When most people think of a black and white farm animal, the cow tends to pop into their minds. However, the slightly comical look of a black and white horse does not negate its beauty.
Several different kinds of black and white coat patterns take place in the horse world.
Piebald horses are painted horses with black and white splotches.
Horses with any color other than black are called skewbald. Pintos have a mixture of white and colored areas on their bodies. Pinto is a Spanish word meaning painted.
Painted horses are divided into two categories. Tobianos, the most common, have white splotches across their backs which extend downward along the rest of the body. On overos, the opposite is true; the white extends from the belly and legs upward toward the back, but does not actually cross the back.
Overos also are known for having a “War Bonnet,” or white face.
Another popular horse known for being black and white is the Appaloosa. Appaloosa is a color breed, meaning any horse, regardless of breed, can be considered an Appaloosa as long as it fits the required color pattern.
Appaloosas are divided into three color patterns:
Leopard – a white horse with dark spots all over his body.
Snowflake – a dark horse with tiny white spots.
Blanket – the most well-known Appaloosa pattern, which usually consists of a white blanket with dark spots on the rump.
The breeding of these colored horses is meticulous since certain colors and patterns are highly desirous. Stallions, which have a 95 percent rate of passing their color pattern on to their foals, can fetch a pretty penny to sire.
While breeding horses to attain a desired pattern is no guarantee, it does enhance the chances of getting a striking black and white pattern.
Many people devote themselves to these black and white horses; they appreciate the boldness of their black and white color, which is marvelously unique.
In the movie The Horse Whisperer, Robert Redford’s character Booker encounters Pilgrim, a horse in need of training. Pilgrim is extremely skittish and does not let Booker near him. Eventually Booker is able to get closer and closer to the point where he is able to stroke Pilgrim and lean into his face, whispering something in the horse’s ear.
This scene is a good example of the patience and caring it takes to train a horse to trust.
Real horse whisperers do exist, hiring out their services to those in need of help with a particularly tough horse, such as Pilgrim. Luckily the few horse whisperers out there are not required to train all the stubborn horses in existence. Good results, however, do require a trainer with a solid foundation in basic horsemanship skills.
A lot of dedication is involved in training a horse, especially because even basic training should not begin until the horse is at least two years old. Many wait until the third year.
Basic training of colts and fillies begins with getting them used to a soft halter. At first the halter is unknown and can be scary. Although it does not have a bit, it can be unnerving because of the close proximity to the face. Once the horse is comfortable with the halter, a lead rope can be attached. The lead rope attaches to the halter and is used to lead to horse around, getting him comfortable with having pieces attached to the area around his head. Ultimately the reins are attached.
Horses are very sensitive about their backs, so saddling a horse is perhaps the most difficult aspect of horse training.
Starting off slowly with a saddle pad or blanket gently laid across the back is a good precursor to the saddle. Having an unfamiliar item on his back will trigger the horse’s natural response to buck. This common reaction is why a professional is required to keep the trainer and the horse safe.
After the saddle pad doe not cause any problems, a rudimentary saddle can be used and fitted with a girth. All of these additions are made in a slow process. Throwing too much at a young horse can cause a bad reaction, making the horse nervous around any sort of tack, thus making the training process much more difficult and drawn out.
Once the halter and saddle are able to be placed safely on the horse, the process of teaching the horse how to respond to rider commands begins. Typically lunging is the favored process. The lunge line is a 20 to 40 foot rope attaching to the halter and is controlled by the trainer, who stands in the middle of the arena. The horse is coaxed around in a circle starting at a walk and slowly moving through the four natural gaits, eventually leading up to the gallop.
Western trainers heavily rely on the hackamore, which is a sophisticated training tool. It applies pressure to the sensitive areas around the horse’s nose, the sides of the face and the underside of the jaw by means of a subtle side-to-side rocking motion.
Whatever tools are used to train a horse, the most important is the patient and caring trainer. A proper education for the horse will increase his sensitivity to his rider thus increasing his performance. A good trainer will fully develop a horse’s athletic ability and help him reach his utmost potential.
