We horse people pride ourselves on knowing a lot about the animals we love. But it might intrigue you to learn a thing or two about our equine partners that are surprising, fascinating, and even funny. Here are our top ten obscure facts:
1. Open wide. It is estimated that horses chew 40,000 times per day. Male horses sport four extra, pointy “canine” or “fighting” teeth called tushes. And despite the miniature horse’s small size, the size of their teeth have not changed, sometimes requiring molar or premolar removal to prevent overcrowding.
2. Vision test. A horse can see approximately 300 degrees because their eyes are on the side of their heads (making it harder for predators to sneak up on them). They have what is called monocular and binocular vision, so when a horse looks to either side, each eye sees independently. Apparently whichever direction an ear is pointed is where that eye is looking on the same side.
3. Horses can’t vomit, which is why colic is such a prevalent and deadly condition. This is due to several factors: 1) it is nearly impossible for them to open the lower esophageal sphincter valve where it enters the stomach; 2) when the stomach full it presses against the valve and keeps it even more tightly closed; 3) the location of the stomach deep in the rib cage makes it impossible to be squeezed by the abdominal muscles; and 4) horses have a non-existent vomiting reflex in the first place.
4. Yum! Horses produce approximately 35 to 40 liters (9-11 gallons) of saliva a day (but we knew that, right, as we are usually covered with it). They have three salivary glands and the saliva buffers the stomach, which helps to aid digestion and prevent stomach upset, and to soften or “slicken” feed. Saliva is made up of about 99% water and contains calcium and chloride.
5. Lub-dub: We always knew our horses were big-hearted animals – literally. The average horse’s heart weighs around 8.5-10 lbs. The legendary 1973 Triple Crown champion Secretariat’s heart was estimated to be a whopping 22 pounds!
6. Not a mouth-breather. Horses (along with rabbits and rodents) are what is called “obligate nasal breathers” which basically means that they breathe through their nostrils and can’t breathe through their mouths. The epiglottis rests above the soft palate while the animal is not swallowing, forming an airtight seal.
7. Big drinkers. It is recommended that humans drink around 2 litres of water per day, or about half a gallon. Our horses? They consume between 19-57 litres (5-15 gallons) of water per day, or around 1 gallon per 100 lbs of body weight. Broodmares need closer to 75 litres (20 gallons) per day to create sufficient milk for their foals.
8. Pass the sunscreen. If you have a horse with pink skin, whether it’s an appaloosa or a bay with lots of “chrome”, it can get a sunburn. And recurrent sunburn increases the likelihood of developing squamous cell carcinoma, a cancer common to nonpigmented skin.
9. If the shoe fits… The saying “no hoof, no horse” is valid for many reasons. Hooves are made of a tough protein called keratin, similar to human nails and hair, and it takes between nine to twelve months to re-grow an entire hoof.
10. Hearing aids. A horse’s hearing range is greater than humans: 55 to 33,500 hertz (cycles per second) as compared to 30 to 19,000 hertz in humans. The horse’s bottom range for sound is higher than people too, which means it may not hear you talking if your voice is pitched very low, and the animal’s top range is higher, so it may spook at an unfamiliar sound which you can’t even hear.