside Mankind . They once gave man the fastest and surest way for travel across the lands. Hunters mounted on their horses chased and killed animals. Fighters and soldiers fought battles on their strong and powerful war horses. Pioneers used horses to settle the American West in the days of stagecoaches, covered wagons, and the pony express.

Today horses are not used for work and transportation as they once were. As time advanced into modern days You will find that in most countries, they have been replaced by the 'iron horse' and the 'horseless carriage.' But some people still use horses. A few still use horses for work, while many others keep their horses for recreation and sports. .

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Information on care of Horses

Taking Good Care of Your Horse to Keep Him/Her Healthy

Choosing the right feed and diet for Horses

Horses need different levels of feed and nutrition in their diet depending on age, current weight, activity level and overall health. An equine's stomach is a delicate balance of getting the right proteins, grains, hay, supplements, water intake and proper digestions of these substances. With literally hundreds of different feed types available, this can be quite challenging for a new or even veteran horse owners.

Pasture

The most natural food for horses is good quality pasture. Most mature pleasure horses doing light work will do well on pasture alone if they have sufficient grazing. However, horses are selective grazers and need a large area to meet their nutritional needs. Just because a field is green does not mean it contains sufficient grazing for a horse, and depending on where you live, for a large part of the year pasture is not available.

You can optimize the amount of grazing available by dividing your pasture into sections and rotating your horses through the different paddocks. That way, you give the grass a chance to grow back and can pick up the manure.

Hay

Hay is the basic food of domestic horses. Only feed good quality hay to horses. Inspect hay carefully before buying it, asking the seller to open a bale. Make sure the bales are green and dust and mold free. Stick your hand down into the centre of a bale to make sure it's not warm. Feeding moldy hay can cause colic and dusty hay can cause respiratory problems. (To avoid dust, it's a good idea to pull the flakes apart and shake them out well before feeding. As a precaution, you can also soak hay before feeding.)

The type of hay available varies according to the area you live in. Three basic types in Alberta are grass hay, alfalfa hay and grass/alfalfa mix. Common grasses are timothy and brome. Alfalfa has a higher protein content than grass. Many horse people consider a grass/alfalfa mix the best for horses, and timothy/brome/alfalfa is a common combination.

Alfalfa is also available in cubes and pellets. However, horses need chew time to be content, so except for veterinary reasons, most people feed some hay. Some horses have a tendency to choke on cubes. To be safe, you can soften cubes with water before feeding.

Do not feed your horse grass clippings as they can cause founder.

Concentrates

Hay alone cannot provide enough nutrition for hard-working horses, pregnant and nursing mares, or growing youngsters. They need concentrates to supplement the hay. However, hay should still provide the bulk of the diet. Feeding too much grain can cause problems.

Concentrates include grains (whole, rolled or cracked), sweet feed (grain mixed with molasses), and manufactured feeds (pellets, cubes, or extruded). You can buy bags of feed specially formulated for every stage of a horse's life from creep feed for foals to feed for senior equines.

Beet pulp provides additional bulk. Beet pellets must be soaked before feeding to allow them to expand. If you use hot water, they expand in about an hour, but with cold water, allow overnight soaking. Only prepare enough for one day's feeding at a time.

Salt and Minerals

A mineralized salt block should be available free-choice. You can also buy a variety of other vitamin, mineral and herbal supplements. Consult your veterinarian.

Water

Fresh water is a vital part of your horse's diet. Horses drink from 5 to 10 gallons a day.

Clean water should be available at all times except when the horse is very hot from work. As you cool out your horse, allow him to take several small drinks rather than giving him free access to water.

While horses can survive on snow in the winter, it is far from ideal. The horse's body has to melt a lot of snow to get enough water, thus wasting body heat. A horse not getting enough water is more liable to impaction colic. An inexpensive stock tank heater can keep the water trough ice-free.

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First Horses Ever Recorded in History.

The first fossils of this genus were found in England and described by the paleontologist Richard Owen in 1841. Suspecting that his species was a hyrax due to its teeth, but lacking parts of the skeleton, Owen called it a "Hyrax-like beast" and placed it in the new genus Hyracotherium. In 1876 in America Othniel C. Marsh found a full skeleton, which he placed in another new genus, Eohippus ("dawn horse"). When it became apparent that the two genera were likely one and the same, Eohippus for a time became a synonym of Hyracotherium, the genus with the earlier date of publication.

Evolution of the Horse

The evolution of the horse pertains to the phylogenetic ancestry of the modern horse from the fox-sized, forest-dwelling Hyracotherium over geologic time scales. Paleozoologists have been able to piece together a more complete picture of the modern horse's evolutionary lineage than that of any other animal.

