What Is a Gaited Horse

Gaited horses are pony and horse breeds that have been selectively bred to enhance their natural gaited tendencies. A gait is a specific ability to perform movements that are different from a standard walk, canter, or gallop.

Most gaits are referred to as an “ambling” gait. These movements tend to be a 4-beat gait, creating a smoother ride while being able to maintain speeds that are faster than a walk, but often slower than the canter. All horses have a gait that they follow; however, a gaited horse performs an ambling gait that is specific to the breed.

In a 2012 DNA study, a mutation to the DMRT3 gene in many gaited breeds can be attributed to a single ancestor. This mutation controls the neurological circuits within the spine that are directly responsible for limb motion and movement.

That allows some gaited horses to perform the ambling gait from birth. Others can be trained to perform the gaits. It is not unusual for a gaited breed to trot and pace while having the ambling gait at the same time.

What Are the Different Types of Ambling Gaits?

Every ambling gait has 4 beats. That means only one foot is off the ground at any time when the horse is performing the gait. 

Some ambling gaits are diagonal, which is defined as having the feet on the opposite sides of the horse move forward in sequence. That would look like the right rear leg moving forward first, then the left front, followed by the left rear and then the right front.

Other ambling gaits are lateral, which is defined as having the feet on the same side of the horse move forward in sequence. In this instance, that would look like the right rear leg moving forward first, then the right front leg, followed by the left rear and then the left front.

Unless there is a genetic ability for an ambling gait, it is rare for a horse to be able to learn these gaits. Horses that have coupling in the back tend to perform lateral ambling gaits with greater ease that horses with shorter backs. Having laid-back shoulders and a good stride length can be helpful for some gaited strides as well.

What Are the Different Gaits That Can Be Performed?

Although the ambling gaits are grouped into two general categories (lateral and diagonal), there are several different gaits that can be performed. Each has unique traits and attributes which help it to be identified.

Here are the most common ambling gaits that can be seen in today’s gaited horse breeds.

Aphcal: This is a natural ambling gait that is directly associated with Indian horse breeds, such as the Kathiawari and the Marwari.

Fox Trot: This is the only diagonal ambling gait that is found in English riding. The footfalls are a bit uneven, which causes the beat to sound like a couplet than a 4-beat rhythm. The fox trot isn’t as smooth as other gaits, causing a slight bounce and movement while in the saddle. It is directly associated with the Missouri Fox Trotter, but several other breeds can perform this gait. In some breeds, this gait is penalized when showed because it appears that the horse I trotting from the back, but walking in the front.

Marcha Pacada: This is a 4-beat lateral gait that is similar to a stepping pace that is directly associated with the Mangalarga Marchador. A 4-beat diagonal gait, which is called the marcha batida, can be performed by this breed as well that is similar to some of the paso gaits. The Carolina Marsh Tacky performs a 4-beat diagonal gait that is very similar to the marcha batida as well.

Pasos: There are several ambling gaits that are associated with the Paso Fino and the Peruvian Paso. All have a distinct rhythm, but are performed at various speeds. The paso fino gait is slow and precise. The paso corto is faster, but still slower than a canter, and is much like a single-foot gait. The paso largo is closer to a rack and is the equivalent of a gallop to other breeds. The paso llano is a lateral gait that has the same sequence as a running walk. 

Rack: The rack is a single-foot gait that is found most often with the American Saddlebred. It is a slower gait than some other ambling gaits, but is performed with precision and restraint. The intervals of each beat are rhythmic. 

Running Walk: Walking horse breeds perform this gait, which has the same pattern as a walk, but faster. It creates a smooth riding experience like the walk as well, but at greater speeds. Some breeds, such as the Tennessee Walking Horse, can achieve short-distance speeds of up to 20 miles per hour.

Tolt: This ambling gait is usually found with Icelandic horses. It has good speed, with rapid acceleration, while incorporating the smoothness found in gaits like the running walk. There are uneven versions of this ambling gait that can be seen as well, called the Valhopp and the Pig’s Pace, that are considered to be incorrect. Another version of the Tolt is called the “flying pace” and is a stronger version of the gait.

Trocha: This gait is associated with the Paso Fino. It is a diagonal ambling gait that is similar to a fox trot in style and speed. It is seen more often in the Colombian version than the Caribbean version of the breed. The steps are just a little shorter than the similar gaits.

Which Horse Breeds Have Ambling Gaits?

Horse breeds that are known for their ability to gallop do not possess the gene that is associated with ambling gaits. That means they are unable to perform them.

Horses that live in a semi-feral herd or are wild horses, such as the American Mustang or Przewalski’s horse, do not usually have the mutated gene for ambling gaits, but it is possible. Not all horses with this gene mutation have the ambling gait either, which means there are other traits associated with gaited horses that may not yet be known.

Because there are trotting bloodlines with the Standardbred and the presence of the ambling gait gene seems to inhibit the transition to a gallop, ancient breeding practices may have helped to influence gaits within the foundation breeds of gaited horses.

What is a gaited horse? It is a chance to enjoy a smooth ride on a friendly, but still spirited, horse and that makes it the perfect opportunity for beginners to learn how to ride. It is also a chance to help people who love horses to stay active without a bounce in a saddle that could put their health at risk. 

What Does It Mean When a Horse Founders

When a horse founders, they are suffering from a painful condition that affects their feet. Sometimes referred to as laminitis, when foundering is left untreated, it can cause a horse to become permanently lame. In severe cases, euthanasia is considered the only compassionate response to the condition.

Foundering can be caused by multiple issues. To treat the condition, it is necessary to identify the reason why it developed in the first place. There can be cases caused by inflammation, overload, and metabolic issues.

Always seek the advice of an experienced veterinarian if there is a suspicion that your horse is foundering.

What Is Laminitis?

When a horse founders, then the hooves that are affected become hot and painful. The horse can feel pain pulses surge through their fetlock and pastern. If it is present, then it can damage or weaken the attachments that support the hoof wall and the pedal pone. In some instances, the attachments can elongate or even break, which lessens the supports of the pedal bone and the hoof capsule.

Foundering occurs when these attachments lose enough strength that the pedal bone shifts and rotates away from the hoof wall. In some instances, the bone can shift so that it begins to point downward. In severe cases, the pedal bone has even been known to penetrate the sole. It may also sink or do all of the above in varying combinations.

When laminitis transitions into foundering, the amount of pain the horse experiences is excruciating. Unless immediate surgical intervention occurs, some cases require euthanasia for humane reasons. 

How Can I Tell What is Causing a Horse to Founder?

Most causes of foundering have reasons that are obvious. 

If the horse becomes ill for some reason or has a fever, then the white blood cell count will rise. Horses might also have watery stools. These are all indications that if foundering is present, it is due to inflammation.

For horses that cannot put any weight on one specific leg and it has been a progressive issue, then this is an indication that the horse is suffering from overload laminitis.

When a horse appears fine, but ends up being lame, then this is a good indication that a metabolic foundering issue is present. Treating this condition requires an ongoing treatment plan administered by the horse’s veterinarian.

How to Care for Laminitis and Foundering

If a horse has been diagnosed with an acute case of laminitis and foundering is not an issue, then there are three common treatment options that are recommended by veterinarians.

#1. Painkillers can help to improve daily living opportunities for the horse while the laminitis issue is being addressed. Horses can react negatively to high doses and long-term doses of painkillers, so consult with a veterinarian about what the proper dose should be and if there are any side effects that may be concerning.

#2. Rest allows the weakened structures to begin healing. Exercise that occurs with laminitis can cause those structures to break, which leads to foundering. If the laminitis is classified as being moderate-to-severe, then box rest is a common recommendation.

#3. Foot supports will help to take the pressure off the affected feet. Horses prefer to have soft, deep bedding that allows the hoof to sink into the material and be surrounded by it. Sand is popular, as are shavings, but it must be dry and loose for it to provide an adequate level of support. Make sure the bare areas of the stable are given supports and not just the box. Sole support is also possible with hoof padding that can be strapped to the horse.

One of the biggest issues that horses face when diagnosed with laminitis or dealing with a case of foundering is boredom. Horses do not like to be confined. If they’re forced to rest in their box, then their behavior will degrade over time. Stall toys are a good solution to prevent boredom, as is a stall that has a window.

Some forms of metabolic laminitis require ongoing treatment to prevent the condition from turning into foundering. The horse may be encouraged to lose weight or begin a diet that encourages long-term weight loss. Added exercise is often recommended as well. Medication can help the horse manage their laminitis if diet and exercise are not enough to control the condition. 

How to Prevent Laminitis

To prevent laminitis and foundering, it is necessary to avoid all potential causes of this condition.

Inflammatory laminitis is the most difficult to prevent. In many acute cases, there is little that anyone can do. Make sure that the door to the feeding room, if you have one, is kept secure. Mares that have foaled, but retained the afterbirth, should be assessed by a veterinarian immediately. Reducing the risk of colic by making slow feeding changes and giving the horse an adequate level of exercise can help as well.

For overload laminitis, the primary cause of this condition is usually an injury. Preventing injuries means removing potential hazards that the horse could encounter, especially with their hooves. Because this issue is usually caused by an accident, there is not much that can be done to prevent laminitis from developing.

One form of metabolic laminitis, called PPID, is not preventable. It is degenerative disorder that affects senior horses. About 20% of horses above the age of 15 will be affected by PPID. Every additional birthday for the horse will increase the risk of suffering from this form of laminitis. It is treatable once discovered, however, and many horses with PPID continue to live fulfilling lives.

EMS is a second form of metabolic laminitis that occurs in horses that are genetically prone to gaining weight easily. Look for bulging around the eyes or rings around the hooves to see if this condition may be present. Dropped soles can be an indication of EMS as well. In many ways, this form of laminitis is similar to diabetes in humans. If you suspect this condition, ask your veterinarian to conduct a glucose test to determine insulin production levels.

In every circumstance, maintaining a healthy weight, receiving exercise, and avoiding injury will help to reduce the risks of laminitis developing. It is impossible to prevent every possible case of this disorder, but when it can be recognized quickly, it can be treated right away. That is your best defense against the potentially life-threatening issue of foundering. 

What Colors Do Horses See

How do horses happen to see our world?

Horses happen to have one of the largest eyes of any land-based mammal. Because it is a “prey” animal, horses have active vision throughout daylight and nighttime hours. With the position of their eyes, on each side of the head, a horse has about 350 degrees of total vision, including 65 degrees of dual-eye vision.

Every horse breed has dichromatic vision. That means they are not color blind, but have two-color vision. In comparison, humans have trichromic, or three-color vision. Horses can see green and blue colors within the spectrum, but are unable to distinguish red colors. That makes their vision be similar to what red-green color blindness is like in humans. 

The reason why horses have two-color vision is because there are two types of cones in their eyes. They have a cone that is sensitive to short wavelengths that senses blue colors well, while the longer cone is sensitive to colors in the yellow-green spectrum. One explanation for this development is that horses tend to be active from dusk until dawn, when this type of color discernment is most important.

Just as horses struggle to distinguish red colors, they can struggle to distinguish between yellows and greens.

What Is Notable About the Vision of a Horse?

Horses may only have two-cone vision, but they have a very high proportion of rods within their vision structure. Horses have a 20-1 ratio for rods to cones, which works with a retroreflector called a “tapetum lucidum” that allows the eye to find definition and color in low-light conditions. That is how horses have such excellent night vision.

The size of the eye for horses allows them to detect movement with greater regularity as well. Changes can be sensed very well in conditions with low light levels, allowing the horse to sense danger and respond appropriately. In low light, horses can distinguish shapes. In virtual darkness, they can still see enough to navigate safely in virtually any situation. Humans, on the other hand, would struggle to adapt to the conditions and stumble into obstacles that the horse could avoid.

At the same time, the ciliary muscles for horses is relatively weak when compared to other land-based mammals. That means the eyesight of the horse has a poor accommodation when attempting to focus on specific objects. Horses usually track items of interest at a distance, so there is relatively little need to track items at close range, so this aspect of their vision is usually not a disadvantage to the horse. 

Horses are very sensitive to motion. It is their first alert, in most circumstances, that a potential predator is approaching. Horses use their periphery vision to detect the initial motion and then move to track it with their visual acuity. Because they must track the movement after it has been detected, horses tend to tilt or raise their heads so a better understanding of what they say can be obtained.

That is why a horse can be “spooked” easily sometimes. If a potential threat is detected and the horse cannot track it, then their natural instinct is to run away from the danger. 

What Is the Structure of a Horse’s Eye?

The eye of a horse is not shaped like a sphere, nor does it have a ramped retina. It is somewhat flattened in shape, moving from the anterior to the posterior of the eye. The wall of the eye for a horse is then made up of 3 specific layers.

The nervous tunic is the retina of the eye. It contains cells that are extensions of the brain, working with the optic nerve to generate an image. The receptors in this layer are receptive to light, allow the horse to see in dichromatic tones, and provide night vision. About 70% of the horse’s eye can receive light, so the receptor cells do not cover the entire interior of the eye.

The vascular tunic, which is also known as the uvea, contains the iris. Much of the pigment within the eye of a horse is contained in this layer, especially within the choroid. It helps to form the reflective layer that gives the horse a superior level of night vision, reflecting the light back to the nervous tunic layer. The iris is situated between the lens and the cornea, providing a specific eye color for the horse and helps to control the pupil as well.

The fibrous tunic contains the cornea and the sclera of the eye. These protect the structures of the eye. The sclera, which is the white part of the eye, is comprised of collagen and elastin. In horses, the cornea is regularly coated in lacrimal fluid and a clear fluid called “aqueous humour” to provide it with nutrition. The fluids contain low levels of protein, in a consistency that is similar to blood plasma, and this helps to support the structure of the eye.

What Color of Eyes Do Horses Have?

Most horses have eyes that are dark brown. The iris of a horse can be a wide variety of colors, however, ranging from amber and green to blue and hazel. Blue eyes in horses are often associated with white markings on their coat. Pinto patterns are often linked to blue eyes. When the coat color is the direct link to eye color, a horse may have one blue eye and one iris of another color. Both eyes may be blue or both eyes may be part-blue as well.

The eyes of the horse are then protected by a unique eyelid that is composed of three tissue layers. The outer layer is a thin skin layer that is protected with hair. The middle layer is composed of muscle tissues, allowing the horse to blink. The inner layer, called the “palpebral conjunctiva,” lies against the eye. These layers work with a nictitating membrane that closes diagonally over the eye so the cornea can be protected.