The first time I rode a horse was at a local zoo when I was about three years old. This memorable first ride was just on the back of a small pony being led around a ring at a pace so slow I am sure I could have saddled the pony to my back for a faster ride.
But it was the most thrilling event to occur in my young life and it started a love for horseback riding which has yet to diminish.
Most everyone has ridden a horse at some point in their life, whether it was a trail ride while on vacation or being led on a pony around a small arena. The feeling of riding the back of a beast whose heart still beats wildly ignites our thirst for danger while at the same time relying on our sense of trust. If it did not, show jumping, barrel racing, dressage or rodeos would not be the crowd pleasers they currently are.
Those who consider themselves horseback riding enthusiasts tend to pick one discipline over the other based on the events most suited to them. Many differences exist between English and Western disciplines, but they provide the same ends: the bond between human and horse. While a healthy rivalry exists between the two, each side believing their method of horseback riding is the preferred method, both schools have a lot to offer.
English and Western horseback riding styles have debated about such technicalities as the most suitable type of horse or events they host: reining, cutting or roping in Western and dressage, jumping and flat equitation for English. However, I believe the biggest difference is also the simplest: the saddle.
Western saddles are probably the more recognizable of the two thanks to just about every Hollywood movie involving a horse. Western saddles are the larger of the two because they are made for comfort to be able to be ridden all day out on the range. It also has the horn on the front, which is not, in fact, for novices to hold onto to keep from falling off; rather it is used by a cowboy to wrap the end of his rope around when roping cattle.
The horn is non-existent on the English saddle because being punched in the stomach by it when jumping your horse would tend to take away some of English riding’s graceful allure. The English horseback riding saddle is small and has built-in padding. It is a very simple saddle with little material to allow for maximum communication through the body from rider to horse.
Western horseback riding events have evolved from typical cowboy events. The name Western comes from a time when pioneers and cowboys were developing the western territory of North American. A cutting horse is desired in the sporting world as much as in the ranching world. Once used solely to keep up with stay sheep or cattle, displaying the same techniques in the arena is a viewer-friendly feat. Barrel racing is another exciting event where a horse and rider run from one barrel to another at opposite ends of an arena, swerving around the barrel so fast and low the rider’s foot can touch the ground as the horse is almost horizontal.
English derives its name from the long love affair Great Britain has had with equestrian events. English events are popular and have a rich history; these events have been part of the Olympics since the early 1900s. While Western horesback riding prides itself on speed, English riding is defined by accuracy. Equitation is an event when the rider is judged. Things such as inconspicuous leg commands and proper diagonals are taken into consideration. Hunt class is the event when the horse is judged. Being on the right lead, alertness and general good behavior are desired.
While both disciplines have their fans, enthusiasts appreciate both. If you are just starting to ride and do not know which you will prefer, check out a few different stables and take an introductory class from both schools.
Do not get scared if you fall off. They say you are not a real rider until you have fallen off at least three times. Plus, with Madonna recently falling off and breaking a couple of ribs, it could be the new vogue thing.
The paint horse is an extremely popular horse in both the Western and English worlds. In fact, its popularity makes the American Paint Horse Association is the second largest registry in the United States. Because the paint horse is a type of horse rather than a specific breed, various breeds are eligible for registration as paint horses.
Ultimately this allows for a degree of variation in the height and overall size.
A colorful coat pattern is essential to the identity of the paint horse. American paint horses have strict bloodline requirements and must display a distinctive stock-horse body conformation, meaning well-muscled and athletic, which is a construction ideal for ranch work. Paint horses work the show ring and provide lessons just as often as working the ranch. Because they can be any breed and are classified only by their coat colorings, paint horses are found in every circuit.
In order to be eligible for regular registration (as opposed to stock registration), the horse must exhibit a minimum amount of white hair over unpigmented (pink) skin. Also, the sire and dam must be registered with the American Paint Horse Association, American Quarter Horse Association or the Jockey Club (association of Thoroughbreds). At least one of the parents must be a registered paint.
