The horse is an animal with frugal habits: it is satisfied with a little grass and adapts to the most adverse environmental conditions. Icelandic horses, used to living in the cold of the fjords, know something about it. In addition to being as strong as rocks, they are also very gentle. For this reason they are suitable for beginners and children. But even the most experienced do not disdain the so-called "five-speed horse". In addition to the three classic gaits - step, trot and gallop - in fact, this horse also moves with the "fast ambio" and the tölt. The first is a trot marked by the simultaneous forward or backward movement of the limbs of the same side, while the second is a particularly loose 4-stroke fast pace, with graceful and linear movements for a relaxing ride without the typical jog.

Photo: © Stuck in Customs
Texts and photographic research by Alessandro Bolla

In many areas of the world the horse is still one of the primary sources of livelihood. In Mongolia, for example, where a large part of the population is nomadic and lives in rural areas. The horse for over 3, 000 years has been at the center of the economy and of the family life of this people made up of experienced horses and breeders and covers different functions. It is used as a means of transport and as a food. Dung instead is a useful fuel instead of wood, almost completely impossible to find in the grassy plains of the country. Then, from the fermentation of the milk of the mares, the Mongols obtain the airag, a slightly alcoholic and fizzy drink.

Horse racing, or nadaam, is the national sport: it takes place in every province and has children with less than 10 years playing against each other in breathtaking races. The 30 km route must be completed in less than 45 minutes.

Photo: © Jeff Bauche ._. · ´¯)

The smell of horses, although not developed like that of dogs, is certainly much more powerful than ours. With the nose the horse identifies the food, perceives the approach of a predator, recognizes its like and also human beings. And when it smells it does it in a rather energetic and noisy way by forcing the air into the nasal cavities. The odorous stimuli are processed in an area of ​​the brain called the olfactory bulb, which is also involved in the sense of taste.

Around the nose and lips then there are the vibrissas: large stiff hairs that provide the horse with important tactile information. They allow him, for example, to understand what's at the bottom of the manger even though he can't see it, or to move in the dark without bumping. The vibrissae are a fundamental sense organ and must not, for any reason, be cut.

Photo: © Niffty

Landivisiau is a small village in Brittany, France, known for its Breton and Postier Breton draft horse farms: elegant but powerful animals that can weigh up to 950 kg, used for centuries as a driving force to tow heavy loads trolleys in coal mines.

Every year, on the Monday after Pentecost, Landivisiau hosts an important horse market: auctions, competitions, demonstrations and equestrian shows bring thousands of enthusiasts from every corner of France and beyond to the Breton town.

Photo: © danielguip

An Amish walking with his carriage on the streets of Pennsylvania. The Amish is a Protestant confession born in Switzerland around 1500 and moved to the United States in the seventeenth century. Dog and horse breeders, the Amish live in rural communities that are based on solid family relationships and strict religious rules. They reject any kind of civilization out of fear that it could affect their guiding principles. And consequently their lifestyle is that of the farmers of the late 1800s. They do not use electricity and the horse is their only driving force. To move and transport goods, use buggies: typical light and handy black carriages.

Photo: © cindy47452

The jineteada or Argentine rodeo, is a tradition still very much alive in the whole rural area of ​​south america. The gauchos, the Argentine equivalent of the cowboys, challenge each other in competitions of skill on horseback particularly fiery and often indomitable. Ruinous falls, bruises and broken bones surround these events that are held in different areas of the country. The apparent violence of the jineteada actually hides the deep bond that unites the gauchos with their horses. These animals are workmates, means of transport and a source of income to support their families. The jineteada horses are never mistreated, on the contrary: the more the knights fall, the more they are respected by the gauchos.

Photo: © Eduardo Amorim

Horses are hypersensitive to weather conditions: as even non-expert riders know well, changes in weather and changing seasons significantly affect the behavior of these animals. Shortly before a thunderstorm, when the atmospheric pressure is high and the air charged with ions, they become nervous, unstable and aggressive. Wind and rain make life rather hard for horses that live outdoors: to shelter from the weather, every animal in the herd has its back to the wind according to its level on the hierarchical scale. In the most external part there are the weakest and least important subjects, inside those of the highest "class", which have a more important role in the pack, which can thus enjoy the protection of the former.

Photo: © paul + photos = moody

For young horses, as for many other animal species including humans, play is essential to physical and behavioral development. The foals, a few hours after birth, begin to play alone with running races and small jumps. At three or four weeks of age the little ones begin to play with each other: wild runs, bucking and kicking in the air but also mutual nibbles and pursuits are the most obvious manifestations. Males usually play more with each other than females and often more exuberantly.