Horses may not be color blind, but they do not see colors in the same way humans do. Because they struggle to distinguish between greens and yellows and do not discern red colors well, an understanding of how a horse sees can make it easier to work with and interact with the animal on a regular basis. 

What is the Average Lifespan of a Horse

What is the average lifespan of a horse?

The answer to that question depends on the breed of horse being discussed. Some breeds have extremely long lifespans, exceeding 30 years. Other breeds have relatively short lifespans, averaging less than 20 years.

The amount of veterinary care, exercise, and exposure to difficult weather conditions can affect the lifespan of a horse as well.

In general terms, the confident average is about 25 years, as that fits in-between the 20- to 30-year span that can be found in most breeds. For horses that receive good care and aren’t worked or ridden hard, they have a greater chance of reaching the upper end of the average lifespan.

What Are the Horse Breeds That Live the Longest?

In general terms, lighter and smaller horses typically live longer than horses that are heavier and taller. There are always exceptions to this general rule, but ponies and light draft horses trend toward the 30-year mark on the average lifespan. Heavy draft horses, such as a Shire, trend toward the 20-year mark on the average life span.

That means the best option for potential owners or handlers is to choose the breed of horse that is right for you. Any horse has the potential to be long-lived if it is given a loving home and proper care. 

Who Is the Oldest Horse in History?

The oldest horse ever documented comes from the 18th century. His name was Old Billy and he was a British Barge Horse. He was foaled in 1760 and died in 1822, meaning he made it to the ripe old age of 62. His remains are kept at the Manchester Museum to commemorate his long life.

Today, it is not unusual to see several horses reach their 40s or 50s thanks to the advances in medical care that are received. A horse named Sugar Puff lived to the age of 56, passing away in 2007. Sugar Puff was a Shetland cross pony and was listed in the Guinness Book of World Records.

An Irish pony named Jesse was documented by the Belfast Telegraph as reaching the age of 49. A pony in the United States named Ted E. Bear is often cited by writers as living to the age of 55.

Dr. Bob Wright, veterinary scientist for the Ontario Ministry of Food and Agriculture, lists four horses or ponies that have gone beyond the 50-year-old age barrier as well, including a Welsh pony that lived to the age of 66 – though the latter pony’s age has not been independently verified.

How Can You Tell the Age of a Horse?

There is no specific method that can be used to determine the exact age of a horse. Unless there are passports, papers, or some other form of registration document that can verify the information for an individual horse, exact ages are often lost.

It is possible to determine an estimated age for a horse by examining their teeth. As the horse gets older, it becomes more difficult to pinpoint an accurate age range using the teeth method. It is usually reserved for younger horses only.

To determine the age of a horse by their teeth, one must look at their 12 front incisors. The two central pairs of teeth, upper and lower, are called the “nippers.” The “intermediates” are the four teeth that are next to the central pair, while the outer four teeth are referred to as “corners.”

Between the age of 4-5, there are canine teeth that can begin to appear between the 12 front incisors and the 24 back molars. Only stallions or geldings develop these teeth on a regular basis. Mares can develop them too, but it happens very rarely.

Then this generic comparison chart can be used to determine an approximate age for the horse being examined. 

  • At 1 year, all the temporary teeth of the horse are present and the corners have not begun to show any wear.
  • At 2 years, the corners begin showing wear and the temporary teeth can be distinguished from the permanent teeth.
  • At 3 years, the large center teeth become prominent in contrast to younger horses.
  • At 5 years, most horses have lost all their temporary teeth and have a full mouth.

After the age of 5, judging the age of a horse on their teeth is open to interpretation. There can be varying levels of dovetail and wear and tear within the horse’s mouth. Older horses tend to have teeth that are taller and wider compared to younger horses, becoming more angular with every passing year.

Age estimates are usually somewhat accurate for horses that are 15 years old or younger. Because of the variability of tooth wear, it is difficult to pinpoint an age range for senior horses.

How to Prolong the Life of a Horse

The key to giving a horse the best possible chance at a long life is to give it good care, good feed, and good exercise. It is usually a health issue which causes a horse to lose its life prematurely. In many instances, a bout with colic will usually force a decision about whether or not a horse should be euthanized.

As horses age, their immune systems become weaker. It becomes difficult for their internal systems to fight off infections and illnesses. Senior horses can see a rapid degradation of health and run down quickly. If a horse’s teeth begin to wear out or go missing, older horses can start suffering from malnutrition issues as well, which hastens the speed of the physical degradation.

With good care, the health issues that have the greatest risk to the horse can be reduced. Senior horses that are active, working with children or beginners, succeed more often than not because they still have a definable purpose. A clean stall, being turned out regularly, and having a herd, or at least a friend, for a senior horse adds to their quality of life as well.

What is the average lifespan of a horse? It is only a marker for which owners can shoot toward when caring for their horses. In the United States, a 25+5 average spans most breeds, which provides the 20- to 30-year average that is often discussed. In Canada, The Ontario Ministry of Agriculture lists the average lifespan of a horse as being 28+5, so that means the average is 23-33 years.

The bottom line is this: lifespans are finite. We should enjoy whatever moments we are blessed to have with our horses and treat them with the respect they deserve. That way, every horse can enjoy the happiest life possible.
 

What is a Quarter Horse

The Quarter Horse is a breed of horse that was bred to race a specific distance: one-quarter of a mile. That is how it got its name. In the early 20th century, there was no other breed of horse that could match the Quarter Horse’s speed over the quarter-mile distance. Some individuals have been observed to reach speeds that exceed 55 miles per hour, or 88.5 kilometers per hour, over that distance.

The Quarter Horse is the most popular breed in the United States. Nearly 3 million living horses have been registered with the American Quarter Horse Association from 2014 data, which makes it the largest breed registry in the world.

Although the Quarter Horse earned its reputation on the racetrack, it has evolved into an excellent all-around performer. You can find the Quarter Horse performing at rodeo events and horse shows. Many ranchers still use this breed for their working horses. That is because the Quarter Horse is well-suited to the intricate tasks and fast maneuvers that are required for riding events, disciplines, and modern ranch work.

How Did We Get the Quarter Horse?

Horses arrived in the United States with European colonists, beginning in the 15th century. As the colonies began to establish themselves and become independent, those who settled in the New World began to import Thoroughbred horses. The horses that came from the first explorers were developed into regional breeds by local tribes and these horses were bred to the Thoroughbreds.

That was how the American Quarter Horse came about. There are Arabian, Barb, and Iberian ancestors to this uniquely American breed.

By 1746, the colonies were self-sufficient and exploring the idea of independence. There was also a love for flat-track racing beginning to develop. A Thoroughbred named Janus was imported and he would contribute a strong foundation to create a Colonial horse breed that was smaller and quicker than a Thoroughbred, with an extra level of hardiness.

That allowed the colonists to have a work horse during the week and a racing horse during the weekends when races were held. Even when racing champion Thoroughbreds, over a distance of one-quarter mile, the Quarter Horse could still excel. Its popularity continued to grow.

By the 19th century, the idea of manifest destiny had reached a fever pitch in the United States. People descended upon the US West to establish a home, find riches, or their own personal reasons. Many of those settlers brought Quarter Horses with them because the breed is willing, hardy, and an easy keeper.

As the settlers pushed West, they realized that there were herds of Spanish horses roaming wild around the countryside. Some homesteaders were able to capture some of these Mustangs and decided to breed them with their Quarter Horses. The offspring had a unique “cow sense” that made ranch work easier.

At the same time, the tribal cultures in the US West were still creating their own regional breeds, sometimes keeping extensive oral records of breeding habits and standards. As these horses mixed in with the Quarter Horse, the speed, strength, and “cow sense” continued to improve. The horses were so stout and sturdy, in fact, that Europe took notice. Quarter Horses began to be exported back across the ocean.

To ensure that no genetic bottleneck would occur, Morgan and Standardbred bloodlines were added to the Quarter Horse breed in the 19th century as well.

In 1940, the American Quarter Horse Association was formed to support ranchers and homesteaders so their pedigrees could be preserved.

To this day, Thoroughbreds are still admitted into the Quarter Horse stud book. To qualify, however, a Thoroughbred must meet specific performance standards.

What to Expect from a Quarter Horse

Modern Quarter Horses can be somewhat small compared to other horses. The breed standard accepts horses as small as 14 hands, which qualifies them as a pony. Some stallions can be 16 hands high or taller. Quarter Horses that come from England can be as tall as 17 hands in some instances.

There are three sub-types of Quarter Horse in terms of body style: stock, halter, and racing.

Stock Quarter Horses tend to be stocky, compact, and very muscular. They are agile, have the trademark speed of the breed, and are sure-footed. Halter horses tend to be a little taller and have a smoother muscular appearance to them, resembling a Thoroughbred.

Hunting and racing horses tend to be the tallest horses and they also retain many of the physical characteristics of a Thoroughbred. Show horses within this sub-type tend to be slimmer instead of stocky and can often be mistaken for a Thoroughbred from a distance.

Quarter Horses can come in a wide variety of coat colors. Sorrel is the most common color, which is similar to a chestnut coat. Black, brown, and bay are also somewhat common coat colors for the breed. Other solid colors, including palomino and cremello, are possible. Dun and roan coats are also permitted.

In the past, Quarter Horses were not allowed to have a spotted coat. The registry now accepts spotted horses as long as both parents are registered with the breed association and DNA testing can verify the parentage. 

Thoroughbreds and Quarter Horses: An Ongoing Relationship

From the first days as an established breed, the Quarter Horse stud book has incorporated Thoroughbred horses. There is an appendix section within the stud book that includes first-generation crosses of Quarter Horses and registered Thoroughbreds. An appendix Quarter Horse and a numbered Quarter Horse also produce offspring that are treated as a first-generation crossbred.

Horses that are registered in the appendix are still allowed to enter competition, but are not permitted for full registration. Only when an appendix horse can prove itself through performance can it earn its way out of the appendix to become a numbered Quarter Horse.

Thoroughbred crosses have occurred throughout the history of the breed, so the genetics between the two breeds have gone back and forth frequently. Some breeders have concerns that this may limit the viability of the Quarter Horse as a distinct breed in the future. To counter this trend, some breeders are focusing on the traditional characteristics of the breed to promote the earlier standards found in the “foundation” horses. 

Health Concerns with the Quarter Horse

The Quarter Horse is prone to several different genetic diseases. To limit the prevalence of these disorders, the American Quarter Horse Association has stopped allowing the registry of horses that possess specific genes. DNA blood tests are available to determine if an individual horse is at risk of many of these diseases as well.

It is believed that some Quarter Horses carry the gene for Lethal White Syndrome. This is despite the fact that crop-out horses were not permitted to register. The gene is recessive and continues to appear in some foals, despite screening efforts to have it excluded from the gene pool.

A stallion named King P-234 is believed to be responsible for the introduction of GBED. This disease causes the horse to lack an enzyme that is required to store glycogen. Without glycogen, the skeletal muscles and heart of a foal cannot function properly. The disease only occurs in foals born from parents who both carry one copy of the gene.

HERDA can only be transmitted if both parents carry the gene for it as well. This genetic disease disrupts the stability of the collagen in the skin of the horse. Any rubbing or impact to the skin can cause it to split, separate, or tear off the animal. Horses that are born with this condition are usually euthanized before the age of 4.

Malignant hyperthermia is a mutation that is specifically associated with the Quarter Horse and any other breeds where the Quarter Horse is involved. The hyperthermia can be triggered by stress and overwork, as well as certain medications.

HYPP is also associated with the Quarter Horse and is linked to a stallion named Impressive. Affected horses will exhibit uncontrolled muscle spasms and twitches, along with substantial muscle weakness that can lead to paralysis. Only one parent needs to have the gene for HYPP to have it be passed along to their offspring. Any Quarter Horse born after 2007 or one that has a confirmed lineage through Impressive must be tested. Any with the H/H form of the gene are excluded from the registry. 

The Quarter Horse is popular because it is such an intelligent easy keeper. These horses love social contact, a good day of work, and some healthy competition. Even if they aren’t formally raced, it is not unusual to see Quarter Horses holding their own formal races if there is enough space.

It may not be the first American breed, but it could be argued that the Quarter Horse is the best breed that has been developed in the United States. As this breed continues to evolve, the many benefits of working with a Quarter Horse will only improve. 

What is a Gelding Horse

Like most animals, horses have two general gender classifications: male and female. Male adult horses are referred to as stallions, while female adult horses are referred to as mares. There is a third classification that you’ll find commonly used in the equine world as well: the gelding. 

What is a gelding horse? It is a male horse that has been castrated. Geldings can refer to adult male donkeys or mules as well.

Many horses, especially purebreds, are evaluated for their conformity and performance to determine if they meet breed standards. If they score high in these evaluations, then they’ll be permitted to contribute to the diversity of the breed. If they do not score high, then breeding rights are withdrawn.

Unless there is an expectation that a male horse will be or has a good chance to be used for breeding, it should be castrated as soon as possible. Male colts can be gelded before their first birthday. All that is required is a descending of the testicles into the scrotum.

History of Gelded Horses

Gelding is a procedure that has been carried out for thousands of years. Some of the first written works that describe gelded horses come from Aristotle. His writings are dated around 350 BC.

The Scythians are thought to have gelded their horses as well and it is thought that this civilization may have been the first to emphasize this procedure with their herds. The Scythians noted that gelded horses were calmer on the battlefield. They were less prone to call out to other horses, allowing for a strategic attack. 

Geldings were also easier to keep in groups since they were less likely to fight each other. 

How Are Horses Gelded?

The gelding procedure is rather simple. Many horses can be treated with what is called a “standing castration.” The horse is given a local anesthesia and is sedated. Then a small incision allows the testicles, a portion of the spermatic cord, and the epididymis to be removed.

Only a veterinarian is permitted to carry out this procedure. In most instances, the veterinarian can come to the horse to perform the procedure, but some may require a visit to the local clinic.

Caring for the horse after the procedure is fairly straight-forward. The incision area must be kept clean. The horse should rest, but still be permitted to have light, supervised exercise. It is not unusual for owners or handlers to hand-walk horses after they have been gelded for the first week. It’s a good opportunity to look at the incision site to see if there are signs of swelling. 

Antibiotics are usually prescribed to proactively prevent an infection setting in after the surgery. Some owners may need to implement a fly-control procedure to keep the area clean while the horse recovers. 

