While we have a great many kinds of horses in America, horses are not
natives of this country. Just where wild horses were first tamed and
used is not certainly known. It is believed that in early ages the horse
was a much smaller animal than it now is, and that it gradually attained
its present size. Where food was abundant and nutritious and the climate
mild and healthful, the early horses developed large frames and heavy
limbs and muscles; on the other hand, where food was scarce and the
climate cold and bleak, the animals remained as dwarfed as the ponies of
the Shetland Islands.
One of the first records concerning the horse is found in Genesis xlix,
17, where Jacob speaks of "an adder that biteth the horse heels."
Pharaoh took "six hundred chosen chariots" and "with all the horses and
chariots" pursued the Israelites. The Greeks at first drove the horse
fastened to a rude chariot; later they rode on its back, learning to
manage the animal with voice or switch and without either saddle or
bridle. This thinking people soon invented the snaffle bit, and both
rode and drove with its aid. The curb bit was a Roman invention. Shoeing
was not practiced by either Greeks or Romans. Saddles and harnesses were
at first made of skins and sometimes of cloth.
Among the Tartars of middle and northern Asia and also among some other
nations, mare's milk and the flesh of the horse are used for food. Old
and otherwise worthless horses are regularly fattened for the meat
markets of France and Germany. Various uses are made of the different
parts of a horse's body. The mane and tail are used in the manufacture
of mattresses, and also furnish a haircloth for upholstering; the skin
is tanned into leather; the hoofs are used for glue, and the bones for
Climate, food, and natural surroundings have all aided in producing
changes in the horse's form, size, and appearance. The varying
circumstances under which horses have been raised have given rise to the
different breeds. In addition, the masters' needs had much to do in
developing the type of horses wanted. Some masters desired work horses,
and kept the heavy, muscular, stout-limbed animals; others desired
riding and driving horses, so they saved for their use the light-limbed,
angular horses that had endurance and mettle. The following table gives
some of the different breeds and the places of their development:
Diagram shows the proper shape of the fore and hind legs of a horse.
When the straight lines divide the legs equally, the leg action is
straight and regular]
I. _Draft, or Heavy, Breeds_
1. Percheron, from the province of Perche, France.
2. French Draft, developed in France.
3. Belgian Draft, developed by Belgian farmers.
4. Clydesdale, the draft horse of Scotland.
5. Suffolk Punch, from the eastern part of England.
6. English Shire, also from the eastern part of England.
II. _Carriage, or Coach, Breeds_
1. Cleveland Bay, developed in England.
2. French Coach, the gentleman's horse of France.
3. German Coach, from Germany.
4. Oldenburg Coach, Oldenburg, Germany.
5. Hackney, the English high-stepper.
III. _Light, or Roadster, Breeds_
1. American Trotter, developed in America.
2. Thoroughbred, the English running horse.
3. American Saddle Horse, from Kentucky and Virginia.
There is a marked difference in the form and type of these horses, and
on this difference their usefulness depends.
This horse stands great strains and is not fatigued easily]
This horse becomes exhausted very easily]
The draft breeds have short legs, and hence their bodies are
comparatively close to the ground. The depth of the body should be about
the same as the length of leg. All draft horses should have upright
shoulders, so as to provide an easy support for the collar. The hock
should be wide, so that the animal shall have great leverage of muscle
for pulling. A horse having a narrow hock is not able to draw a heavy
load and is easily exhausted and liable to curb-diseases (see Figs. 242
The legs of all kinds of horses should be straight; a line dropped from
the point of the shoulder to the ground should divide the knees, canon,
fetlock, and foot into two equal parts. When the animal is formed in
this way the feet have room to be straight and square, with just the
breadth of a hoof between them (Fig. 241).
Roadsters are lighter in bone and less heavily muscled; their legs are
longer than those of the draft horses and, as horsemen say, more
"daylight" can be seen under the body. The neck is long and thin, but
fits nicely into the shoulders. The shoulders are sloping and long and
give the roadster ability to reach well out in his stride. The head is
set gracefully on the neck and should be carried with ease and
Every man who is to deal with horses ought to become, by observation and
study, an expert judge of forms, qualities, types, defects, and
The diagram shows how the straight lines ought to cross the legs of a
properly shaped horse]
The horse's foot makes an interesting study. The horny outside protects
the foot from mud, ice, and stones. Inside the hoof are the bones and
gristle that serve as cushions to diminish the shock received while
walking or running on hard roads or streets. When shoeing the horse the
frog should not be touched with the knife. It is very seldom that any
cutting need be done. Many blacksmiths do not know this and often
greatly injure the foot.
Since the horse has but a small stomach, the food given should not be
too bulky. In proportion to the horse's size, its grain ration should be
larger than that of other animals. Draft horses and mules, however, can
be fed a more bulky ration than other horses, because they have larger
stomachs and consequently have more room to store food.
The horse should be groomed every day. This keeps the pores of the skin
open and the hair bright and glossy. When horses are working hard, the
harness should be removed during the noon hour. During the cool seasons
of the year, whenever a horse is wet with sweat, it should on stopping
work, or when standing for awhile, be blanketed, for the animal is as
liable as man to get cold in a draft or from moisture evaporating
rapidly from its skin.
If the pupil will take an ordinary tape measure, he can make some
measurements of the horse that will be very interesting as well as
profitable. Let him measure:
1. The height of the horse at the withers, 1 to 1.
2. The height of the horse at croup, 2 to 2.
3. Length of shoulder, 1 to 3.
4. Length of back, 4.
5. Length of head, 5.
6. Depth of body, 6 to 6.
7. Daylight under body, 7 to 7.
8. Distance from point of shoulder to quarter, 3 to 3.
9. Width of forehead.
10. Width between hips.
NOTE. Many interesting comparisons can be made (1) by
measuring several horses; (2) by studying the proportion between
parts of the same horse.
PROPORTIONS OF A HORSE
1. How many times longer is the body than the head? Do you get the
same result from different horses?
2. How does the height at the withers compare with the height at
3. How do these compare with the distance from quarter to shoulder?
4. How does the length of the head compare with the thickness of
the body and with the open space, or "daylight," under the body?