Are all of these horse myths true?
There are loads and loads of horse myths out there - so I thought I would try and shed some light on a few of them….And keep in mind that perhaps the reason some of these myths even exist is because we label them “always” and “never”. Some horses may actually prove these myths to be true, but in reality the vast majority of horses will not be the same.
- Cold weather triggers your horse to grow a winter coat. Actually, your horse starts to shed his existing coat and grow his winter coat when the amount of daylight starts to decrease. Conversely, he will start to shed his winter coat when the days get longer. This is why you can control his hair coat with indoor lights if you like. This will also alter a mare’s estrus cycle. This is also why a horse that lives in Miami or San Diego (or other wonderfully warm winter area) will still grow a winter coat.
- You must braid on the right side only! This is one of those things that mixes tradition with what we think the rules are. I just spent a bunch of time reading all about braiding in the USEF Rule Book. It never specifies what side of the mane to braid to. In fact, it specifies that braids are optional, braids are allowed, even braids are encouraged. In only a few few cases are braids required, and then no side of the mane is specified. I'll also add that in some spots in the USEF Rule Book, it states that the judges are not to penalize a horse for not having braids. (I did a lot of reading today... I'm a bit cross eyed!) BUT.....In the hunter world, braids are on the right. This discipline is steeped in tradition and braiding to the right (while not required) honors that tradition. It’s up to you to decide what side to braid on, and part of this comes from what is more natural for your horse and what works for you. Food for thought.
If it works for you to braid on the left, just do it.
- Using blankets on your horse will stop him from growing a winter coat. Well wouldn’t that be nice? But it’s not true. Scientifically and antedotally. In years that I have clipped and blanketed my horses they still grow a winter coat. I often have to clip twice. Also, if this was true the simple act of wearing pants would put every razor company out of business as we would never need to shave our legs again!
- Hay is the only food your horse needs. Well, nope. High quality forage is a great start! But….there are many vitamins and minerals that your horse will be missing if you feed a hay only diet. This is true for lawn ornaments as well as Olympic horses. For example, vitamin E is present in hay - but only for about seven days after it’s cut. Then there’s salt (not to be confused with electrolytes), which your horse needs daily. There are also the Omega fatty acids, which may not be present in beneficial quantities in just hay alone. This does not mean your horse needs to eat “grain” which is a commonly used term for fortified feeds. You have the option to giving supplements, using a fortified feed, or feeding a ration balancer. Your horse’s caloric needs will determine what’s best for him. An Equine Nutritionist can help you create a diet for your horse that takes into consideration his age, job, lifestyle, medical issues, current hay and supplements, where he lives, how much pasture he has, the works.
- Horses can smell fear. This actually seems to be a fairly valid thing to say, especially if you are frightened and you are holding a horse. More often than not, the horse will wonder “what the heck” and proceed to get nervous. Turns out, horses can sense our heart rate and other signs of “fear”. They are not really smelling it in the literal sense of the word. Of course we will never truly know what’s going on in their heads, so there might be an element of smell in there, but current research says the nose isn’t too involved. This is a great reason to work on controlling your own vital signs. I find this easier than it used to be, after years of practice and diligent exercise. I find that keeping your cool around horses even when they are trying to tap dance on your head will help everyone. No reason for you AND your horse freaking out about the little tweety bird!
- A shiny horse is a healthy horse. Wait a minute…. you can create shine with product. An overweight or underweight horse can be shiny, but his weight indicates a less than ideal state of health. The opposite IS true - a healthy horse is a shiny horse. Unless he’s recently become married to a mud puddle, which is often the case.
- White hooves are weaker than black hooves. There’s tons of stories and antidotal evidence to back this up, and also refute it. But it’s not fair or proper to compare your horse to your friend’s horse, as you both have different routines and diets and exercise plans and, and, and… Not to mention, your horse’s genetics and your friend’s horse’s genetics are likely to be very different! There’s also a slew of actual scientific research that disproves this very prevalent horse myth. I was reading some of it and I noticed it was from the 1970’s and OMG that’s so old and then I remembered that I’m from the same era…. There’s also more recent research too.
What other myths do you encounter in the horse world?