Most horses recover from being gelded without any complication. Infection or having the incision open are the two most common complications that are seen.

It usually takes 3-4 weeks for the horse to heal normally from the gelding procedure. It may take another 3-4 weeks for the testosterone levels in the horse to reduce so the behaviors of the horse are impacted.

Although gelding is considered to be a permanent procedure, in some instances, it may be possible to reverse it. Some geldings only have their cord and testicle connections severed, not removed, so repairing the cord can restore the horse to full stallion status. Although rare, there are several documented instances where this has been successfully accomplished.

Geldings are often reversed to reduce a severe bottleneck within a breed.

Unless there is a complete removal of the reproductive components, a gelding has a very small chance of producing offspring still. 

Why Should Gelding Be Done Early?

Stallions can also be gelded, but the results are not always the same. Once the horse is castrated, there is a change in the hormones that are produced within the horse’s body. They tend to be more even-tempered after being gelded, especially when it occurs at a young age. If older horses are gelded, they may retain some of the unwanted stallion behaviors because their bodies were exposed to a surge of testosterone.

Gelding early can also change the development profile of the horse. Once high levels of testosterone are produced, stallion characteristics, such as a crested neck, begin to develop. Gelding can stop this process.

The lack of testosterone that occurs with gelding can also stop aggressive or dominant behavior from developing within the horse. Most geldings are not interested in the act of breeding, which limits behavioral confrontations that can be dangerous to horses, handlers, or their owners.

Gelding a horse can also prevent mood swings that come with the seasonal changes. Horses are a herd animal, so there are certain months where they have an urge to be free and roam. Once gelded, those seasonal urges are reduced. That makes them easier to ride and handle, making it a safer choice of horse for those who are just beginning to learn horsemanship.

Because a gelding horse cannot procreate, there is never a worry about having unwanted offspring. It allows the best horses to be kept for breeding without diminishing the individualized value of each horse.

Why Should Gelding Be Done Late… If at All?

Gelding early can minimize behavioral issues with male horses and lower the risk of problems developing with a home herd. The benefits of a calmer horse come at the cost of having a horse that doesn’t have the same levels of athletic prowess and impact.

For owners who are looking for a horse with stallion-like qualities, but don’t want to take on the risk of an unintended pregnancy, gelding later in the horse’s life can be beneficial. The horse will retain the stature developed before he was gelded while losing the ability to produce offspring.

Gelding a horse early in its life can also change the growth profile of the horse. It is not unusual for gelded horses to grow taller if the procedure occurs early in life compared to later in life.

Some horses also suffer from a condition called “cryptorchidism.” These horses are called “rigs.” Although they are gelded, it is only a partial gelding because only one testicle descended. Rigs are sometimes able to produce offspring and will often retain many stallion-like qualities. To be a full gelding, a second procedure would be required. This can be avoided when male horses are gelded later in life instead of in their early years.

What is a gelding horse? It is a good option for anyone getting to know a horse for the first time. Many geldings are friendly, affable, and easy keepers – no matter what their breed may be. That is why they are recommended for beginners. 

What Do Horses Symbolize

Humans and horses have been together throughout history. The very beginnings of human history, as told by discovered cave paintings and drawings, show horses working with humans to make the world a better place.

Although most horse breeds have been fully domesticated today, including semi-feral herds and breeds, the symbolism of the horse is as important today as it was in the first days of human history.

What a horse symbolizes depends on a person’s culture and individual interpretation of what the animal means to them. A classic example of the differences in horse symbolism can be described by the optics of a white horse.

White horses, in many cultures, have stood for power and wisdom. It is a symbol of freedom, but with voluntary restraint, so that all can benefit. It provides a picture of being able to remove the obstacles that lie in your path so that you can achieve whatever goals are important to you.

In Christianity, the white horse is a symbol of victory.

“Then I looked on as the Lamb opened one of the seven seals. I heard one of the four living creatures say in a voice like thunder, ‘Come!’ So, I looked, and there was a white horse. Its rider held a bow and was given a crown. And he went forth from victory to victory.” – Revelation 6:1-2.

Horse symbolism goes beyond the animal. The color of the horse’s coat has significant meaning in many cultures. The patterning of the horse’s coat can be equally important. Even the placement of curls or swirls in the coat can have meaning to some cultures.

No matter what the symbolism may be, it is important to always remember one universal truth: the horse is representative of the spirit, but is not the actual spirit. Horses may serve us and as a species, we may consider them domesticated, but a horse will never be truly tamed by humans.

And we would have it no other way.

Tribal Cultures and Horse Symbolism

Tribal cultures throughout the Americas have often focused on the horse. Although each tribe, either Native American, First Nations, or otherwise, can have different meanings for what the horse represents, much is communicated about each culture by how they view the horse.

For the tribes in the United States, the horse was a symbol that represented strength and power. Horses would also represent love and loyalty, providing a symbol of mutual respect between two people, two families, or two tribes. It could also represent mobility, stamina, and devotion.

For the tribes in Canada, horses symbolized a transformation of life. This transformation was not always a positive representation. It was the Colonial Era that brought horses back to the Americas and many of the “explorers” were really conquerors. The horses were embraced when they were found, but the presence of a horse could also mean that war would be starting soon.

What is unique about both cultures, in general terms, is that the horse was always treated as an equal. Horses were treated with the utmost care. They would share homes and rooms with their caretakers. They were rarely fenced or bridled. The horse wanted to be there and the tribes formed relationships with them to create a society of mutual trust.

Yet the concept of power, as symbolized by the horse, could be seen in some tribal cultures as well. If one tribe had horses and another did not, then the tribe with horses had a natural power advantage. They could win more battles, conquer more territory, and even be more successful when hunting. For that reason, the horse can symbolize war, just as it can also symbolize peace.

Mythology and Horse Symbolism

Horses have been sacred symbols throughout much of our history, including our mythologies. Various cultures throughout time have come up with remarkable stories and links to unique and meaningful symbols to specific cultures.

For the Romans, who at one point ruled much of the known world at their height of power, linked the horse to Mars, who was their god of war. They also linked horses to Helios, who was their sun god. Although they were symbols of battle, the Romans rarely employed war horses. Most horses were used for pulling chariots or carrying supplies. There was a mystical component, but a practical one as well when considering the horse.

The Romans evolved their symbolism of the horse from the Ancient Greeks, who happened to revere the horse. Horses in Ancient Greece were symbols of status. If you owned a horse, then you had power and wealth. If you wore the symbol of a horse, then you could be bestowed with those attributes. Horses were directly associated with their gods as well, with Poseidon being credited with the creation of the world’s first horse. Athena was credited with domesticating the first horse.

In Celtic mythology, horses were considered a sign of good fortune. They would bring about good luck, whether they were owned or their image was being displayed. White horses were particularly favored. If several horses were seen standing together, however, then this was an indication that there was a storm, real or figurative, that was about to come.

Colors of Horses and Their Symbolism

Many modern cultures have based their interpretation of horse symbolism based on passages found in religious holy books. It isn’t just a white horse, for example, that is mentioned in Revelation 6. There are different colors of horse associated with each seal.

Red Horses: “When the Lamb opened the second seal, I heard the second living creature say, ‘Come!’ Out came another horse, fiery red. Its rider was allowed to take peace from the earth so that people would kill each other. He was given a large sword.”

Black Horses: “When he opened the third seal, I heard the third living creature say, ‘Come!’ So, I looked, and there was a black horse. Its rider held a balance for weighing in his hand.” 

Green Horses: “When he opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature say, ‘Come!’ So, I looked, and there was a pale green horse. Its rider’s name was death, and the grave was following right behind. They were given authority over a quarter of the earth, to kill by sword, famine, disease, and wild animals.

The natural question that comes next is usually this: when was the last time anyone saw an actual green horse?

“Green” doesn’t necessarily represent an actual coat color, though some holy book passages may imply this. Horses that are “green” are new to training or education and are very inexperienced. These horses have their own symbolism to consider as well. Foals are often a representation of a new undertaking and suggests that something happy or fortunate will occur in the near future.

Some horses have multiple coat colors and these patterned horses have their own symbolism to consider as well. There is an old folk poem that talks about the sock patterns of a horse.

If a horse has one sock, then buy him.
If a horse has two socks, then try him.
If a horse has three socks, then doubt him.
If a horse has four socks, then do without him.

Yet some cultures, especially nomadic ones, felt that a horse with four socks was incredibly lucky. Of course, that perception only applied if the horse’s stockings didn’t rise above the knee or the fetlock.

Markings of Horses and Their Symbolism

Some horses have different markings on their body, especially on the hooves. Horses might have whorls and other swirls in their coat. Even the eye color of the horse can prove meaningful to the symbolism of the animal.

Horses that have white hooves have often symbolized weakness. Over the generations, white hooves have even been avoided because people believed that the hoof was physically weaker than other colors. This may be due to the fact that it is easier to see a crack in a white hoof than it is to see one in a dark or striped hoof.

Certain whorls and their placement on a horse symbolize certain qualities as well. Horses with multiple swirls on their forehead are a representation of difficulty. Some whorl placements indicate good luck. Other placements indicate bad luck. The quantity and location often depend on the culture.

Horses with blue eyes are a representation of trouble for many cultures. That’s because there is a perception that blue-eyed horses tend to be more temperamental than other horses.

What do horse symbolize? That is up to you. Whether you base your perception on ancient cultures, your religious faith, or your personal experience, it is important to remember that every horse deserves a chance to live a happy life. Some horses might represent bad luck in some cultures, but let’s face it: we’ve been friends with horses for forever. 

Maybe it’s the relationship that is more important. 

Westphalian Horse Origin and Characteristics

The Westphalian horse has one of the largest breeding populations of warmblood horses in Germany. Their popularity as a breed is due to their unique sporting traits. In dressage and show jumping, Westphalians routinely compete at Olympic-level events. In North America, this breed is quite popular in show hunting competitions.

Breeding programs for the Westphalian have, in fact, greatly influenced the sport horse world. Sires such as Polydor have helped to make significant improvements in dressage and jumping since the 1980s.

Although the history of the Westphalian horse is quite rich, much of it has been lost because of records destruction. World War II decimated the known lineage of this breed, reducing it to what people and breeders could offer through oral histories. Because of this, there can be some confusion as to what horses are officially Westphalian and which are of other German Warmblood breeds that may have similar standards and expectations.

It can be particularly confusing because in the early days of this breed, the region responsible produced three different horse breeds that were officially supervised and sanctioned by local government that are very similar to one another. 

What Is the Origin of the Westphalian Horse?

The history of the Westphalian horse is directly linked to Warendorf, where a state stud was established in 1826. This stud was intended to serve Rhineland and Westphalia, build under the guidance of the Prussian Stud Administration. The goal was simple: to improve the breed efforts already underway in the region. Formal horse breeding had been happening around Westphalia since at least 1713.

State studs and Principal studs were both directly supervised by the Prussian administration, herding mares or purchasing stallions so that horses could be bred to meet the needs of that specific region. Stud fees were often low, subsidized by the government, to help local farmers be able to grow their own herds and eventually support the breeding project while also tending to their own workloads at home.

Many of the first Westphalian stallions that came from Warendorf were similar to the Trakehner breed. Cavalry and riding horses with Thoroughbred lineage were desired because they had the energy and personality to handle the difficult local agricultural terrain. Over time, as agricultural needs increased, the size of the horses required an increase as well. This caused the Westphalian to shift toward becoming a medium-sized all-purpose horse, close to a light draft in size instead of a sporting warmblood horse.

As the 20th century came about, farmers in Westphalia and Rhineland discovered that heavy draft horses were better workers in their fields than the heavy warmblood horses. The stud at Warendorf saw the heavy warmbloods replaced by heavy coldbloods, which then made the horses obsolete after World War II because of mechanization.

By 1957, the state stud at Wickrath was dissolved. Warmblood horses were then sent to Hannover, which allowed the Westphalian horse breed to begin repopulating.

The first stud book for Westphalian horses was established in 1888. The next year brought mare and stallion evaluations. Performance tests for horses in the region were first held in 1905. Pedigree records were carefully maintained, but destroyed during and after the second world war.

In 1982, a 100-day test was implemented to evaluate individuals within the breed. Since 2000, jumping-type and dressage-type horses have established two sub-types, though specialization is resisted within the breed. The length of the test has since been shortened to 70 days since then as well.

The Westphalian started as a riding horse. It grew into a working horse. It has now evolved back into a riding and sport horse. Because of these various shifts in priority, there are unique characteristics to be found within this breed.

What Are the Characteristics of a Westphalian Horse?

The Westphalian horse is bred to the same standards as every other German warmblood breed. There is a hefty exchange of Hanoverian and Rhinelander bloodlines within the breed, but this creates a riding horse that has long lines, an appealing gait, and a bold personality. Most Westphalians are well-suited to all types of riding.

There is less refinement in the Westphalian compared to the Thoroughbred, but it isn’t as coarse today as when there were coldblood influences incorporated into the breed. Because of the heavy draft influences, however, there is some added height that can be found in the Westphalian breed compared to other warmblood breeds. Some stallions can be taller than 17.2 hands.

Most Westphalians will usually stand between 15.2 and 17 hands at the withers. Individuals typically weigh more than 1,000 pounds, though some stallions may weigh more than 1,300 pounds.

The registry for the Westphalian horse does not have rules about markings or coat color. Chestnut, gray, black, and bay coats are the most common in this breed, but any pattern or color is permitted. Anything by the solid colors with limited white markings along the face and feet, however, is considered to be rare.

Concerns with the Westphalian Breed

In the United States, Rhinelander horses are sometimes presented to breeders or potential owners as Westphalian horses. Although it is true that the two stud books use the same approval process and require the same standard, along with them sharing the same state stud, the breeds are distinct. It is important to pull the lineage of a potential Westphalian before purchase in North America to verify its bloodline because of this.

Another method of determining true Westphalian lineage is to look for the official brand on the horse. Although branding has been made illegal or is highly discouraged throughout much of the equine world, a crowned shield which has the letter “W” is placed on the left hip of the horse when it is awarded papers at its foal show. 

The Future of the Westphalian Breed

In 2007, there were 500 young stallion prospects that were presented to breed association pre-selection events in Rhineland and Westphalia. Only 20% of the stallions which were evaluated were invited to complete the primary licensing process. 

