Right from the early ages when human kind was busy taking his tottering footsteps through the winding roads of evolution, horses were domesticated for various purposes like transportation and carrying goods. Nowadays with horse racing catching the fantasy of millions across the world they have become a useful resource of earning money as well. Status symbols for the rich and famous, horses are also used by the police and some sections of the army even today in many countries.
The horse (Equus caballus) is a hoofed mammal, belonging to the family Equidae. As per historical evidences the domestication of horses started way back during the 3000B.C. and has continued ever since. Back then horses were used in warfare and a wide variety of riding techniques were developed, using various styles of equipment and methods of control.
An extensive and specialized vocabulary is used to describe the horse related concepts, including everything from anatomy to size, color, markings, locomotion, behavior, breeds and life stages
Horses and their well-developed sense of balance coupled with a strong fight-or-flight instinct enables them to make use of a great speed to escape predators. It is also noteworthy that horses are capable of sleeping both when they are standing up or lying down. Female horses known as mares have a gestation period of approximately 11 months, and the new born young horse, called the foal, can stand and even run shortly following birth.
The training of a domesticated horse ideally should begin by the age of two to four under saddle or in harness because they usually reach the full adult development stage by age five. The average lifespan of a horse is approximately 25 and 30 years.
Horse breeds are loosely divided into three broad categories based on their general temperament.
• Spirited ‘hot bloods’ with high speed and endurance.
• ‘Cold bloods’ which are the draft horses and some ponies. They are mostly used for slow, heavy work
• ‘Warm bloods’ developed by genetic engineering between hot bloods and cold bloods. These breeds were developed with the main focus on specific riding purposes, particularly in Europe.
With the advent of science and genetic modifications there are over 300 different breeds of horses in the world today each with distinct characteristic features, developed for various different uses.
Horses and humans interact widely in a variety of sport competitions and non-competitive recreational pursuits. They have found their place and importance in various working activities such as police work, entertainment, agriculture and therapy.
Many products including meat, milk, hide, hair and bone are derived from horses.
Nowadays even pharmaceuticals are being extracted from the urine of pregnant mares. The human horse relation is very well developed with them providing the domesticated horses with food, water and shelter, as well as attention from specialists such as veterinarians.
Most of the horses today are domesticated but there are still the endangered populations of the Przewalski’s Horse which is correctly referred to as the only remaining true wild horse. There are other non domesticated horses as well. These include the common feral horses which live in the wild but are descended from domesticated ancestors.