Paint horses cover the spectrum of colors, coming in combinations of white, black, brown, chestnut, dun, grullo, sorrel, palomino, buckskin, gray or roan. While a variety of colors exist, they are classified into three coat patterns: overo, tobiano and tovero.
Tobiano horses are recognized by a dark color usually covering one or both flanks. Generally all four legs are white at least below the hocks and knees.
The head markings are typically those of a solid-colored horse: solid or with a blaze, strip, snip or star. Another distinctive feature is its two-toned tail.
On Overos, the white will not cross the back of the horse between the withers and the tail. At least one, but often all four legs are dark. The white is irregular and splashy or splotchy. The head markings include a bald-face, apron-face or bonnie face. Unlike the Tobiano, the Overos’ tail is one color.
Toveros are a combination of the color specifics of Tobianos and Overos, hence the creation of the name Tovero. They are dark around the ears, possibly forehead and eyes. One or both of the Tovero’s eyes is blue. They also have dark patches around the mouth and chest, spots that might extend toward the neck. Often spots are at the tail.
In May 1965 the American Paint Horse Association was formed through the merging of the American Paint Stock Horse Association and the American Paint Quarter Horse Association. The first record of the paint horse dates back to 1519 when Spanish explorer Hernando Cortes led an expedition to the New World and Diaz del Castillo, a world historian accompanying the exploration, recorded a horse with white stockings on fore feet and the other horse was dark roan horse with white patches. Paintings of paint horses also have been found on Comanche American Indian buffalo robes, which were used as the tribe’s form of record-keeping. The Comanches were considered to be the finest horsemen on the plains and were drawn to the paint horse’s color and performance. They adopted the loud-colored, flashy horses and are often associated with one another today.
The paint horse has a long and reputable history thus making it a staple of North America. Paint horse enthusiasts are true-blue fans of the horse and will continuously speak of the versatility and work ethic of the most highly-prized horse in the world.
The thoroughbred is perhaps one of the most famous horses worldwide due to its speed. The popularity of horse racing has elevated the thoroughbred’s status to what it is today. Because of their value in the sporting world, thoroughbreds are the most valuable horses in the world.
The breed’s ancestry is difficult to map since many of the original forebears’ names were changed when they were sold to different owners.
The three most influential horses in developing the breed were the Barb, Turk and Arabian. Through the ages, the best and fastest horses were bred for their speed. This speed has created some of the most popular races today which include the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness and Belmont Stakes which constitute the Triple Crown. These races showcase the thoroughbred’s string suit because the thoroughbred can run a mile (1.6 kilometers) in about one and a half minutes. Even more amazing are the legendary race horses. Secretariat’s response went beyond unreal. He won by a jaw-dropping 31 lengths. His time of 2:24 for one and a half miles set a world record many argue may never be broken.
Thoroughbreds are probably the horse most people think of when asked to picture a horse. They come in all colors, but predominantly are brown, bay and chestnut.
They have well conformed bodies with well-sloped shoulders and powerful hindquarters. Thoroughbreds’ refined heads are misleading of their Arabian ancestry as they do not possess the characteristic Arabian dished profile. At an average of 16 to 16.2hh, they are tall with long legs bred for speed making them the ultimate ‘speed racer.’ The clean, hard legs of a thoroughbred have a minimum of eight inches of bone below the knee.
Every kid is sure to have seen a movie featuring a thoroughbred at some point. Great movies such as National Velvet, Seabiscuit and Dreamer are a few horse enthusiast favorites. Because they are so fast, they create a sense of wonder and awe leading to many enchanting stories.
Not to be pigeon-holed as speed demons, thoroughbreds are great all-around horses, too. They excel in jumping and hunting events and compete in three-day events. Though one of the more spirited breeds, they do make good pleasure horses. Adopted retired racehorses must be taught the basics, such as the four gaits. Because a racehorse knows fast and faster, a patient owner and trainer are required. But the result is very fulfilling as many retired racehorses even become schooling and lesson horses. They have very smooth gaits with easy ground-covering strides for flat work.