One of the challenges that the breed faces is that there is no official scoring method that is followed when evaluating stallions. Everything is done based on personal observations by a judging committee based on how a colt appears to be fit and of a breeding quality.

To confirm the quality, the final step of becoming an approved stallion within the Westphalian breed is to perform. This creates a multi-step evaluation process that helps to remove horses that may be carriers of congenital disease from the breeding stock. That means Westphalian horses tend to be healthy, sound, and live long and fulfilling lives.

German Warmblood horses may be plentiful, but there isn’t a breed that is quite like the Westphalian. They are good riders, excellent sport horses, and have a superb quality of movement.

Trakehner Horse Origin and Characteristics

The Trakehner horses takes its name from the state in East Prussia where the original stud farm was located for this breed. Called Trakehnen, the state stud farm was first established in 1731 and continued to operate until 1944. Although the farm is still in operation at some level, it was annexed into Russia and no longer emphasizes the development of the Trakehner breed.

Today, the region is called Yasnaya Polyana.

Responsibility for the breed has shifted to Germany. Inspections for the breed are held annually in Neumunster every October. The jumping, temperament, ability, gait, and more of each stallion is full evaluated. If the horse passes, then a full breeding license is awarded.

What makes the Trakehner such a unique breed is that it is often used to refine other breeds. You can find Trakehner bloodlines in Arabians and Thoroughbreds because there are fewer risks to the offspring of these first-generation horses. At the same time, influences from Hanoverian, Oldenburg, and Dutch Warmblood breeds have helped to refine the Trakehner.

Trakehner horses compete in almost every discipline. They are particularly skilled at dressage and perform well in eventing due to their unique characteristics for a warmblood breed. 

History of the Trakehner Horse

During the Middle Ages, the Prussia and the Baltics were known for producing horses that were very hardy. Many of these horses made their way into the cavalry ranks or were used for carriage horses. As war spread around Europe in the 13th and 14th centuries, these horses came along with their crusaders and conquerors.

Many of these first horse would be considered small and primitive by today’s standards, but the military horses would become the foundation of the Trakehner breed.

In the 14th century, the Teutonic Knights worked to breed their own military horses. Their offspring were coveted by farmers in Ostsiedlung and Masovia because of their intelligence and willingness to work. Their fame soon began to spread throughout the region, so by the 17th century, Royal Prussia was using these horses for a wide variety of tasks throughout the region.

King Frederick William I was particularly fond of the characteristics that these horses provided, so in 1732, he established the Trakehnen stud. Forest land was cleared by the Pissa River to establish the stud and it was kept under royal guidance until 1786, when it transitioned into being state property.

When the state took over the stud, they looked to refine the breed further. Over a 20-year period, beginning in 1817, Turkoman, Thoroughbred, and Arabian horses were brought to the stud. These efforts eventually brought about the foaling of Tempelhuter, who was the son of the Thoroughbred Persimmon, and almost all Trakehner horses can trace their lineage back to these two stallions.

Some of the faults of the Thoroughbred breed began to creep into the Trakehner during this period, which is why the Arabian bloodlines were added. To encourage regional breeding, farmers were encouraged to bring their mares to the stud as well. In 1918, more than 60,000 mares were being bred annually through the state stud program. 

At that point, the modern Trakehner began to take shape. After the end of the first world war, treaties limited troops in Germany to just 100,000. Breeders began creating heavier horses that were better suited to farm work instead of war. That created a heavier build, but retained all the traits and characteristics that made the Trakehner such a refined breed in the first place. 

After the second world war, the official progress of the Trakehner was dissolved and the Trakehner Verband was created. The stud book is currently closed.

Expected Characteristics of the Trakehner Horse

A typical Trakehner horse will stand anywhere between 15.2 hands and 17 hands in height. Some mares may be a little smaller and some stallions may be a little taller and still be considered in conformation. Only extreme variances are typically faulted and that usually occurs on the shorter end of the height spectrum. Mares are preferably under 16.1 hands.

Trakehner horses grow rapidly and matures quickly compared to other warmblooded breeds, but should not be saddle-broken until at least the age of 3. 

A Trakehner horse can be of any coat color. Black, gray, bay, and chestnut coats are the most common that are seen in this breed. There is an occasional roan horse and the rare tobiano pinto horse that can be seen within this breed as well.

Because of the refined breeding that has occurred with this breed from a centralized stud, combined with its closed stud book, the Trakehner is the lightest warmblood breed in the world today. Many would argue that it is the most refined warmblood breed as well. Although the stud book is closed, certain Arabian and Thoroughbred bloodlines, including subtype Arabian bloodlines such as the Shagya or the Anglo, are also permitted.

Trakehner horses tend to have a rectangular build to their body frame. They are known for having a shoulder that is long and sloping. The cannons are shorter than average compared to other breeds, but the next is longer in length, crested, and should be set well. The hindquarters should be powerful and defined.

The Trakehner has a head that tends to be defined to the point that it seems to be chiseled. The face is narrow down by the muzzle, but slopes upward to create a forehead that is broad.

What the Trakehner horse is most famous for, however, is its floating trot. There is a high level of suspension that occurs within the trot and it should be full of impulsion.

As for temperament, Trakehner horses tend to be more spirited than other warmblood breeds. This is due to the influences of Arabian and Thoroughbred bloodlines. Some individuals within this breed have a personality and temperament that are closer to being hotblooded than warmblooded by nature.

The Trakehner should be trainable, athletic, and have a noticeably strong endurance. They are bred true to type because of bloodline purity, which is why it is such a valuable breed today for upgrading other breeds.

The Future of the Trakehner Horse

By the time the second rebuilding process occurred after World War II, only a few hundred purebred Trakehner horses remained. As Germany was separated into East and West nations, about 1,000 horses were able to cross the border safely, but most were either sacrificed or set free because of the economic hardships that farmers and breeders faced in the years directly after the war.

For the next 30 years, preservation of the breed was an informal priority. It wouldn’t be until the late 1980s when the processes of private, selective breeding were re-established that the exclusivity that this breed has long enjoyed were able to become influential one again.

That process continues still to this day. 
 

Tennessee Walking Horse Origin and Characteristics

The Tennessee Walking Horse is a true American success story. In 2000, this breed was named the official state horse in Tennessee. In Kentucky, it is the third most common breed that is found, coming in behind the Thoroughbred and the American Quarter Horse. The Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders’ Association sees new annual registrations of up to 15,000 foals.

In total, more than 500,000 horses have been registered with the breeders’ association over its lifetime. This makes it one of the most populous horses in the United States. 

The Tennessee Walking Horse can be found throughout the United States and it has been exported to Europe, Asia, Australia, and Africa as well. It is most commonly found in the states that helped to develop the breed, Tennessee and Kentucky, then any other place in the world today.

Betty Sain helped to grow global awareness of this breed thanks to her win at the World Grand Championship in 1966 showing Shaker’s Shocker. Sain would go on to export horses from Israel to Mexico. Sain was given numerous movie and book deals, but she preferred to raise goats and horses out of the spotlight instead.  

The Tennessee Walking Horse is a popular show horse, but what has really driven the popularity of the breed has been its presence in Hollywood. Several of the most famous horses that have come from TV and movies have been Tennessee Walking Horses. This includes Silver, who was the horse of the Lone Ranger; Trigger Junior, who worked with Roy Rogers; and Traveler, who is a mascot of the University of Southern California.

The US Department of Agriculture officially recognized the Tennessee Walking Horse as a breed in 1950.

History of the Tennessee Walking Horse

The Tennessee Walking Horse was originally bred in Kentucky around the year 1790. As homesteaders began to move westward as the United States established its independence, the settlers brought their pacing horses along with them. The Canadian Pacer and the Narragansett Pacer were quite popular along the Eastern Seaboard.

As these homesteaders got settled, they began to bring in Spanish Mustangs from Mexico and Texas to influence their herds. As the breeds would cross in semi-controlled conditions in Kentucky and Tennessee, there was a noticeable tendency for the foals to retain the pacing and gait characteristics of their parents. It wasn’t long before the offspring of the Pacers and the Mustangs began to be called a Tennessee Pacer.

The Tennessee Pacer was coveted as a strong, all-purpose horse. In the early 19th century, Kentucky and Tennessee saw strong population growth through the establishment of plantations and farms. Large limestone pastures encouraged herds to get out and roam. Many used them for riding and pulling equipment. Some were even well-suited to racing.

Throughout the 1800s, there was a concerted effort to continue improving the Tennessee Pacer. Thoroughbreds, Morgans, Standardbreds, and Saddlebreds bloodlines were all added to this local breed. In 1886, a foal named Black Allan was born. This stallion is now considered the foundation sire of the modern Tennessee Walking Horse and is often referred to as Allan F1 on lineage charts.

Black Allan was meant to be a trotting horse. He was foaled from a Morgan mare and a Standardbred Stallion, but he refused to trot. His insistence was to be a pacing horse. Because of this, he was funneled into a breeding program instead. One of his offspring, named Roan Allen, was born in 1904.

Roan Allen could perform numerous ambling gaits. He was placed into shows and became quite successful, helping to sire many of the establishment horses for the breed.

In 1935, the Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders’ Association was formed and the stud book was closed by 1947. The first national convention for the breed was held in 1939.

Encouraging the flashy gait has been the emphasis of handlers with this breed, which led many Tennessee Walking Horses to be “sored.” Soring places a purposeful injury on the foot of the horse to encourage a higher step. The Horse Protection Act of 1970 restricting this practice, along with other abusive training methods that were used to create exaggerated movements.

More criminal charges for horse abuse and endangerment regarding illegal stacks, action devices, and prohibited training techniques have come from within the Tennessee Walking Horse breed than any other in the United States.

As a result of the 1970 legislation, there are two sub-types emerging within the Tennessee Walking Horse breed. They are called flat-shot and performance horses, with the description based on the leg action that the horse performs. Flat-shod Walkers wear regular horseshoes and perform movements with little exaggeration. Performance Walkers still train with legal stacks and other weighted action devices. 

In the 1900s, the Tennessee Walking Horse was also crossed with the Welsh Pony to create the American Walking Pony.

Characteristics of the Tennessee Walking Horse

The Tennessee Walking Horse should stand at least 14.3 hands high, with some stallions reaching or exceeding 17 hands. Most horses within this breed will weigh about 1,000 pounds. There should be long, sloping shoulders and hips, a strong coupling, and a back that is shorter than average. The hindquarters should be powerful and well-muscled.

It is permitted within this breed for the hind legs to be cow- or sickle-hocked. 

The most famous characteristic of the Tennessee Walking Horse is its unique gait. It has a 4-beat running walk that offers flashy movements at the feet. This results in a ride that is remarkably smooth in the saddle, making the horse a suitable recreational riding option for those who may struggle with the bounce and movement of the more traditional gaits.

Although the breed may have been developed for agricultural work, the unique gait has helped it to become one of the most popular trail-riding horses in the United States.

The actual gait is the same foot pattern that would be associated with a walking gait in other breeds, but it is much faster. The average Tennessee Walking Horse can achieve a speed of up to 20mph with their running walk. As part of the gait, many horses within this breed will also nod their head to the cadence of their rhythm, which seems to help them be able to maintain the gait.

Some Tennessee Walking Horses are able to perform other ambling gaits as well. This may include the foxtrot, the single-foot, the rack, and the stepping pace. A few individuals have been known to utilize all 5 of these gaits and still perform a traditional canter and gallop as well. For show purposes, however, any other gait beyond the running walk will create a penalty if displayed.

The Tennessee Walking Horse is found in all solid coat colors. Several pinto patterns can be seen throughout the breed as well. Black, chestnut, and bay tend to be three most common colors seen, but dilution genes are very prevalent. Silver dapple, champagne, cream, and dun genes are present in many bloodlines. Overo, tobiano, and sabino pinto patterns have been seen as well.

Future of the Tennessee Walking Horse

Since 1970, there have been several controversies that have involved the Tennessee Walking Horse, but over rules of how to handle and show the horses instead of handling population concerns. Shoeing rules, soring concerns, and complying with the Horse Protection Act have created a patchwork system of rules that are overseen by several governing organizations.

Even though the Tennessee Walking Horse is an officially recognized breed, the United States Equestrian Foundation does not sanction or recognize any shows for this breed. Since 2013, USEF rules have banned all stacks and action devices.

Flat-shod Tennessee Walking Horses have two organizations supporting the breed, including one that is the official USEF affiliate.

Action devices are also supported by the Walking Horse Owners’ Association and an organization called SHOW. SHOW is an acronym that stands for “Sound horses, Honest judging, Objective inspections, and Winning fairly.” SHOW manages the Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration, which has been held annually in Shelbyville, Tennessee, since 1939.

Both sides that support each sub-type feel that there could be potential violations by the other regarding their conduct with the horses. The Celebration has become a hotbed for confrontation regarding this separation of perspective, especially since Horse Protection Act violations have been noted by some observers in recent years.

The popularity of the Tennessee Walking Horse is without question. Shows are routinely held for western pleasure and English riding classes. Fine harness driving classes include this breed as well.

Many are even used for beginners and for therapeutic purposes because of their gentle, social nature. It is difficult to find a horse that is more willing to work or be more excited to see you. Whether you take a ride down a local trail or you work extensively together for the show ring, when you have a Tennessee Walking Horse by your side, you will have a friend for life. 
 

Swedish Warmblood Horse Origin and Characteristics

The Swedish Warmblood is a breed of horse that originated from the Flyinge and Stromsholm regions of Sweden. The foundation of this breed comes from stock that was imported to these areas, incorporating bloodlines from all over Europe and Asia. Horses from Turkey, Russia, Germany, and Spain all helped to establish the breed.

Swedish Warmbloods are used today as a riding horse because of its straightforward pacing. They excel in dressage and in jumping competitions. They are excellent driving horses as well, which has created an export market for the breed throughout Europe and North America.

Most Swedish Warmbloods in the early days were destined to be carriage horses, with some of the larger individuals transitioning into agricultural work. Once the military discovered how rideable they were, however, the breeding programs transitioned their focus on riding characteristics instead of working characteristics.

Even farmers would work on breeding offspring that would pass military inspection so they could benefit from a sale of the horse.

The Swedish Warmblood Association was founded in 1928 to help support the breed, based on support received by the military. 

What Is the Origin of the Swedish Warmblood?