The horse belongs to an order known as Perissodactyla, or "odd-toed ungulates", which all share hoofed feet and an odd number of toes on each foot, as well as mobile upper lips and a similar tooth structure. This means that horses share a common ancestry with tapirs and rhinoceroses. The perissodactyls originally arose in the late Paleocene, less than 10 million years after the Cretaceous-Tertiary extinction event. This group of animals appears to have been originally specialized for life in tropical forests, but whereas tapirs and, to some extent, rhinoceroses, retained their jungle specializations, modern horses are adapted to life on drier land in the much-harsher climatic conditions of the steppes. Other species of Equus are adapted to a variety of intermediate conditions.

The early ancestors of the modern horse walked on several spread-out toes, an accommodation to life spent walking on the soft, moist grounds of primeval forests. As grass species began to appear and flourish, the equids' diets shifted from foliage to grasses, leading to larger and more durable teeth. At the same time, as the steppes began to appear, the horse's predecessors needed to be capable of greater speeds to outrun predators. This was attained through the lengthening of limbs and the lifting of some toes from the ground in such a way that the weight of the body was gradually placed on one of the longest toes, the third.

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A Bit of History on the Horse

The legend states that the first horse emerged from the depth of the ocean during the churning of the oceans. It was a horse with white color and had two wings. It was known by the name of Uchchaihshravas. The legend continues that Indra, one of the gods of the Hindus, took away the mythical horse to his celestial abode, the svarga (heaven). Subsequently, Indra severed the wings of the horse and presented the same to the mankind. The wings were severed to ensure that the horse remain on the earth (prithvi) and does not fly back to Indra's suvarga.

According to Aurobindo (Secret of the Veda, pp. 44), Asva may not always denote the horse. Aurobindo argued that the words asva and asvavati symbolize energy. Asva or ratha was also interpreted to be sometimes the "psycho-physical complex on which the Atman stands or in which it is seated". In another symbolic interpretation based on RV 1.164.2 and Nirukta 4.4.27, asva may also sometimes symbolize the sun.

Remains of horses have been found among other places in Mahagara near Allahabad (dated to c. 2265 BC to 1480 BC, described as Equus ferus caballus Linn), Hallur in Karnataka (c.1500 - 1300 BC, described as Equus ferus caballus), Mohenjo-Daro, Harappa ("small horse"), Lothal (e.g., a terracotta figurine and a molar horse tooth, dated to 2200 BC), Kalibangan, and Kuntasi (dated to 2300 - 1900 BC). Horse remains from the Harappan site Surkotada (dated to c. 2400-1700 BC) have been identified by A.K. Sharma as Equus ferus caballus. The horse specialist Sandor Bökönyi (1997) later confirmed these conclusions and stated that the excavated tooth specimens could "in all probability be considered remnants of true horses [i.e. Equus ferus caballus]". Bökönyi stated that "The occurrence of true horse (Equus caballus L.) was evidenced by the enamel pattern of the upper and lower cheek and teeth and by the size and form of incisors and phalanges (toe bones)." . However, others like Meadow (1997) still disagree, because remains of the Equus ferus caballus horse are difficult to distinguish even by specialists from other horse species like Equus asinus (donkeys) or Equus hemionus (onagers). An alleged clay model of a horse has been found in Mohenjo-Daro and an alleged horse figurine in Periano Ghundai in the Indus Valley.

Trautmann (1982) thus remarked that the supply and import of horses has "always" been a preoccupation of the Indians and that "it is a structure of its history, then, that India has always been dependent upon western and central Asia for horses." . The paucity of horse remains could also be explained by India's climatic factors which lead to a faster decay of horse bones. Horse bones may also be rare because horses were probably not eaten or used in burials by the Harappans.

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Different Types Of Proto-Horses

First Types of Horses Ever Found

The earliest animal to bear recognizably horse-like anatomy was the Hyracotherium ("hyrax-like beast"). Its scientific name is derived from initial confusion over early partial fossils' relationship with living species: Richard Owen likened early Hyracotherium fossils "to a hare in one passage and to something between a hog and a hyrax in another"A later name for the Hyracotherium, "eohippus" ("dawn horse"), is also popular, though the earlier name takes precedence due to scientific naming conventions.

Hyracotherium lived in the Ypresian (early Eocene), about 52 mya (million years ago). It was an animal approximately the size of a fox (250-450 mm in height), with a relatively short head and neck and a springy, arched back. It had 44 low-crowned teeth, in the typical arrangement of an omnivorous, browsing mammal: 3 incisors, 1 canine, 4 premolars, and 3 molars on each side of the jaw. Its molars were uneven, dull, and bumpy, and used primarily for grinding foliage. The cusps of the molars were slightly connected in low crests. The Hyracotherium browsed on soft foliage and fruit, probably scampering between thickets in the mode of a modern muntjac; the Hyracotherium had a small brain, and possessed especially small frontal lobes.