The horse is a social animal and this form of interaction with its peers is absolutely necessary to foster healthy and balanced development: those farmers who keep foals and their mothers all together in large enclosures know this well. So that the little ones can socialize with each other.

One of the fundamental characteristics of the horse is curiosity. His insecurity and shyness, in fact, lead him to be interested in everything that is new and unknown to try to understand if he represents a threat. Smell, hearing and above all sight are always on the alert ready to trigger the escape in case of danger.

But his sight often deceives him, because the eyes positioned on the sides of the head do not allow him to measure the distances well. The horse sees with only one eye and this prevents it from accurately calculating the distance to which there is a possible danger. That's why these animals sometimes freak out, frightened by dangers that are some distance away. As you well know who found himself riding a frightened horse.

The flehmen, also called "equine rice", is a behavior of the horse characterized by curling of the upper lip, extension of the neck and raising of the head. It is an attitude typical of many species of mammals (even cats do it, find out why) that serves to facilitate the passage of odorous substances towards the nasal vomero organ. Pulling up the upper lip allows the horse to close its nostrils and thus retain the odor inside the olfactory system. This behavior is observed mainly among stallions especially when there are females in heat nearby: their urine and their secretions are in fact rich in pheromones that stimulate the male's sexual response. However, flehmen can also be a trivial reaction against unpleasant or pungent odors such as smoke or paint.

The combat between the horses provides a precise and articulated ceremonial: when two males sight each other, they start to neigh and paw noisily and slowly approach each other, with their ears lowered and their eyes threatening. After exchanging the breath through the nostrils, the so-called froge, the real fight begins, made of kicks, bites, wheelies and pushed shoulder to shoulder.

The clashes between stallions can become bloody but hardly exceed a certain limit: sooner or later one of the two will recognize the superiority of the adversary and will go on his way before a broken jaw or a broken leg condemn him to death by hunger.

When you approach this animal for the first time, you can see that one of the first movements it makes is to bring the nose forward to smell the stranger. In this way the horse tries to establish a relationship with those in front of it, it tries to understand if it has unfriendly intentions or if it is bringing food to it. The same type of behavior occurs between two horses that meet for the first time: they bring the nostrils closer and each one sniffs the other's breath.

When you see a horse for the first time it may be helpful to imitate their behavior and gently blow it towards its nose. He will respond by doing the same.

The origin of the bracket is lost in the mists of time: used by the Mongols already in the fourth century after Christ, it spread in the western world thanks to Attila about 150 years later. The barbarian leader had in fact noticed that the knights of some of the tribes under his command, moving on horses mounted with stirrups arrived first and horses and riders were much cooler and more rested. The bracket in fact, in addition to ensuring a better solidity of the horse-rider pair and therefore greater stability during the fight, ensures a less tiring position for the legs for the man. In the paintings of the fourth century up to the present we can see how the horsemen without a stirrup adopted a very unbalanced backward riding position. In this way they weighed too much on the hind legs of the horse, significantly slowing their pace.

Prezwalsky's horse (Equus ferus przewalskii) is considered by experts to be the only real wild horse that has never been influenced by man. Its physical characteristics have remained almost unchanged over the millennia. It was discovered in 1881 by the Russian colonel Prezwalsky who baptized him. It is the only one that, coupled with other equines, gives life to fertile subjects, unlike donkeys and zebras which, coupled with horses, give life to sterile mules or zebroids. The Prezwalsky risked extinction because of man. For this reason, in the 70s, a foundation was born for its protection, which dealt with the exchange of animals in captivity, to prevent them from mating with each other. In 2002 the total population was around 1000, all descended from a herd of 15 specimens captured in 1900 and raised in zoos around the world.

Who said that horses sleep standing up? Like most animals, even the horse rests lying down and curled up on itself with its head raised or lying on the ground. When deep sleep arrives you can also lie down on your side to let yourself go in long snores. In wild schools one or two sentinels watch over the sleep of their companions.

Horses can still doze even while standing. The lower head and the lower lower lip are the two most visible signs of this state of torpor, which is more frequent when I am on a full stomach and during the hottest hours of the day.

The image of the cowboy is also linked to the horse, which refers to myths such as courage, frontier life and adventures. But in reality these herdsmen on horseback occupied a rather low place on the social scale of North America in the mid-1800s. A hard and dangerous job, a life almost always outdoors and often in solitude for a starvation salary. And almost always the poorest and most desperate were dedicated to this profession.

After the Civil War, many slaves freed from plantations went to work as drovers in the great ranches of the west. The same road was followed in the twentieth century by many Native Americans, who with the dissolution of the reserve system found themselves without a home, without a penny and without a job.

