Horse racing first originated among the ancient tribesmen of Central Asia in about 4 500 BC. The first documented horse race was held in France in 1651 when two noblemen entered into a wager. In the US it is thought that the first horse races started with the occupation of New York City in the 1600s.
Horse races are run over various distances, with an average distance of five or six furlongs (220 yards). Horses will run the six-furlong race in an average time of 1 minute and 12 seconds. Juvenile horses normally start with the five-furlong race.
Medieval knights had tournaments where the knights competed in various sports. This was seen as part of their training as knights. Knights won a lot of prestige by being the best at a tournament.
Horses share a common ancestry with tapirs and rhinoceros. They all have hooved feet an odd number of toes and mobile upper lips. The earliest ancestor of the modern horse was a small animal, about the size of a fox, that lived 53 million years ago.
The Biggest Horses
Horses come in a lot of different sizes, with an average horse being around 5 feet tall and weighing 800-1200 pounds. There are, however, exceptions to this, with some horses growing to a massive 17 hands and a weight of up to 2,400 pounds.
Horse feet continually grow, much like our nails. Most horses cannot wear this down on their own, and this excess growth has to be trimmed off. Horses are also fitted with steel shoes that protect their feet.
How to Measure Horses
Horses are measured from the ground up. The unit that is used to measure a horse, is “hands”, where one hand is 4 inches. This measurement originated in ancient Egypt. A horse that is 17 hands high, is considered a big horse, while a pony is any horse under 14.2 hands.
Horses in the USA
Horses are very popular in the USA, in fact, it is the country with the most horses in the world. Americans have a long history with horses since it was introduced into North America by Hernán Cortés in 1519. This range from the native Americans who immediately took to horse riding, as well as the cowboys who tamed the West on their trusted horses.
Although there are nearly 80,000 “wild” horses living on public land across 10 western US states, these horses are not considered truly wild horses. They are rather feral horses, as they are descended from domesticated horses. The only truly wild horse lives on the steppe in Central Asia.
Horse shows are competitions between riders and their horses in various disciplines. The horse is judged according to its movements, style of jumping, and general manners. The best horses can earn lots of prize money and will also be in demand for breeding.
Riding a Horse
Riding a horse can be quite an adrenaline rush. It also gives the rider as well as the horse a very good workout. It can take years to become a really good rider, depending on how often you ride. It is best to get a mentor to teach you the basics of riding.
Ponies are small members of the horse family, standing less than 4 feet tall. They can easily be mistaken for just small horses, but ponies have their own characteristics and temperament. Ponies are also usually stockier than regular horses, with shorter legs and heavier bodies.
One of the famous horses in history was George Washington’s horse that he rode most during the Civil War. It was important to have a horse that was not too skittish during a battle with cannon balls falling around you. George Washington was a very good horseman, having perfected his skill as a planter and a military man.
Horses as Characters in Books
Anna Sewel wrote a beautiful book, which is actually an autobiography of a horse. The horse itself is the narrator of the story. It tells the story of how a well-bred horse is progressively sold to crueler masters. The horse makes all sorts of observations leading the reader to understand human nature better.
Horses were revered in ancient Greek and were seen as symbols of wealth, status, and power. They also feature prominently in Greek mythology, with the goddess Athena who showed mankind how to tame a horse.
The Triple Crown is the name given to three races for three-year-olds on the American calendar, the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness, and the Belmont Stakes. Only 13 horses have ever won the Triple Crown. In 1973 an outstanding horse won this crown in a record-breaking time for all three races.
High Jumping Horses
Jumping a horse is part of quite a few other equestrian events, for instance, eventing and dressage. Horses are trained for quite a few years before they can really jump very high, as this is quite a technical sport. The highest jump ever was recorded in Chile in 1949, with a jump of 8ft 1in. This record still stands today.
Thoroughbreds are the most expensive horses. These horses are mostly used in racing. The most expensive ever was Fusaichi Pegasus. He won $2million racing before his fifth birthday. He was then sold with the expectation that his offspring would produce winners.
Horses can vary in color from pure white to black, with all shades in between. Some of these colors are given specific names. Brown horses, for instance, can be either a bay or chestnut, while piebald horses have irregular patches of white and black.
Ponies and mini horses are adorable members of the horse family. They are small and have great personalities, making them the ideal pets, especially for families with young children.