Ever since I can remember I have held a deep seated, profound, intense fascination with horses. To me they are the pinnacle of beauty, with their delicate heads, kind, intelligent eyes, flowing gaits. Like anything of intrigue, they are full of contradictions; powerful and gentle, strong and graceful, humble and spirited, bold and beautiful.
Hanging out with horses and riding them is my yoga and my therapy. There is a famous anonymous saying “In my opinion, a horse is the animal to have. Eleven-hundred pounds of raw muscle, power, grace, and sweat between your legs – it’s something you just can’t get from a pet hamster “. There is, without a shadow of a doubt, something incredibly thrilling and humbling to be allowed to ride these formidable, powerful animals. Every time I am on the back of a horse I count my lucky stars and am full of gratitude to them, and in awe of nature.
And clearly I am not alone, there are millions of Britons who ride, in fact riding is more popular then fishing, rugby and cricket. Horses first came in to human life through necessity, their strength, cooperation and their ability to learn meant they were used for everything; transport, war and agriculture. But sooner or later cars, tanks and tractors were invented and made horses obsolete…. so logically, horses should have died out or at least returned to the wild, but there are still millions of domesticated horses, everywhere.
They have stuck with us, by us, beside us.
Evidently we have a profound, somewhat stubborn, affinity with horses; they are expensive animals to keep, with the average horse costing, a conservative, £530 per month on food, bedding, shoes, vet bills, supplements, tack, etc etc. They are hard work too; grooming, mucking them out, schooling them, riding them. Sometimes I wonder who has the better deal, horses participate in taking us out on a quiet, desultory stroll or at worst, a crazy, wild jumping adventure, and we, in turn, clean them, provide shelter, feed them, clean up after them; serve them.
To convince you, and In no particular order, here are some interesting facts about these extraordinary creatures :
Horses have, relative to its size, an expanded neocortex – the part of the brain unique to mammals that is responsible for learning and for correlating multiple sensory input. They are very quick learners.
Horses have few equals in speed over long distances. The cheetah can hit 100kmph, but only in extremely short bursts (maximum 15 seconds). A horses’ sustained racing gallop is 70kmph. Wow.
Horses are used both for their healing qualities; equine therapy, and for their majesty; no royal event is complete without mounted steeds.
When they are in full gallop there are few seconds when all hooves are off the ground, so they are actually flying.
Their dietary requirements are incredibly easy to meet for such large animals, large carnivores of similar weight eat up to 40kg of meat in a single sitting. The horse has adapted to eating the poorest quality forage, containing the lowest concentration of protein – it thrives on grasses a cow would starve to death on.
The joints, tendons and ligaments of a horses’ limbs are optimally designed to conserve energy, whether standing or moving. Their gaits are a feat of engineering, which is way too complicated to get in to, but in short, when the horse moves at its’ optimal speed for each gait, (walk, trot, canter, gallop) the total energy expended at each gait is exactly the same. Genius.
They have the largest (and kindest) eyes of any mammal, and at any one point their vision is 180 degrees.
Horses have an acute sense of smell – they are not far behind dogs. The mere size of their nostrils indicates this. Check out the picture.
A horse’s hearing, as we all know is pretty impressive. They can hear low to very high frequency sound, plus their ears can move 180 degrees (using 10 different muscles, compared to 3 muscles in the human ear). This allows the horse to orient itself toward the sound without moving it’s body.
I could go on, but I hope in some little way you are more in agreement to the pure beauty, agility, sensitivity of the humble horse.