The first breeding operations in Sweden were established in the 12th century. Bishop Absalon of Denmark worked to establish a breeding program that could produce horses capable of serving in the cavalry. This program continued to serve southern Sweden for nearly 500 years, until Charles X acquired the area and established a royal stud.

In the 17th century, breeders in Sweden saw the athleticism of Friesian and Spanish horses and wanted to bring those traits to their local herds. Imports helped to improve the strength and activeness of the local stock, so breeders looked throughout the rest of Europe and Asia for horses and breeds that had similar traits. 

Thoroughbreds, Arabians, Trakehners, and Hanoverians were introduced to the local stock over time as well. This helped to smooth out the roughness that was seen in the local bloodlines and brought some extra height to the smaller horses.

Over the next two centuries, breeders continued to focus on bringing in the best horses from powerful horse breeds to their local stock. In the 1920s, three stallions helped to shape the Swedish Warmblood into more of a formal breed, named Hamlet, Tribun, and Hamplemann. In 1945, four Trakehner stallions helped to stabilize the genetics of the breed as well.

One of the stallions, named Heristal, was a descendent of Hyperion.

Until 1982, the breeding programs for the Swedish Warmblood were managed by the government. A private foundation with a charter was established to give the program in Flyinge independence of government oversight.

Some exports still occur, but the primary goal of the Swedish Warmblood breeding programs is to continue improving this national horse. 

What Are the Characteristics of the Swedish Warmblood?

A Swedish Warmblood horse can be any solid coat color. There are specific coat colors with this breed that are associated with lethal foaling factors, so horses with such a coat are excluded from receiving breeding approval. Chestnut, seal brown, and bay coat colors are the most common. Gray and roan coats are uncommon, while a true black coat is possible, but extremely rare.

Most Swedish Warmbloods stand between 16 and 17 hands. Some stallions may be slightly taller because of the varied genetics of the breed, while some mares may be slightly smaller. Their reputation, however, is based on their flowing gait. It is predictable, manageable, and nearly as stable as an ambling gait.

What makes the Swedish Warmblood such a unique European horse is that the breed always had an emphasis on riding. When most of Europe was trying to breed heavy draft horses for agriculture and war, the Swedes were working on producing a calm, intelligent horse that loved to ride. The studs in Sweden were still selling horses to the local cavalry in the 1970s because of the effectiveness of their program.

Each horse is judged in-hand once they reach a minimum age of 3. They are judged in several different categories, such as their walk, trot, physical conformation, and type. A score of 5 in each category is considered a passing score, while a score of 10 is being ideal. Based on the combined score of each category being judged, each horse will be approved into two different classes.

Class I horses score 38 or more points out of a possible 50 points. Stallions must be able to score a minimum of 38 and have no individual score under 7 in any category to be recommended for breeding. Stallions must also be able to pass a performance test before receiving full approval.

A stallion which reaches the point and performance thresholds will also have a radiograph performed to evaluate their soundness before full approval is awarded.

Class II horses for the Swedish Warmblood will score either 36 or 37 points. Mares are still approved for breeding with this score, but not stallions.

A mare will be approved with a minimum score of 34. 

Stallions will also be judged on the soundness of their offspring, with all progeny inspected and graded accordingly.

Stallion performance tests are held once per year by the Swedish Warmblood Association, usually in February or March. The testing takes place at the Swedish Equestrian Center. The first day of the performance testing is dedicated to veterinary inspections. Jumping under rider, free jumping, dressage, and test riding are all part of the evaluation process.

3-year-olds are tested separately from stallions that are 4 or 5 years old. The entire performance evaluation takes about a week to complete.

The Future of the Swedish Warmblood Breed

Compared to the rest of the world, Sweden has few native horse breeds. Their focus on maintaining the strength of the Swedish Warmblood takes advantage of the country’s large areas of land and emphasis to socialize local herds to create horses that are strong physically and mentally.

There is an emphasis within the breed to treat each horse as an individual and that point of view demands respect for each horse. Every horse has natural abilities and traits that help to paint a picture of what the individual can do. Even if a horse doesn’t score well enough to be approved for breeding, that doesn’t reduce the importance of the horse’s individuality.

Only the best horses are selected for breeding to ensure the long-term survivability of the Swedish Warmblood. That may create a more conservative approach to breeding than some other horse breeds, but it also means that there is a stronger likelihood of achieving high-quality results on a repetitive basis.

The Swedish Warmblood is a calm, but forthright, horse that loves to go for a good ride. Those traits make it one of the most popular breeds in the world today.

Suffolk Punch Horse Origin and Characteristics

The Suffolk Punch horse goes by several different names, including the Sorrel or simply the “Suffolk,” but they are all the same English breed of draft horse. The breed gets its name from its country of origin, which is located in East Anglia. The “Punch” component of the breed’s name is because of its strong visual appearance.

This heavy draft horse has a reputation for being a good doer. It offers an energetic gait, plenty of pulling strength, and a charming personality that emphasizes social contact with humans. The breed was originally developed in the early 16th century at the latest and is one of the few breeds with several centuries of selective breeding that has stayed true to its original conformation phenotype.

Originally developed for farm work, it wouldn’t be until the 20th century when the Suffolk Punch became a popular horse breed. And, since mechanization occurred right after the breed saw its popularity rise, it would also fall out of favor very quickly. In the 1950s, this heavy draft breed nearly became extinct.

Thanks to efforts by organizations such as the UK Rare Breeds Survival trust and the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy, this breed is experiencing a rebound. An increase in non-mechanized farm work in some communities has helped to fuel its popularity as well. You can also find this breed working in the forestry industry and it is sometimes used to assist in branding and marketing efforts.

The Suffolk Punch horse registry is listed as being the oldest English breed society. The first known horse of this breed was published in Britannia, printed in 1586, where the conformation of the horses of Eastern England are still the same as the Suffolk Punch expectations of today. The Suffolk Horse Society would be formed in 1877 to further support the breed.

The History of the Suffolk Punch Horse

In Britain, there were two reasons why a heavy draft horse was required: transportation or agriculture. The Clydesdale and the Shire were heavy draft horse breeds that were bred to primarily handle road work. The Suffolk Punch, on the other hand, was bred to primarily handle agriculture work.

For that reason, the Suffolk Punch, as a breed, tends to be shorter and stouter than the other British heavy draft breeds.

The height of the breed in its early years was also likely influenced by crossbreeding efforts in the region before official records were kept. Genetic studies of the Suffolk Punch confirm that it is closely related to the Dales Pony and the Fell Pony. There are also grouping similarities with the Haflinger. 

Yet Norfolk and Suffolk, which is where this breed established itself was quite isolated in the Middle Ages. That isolation led to the development of a distinct breed that has been maintained for nearly 600 years. 

Although this breed is considered one of the world’s oldest in terms of conformation consistency, the modern Suffolk Punch can be traced to a stallion that was owned by Thomas Crisp, who was of Ufford. The naming practices of the time were simple, often listed under a family name. For this stallion, he was simply referred to as “Crisp’s Horse.”

The stallion was just 15.2 hands. His presence was important to the breed because, by the 1760s, every known stallion line of the breed had died out. Crisp’s Horse was the only line that remained. This created a genetic bottleneck that would repeat itself in the 18th century as well.

To reduce the threat of the bottleneck, Norfolk breeds were introduced to the Suffolk Punch, including the Cob and the Trotter. Some breeders incorporated Thoroughbred bloodlines to create more of a sporting horse.

As the 19th century turned into the 20th century, exports to North American began to take place. By 1907, the need to establish the American Suffolk Horse Association arose. A stud book was published to support the breed overseas. Just a year later, the Suffolk Punch was officially exported to every inhabited continent in the world.

When war broke out in 1914, the Suffolk Punch was a popular farm horse. This popularity continued until the end of World War II, when mechanization made farm work much easier. At the same time, there was an increased need for food production, which meant many of the heavy draft horses were sent to slaughter as livestock. 

The losses were so profound, in fact, that in 1966, only 9 foals were registered with the Suffolk Horse Society. At that point, actions were taken to promote the breed and prevent its extinction.

In the US, some Belgian horses were allowed to breed with Suffolk Punch horses and any fillies that were produced from this crossbreeding were permitted to register with the American Suffolk Horse Association.

Since 2001, American horses are not allowed to register with the British association. Some see the American horses as not being “true” Suffolk Punch horses. Because of that, population numbers can be quite variable. In 2016, there were 300 registered Suffolk Punch horses and an average of 35 foals being born each year. In the US, there are up to 1,200 horses that are registered within this breed.

Characteristics of the Suffolk Punch Horse

The Suffolk Punch isn’t as tall as other heavy draft horses, with most standing between 16-17 hands at the withers. Some stallions can exceed this average, topping 19 hands. They generally weigh about 2,000 pounds.

The official coat color of the Suffolk Punch is “chesnut.” It is a chestnut coat, but the Suffolk Horse Society removes the middle “t” from the word to describe the color. Several different shades of this color can be found throughout the breed, ranging from a dark brown shade to red to a light shade that is close to a yellow color.

Different terminology is used to describe each shade of chesnut. Bright, dull dark, red, and dark liver are the 4 most common shades that are seen in the breed.

White markings are permitted on a Suffolk Punch, but it is a somewhat rare phenomenon. Most individuals, if white markings are present, have them limited to small areas around the lower legs or the face.

Individuals should display legs that appear shorter than average to the body dimension of the horse, but have a sense of power about them. The shoulders tend to slope and have excellent muscle definition. The neck of the horse should arch and be fitting of a visual aesthetic of power. The croup should be broad and muscular, but this also creates a back that is wide, but shorter than average.

Although it is a British heavy draft breed, the Suffolk Punch should not have any feathering around the fetlocks. A little feathering is permitted, but it should not be a point of visual emphasis when examining the horse as it would be for a Clydesdale.

The hooves of this breed are well-formed, stable, and strong. At the trot, this supports a movement that is surprisingly energetic for the size of the horse. It is a breed that tends to mature early, live long, but still be affordable to keep despite its larger size compared to other horse breeds.

Most importantly, the Suffolk Punch is a hard worker, willing to work until exhaustion sometimes, and that puts the onus on the owner or handler to ensure that the health of the horse is well-maintained. 

The Future of the Suffolk Punch Horse

In the past, the Suffolk Punch was used for a variety of heavy pulling purposes. You could find these horses on the battlefield, pulling the heavy artillery. You could also find them working on farms, pulling the heavy plow.

Today is no different. Households that prefer traditional or non-mechanized farming methods are rediscovering the benefits of owning a heavy draft horse like the Suffolk Punch. Their strength and energy suits them well in some sporting competitions as well, such has hunter and show jumping competitions.

It’s longevity also makes the Suffolk Punch an attractive breed for improving other breeds. A Suffolk Punch stallion was instrumental in the creation of the Jutland breed and they have been used to support Mecklenburg horses as well.

In Pakistan, there has been an effort to import the Suffolk Punch to create mules that are larger and more personable to military needs. 

The Vladimir Heavy Draft horse has been heavily influenced by the Suffolk Punch as well.

There are still challenges that this breed will face over the coming generations. It’s population levels are still at critical levels, especially from the British definition of the Suffolk Punch breed. Although the number of foals being registered continues to increase, the levels are only about 4 times higher than the critically low number of foal registrations that occurred in 1966.

With greater awareness, these gentle giants will continue to thrive. Get to know this intelligent breed a little better and you’ll get to enjoy the social contacts that are so loved by the Suffolk Punch. 
 

Spotted Saddle Horse Origin and Characteristics

The Spotted Saddle Horse is a breed that comes from the United States. It was developed by crossbreeding gaited horses, such as the Tennessee Walking Horse, with pinto ponies and horses that come from Colonial Spanish horses or a similar type. The result of these development efforts is a breed that has a colorful coat, a smooth gait, and multiple recreational riding uses.

Two registries have formed to help support the Spotted Saddle Horse, founded in 1979 and 1985. One has an open stud book, while the other requires a semi-closed stud book as part of the registration process. For the latter, at least one parent must already be registered with the association for a foal to be eligible for registration, no matter what the quality of the horse happens to be.

This breed always performs an ambling gait instead of a trot, along with a walk and a canter. Not being able to perform this gait, even if other conformation characteristics are present, is treated as a fault that prevents registration. 

Origin of the Spotted Saddle Horse

The pinto ponies and horses that came from Spanish ancestry were deliberately crossbred with breeds that were distinctly American, like the Standardbred and the Morgan. The American horses were larger than the Spanish horses, but breeders want to have the coat patterns and variations that were found with the pinto coats. By crossing these two together, larger horses with patterned coats could be developed.

The breeding process that created the Spotted Saddle Horse began soon after the American Revolutionary War at the turn of the 19th century. After the completion of the US Civil War, additional gaited breeds were added to the bloodlines. Missouri Fox Trotters, Peruvian Pasos, Paso Finos, and even Spanish Mustangs were brought into the breed.

The purpose of breeding was to create a general recreational horse that could be used in the Appalachians. Most of the horses during this era were bred first for the pinto coloration, however, and then for the physical characteristics.

Breeding programs may have been formalized at the local level from 1866-1978, but they were never any conformation standards in place to help forward the development of the breed. The National Spotted Saddle Horse Association (NSSHA) was the first to form, in Murfreesboro, was the first to form. They are very adamant about the care and well-being of the horses in this breed. Action devices are completely banned, including any weight around the pasterns. Performance packages are also banned.

The second association, the Spotted Saddle Horse Breeders’ and Exhibitors’ Association (SSHBEA), formed to help push the breed forward without the open influences that are sometimes seen with an open stud book.

What Are the Characteristics of the Spotted Saddle Horse?

The Spotted Saddle Horse is classified as a light riding horse. The minimum height expectation for the breed is 14.3 hands, although some individuals may reach a height of 16 hands. Most horses will weigh about 1,000 pounds, with a 100-pound variation on either end of the spectrum still accepted.

The NSSHA was register horses in their stud book as long as the horse meets a minimum height requirement of 13.3 hands.

The head of a Spotted Saddle Horse should be well-refined, offering a straight facial profile. A slightly convex profile is still listed as being acceptable. This head should be supported by a neck that is slightly arched and noticeably muscled, which leads to shoulders that slope and a chest that is visually muscular. The hindquarters of the horse should be broad and muscular, while the croup should slope slightly and be rounded.

In many ways, the visual standards and physical characteristics that are expected of a Spotted Saddle Horse are similar to what is expected of a Tennessee Walking Horse.