The thoroughbred is an extremely handsome, spirited and alert horse. It has won the hearts of the world over. Though built for speed, it has so much more to offer!
Wild horses are one of America’s national treasures. On par with seeing a soaring eagle or a bear foraging for food, the wild horse commands awe and respect. Wild is perhaps a misnomer as all wild horses in North America are actually feral, meaning their ancestors were domesticated.
Theories state that the early horse did roam North America, however as the continents shifted, they only retained status in Europe and Asia.
According to the book Horse Facts, in the 16th century the Spanish Conquistadors invaded America bringing with them their domesticated horses thus reintroducing the horse to North America. These domesticated ancestors were shipped over from Europe with the intention of providing a means of travel for settlers and general field work. However, many of the animals escaped or were turned loose and were ultimately left to their own devices. Although in a new setting, the abundant room and food the new continent provided allowed the horse to thrive.
America’s wild horse, typically called a Mustang, is a true survivor. They come in all colors and typically are between 14 – 15 hands with a light-weight build. Because they are descended from the horses of Spanish settlers, they are of Andalusian, Arab and Barb origins. Unlike their domesticated counterparts, Mustangs are extremely resilient.
Once tamed, they make excellent horses for any discipline as long as they receive the respect they deserve. In fact, they have so many desirable qualities such as good cow-sense, that they have been bred with numerous other breeds like the Thoroughbred.
The most numerous breed in the United States, the Quarter-Horse, is a cross between a Mustang and a Thoroughbred. Mustangs are great for general use but have excelled in endurance riding.
Unfortunately many of North America’s 47,000 wild horses are in constant danger. As of 2004, the wild horses lost the federal protection they had that prevented them from being rounded up and sold to slaughter. The Wild Free-Roaming Horse & Burro Act of 1971 was lifted allowing the government agency the Bureau of Land Management to routinely round up roaming herds. The lucky captors are sent to auction to be sold to potential buyers who are looking for a challenging new horse; others sadly are sent to slaughter.
The debate is that these wild horses are grazing on land that is meant for cattle. One side says that the loss of the use of the land is debilitating to the cattle industry while the other says that there is plenty of land for both species and that the wild horses do not do the damage reported.
The fight is also on to release back into the wild the 14,000 wild horses currently being held in long-term facilities. A great group that has done tireless work to save these wild animals and adopt the captured mustangs is The Wild Horse Sanctuary (www.wildhorsesanctuary.org). They currently have over 200 wild horses and burros running free on their land. Also, they are very active in getting the government to see the value of these precious animals.
Wild horses have survived for centuries living on land that is more than accommodating. It would be a shame to see this versatile creature disappear from our landscape.
The Many Horse Breeds
Ask any young girl what type of horse breeds exist, a typical answer would be: unicorns, ponies, My-Little Ponies and regular horses. While two exist in stories, the imagination and toy stores, the other two are more accurate. The many breeds actually developed from man.
Curiosity and necessity for passing on certain traits lead humans to constantly cross breed horses. Strong, giant horses, such as the famous Budweiser Clydesdales, were created for long days of field work while Thoroughbreds were desired for their long legs and stamina. Ponies and horses are categorized into more than 150 different breeds and types worldwide but each country certainly has its favorite breeds.
Most of these favorites are determined by the usage of the horse. North Americans prefer the versatility of the Quarter Horse in that it exudes excellence equally in work environments and pleasure riding. As the name implies, the Quarter Horse excels at racing over a short distance – a quarter of a mile. But because of their toughness and stockiness, settlers depended on them during the movement west and ultimately became indispensable in cattle herding. Averaging heights of 14.3 – 16hh (horses are measured in hands with a hand being 4 inches), the Quarter Horse comes in any solid color and has a short and wide head with large intelligent eyes. The breed is well known for its pleasant disposition and gentleness and as a result is used in a wide variety of activities such as leisure riding, barrel racing and ranching. Other American favorites are the Morgan, Saddlebred, Mustang and Tennessee Walking Horse, all desirous for their even temperaments and smooth conformation.
