Top Horse Myths, Misconceptions, & the Actual Facts
Horses are one of the oldest domesticated mammals on the planet, often used for a wide variety of domestic, commercial, personal, conflict, and entertainment purposes. Although modern-day horse usage is largely confined to events, shows, races, and entertainment, there are several myths and misconceptions about equines that can seem pretty far-fetched and quite inaccurate at times. Therefore, we will attempt to bust some of the most common misconceptions about equines, and offer you the most accurate facts that can set the record straight once and for all.
#1: Horses Only Sleep Standing Up
It is common for horses to take a snooze while standing up, as it suits their flight response during the threat of imminent danger. Horses are extremely fast on their feet, but once they lie down, it takes a while to get up. Therefore, these creatures generally prefer to nap while on their feet, especially if they are kept inside a stable under tight confines. However, steeds do lie down often for deep REM sleep for proper muscle and brain recovery, which is usually recommended by vets and trainers for boosting the equine’s immune system. Sound sleep is imperative for improving overall health and performance. Sleeping while lying down happens typically in a group when horses are in their natural habitat, where only a single or a couple of steeds sleep standing up to sense any danger and warn others of the impending attack. Therefore, the myth that horses can only sleep while standing up is entirely false.
#2 Horses Can Grin, Smile, and Laugh at Us
There is never a more satisfying sensation than witnessing our steeds smiling back at us or grinning from ear to ear, displaying their magnificent teeth in the process. Although it is a spectacle to behold, horses aren’t really smiling or laughing at us, as it is merely a process known as Flehmen response. When steeds twirl up their noses and curl up their lips, they are actually enhancing their noses to take in the scent, so that it can reach the olfactory glands that are located at the end of their nasal passages. Unlike other species, the horse glands for sensing smell is located quite deep inside the nasal passage, which is why we always get the impression that our equines are smiling at our jokes when in reality, they are just breathing in the air to have a better sense of the scents around them.
#3 Horses Communicate with Each Other Only Using Neighs and Whinnies
Horses are just like humans, as they can make use of their body language and facial expressions to communicate with each other. Therefore, the myth that equines can only communicate using neighs and whinnying is absolutely false. Of course, these sounds are indeed a part of their communication process, but they also make other sounds with minuscule variations that have different meanings and interpretations. Usually, we do find that horses are silent and only display sounds when they are agitated, which makes it easy to understand why this myth could have originated in the first place.
#4 Horse Riding Is Easy and Is Not Considered as Exercise
One of the most popular myths in the equine industry is that horse riding is just too easy and can be performed by anybody. Of course, you must ask someone who has ridden a horse before for an accurate answer, as professional horse riders and jockeys make it look quite simple and elegant. Horse riding is a skill that can only be acquired with experience, as a horse can instantly recognise the difference between a seasoned rider and an amateur. A rider has to use his entire body to balance and steer the equine through the paces, which ensures a full body workout within minutes. New riders have reported feeling sore throughout their body for up to 3 days after a horse ride, which speaks volumes regarding whether horse riding is a strenuous activity or not.
#5 Horses See the World in Black and White
Colour-blindness in equines is a subjective matter, but they don’t see in the world in black and white, unlike their smaller four-legged companions such as dogs and cats. Of course, horses have a limited spectrum of colour recognition that varies from blue to green, while red and yellow are difficult to be distinguished. Therefore, they don’t have the full visibility of colours as us humans, but they can see more colours than cats or dogs. Additionally, these animals also have excellent eyesight at night or in low-light conditions, which works in their favour in the wild.
#6 Horses Are Bigger Versions of Dogs
It is easy to term equines as merely a larger cousin of dogs due to the ease of training new tricks, but they are inherently different species. Dogs are predatory carnivorous animals that feed on meat, while horses are herbivorous animals that often fall prey to other carnivores in the wild. Horses are known to dwell in groups in the wild, but they are not packed animals and do not heed to an alpha. Therefore, raising a horse is significantly different from raising a dog, but you can teach tricks to both.
#7 Horses Are Not Smart
Another common misconception is that horses are quite dumb and that they do not follow instructions precisely. Contrary to the myth, horses are incredibly smart creatures that have a unique capability of assessing their trainers and evaluating the riders to understand their temperament. Therefore, if any amateur tries to mount the horse, ride it, or ask it to perform tricks, the horse may not comply, which is simply down to the inefficiency of the rider. A professional and expert trainer can perform wonders with an equine, especially if it is a compliant horse such as the Irish Draught or the Irish Draught Sport Horse.
#8 Horses can’t stand cold water
There is no substantial evidence that horses can’t consume cold waters, as horses in the wild always drink water from streams and rivers that are sometimes close to freezing temperatures. However, they don’t prefer drinking cold water immediately after a workout, as equines are considered to be warm-blooded creatures that take some time to cool off after a spirited workout. Therefore, the misconception is usually associated with an after-workout drink, and there aren’t any health issues allied with the consumption of cold water.
Although some myths may be mere misconceptions, there are some traditional facts that still hold true when it comes to the physical characteristics of an equine. Therefore, make sure that you check and verify the facts before blindly trusting any information that you may come across.