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Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Horse Research

Picture Credit: http://blog.lib.umn.edu/

In my book, my characters rely on horses for everyday business, and my main character loves the freedom she feels when she rides. Unfortunately, I have very little experiences with horses. Even though horses aren't discussed with any detail, I felt that my lack of knowledge about the animals would shine through. I spent time researching several different aspects of horses to make sure I keep them believable to all of you who have more hands-on experience with them.

A good website to learn more horse facts is: http://historicalnovelists.tripod.com/equineda.htm

Horse Sizes:
Pony- Technically, a pony is any non-Arabian horse under 14.2 hands tall (a hand is four inches). The generic idea of a pony is from 9 to 14 hands, and 250 - 850 pounds.

Light Horse- These are between 14.2 to 17 hands and weigh 600-1200 pounds. The average weight is 900 pounds.

Draft Horse- These are over 17 hands and weigh more than 1400 pounds. A draft horse is not a plow horse, because it weighs too much and would sink in the mud. Big plow horses are mixed breeds of draft horses and light horses.

Not counting thoroughbred racing, horses can be trained to draw loads around age 3. They are trained to the saddle at age 4 and are considered in their prime at 5. A 20-year-old horse is old, but they can live into their 30's. Although, historically when horses were treated poorly--especially in the Victorian era horses were completely broken down by the time they hit 12 years.

Horses working or exercising less than 2 hours per day are idle. Light work is between 2 and 3 hours per day. Medium work is between 4 and 5 hours. More than 5 hours of work in one day is heavy labor.

Feed must be split into two to four feedings per day and the horse must be cooled down before eating. They must also be allowed an hour to digest before resuming work. Mules and donkeys are much more hardy, leading them to be preferred by much of the lower class.

In the early 20th century, US Army daily horse rations were: 12 lbs of oats and 14lbs of hay per horse (figuring for the average 900lb horse).

A horse also needs 5 to 12 gallons of water per day and 2 to 3 ounces of salt per week.

Horseshoes were invented in the Middle Ages. Before that time period, horses could only be ridden for so long before the riders must wait for the hooves to grow out again.

Horses who do not work on hard ground or for extended periods of time will not wear out their hooves sufficiently to require horseshoes. However, if the horse lives in a damp climate, they will be much more likely to need horseshoes because the damp pasture will soften their hooves.

Horseshoes must be changed every 6 to 10 weeks.

Even owners of unshod horses must inspect their feet regularly and either remove excess growth or level uneven wear.

Walk- One foot at a time. Horses use this for leisure and when they are heavily burdened. It can be kept up all day. The pace is around 3-4 miles per hour.

Trot- Two diagonally opposite feet move while the remaining pair bear the weight. This is a bouncy gait. The pace is around 8-10 miles per hour.

Canter- Only one hoof is down at any time. The horse steps the same as a gallop, but it is an easier pace for the horse, around 10-17 miles per hour.

Gallop- Only one hoof is down at any time. This is always short-term. The speed varies depending on the athletic ability of the horse, but an average horse can go somewhere around 30 miles per hour. Thoroughbreds (meant for distance and not speed) can go 40 miles per hour. Quarter horses (meant for speed and not distance) can go up to 50 miles per hour.

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