Great Britain has long declared itself an expert in the horse world. Children grow up taking equestrian lessons like American children join Little League. The prized English Hackney horse is world renown as a carriage horse with its small convex head and muzzle, short legs and well-shaped feet. The English also love their draught horses, especially the Shire, Suffolk and Clyesdale. All over 16hh high, they offer a powerful display with strong intelligent heads, broad chests and beautiful wisps of fine feather at their feet – simply beautiful creatures.
Horses are prominent all over Europe. Germany adores the Oldenburg, Westphalian Hanoverian and Trakehner among others. France lays claim to the French Trotter, Camargue, Norman Cob and Percheron while Italy loves the Murgese and Maremmano.
Ireland has the Irish Draught; Sweden has the Swedish Warmblood and Denmark has the Danish Warmblood. Popular sporting events in Europe are Hunting and Cross-Country which require a horse with jumping ability, stamina and willingness to trust its rider completely. The last is not a trait taken lightly by horse people. Knowing that inside every domestic horse still beats the heart of a wild animal, to completely trust its rider is highly prized.
Not to forget the oldest and purest of all breeds – the Arab originates from the Middle East and with its beautiful physique, has contributed to the creation of many of today’s breeds. Arabs have small heads with unique floating action. It is perhaps most well known for its high spirits and silky high tail. It is the originator of the term Hot Blooded!
South America appreciates horses with a smaller build that allows for much agility. The Criollo of Argentina and the Peruvian Paso of Peru are extremely popular breeds.
Australia looks for qualities in a horse that many of the old American west horses exuded. The Australian Stock Horse has the pretty head of the Thoroughbred with the build of an Arab-Quarter horse.
Ponies are differentiated from horses in their stature. Broadly speaking a pony is a small horse meaning no higher at the withers than 14.2hh. Not all small horses are classified as ponies. Ponies should have distinctive pony characteristics such as short legs to a proportional body.
Popular for children to start learning to ride, mostly because of the short distance to the ground for the inevitable first fall for all equestrians, but also because many ponies are bred for their sweet dispositions. Perhaps one of the most beautiful ponies is the Haflinger of Austria. Haflingers are chestnut in color with an extremely long, flowing flaxen mane and tail. The Exmoor is popular in England as a child’s pony for its natural balance and fun physique as well as a wild mane! Great Britain also enjoys the likes of the Shetland, Highland, Dartmoor and Welsh Cob.
Because horses offer many distinctly different qualities, a horse exists for every need. The hard part is determining from which of the wonderful breeds suits the rider the most. However hard the decision is, it is also one of the most fun to make! What ever horse one chooses it will be a loyal companion and a true friend that will have the decency to step on your foot only occasionally and when spooked, at least dump you in a clean area.
I remember begging my parents to rent The Black Stallion for me each and every time they went to the video store. It did not matter how many times I had already seen it; watching Alec gallop bareback down the beach on the black horse with his arms mimicking flying motions made me desperately wish to be stranded on a deserted island.
Ever since then, I have been enthralled with the beauty of black horses.
The true coloring of a black horse is tricky. To be considered a black horse, the animal can have no other color anywhere on it, with the exception of white markings and all black points.
Arguments have been made that two types of black horses exist: fading and non-fading. Many say the blue-black colored horse whose coat does not fade to a lighter shade in the summer sun is the only true black horse, while others claim fading horses have just as much right to classification of black as non-faders.
Because horses are often outside all day, their coats tend to receive a bit of sun bleaching, so winter is the ideally-suited season for determining coat color. Fading black foals usually are born an ashen color. Sometimes they are even dark brown or bay. A non-fading black foal is born a smoky or blue-black shade.
Black occurs in most breeds. It is considered the only color in some breeds, such as the Friesian. Black, however, has been bred out of some breeds, such as the Haflinger.
The rest of the world seems to share my enthusiasm for the gorgeous black horse. Black Beauty is a timeless literary classic which features, of course, a black horse. I do not think it a stretch to say the black horse is perhaps the most magnificent-looking of all horses.
Regardless of breed, any all-black horse looks strikingly dignified and has an undeniable air of elegance about it.