Pinto coloration is 100% necessary, with white spots being present on a background coat color of any color. Most Spotted Saddle Horses have a tobiano or overo pattern. The spotting can be very minimal on some horses, but be almost complete on others.

If a horse has verified parentage that would make it be a Spotted Saddle Horse, but it has a solid coat color, then it can still qualify for registration as breeding stock. This will verify the parentage for any offspring the horse may have in the future. Gaited mares and stallions qualify for this registration as well. Breeding stock registration is not considered a “full” registration with either registry.

The NSSHA also requires Spotted Saddle Horses to have an ambling gait instead of a trot to be registered, along with the pinto coloration. If those two characteristics are present, any breed may be present within their pedigree. Missouri Fox Trotters, Racking Horses, and Tennessee Walking Horses are allowed for registration. Even horses with undocumented parentage is allowed if the required characteristics are present.

For the SSHBEA, registration must include at least one parent in the pedigree that is already registered with the organization. Even if all characteristics are met, if one or both parents of a foal are not registered, then SSHBEA approval will be denied.

What Are the Gaits of the Spotted Saddle Horse?

Instead of the trot being the intermediate gait for the horse, a Spotted Saddle Horse performs an ambling gait. It may be a show walk, which is a 4-beat gait, with the horse reaching a peak speed of 8 miles per hour in some instances. The show gait is similar to the show walk, but is at a faster pace for most horses. Some individuals can reach a top speed of 20 miles per hour with this gait.

The canter is a 3-beat gait with the Spotted Saddle Horse, typical to most equine breeds.

Some horses within this breed are able to perform variations of an ambling gait that can be seen in other breeds. This includes a stepping pace, the rack, a fox trot, and a single-foot gait. The pattern of the foot fall is what differentiates the performance. As long as one of these ambling gaits is present, the horse will qualify for NSSHA registration.

Spotted Saddle Horses are sweet, kind, and usually possess a willing temperament. They tend to be curious, but they also prefer to be active. These horses love to put on a good show and love having attention showered upon them. That makes them an excellent competitor in certain sporting disciplines and why they are such a popular recreational riding horse.

Spotted Saddle Horses have a well-developed history, purposeful characteristics, and standards that must be followed to ensure the integrity of the breed. With their unique coloration and wonderful spirit, the horses within this breed are a pleasure to get to know.

Spanish Mustang Horse Origin and Characteristics

Although it is called the Spanish Mustang, the horse is a purely American breed. It is a descendant of the horses that were brought to North American during the 15th and 16th centuries, commonly referred to as the Colonial Spanish Horse. Unlike the semi-feral Mustangs that roam the deserts of the US West, the Spanish Mustang is a modern domesticated breed, even though some semi-feral herds do maintain some Colonial Spanish influences.

The horses were originally brought into Mexico during the conquest period that established Spanish colonies in the region. As colonial movement spread upward, the horse herds would eventually be brought into modern-day Texas, Arizona, and New Mexico.

Then, over the course of the next century, the native tribes in the Southwestern US would become heavily involved with the Spanish Mustang horse. Some horses were stolen. Others were traded. The Comanche, Apache, Shoshone, and Utes would eventually introduce these horses to the Rocky Mountains and Great Plains of the United States. 

It is a breed that is highly favored because of its overall stamina and hardiness. Endurance is world-class within a Spanish Mustang, with the breed providing strong results in numerous endurance races each year. Spanish Mustangs also compete in Western and English riding events with reasonable success.

What Is the History of the Spanish Mustang?

Although the Spanish Mustang was a highly popular horse in the 18th and 19th centuries, they became nearly extinct by the 20th century. They were expensive to care for and not well-suited to the rigors of agricultural work in a desert environment. Many were turned out to the semi-feral herds and left to their own devices.

A planned conservation program for this domesticated breed was started by Glibert Jones, Ilo Belsky, and the Brislawn brothers. They would take horses from the roving Mustang herds, ranch stock, and other North American herds when a Spanish phenotype was present. Two full stallion brothers would become the foundation of the recovery effort, coming from a Ute Reservation program.

Two registries would be formed to support the Spanish Mustang, formed out of differences about which horses deserved to be accepted. Jones would form the Southwest Spanish Mustang Association in 1977, but the Brislawns and Richards would form the Spanish Mustang Registry in 1957.

A study in 2006 that looked at the DNA of Spanish Mustangs showed specific haplotypes that indicated Iberian Peninsula origins for the horses. 

Some of the herds that are managed by the US Bureau of Land Management show these haplotypes as well. Montana, Utah, and Arizona all have at least one herd of semi-feral Mustangs that could eventually become part of the Spanish Mustang Breed. 

Characteristics of the Spanish Mustang

The typical Spanish Mustang horse should be at least 13.2 hands high. Stallions may reach a total height of 15 hands. Horses that are taller than 15 hands high are usually not favored for breed registration. Smaller mares may weigh as little as 650 pounds, while stallions can easily exceed 1,000 pounds.

The height and weight of the horse should be in proportion. 

A Spanish Mustang with good conformation with have a shorter than average back, a low-set tail, and rounded hindquarters. The coupling should be strong, but the horse should also be well-balanced. The build should be smooth with a slightly “uphill” look. This look is supported by a deep girth, shoulders that are laid-back, and withers that are pronounced.

Spanish Mustangs should have a straight facial profile, but one that is slightly concave is still listed as being acceptable. The eyes of the horse should be set a little high and have a somewhat almond-shape to them. The eyes can be of any color, but large eyes or very small eyes are listed as a fault. 

Like a sporting horse, the forehead on this breed should be wide, but the chest is narrow instead of being deep. The forehead should taper down to a fine muzzle, which can have differences in size, but never be coarse or large. Nostrils should be set low and the lips should be fine and firm.

Horses with coarse, thick, or floppy lips are faulted when being evaluated for the registry. 

The neck of the horse should be heavily crested, especially on a stallion, and muscle definition should be seen throughout the body. The length of neck should be about the same as the length of the horse from the withers to the point of the hip. Dips in the neck, including ewe neck, is to be faulted. A heavy neck crest that falls to one side is also listed as a breed fault.

Ergots, if present, should be small. The hooves are hard and round and the legs should be properly set, though the hind legs are permitted to sit under just a little. The cannons are shorter than average and the bone should be rounded.

Footfalls are not a point of consideration for most horses because of the lineage variation that exists within the breed. Some Spanish Mustangs could be listed as a gaited horse, while others only perform the basics. Unless there is a lack of leg straightness or some other type of interference, even winging out or paddling are not considered faults within this breed. 

Coat colors for the Spanish Mustang come in a wide variety, just as they did with their Spanish ancestors. The 4 most common coat colors are gray, black, bay, and chestnut. Appaloosa patterns are sometimes seen with in this breed, as are certain pinto patterns. Buckskins, palominos, cremellos, and roans can be seen on occasion as well. Although rare, grulla, Isabella, and perlino coats have also been seen.

Tobian patterns are supposed to be excluded.

Behavior and Movement of the Spanish Mustang

Spanish Mustangs are the definition of a domesticated horse. They prefer being around people and have a temperament that is affectionate and curious. As a breed, they tend to be alert and vey observant. That makes them eager to learn something new, but also means they have a high level of self-preservation. Spanish Mustangs which perceive a threat will act to protect themselves, even if that threat is a person.

Any gait is listed as being acceptable by the Spanish Mustang Registry. It should be performed a way that is rhythmic and smooth. The cadence should be visually pleasing, with roundness and symmetry. Gaited Spanish Mustangs tend to have their own unique approach to their gait, particularly when it comes to pacing. Different footfalls are allowed to be present as long as the other standards are present.

Spanish Mustangs are often treated as the epitome of the classic American horse. Their spirit, personality, and willingness is what makes them such an attractive breed.

Shire Horse Origin and Characteristics

The Shire horse is a draft horse and often one considered as one of the largest breeds in the world today. It is especially tall, which a Shire holding world records for height and weight at various times throughout history. The Shire is a strong breed as well, with a tremendous ability to pull weight.

Today, you will see Shire horses pulling drays to deliver ale and performing other harness work. In some regions, they are still used to pull logs out of areas where mechanized vehicles cannot enter. Despite their size, many Shires are often used for recreational riding as well. 

The breed associations for the Shire are some of the oldest in continual operation in the world today. The Shire Horse Society was formed in Britain in 1878 and the American Shire Horse Association was started in 1885. Large exports from the UK to the US occurred in the late 19th century to support agricultural development.

Like most heavy draft breeds, they feel out of popularity in the 1950s thanks to fast advances in mechanization. In the 1970s, however, the popularity of this breed began to rise and a recovery was experienced. Population levels are still listed as being at a critical state, but these beautiful horses are poised and ready to make a dramatic comeback. 

The Origin Story of the Shire Horse

Horses were used for agricultural work in Britain as early as the 12th century. Advertisements for horses at Smithfield Market, dated 1145, speak of horses that are fit for plowing, transportation, or “the dray.” Oxen were used up until the 18th century because they were either cheaper or more capable of bearing the heavy workloads.

As warfare technology began to evolve, there was a great demand to have strong horses enter the battlefield. Those horses needed to have a certain calmness to their personality because they’d be responsible for hauling gun powder, moving cannons, and even taking on cavalry work. At one point, private ownership of stallions above 15 hands was not allowed because of the need for military horses.

At the same time, some cavalry commanders found the heavy draft horses to be bulky and slow to move on the battlefield. They worked with the Dutch to bring Friesian horses to Britain to develop a larger, but nimble horse that maintained the cold-blooded temperament of a heavy draft horse.

This developed the Old English Black Horse, which would become the foundation of the Shire Horse. People who supported Robert Bakewell continued to refine the Black Horse, creating a sub-type that was referred to as the Bakewell Black. By the middle of the 17th century, the term “Shire” was being used to describe the larger Old English Black Horses that had Bakewell influences in their lineage.

By the 18th century, breeding records that tracked Shire lines began to appear. The Packington Blind Horse is another foundation horse for Shires, active during the late part of the 18th century. At this point in time, Britain used a nation-wide system of canals to transport heavy loads over a long distance. Shires could tow the barges along the canals with ease, making them a very popular horse.

At the turn of the 19th century, Shire horses were used as cart horses, especially for dock work. Their ability to pull weight made it easier to transport large deliveries throughout London and other British cities. By the time a stud book was published in 1878, there were nearly 2,400 stallions available with records that dated to 1770. At the turn of the 20th century, more than 5,000 Shires were being registered every year. 

Then mechanization came after World War II. Population levels plummeted. Large breeding studs were closed. In 1955, the British Spring Show saw fewer than 100 Shires being shown. Between 1950-1959, only 25 Shire horses were registered in the United States. Even in 1985, only 121 horses were registered in the US.

Today, there are about 200 new registrations made annually in the United States. A total population of around 1,500-2,000 horses is believed to be present globally, though the American Shire Horse Association reports that at they have about 3,000 registered Shires globally.

Characteristics of Shire Horses

Shire stallions are required to be bay, gray, or black. They may not have excessive white markings or be roan. White markings should typically be around the hooves and may be incorporated with the feathering. White markings on the face are permitted as well. In the United States, chestnut coat colors are permitted for stallions, but the color is not permitted in Britain.

Geldings and mares have the same color standards, but roan is permitted for them.

Shire stallions average a height of 17.2 hands, but must meet a minimum 17 hands high standard for the Shire Horse Society in the UK. A gelding must be a minimum of 16.2 hands, while mares have a minimum height standard of 16 hands.

Stallions can weigh up to 2,400 pounds, with the largest individuals sometimes topping 3,000 pounds. There are no set weight standards for mares. Geldings must be at least 1,870 pounds to meet their weight standard.

Shires have a head that is lean and long. Their eyes are noticeably large. The head is set onto a neck that has a slight arch to it and is longer in proportion to the body compared to other heavy draft horses. Shoulders for a Shire should be wide and deep, as should the chest, while the back is shorter than average comparable to its size, but still very muscular.

Shires should be set well up for the horse. Being “goose rumped” is often treated as a fault. The head and tail should be carried upright, presenting with ribs that are well-sprung and not flat-sided.

Feathering is common, but not required. Shire horses with Clydesdale bloodlines in their lineage tend to have the most pronounced feathering. The hair that composes the feathering should be silky, long, fine, and straight. This hair covers feet that should have open necks and be big around the top of the coronet. There should also be plenty of length in the pasterns.

Mares should conform to all stallion standards, but be smaller and more feminine in their overall appearance. A breed standard for mares is that there should be enough room for them to be able to successfully carry a foal to term. 

Shires that fall under 17 hands in height tend to be used for general work purposes. Horses that exceed 18 hands in height are often used for parades, shows, and other promotional purposes. They are an easy-going horse as a breed, with a willingness to work, and a desire to have daily contact with humans.

Their strength is the primary attribute of the breed. In 1924, a pair of Shire horses were able to pull a starting load that exceeded 45 tons. They amount of weight they pulled actually exceeded the maximum reading that the equipment could display. In bad weather with poor footing, the same pair of Shires pulled 16.5 tons.

How to Register a Shire Horse

To register a Shire horse, you will need to speak directly with your appropriate geographically-based association. The Shire Horse Society requires that all horses, except for geldings, must be DNA-tested as part of the registration process. Foals must also have passports, which require a successful registration.

The American Shire Horse Association requires a certificate of breeding as part of the registration process and all foals must be DNA-tested before the registration can be completed. . This requires a registration number from the UK, US, or Canadian Shire horse associations for the mare and the stallion that provided the parentage of the horse being registered. 

The American Shire Horse Society requires the signature of the recorded stallion’s owner or lessee at the time of service as well.

Photographs that show all the markings of the horse are required as part of the registration as well. Unusual places for white markings must be included separately from standard photo locations, such as the left or right side. Some Shires may have white markings along the jaw or under the barrel. 

Uses for the Shire Horse Today

The glory days of the Shire Horse may be over, but this breed has multiple avenues to find new success. Market gardens, small farms, and other agricultural processes that are concerned about environmental impacts have brought the Shire back into its comfort zone of working in the fields.

Timber extraction in difficult areas has increased the need for heavy draft horses like the Shire as well.

The Shire horse has also found new life in certain sporting events. They perform exceptionally well in skills tests, compete in obstacle driving, and perform well in cross-country events. There are recreational riding roles for them to fill as well.

Shires may be growing in popularity, but their survival is still far from guaranteed. It will take continued work to ensure that all the benefits this breed provides can be experienced by future generations. 

