Have you ever wondered why, when you are out on a hack, your horse will suddenly spook at a bag or other object that you have been looking at for the past five minutes?  Horses have very good distance vision, and can see much further than we can.  However they only see  near objects in sharp focus when they are quite close to them.  Hence they will only see that bag when they are almost on top of it!  This is quite useful to remember, as you will have time to prepare yourself and get ready to coax your horse past an object which you know he may get worried about!  Knowing horse facts can help a rider!

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Horse Facts

Horses and ponies are unique animals which have been part of human life for thousands of years.  They have interesting characteristics all of their own, and have shaped our language as well as our way of life.  Even today we measure the power of our car engines as being equivalent to horse power!

What is a Dam or a Sire?

A Dam is the horse's mother.  A Sire is the horse's father.

What are male and female horses called?

A male horse is called a Stallion
A female horse is called a Mare
A baby horse is called a Foal
A one year old foal is called a Yearling
A Filly is a young female horse
A young male horse is called a Colt

Common Questions

What is a dam or sire?
What are male and female horses called?
What is the difference between a horse and pony?
Do horses and ponies behave differently?
Interesting facts
Horses in our language
How horses sized our railways


What is the difference between a horse and a pony?

The height of a horse is measured in hands.  (hh in adverts means 'hands high')  A 'hand' is 4 inches (20cm).  This is the approximate width of a man's hand, and was therefore a convenient way to quickly judge how tall a horse is.  The height of a horse is measured from the ground to the withers (the withers are at the top of the horse's shoulder, just about where the mane ends).

Any horse more than 14 hands 2 inches (written 14.2hh) high is a horse.  A pony describes any equine 14.2hh or less. 

There is a different height limit differentiating horses from ponies  in America - there an equine is called a horse from 13.2! 

And no, a pony will not grow into a horse - like humans horses will grow to different heights depending on their parents.  It is quite possible for a pony to give birth to a foal which will eventually become a horse!

Do horses and ponies behave differently?

Like humans, horses all have their own characters.  However, riders often find that ponies can be more cheeky than horses.  And despite their small size can often be just as headstrong and wilful as their larger counterparts.  However, being smaller they are ideal for children to ride.

You don't need to be a horse to do a man's work either - just think of the Pony Express in the old time USA, or the Exmoor ponies who are tremendously hardy and strong enough to carry an adult rider despite the fact that they stand no higher than 12.3hh!
Why don't all horses in a field lie down together?
What does it mean when a horse's mane falls one side of the neck?

Interesting Horse Facts: 

Do you know why it is very unusual to see all the horses in the same field lying down at once?  This is because one animal always stands 'on look out' to be able to alert the others to any dangers. 

Did you know that horses have one leg (or side) that is a hair shorter than the other?. By seeing which side of the neck a horse's mane falls on you can tell which front leg is the shortest. The mane will fall to the short-legged side.
Miniature Horses
Arabian horses have one less rib, back and neck vertebrae
Did you know that Arabians have one less rib, one less back vertebrae and one less neck vertebrae than any other horse in the world? This is the reason why they have such short backs.
Did you know the interesting horse fact that horses have close to 360 degree all round vision?  The only place they cannot see is directly behind them!  It is very dangerous to stand behind a horse - they get easily scared if they think something is behind them and they can't see it.  As prey animals they think it is safer to kick first and ask questions afterwards! 
Because of the position of horse's eyes on either side of their head horses cannot see objects directly in front of their noses.  This means they cannot see the food that they eat!  It also means that they cannot see a jump once they are about a 110 cm (or 4 feet) from it, and have to rely on memory as to its height and shape! 
Did you know that horses can lock the muscles in their legs so they can go to sleep standing up and not fall over?  This was a useful trick when horses lived as wild animals and needed to be able to make a fast get away from a predator!

Why do we always mount from the nearside of a horse?  Well, in olden days men used to wear scabbards for their swords on their left hip (so they could draw the sword quickly with their right hand.  If they had got on from the other side of the horse the sword would have got in the way!
Why horses spook at something last minute

Horses in our Language!

The horse was first domesticated some 6000 years ago.  When you see a horse well rugged up in winter, or covered in fly sheets in summer, or having sun cream applied to those sensitive parts it makes you think that perhaps this shows a certain degree of intelligence on the part of the horse!

The horse has been part of our lives for a very long time.  Much of the language we use every day revolves around this relationship - much of which we use without thinking. 

During our relationship with horses, they have crept their way not only into our hearts and lifestyles, but also into our everyday speech.  Many non-horsey people use terms without any idea where they originated from! 

For example, I expect you have often heard something being referred to as 'a right mare'!  If you actually own or ride a mare I expect you smile at that point!

So how many sayings originate from the horse world?  These are the ones which have occurred to me.  If you know of any more please email them to me at
webmaster@limebrook.com and I will add them to the list.

Shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted

Get back into the saddle

Get on/off your high horse

Taking back/handing over the reins

Being a 'dark horse'  (Horses that regularly won races were darkened to conceal their identity and increase the betting odds)

Don't change horses in mid stream

Don't look a gift horse in the mouth

Horse and cart - cockney rhyming slang  (if you can't guess email me for the answer!)

You can lead a horse to water but you can't make him drink

A nod's as good as a wink to a blind horse

On the hoof

Someone's got the bit between their teeth

Being a right mare
Mare's nest (interesting origin, originally supposed to be something elusive which didn't exist, and somehow evolved into something which was a right mess)

Straight from the horse's mouth (the way of telling a horse's age is to look at this teeth - hence getting the truth from the source!)

'Hobson's Choice'. meaning having no choice at all!  This originates from Tobias Hobson who rented out horses to customers but giving no choice as to which mount they had - it would simply be the one nearest to the stable door. 

And do you know why taxis have Hackney carriage licence plates?  Because the Hackney horse, originally from the village of Hackney in London, was a particular good high stepping equine for pulling carriages, and then the original taxis!  To my knowledge there are no longer any horses in Hackney, though the breed still continues.

How horses sized our railways!

Romans like things organised, so had a standard wheel width for their chariots which were made for Imperial Rome.  The Romans were the first builders of long distance roads over Europe.  As the wheels of the chariots wore ruts in the roads, other people had to also used the same spacing for their wheels - otherwise they were likely to 'get stuck in a rut'.

Roman road in Pompeii
Approximately 60% of the world's railways, including Europe and the USA use the standard rail guage of 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 1/2 in).

And that, if you haven't guessed already, is the exact width between the wheels on a Roman Chariot!  This was the width set by Julius Caesar until Roman law so that chariots did not get stuck in Roman towns and villages.

And if you're wondering why the wheels were spaced that distance apart - it's because they had to accommodate the back sides of two warhorses!