Horse facts: Fascinating facts about horse training and horse behavior.

Here are the horse facts you need to know if you own a horse or horse business, or are thinking about getting a horse or starting a horse business.

Horse training and horse care is a whole lot easier if you understand how horses think and behave. Ever wonder why we mount and lead horses on the left? Or which flavors horses prefer? Or why your horse is skittish when you lead him? Wonder what to tell people when they ask why you're "so into horses?" You'll find the answers here.

Horse facts: How much do you know about horses?

Basic horse facts: Keeping a horse isn't like keep a dog or cat. Dogs and cats are designed more like humans than horses are, in some very important ways.

FACT: A horse's digestive system is designed to only move in one direction (from front to back). This means that HORSE CAN'T THROW UP. If they do, they're stomachs rupture. If a dog or cat the wrong thing, they can just get rid of the bad thing on their own or with a little help from you or your vet. But feeding a horse the wrong thing can be disastrous because vomiting isn't an option. (Illustration credit:

FACT: Horses' larynxes (voice boxes) are higher in their throats than humans. This gives them an advantage over us. When we choke on something, it shuts off our air supply. We are at risk of suffocating very quickly unless the object is dislodged. But when a horse chokes, they can still breathe. They just can't swallow until the object is dislodged. (Illustration credit: Equine larynx from the book Equine Science by Rick Parker.)

FACT: Horses are also obligatory nose breathers. That means they can breathe ONLY through their noses. We can breathe through our mouths and our noses. So if we get a stuffy nose, no big deal. We just breathe through our mouths. If a horse nasal passages swell due to a snake bite or allergy, he will suffocate. He can't breathe through his nose. For this reason, it's always a good idea to keep clean flexible garden hose in your barn. If something like this happens to your horse, you can put some vaseline on the hose and guide it up through a nostril so he can breathe until the vet arrives.

FACT: Horses don't use vision to recognize things as well as humans do. They depend more on their sense of smell. So that piece of paper fluttering on the other side of the arena is a piece of paper to you. To your horse--who can't identify it well with her eyes and can't smell it from so far away--sees a monster. And since horses are prey animals, nature designed them to flee really fast first and think about what that thing was later.

FACT: Horse don't grow new teeth, as some people wrongly think. Horses are born with all the teeth they will have during their lifetime. But most of the tooth structure is above the gum line. Horse teeth descend through the gums throughout a horse's lifetime. Horse grind down their teeth as they chew their hay. This isn't normally a problem because there is plenty of tooth embedded above the gumline, and the teeth descend as needed. But they can form sharp hooks or unevenness as the horse chews. These problems can interfere with the bit when you're riding, or can cause a horse pain as he eats. That is why they must have their teeth filed or "floated" (as it's called) by a veterinarian or equine dentist at least annually.

FACT: Horses also are huge. This often comes as a surprise to people who are used to being around dogs or cats, and then consider getting a horse. Horses weigh on average about 1,000 lbs or more. A 5'5" tall woman will have difficulty seeing over the back of an average horse.

These are just some of the more useful horse facts every horse owner or horse business owner should know.

Copyright Denise Cummins, PhD

Thinking about buying a horse?

Check out these important facts about horse ownership first.

Ever wonder what to say when people ask why "you're so into horses"?

Here's a story that will help explain why.

Horse facts: What flavors do horses like most? Peppermint? Apple?

You won't believe the answer!

Horse facts: Ever wonder why we mount and lead horses on the left?

Here's why.

Horse facts: Should your continue horse training or horse riding in winter--or should you give your horse a winter break?

Here's what the science says.

What makes a black, brown, or gray horse turn white?

The answer may surprise you.

Are you unintentionally scaring your horse?

Here's what research psychologists say.

True or False: Horses can be left- or right-handed, just like humans.

Click here to see if you're right.

Horses are skittish creatures. The oddest things make them spook.

This is what an anonymous horse told humans about the top ten scarey situations for horses.

Who is the leader of a horse herd, a stallion or a mare?

Here's the answer.

Really into horses?

Then we bet you'll find a description of yourself in these humorous sketches of horse people by Katelyn Kent.

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