Shetland Pony Origin and Characteristics

The Shetland Pony is a horse with a unique look. They are highly intelligent horses, but with a small size. Their height is why they are referred to as a “pony” instead of as a “horse.” They are sturdy, stocky in appearance, and have a thick coat thanks to the breed’s development in the Shetland Isles. When looking at a Shetland Pony, you’ll see an animal that is compact and strong.

An American sub-type of the Shetland Pony has been developed since the 20th century as well. American Shetlands tend to have more refinement to their general appearance. They also tend to be a little taller and have longer legs.

The average Shetland Pony can pull up to twice its own weight and many are able to support a rider that weighs up to 130 pounds. They are also one of the longer-lived breeds in the equine world today. It is not unusual for a Shetland to reach the age of 30.

Nutrition is extremely important when caring for a Shetland Pony. Their size and physical structure makes them susceptible to laminitis, especially when the horse’s diet is primarily carbohydrates.

Today, you will find Shetlands working in a number of venues. They can be ridden by children and make an excellent training horse. They often work at carnivals or fairs to offer a short ride. Some ponies can be trained as a certified support animal, helping individuals with disabilities. Shetlands are routinely part of a petting zoo experience as well.

What Is the Origin of the Shetland Pony?

Small horses and ponies have been kept in the Shetland Isles of Scotland since at least the Bronze Age. It is believed that at one point, the native horses on the islands were crossbred with horses and pones that were brought to the region by settlers from the Norse regions of Europe at the time.

Additional influences from the Celtic pony are possible as well, but it is the natural environment of the region that had the greatest influence on these horses. It is a harsh climate that offers a scarce food supply, so these ponies needed to develop an extreme hardiness just so they could survive.

That hardiness turned the Shetland Pony into an intense worker. Their strength is comparable to horses of a more traditional size. They would carry peat, coal, or pull carts for miners from the 17th century to the 19th century. Many ponies worked underground in coal mines, often for their entire life, which was shortened because of the difficult conditions in the mine.

Even some “pit ponies” made their way to the United States. The first Shetland ponies were exported to the US in 1885 by Eli Elliot. Elliot would begin to improve the breed from an American perspective, bringing in bloodlines from the Welsh Pony, Hackney ponies, and the Harness Show Pony to improve the height of the horse and give it more strength. 

It wouldn’t be until 1971 when the final mine using pit ponies would finally close. 

A breed registry, called the Shetland Pony Stud Book Society, was formed in 1890 to encourage breeders to produce high-quality animals. The goal was to maintain the purity of the breed despite the high demands for work horses at the time. In 1957, the Shetland Islands Premium Stallion Scheme was formed so that the best registered stallions could be subsidized so that breeding stocks could be improved. 

What Are the Characteristics of a Shetland Pony?

To qualify as a Shetland Pony, the horse must have a minimum height of 7 hands. The official maximum height for the Shetland Pony is 10.2 hands. Different breed registries around the world have different standards on height, however, so there are regional differences. In the US, for example, a Shetland Pony still qualifies for registration at 11.2 hands. 

Shetlands have heads that are strikingly small compared to the stoutness of their body. Their faces are sometimes dished. Eyes tend to be widely spaced and their ears are small, but always seem to be alert.

Strength is found within the neck of the horse. It is a short neck, but with good definition, leading to a body that is stocky and very compact. The cannon bone is shorter than average when comparing the size relation of the horse, but the back is broad and the girth is deep universally within the breed.

A Shetland Pony will grow a thicker winter coat to help withstand the colder weather, supported by a thick tail and a thick mane. The double coat falls out before the warmer months.

The coat can be almost any color within this breed. The most common colors seen are black and chestnut, with bay, gray and roan somewhat common. Dun, cremello, pinto, or silver dapple coats are also possible. Shetlands do not carry the leopard spotting gene like Appaloosas do or the champagne gene, though some horses do have a coat color that is similar to breeds that do have that genetic profile.

Despite their size, Shetlands are cold-blooded in their temperament and personality. They are patient with children, intelligent by nature, and usually possess a willing spirit. There are some individuals that have low patience levels with circumstances they do not like, which can cause the horse to become uncooperative. These horses are often described as being “opinionated” or “snappy.”

Training is important for the Shetland Pony. Because of their size, many owners tend to inadvertently spoil their horses. Should this occur, some individuals can become very headstrong and demanding.

Differences Found in the American Shetland Pony

Beginning in 1888, just 3 years after the first written records of imports to the United States, the American Shetland Pony Club was formed. It had two stud books that were used, creating Division A and Division B ponies. Shetlands in Division A had 12.5% or less outcross, while Division B had 12.5% or more outcross. If 4 generations of Division A breeding could be proved in the lineage of an individual, then foundation certification would be awarded to that pony.

Since 2009, the division designations have been eliminated from the registration process.

American Shetlands tend to have a neck that is somewhat longer than their counterparts. Their body structure tends to be a little longer and narrower through the back as well. Noticeably high withers are present, along with hindquarters that have distinct power. Shoulders should have a good slope to them so that the horse can show a dynamic level of action.

The American Shetland Pony Club recognizes four specific types of Shetlands.

#1. Modern. These ponies tend to be the tallest of the breed. When shown, they tend to offer a higher head set than the other types. They also tend to have higher stepping action.

#2. Pleasure. These ponies are bred in the same fashion as the modern-type American Shetland, but don’t have the same level of action. It tends to be somewhat more subdued.

#3. Classic. These ponies offer the taller, more refined look of the American Shetland and are treated as being the typical type sought after. They lack the action of the modern-type pony, but have the highest levels of refinement. The classic-type pony also tends to have a gentler disposition and prefers higher levels of social activity with humans.

#4. Foundation. These ponies are classified through their lineage instead of their physical characteristics. A foundation-type pony cannot have any Hackney influence within its lineage for a minimum of 4 generations. All ponies within this type must also be 10.2 hands high or less. These ponies are closest to the international standard for the breed.

For American Shetlands, because it is listed as a sub-type, many owners choose not to register their horse because they believe it does not meet the international standard. American standards are somewhat different, so the American Shetland Pony Club believes there are several more classic-type ponies in the US than their registration numbers indicated.

Differences Found in the German Shetland Pony

Beginning in 1965, German breeders began to import American Shetlands to develop their own sub-type. Their goal was to create a sporting-type of horse using Shetland lineage. They wanted to improve the temperament of the horse, add more refinement to the head, and give it a better gait.

In 2000, the UK registry for the Shetland Pony refused to register any horse with American bloodlines as a purebred. Because of this action, the Germans who had imported American Shetlands begin their own registry.

All coat colors are listed as being acceptable in the German registry, but horses with a chestnut coat and a flax mane tend to be the most common. 

Cross registration between the various international Shetland Pony associations and registries is allowed, assuming the pedigree or conformation meets the expected standards in each location. There may be variations within this breed, but one thing is for certain: the Shetland Pony will continue to be a popular breed because of its unique look and brilliant temperament and personality.

Shagya Arabian Horse Origin and Characteristics

Not everyone agrees that the Shagya Arabian horse is an independent breed. They’re not listed as being a pure Arabian horse, but many don’t see them as being their own breed either. That makes this breed wander in fields of gray when it comes to official recognition.

The World Arabian Horse Organization recognizes the Shagya Arabian with a special status and has done so since 1978. Because the horses of this breed have been purebred since the 19th century in some instances, the organization permits horses with a proven lineage to be termed a purebred Shagya Arabian horse.

Shagya Arabian breeders are also allowed to use the emblem of the World Arabian Horse Organization.

Purebred Shagya Arabians, however, should not be confused with purebred Arabians. That confusion is what has led to the great debate about whether or not this breed should be treated as a distinct bloodline, a sub-type Arabian, or its own designation. 

Shagya Arabians are recognized as being a riding horse. They also perform well when using the harness. In the past, they were often used as a mount for local cavalry forces, so there is a certain formality to their presentation. That has made this breed become a popular choice in a few sporting horse disciplines, such as eventing and dressage.

In 2006, a Shagya Arabian was a world champion in the sport of endurance racing. 

History of the Shagya Arabian Horse

The Shagya Arabian was first developed in the 19th century in the heart of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Studs were found at Radautz, Topolcianky, Piber, Babolna, and Mezohegyes studs. This region, which includes Romania, Poland, Germany, Croatia, and the Czech Republic, still provides the foundation for the continued survival of this breed.

If a Shagya Arabian has pure bloodlines, then its lineage can be traced back to the studs in all lines. Because of this, the breed is sometimes referred to as a sub-type of the Arabian breed instead of being its own breed. It may also be classified as a part-bred or an Anglo-Arabian horse.

The breed is named after one of its primary founding sires, who was named Shagya. He was a gray Arabian, though some argue that his lineage showed that he was only a part-red. Foaled in Syria in 1810, at 15.25 hands, he was taller than most other Arabians at that time. Shagya was used for breeding in Babolna, using his Arabian influence to improve local populations.

Several Arabian stallions were brought to the studs to continue the improvement process. As Turkish influences increased in the region, additional bloodlines from Lipizzans and Thoroughbreds were included with the breeding programs. Pedigree records from all this activity were kept, making it easy to know which horses can be considered a pure-bred Shagya Arabian and which are not.

When this line of horses from the above-mentioned studs were first recognized as an independent breed, there were referred to as the Araberrassee. Many felt that this was a term that was too generic, since it only indicated that the breed came from an Arabian ancestry. It would not be until after the second world war that the idea of naming the breed after the foundation stallion became the preference.

Despite their extensive European history, the Shagya Arabian wouldn’t be introduced to North America until the 1980s. Breeding programs would be established in 1986, with a foundation stallion named Hungarian Bravo leading the way. Hungarian Bravo was foaled from parents that General George S. Patton brought to the US in 1947 as a prize of war. 

Expected Characteristics of the Shagya Arabian Horse

The characteristics of a Shagya Arabian horse are similar to those of a purebred Arabian. Some non-Arabian genetics have been introduced into the breed, however, so there are some slight differences in the conformation. Shagya Arabians tend to be a little taller compared to a purebred Arabian, have bigger bones, and a visual appearance that is somewhat less refined.

A Shagya Arabian should be at least 14.3 hands high. Many horses within this breed exceed 16 hands. In comparison, most Arabians are 15.1 hands high or less in height. The standard range for an Arabian is as small as 14.1 hands. The cannon bone of the horse should be no less than 7 inches. The frame of the horse should always be longer than the horse is tall, with horses presenting with a square frame being listed as “not welcome.” 

The depth of the girth and barrel of the horse should be equal to the frame of the horse. The topline of the horse should extend from the ears to the tip of the tail and support the appearance of a good carriage and riding horse. 

The head should reflect the personality of the horse. The features should be distinctly Arabian, without being heavy or overly large. Roman noses are not usually permitted. The teeth cannot be under- or over-shot. The neck of a Shagya Araba should be arched, long, and noble. The neck mustn’t be set too low and it should support the rideability of the horse. 

Gray is the most common coat color that can be found within this breed. The coat looks white, especially as the horse reaches adulthood, but it is not a true white coloration. Chestnut, bay, and black coat colors are somewhat common within the breed as well.

To become a registered Shagya Arabian, the horse must pass a thorough evaluation process. Purebred Arabians also qualify to be registered as a Shagya Arabian if they can pass the evaluation. Judging is based on 7 criteria, including head, neck, body, type, legs, trot, and walk. 

Foals are scored on type, conformation, and movement. Measurements are reserved for adult horses only. Stallions are evaluated for free jumping and free lunging of all gaits if conditions are favorable for doing so.

The Shagya Arabian horse may be its own breed or it could be listed as a sub-type of a true Arabian. Both descriptions are somewhat accurate. Over time, the lineage that comes from the stallion Shagya may develop even more of its own personality and conformation preferences, especially with clear expectations being in place.

Until then, the debate about this horse breed will likely continue.

Selle Francais Horse Origin and Characteristics

The Selle Francais horse comes from France and is an excellent sporting horse breed. It excels in show jumping, but there have been successful horses in eventing and dressage as well. The Selle Francais stands out because of its fantastic gaits, athletic appearance, and overall durability.

Although the Selle Francais is bred throughout France, global exports have expanded the reach of this breed since the 1960s. Stud books have been formed in the United States and the UK to help support this breed. Horses registered in other breeds may qualify to register as a Selle Francais as well, depending upon their heritage and conformation.

Dual registrations are limited to Arabians, Thoroughbreds, French Trotters, and Anglo-Arabians. Technically, however, and horse that is a sporting-type that can pass the Selle Francais conformation judging and tests is a potential candidate for registration. 

For a horse to be registered, it must be from either two Selle Francais horses or a cross between a registered horse and what is known as a “facteur de Selle Francais,” or a horse that has passed the selection process for the stud book. Nationality of the horse is one of the qualification criteria that is considered by the breed’s approval committee.

What Is the History of the Selle Francais Horse?

In the 19th century, Thoroughbreds were brought into Normandy to begin crossbreeding with local mares. Some Norfolk Trotters were brought to the region for the same purpose. The goal at the time was fairly simple: to create a strong military horse that could also be used for carriage work and some agricultural work.

By the start of the 20th century, these horses were referred to as “half-bloods.” Most French regions had half-bloods working in them, but each was a different type because of the different needs of each region. Every region kept track of their half-blood horses, but there were three primary regional books: Caen, Cluny, and La Roche-sur-Yon.

In 1958, it was decided that all the regional half-blood books should be combined together to form one specific breed. That was how the Selle Francais breed was founded. Literally the “French Saddle Horse,” this sporting-type horse was an effort to show that recreational uses for a horse were just as important as the working-type horses that were needed before the era of mechanization began.

Since 1958, the only purpose of the Selle Francais has been to be a sport horse. Breeding efforts have worked to refine the physical qualities of the breed, helping it to become highly competitive on the international circuit. It wouldn’t be until 2003, however, that a breed association would be formally approved by the French Government to oversee continued development of the breed.

Much of the activity around the Selle Francais breed centers around Caen and Normandy today as there is a preference to promote the Anglo-Norman lines of this breed.

More than 7,500 farms are reporting breeding activity with the Selle Francais, but over 75% of those farms only have a single mare. About 7,500 foals are born each year, with about 500 active stallions within the breed, and artificial insemination has helped to refined blood lines throughout the world.