Hyracotherium, with left forefoot (third metacarpal colored) and tooth (a enamel; b dentin; c cement) detailed.

Its limbs were decently long relative to its body, already showing the beginnings of adaptations for running. However, all of the major leg bones were unfused, leaving the legs flexible and rotatable. Its wrist and hock joints were low to the ground. The forelimbs had developed five toes, out of which only four were equipped with a small proto-hoof; the large fifth "toe-thumb" was off the ground. The hind limbs had three out of the five toes equipped with small hooves, while the vestigial first and fifth toes did not touch the ground. Its feet were padded, much like a dog's, but with the small hooves on each toe in place of claws.

Orohippus

The most dramatic change between Hyracotherium and Orohippus was in the teeth: the first of the premolar teeth were dwarfed, the last premolar shifted in shape and function into a molar, and the crests on the teeth became more pronounced. Both of these factors gave the teeth of Orohippus greater grinding ability, suggesting that Orohippus ate tougher plant material.

Epihippus

In the mid-Eocene, about 47 million years ago, Epihippus, a genus which continued the evolutionary trend of increasingly efficient grinding teeth, evolved from Orohippus. Epihippus had five grinding, low-crowned cheek teeth with well-formed crests. A late species of Epihippus, sometimes referred to as Duchesnehippus intermedius, had teeth similar to Oligocene equids, although slightly less developed. Whether Duchesnehippus was a subgenus of Epihippus or a distinct genus is disputed.

Mesohippus

In response to the changing environment, the then-living species of Equidae also began to change. In the late Eocene, they began developing tougher teeth and becoming slightly larger and leggier, allowing for faster running speeds in open areas, and thus for evading predators in non-wooded areas. About 40 mya, Mesohippus ("middle horse") suddenly developed in response to strong new selective pressures to adapt, beginning with the species Mesohippus celer and soon followed by Mesohippus westoni.

In the early Oligocene, Mesohippus was one of the more widespread mammals in North America. It walked on three toes on each of its front and hind feet (the first and fifth toes remained, but were small and not used in walking). The third toe was stronger than the outer ones, and thus more weighted; the fourth front toe was diminished to a vestigial nub. Judging by its longer and slimmer limbs, Mesohippus was an agile animal.

Mesohippus was slightly larger than Epihippus, about 610 mm (24") at the shoulder. Its back was less arched, and its face, snout, and neck were somewhat longer. It had significantly larger cerebral hemispheres, and had a small, shallow depression on its skull called a fossa, which in modern horses is quite detailed. The fossa serves as a useful marker for identifying an equine fossil's species. Mesohippus had six grinding "cheek teeth", with a single premolar in front-a trait all descendant Equidae would retain. Mesohippus also had the sharp tooth crests of Epihippus, improving its ability to grind down tough vegetation.

Miohippus

Around 36 million years ago, soon after the development of Mesohippus, Miohippus ("lesser horse") emerged, the earliest species being Miohippus assiniboiensis. Like Mesohippus, Miohippus's evolution was relatively abrupt, though a few transitional fossils linking the two genera have been found. It was once believed that Mesohippus had anagenetically evolved into Miohippus by a gradual series of progressions, but new evidence has shown that Miohippus's evolution was cladogenetic: a Miohippus population split off from the main Mesohippus genus, coexisted with Mesohippus for around 4 million years, and then over time came to replace Mesohippus.

Miohippus was significantly larger than its predecessors, and its ankle joints had subtly changed. Its facial fossa was larger and deeper, and it also began to show a variable extra crest in its upper cheek teeth, a trait that became a characteristic feature of equine teeth.

Miohippus ushered in a major new period of diversification in Equidae. While Mesohippus died out in the mid-Oligocene, Miohippus continued to thrive, and in the early Miocene (24-5.3 mya), it began to rapidly diversify and speciate. It branched out into two major groups, one of which adjusted to the life in forests once again, while the other remained suited to life on the prairies.

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Majestic Beautiful Horses Feedback

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      anonymous 6 years ago

      Wow. I've always thought about The Magestically Beautiful Horse! Great lens.

    • SusanDeppner profile image

      Susan Deppner 6 years ago from Arkansas USA

      Wow, lots of information on horses here. I'm anxious to see a lens about your horses!

    • delia-delia profile image

      Delia 6 years ago

      Hello from a Squidoo Greeter! Very nice Horse Lens...I'm a horse enthusiast all my life...so do love horses...I enjoyed your lens, just be careful with images and written copy not to infringe on copyrights, that's just to protect you.