Argentina, Brazil, and Morocco also have breeding programs in place, but their horses are registered to the French stud book.

When the breed association was approved for the Selle Francais, the stud book was divided into two components. The first was a section for new horses that had a parentage of two already registered parents. The second section was for foals that came from one registered parent and one that had passed the breed standard. Just as the regional stud books were combined in 1958 to form the breed, the two sections were combined into a single stud book once again in 2009. 

Characteristics of the Selle Francais Horse

There is a wide variety of genetic characteristics in the Selle Francais breed, so there are no set breed standards. The breed does have some generic guidelines that are expected for conformation, but nothing more at this time. The range of height in this breed can be up to 17.3 hands or as small as 15.1 hands. On average, a registered Selle Francais will be at least 16 hands high.

The horse should also have a powerful gait that is well-balanced and works in harmony with its natural movements. Because it is a sporting horse breed, the forehead is typically broad and the facial profile is straight, though convex profiles are also permitted. The next is long and strong, with a straight back and a longer-than-average croup.

The chest should be deep, the shoulders long, and there should be a slight slope. Power in the hindquarters should be displayed, evidenced by harder hooves than average and joints that are wider than average.

Most Selle Francais horses are either chestnut or bay in coat color because of the Anglo-Norman lineage that is found in many of the individuals of this breed. White markings are common with this breed as well, especially around the feet. Gray horses are sometimes seen because of the Anglo-Arabian and Thoroughbred influences that are within the Selle Francais. 

Physical ability has been the primary component of breeding preferences within this breed since its founding, so individual horses display a wide range of temperaments. Criteria for temperament in judging and conformation are under development, but not a judging standard as of 2017. Most horses within this breed have a spirited personality, but tend to be patient and quiet when it comes time to work. They are extremely friendly and very intelligent horses.

To qualify for registration, conformation, gait, and performance are scored for the horse. The total scores in each category are then compared to the national averages that have been cataloged. Horses that fall beneath the average have a more difficult journey toward breed registration, but not impossible. Scores can be updated based on changes to training or performance over time.

The Selle Francais horse may be one of the newer additions to the equine world, but its sporting emphasis has a history that goes back to the 19th century. It is one of the few French horses that never had breeding influences for food production as well, which has helped to keep the look and characteristics of the breed well-refined. 

It is an excellent sporting horse which has a bright future on the horizon. 
 

Saddlebred Horse Origin and Characteristics

The Saddlebred is often called the horse that “American made.” It was developed to be a war mount in the US Civil War, but its ancestry dates to the time when America was working to achieve independence from Britain. It is a riding-type horse, sometimes called a Kentucky Saddler because of where the modern-type Saddlebred was developed, and has one of the oldest breed registries still operating in the US.

The 20th century saw the popularity of the Saddlebred begin to grow internationally. Nearly 250,000 Saddlebreds have been registered and can be found in most countries around the world. Australia, Great Britain, Europe, and Africa all have their own registries for Saddlebreds.

The Saddlebred has also played a large role in the formation of horse shows in the United States. This breed loves some attention and it makes them strut in a way that is reminiscent of a peacock. Because of that distinctive style, Saddlebreds are also lovingly called the “peacocks of the equine world” by those who work with the breed or attend shows.

Their love for attention has made the Saddlebred a popular horse for television and movies. They compete well in combined driving and English riding. Park, Pleasure, Harness, and gaited competitions see Saddlebreds competing on a regular basis as well. 

What Is the History of the Saddlebred Horse?

Saddlebreds have their ancestry rooted in the palfreys of the British Isles. The Hobby and Galloway horses in the region, which had ambling gaits, were one of the first horses brought to the American colonies by settlers. Once in the US, these horses were refined with the Narragansett Pacer, which added some driving characteristics to the breed while helping it to refine the gait.

Colonists would then begin to import Thoroughbreds beginning in 1706. The Thoroughbreds were crossed with the Narragansett Pacer, and then the Pacers were continued to be crossed with the offspring from the palfreys. These actions would eventually lead to the extinction of the Narragansett as an independent breed.

To preserve the gains being seen in the offspring of their palfreys, the colonists began to incorporate Canadian Pacer bloodlines into their horses. By the time 1776 came around and the Revolution was taking place, a distinctive riding horse had been created. It had the quality and size of a Thoroughbred, but the gait and stamina of a Pacer.

This breed was initially called the “American.” The first documented instance of this breed can be found in a document that was sent to the Continental Congress. A diplomat wanted one of the American horses to be sent to Marie Antoinette as a gift.

Throughout the 1800s, the newly minted American horse was continually refined with additional bloodlines. Morgans, Standardbreds, and Hackneys were added, enhancing the benefits that were being provided by the Canadian Pacer. One Pacer in particular, named Tom Hall, was registered as one of the first Saddlebreds and became a foundation stallion for several lines.

Breeding efforts would eventually shift to Kentucky around the turn of the 20th century. More Thoroughbred bloodlines were added to the American to give the horses some added height. The taller horses were first treated as a separate breed, called the Kentucky Saddler. It wouldn’t be until 1980 that the two names would be combined to create the American Saddlebred.

During the US Civil War, Saddlebreds were very popular. They were brave, had excellent endurance, and could find a way to get out of a conflict if necessary. These traits made the horse highly desired by officers.

Stud books had been privately produced for the American and the Kentucky Saddler from the 1850s, but in 1891, those books were formalized into an official breed registry. Founded as the National Saddle Horse Breeders’ Association, in 1899 the name was changed to the American Saddle Horse Breeders’ Association. In 1980, it would become the American Saddlebred Horse Association.

Show History of the American Saddlebred

Saddlebreds were shown in the US as early as 1816. They made an impact on the international stage in 1856 during the St. Louis Fair. By 1917, when state fairs began holding events, the Kentucky State Fair deemed their competition to be a World Championship show. To attract global participation, a prize of $10,000 was offered.

Using a standard inflation calculator, the value of that prize would be about $210,000 in 2017 dollars.

The American Horse Shows Association also formed in 1917, which would eventually become the United States Equestrian Federation (USSF). This standardized rules and show formats. The Saddlebred would come to dominate these shows, leading to breed-specific shows being offered for them.

As in US horse racing, there is a triple crown available for Saddlebreds. The World Championship Horse Show, still held at the Kentucky State Fair, the American Royal Horse show, and the 5-gated championships at the Lexington Junior League Horse show are treated as the three primary competitions on the calendar every year. Only 6 horses in the history of the Saddlebred Triple Crown have earned that honor.

Saddlebreds have been a quiet part of the equal rights movement in the US as well. When the Civil Rights Movement was thriving in the 1960s, African-American owners and handlers began showing their horses. Women began showing Saddlebreds with regularity as the suffrage movement increased. 

Characteristics Found in the Saddlebred Horse

The Saddlebred averages a height of about 16 hands. Some stallions may be 17+ hands high, while some mares may be around 15 hands. The average Saddlebred will weigh about 1,200 pounds, but some mares may weigh less than 1,000 pounds.

Saddlebred should have a head that is shaped “well,” with a profile that is straight. The neck should be slim, arched, and with above average length. The shoulders should slope, the withers must be well-defined, and the back must be strong and level. The croup should be level, without any sloping, and the tail should be carried high.

Most Saddlebreds will have a measure of spirit to them, but their energy can usually be self-maintained. Many are gentle and social animals, especially when working with humans.

Any coat color is acceptable as a Saddlebred. Black, brown, chestnut, and bay are the most common coat colors that are seen within this breed. Roan, gray, and palomino coats are uncommon, but seen with regularity. Since 1882, pinto patterning has been accepted in the Saddlebred breed as well. Older Saddlebreds that were spotted were only listed as their base coat color, so the extensiveness of pinto patterning is not really known.

It wasn’t until the 1930s that spotted, patterned horses were noted separately from the base coat color.

There is also the gait of the horse to consider when looking at a Saddlebred. They have the canter, trot, and walk like many other horses, but their canter has some variations. Two four-beat ambling gaits, referred to as the “slow gait” and the “rack” are also possible. In shows, Saddlebreds compete in three-gait and 5-gait classes based on how they are able to perform.

Health Issues with the Saddlebred Horse

Saddlebreds have an unusually high risk of suffering from lordosis, which is usually called “swayback.” It comes from a recessive mode of inheritance, but how it forms is not yet known. Swayback is considered a conformation fault and is penalized if the horse is shown. 

Because of the positioning that is required of a Saddlebred during show presentations, some horses can develop upper respiratory impairments. Leg and hoof injuries are relatively common with the movement required of the horse and the shoeing that helps to achieve results. This can result in ongoing lameness. 

What Is the Future of the Saddlebred?

Saddlebreds are exhibited in multiple divisions today, from pleasure classes to driving classes and everything in-between. Different competitions may require different looks for the horse, with specific rules in place for conduct and appearance, but it doesn’t matter to the horse. Saddlebreds look to dominate in everything they do.

Outside of the breed-specific shows, Saddlebreds still compete at the highest levels in endurance events, combined driving, show jumping, and dressage. They have been making an impact in competitive trail riding and perform consistently in eventing. Cutting and roping is a talent that some Saddlebreds have developed over the 20th century as well.

It is not unusual for a Saddlebred to be confused for a Thoroughbred because of their similarities. Unlike a Thoroughbred, however, the Saddlebred is an excellent family horse. Recreational riding and ranch work help to keep them active if they aren’t entered in competitive events.

Numerous celebrities have become involved with Saddlebreds as well, appearing in numerous films and television shows over the years. William Shatner is an avid Saddlebred breeder and he rode one of his own horses, named Great Belles of Fire, in the movie Star Trek: Generations. Clark Gable, Joe Louis, and Will Rogers have been directly connected to this breed over the years as well.

The Saddlebred is a popular breed that will continued to thrive around the world. It may have a competitive spirit, but it also loves human companionship, and that makes it an excellent option for a first-time owner.
 

Rocky Mountain Horse Origin and Characteristics

Although this breed is named after the mountains that dominate the US and Canadian West, the Rocky Mountain Horse originated in the Appalachian Mountains. The initial breeding program for this unique horse was in Kentucky.

This breed was initially developed to be used as a driving and light draft horse, offering ranchers and farmers a multi-purpose animal that could save them some cash. A breed association was formed in 1986 and more than 10,000 horses are currently registered.

What makes the Rocky Mountain Horse so unique is its stunning coat, ambling gait, and willing personality. Families needed a horse that could pull their plows in the field and then pull their buggies when it was time to go into town. Working cattle was required along the Appalachian foothills and families needed horses to ride so their children could learn how to work with horses.

The Rocky Mountain Horse could do it all. The gentle disposition of this breed makes it suitable for riders who may have a disability. Most individuals demonstrate enough care to support elderly riders.

These horses still work in the Appalachian foothills. They also perform well in endurance riding events. The International Rocky Mountain Horse Show is held every September at Kentucky Horse Park, which is a great way to get to know this beautiful horse breed.

The History of the Rocky Mountain Horse

Around 1890, a stallion was brought from the Rocky Mountains to the Appalachians. The stallion came there as a colt and was referred to as “that Rocky Mountain Horse.” No written records exist for what happened next, but oral records from the region talk about how this stallion, which his chocolate coat and flaxen mane, were highly desired by ranchers in the area.

It was said that a traveler from the Rocky Mountains was trying to return home to Virginia. After running out of money, he traded his unique horse for the supplies he would need to make the remainder of the journey. The name of this traveler has been lost to history, but the story of the Rocky Mountain Horse was just beginning.

The stallion was bred to local saddle mares. Because the breeding area was quite small and contained, this allowed a local equine strain to begin to develop. This process would continue for the next few decades.

Around the beginning of World War II, another stallion named Old Tobe would begin to influence the Rocky Mountain Breed. Old Tobe was a direct descendant of “that Rocky Mountain Horse” and helped to reinforce the preferred look of this breed.

Despite the financial loss that his owner encountered, Old Tobe worked as a breeding horse until the age of 34. Sam Tuttle lived in Spout Springs and owned a horseback riding concession in Natural Bridge State Park. That was where he kept Old Tobe and the rest of his herd.

It wouldn’t be until 1986 that a formal effort to standardize the breed would take place. In the first set of registrations, just 26 horses were discovered. Since then, Rocky Mountain Horses have spread to almost a dozen different countries and 47 states. To be accepted as a registered member of the breed, all Rocky Mountain Horses must go through DNA testing.

At the age of 23 months, all Rocky Mountain horses are visually inspected to ensure that they meet the physical and gait characteristics that are required of the breed.

Characteristics of the Rocky Mountain Horse

The coat of the Rocky Mountain Horse is what catches the eye. Almost all horses have a black coat that is supplemented by the rare silver dapple gene. This creates a dark horse with light spotting throughout the coat, highlighted by a flaxen tail and mane. The dark “chocolate” color is the most desired, but any solid color is accepted by the registry. Some white markings are accepted, but no white may be present above the need.

The physical characteristics of the Rocky Mountain Horse are still quite variable because of the differences in the foundation horses that began the breed. Most individuals will stand at least 14.2 hands high, but horses as tall as 16 hands are still thought of as being common. They usually have a chin that is described as being “tea-cupped” and ears that are “foxed.”

These horses have a single-foot ambling gait that replaces the trot. It is performed at an intermediate speed, less than a gallop, but faster than a walk. This gait is similar to that of a walking horse, which eliminates the bounce a rider might experience while riding another breed. Rocky Mountain Horses have been observed moving at 7 miles per hour for extended periods using the single-foot gait.

On short stretches of smooth ground, some horses can achieve a speed in this gait of up to 16 miles per hour. Horses that can move at these speeds are referred to as being able to perform a “rack.” 

Rocky Mountain Horses are extremely social and have a good nature. They are highly intelligent, love to work, and crave attention from humans. Although they are not a heavy draft horse, they are still classified by many as being a cold-blooded horse. 

These horses have the highest risk of any breed for a condition called multiple congenital ocular anomalies, or MCOA. This condition can affect the vision of the horse. It isn’t a progressive condition and is believed to be tied to the silver dapple gene that is rare in other breeds, but not in the Rocky Mountain Horse.

Many who have owned or worked with Rocky Mountain Horses say that it is impossible to have just one of them around. They are calm, collected, and curious, always wondering what their humans are thinking or doing. It is no wonder why some have called this horse breed the “Labrador Retriever” of the equine world. 

They really are a horse that is well-suited to almost any task or ride. It is a horse for all seasons.