The zebroid or zebrallo or zorse (from zebra and horse) is one of the most curious hybrids that ever originated from a horse. Not very tameable, especially if it inherits the wild and practically untamable character of the zebra mother. One of the last known zebroids was born from the love of an Andalusian stallion for a zebra, both guests of a large equestrian center in the Brescia area.

Mules are much more common, the result of the union between a donkey and a mare, and the harness which has a horse as a father and a donkey for a mother.

Although most of these hybrids are sterile, the veterinary literature includes numerous cases of mules and burdocks that have given birth to foals.

Among the many "trades" of the horse from some years there is also that of the guide for the blind. The Guide Horse Foundation, a US association, has been training small-sized ponies as guides for 1999. These animals are very receptive and learn quickly. They can be taught to live at home and to do their outdoor needs like dogs. They are also very sensitive and can establish a unique and special relationship with the human friend.

However, not all ponies can act as guides: before being admitted to this particular school, horses must pass very strict aptitude tests.

Photo: © The Guide Horse Foundation

Two horses for sale play with each other, perhaps unaware of their own destiny or perhaps to try to forget it, at least for a while. We are at the Skaryszew fair in Poland, the largest horse market in Europe.

For three centuries, every first Monday of Lent breeders, traders and butchers from all over Europe, in particular from Italy, have come to this town for a historical festival in which one of the most contested markets for animal defense is inserted.

Of the tradition, in fact, today only the date and place remains: among the rivers of vodka, folk music and food binge, mistreatment under the eyes of all towards these animals destined for export to other European countries, where they will come, cannot be counted then slaughtered.

Often coming from rural areas where they are no longer needed, horses are sold at affordable prices. And what was once the pride of Poland, that is the respect for these beautiful and proud animals, today is measured in so much per kilo.

Lasers and burgers that neigh: the European scandal of horse meat passed off as beef.

A bridle: many photos and curiosities about these beautiful animals.

A horse for a friend, because "a man without a horse is like a bird without wings" (Mongolian proverb).

It lasts the life of the student, when lessons, exercises and exams take up most of the time. The same applies to the horses of the Spanish Riding School of Vienna, a real equine university.
Founded during the Austrian Empire in 1572, it is the oldest of its kind. The reference to Spain comes from the Andalusian stallions, one of the founders of the prestigious Lipizzan breed, the only one ever admitted to the school. The Lipizzaners are animals with an exceptional memory and although very fiery, they are docile and easy to train, ideal for learning to make even the most acrobatic figures with extreme grace. Once from an ancient imperial breeding farm in Lipizza, near Trieste, today the Lipizzaner foals are bred and selected in a stud farm in Piber, Styria.
Having crossed the school threshold at around four years, the young white stallions are instructed according to ancient techniques used to train war horses, handed down orally for over 400 years. To complete the studies and graduate "professor" usually it takes from 4 to 6 years of training and the horse must pass all 3 levels of teaching provided: first riding, school campaign and high school.
Amid somersaults, courbettes and risers these majestic white stallions perform in truly surprising figures under the public eye in the arena of the Winter Riding School in the Hofburg in Vienna.
As in the most prestigious university campuses, each school horse receives individual assistance and an ad hoc diet, as well as a daily wellness program that includes a swimming pool, solarium (in the photo) and infrared and ultraviolet light therapy.
A horse for a friend: everything you still don't know about horses in our special.
A bridle: many extraordinary images and curiosities from the world of horses.

If it might seem a little strange to see your dentist brushing a horse's teeth, it's normal in Colombia. To supplement their salary, dentists often offer their services to horses used in horse riding competitions. The proposed treatments, which also include the creation of molds and equipment to correct any problems with tooth alignment and bite, are usually performed twice a month over a six-month period, for a cost per session of $ 170.

The teeth of horses on the other hand are not only important for chewing food, but also for determining their sex and age. Like a small encyclopedia on the characteristics of the animal, the horse's mouth reveals in fact whether it is a male or a female based on the number of teeth (40 in the first case, 36 in the second because it is missing the canines, called "scaglioni" ), but also how old the horse is without having to read further certificates.

The chronographs of the equine age are the incisors, of which the shape of the dental table is evaluated above all, but also the length, consumption and color.

But be careful, don't try to open the mouth of the first horse you meet: young or old, it could leave you a "memory" of your teeth!

To know everything but everything about horses look here.

If you are used to seeing them run in the open air, in the middle of a meadow or under the snow you will roll your eyes in front of this horse that swims in front of the coasts of Malta. The magnificent animal was taken to the sea by the trainer who prepared him for speed races: it is in fact a racing specimen, which after a few meters became familiar with the unusual habitat, swimming for half an hour with the instructor. After the refreshing swim, the 450-pound beast gave itself a little well-deserved rest. See also the gallery dedicated to horses

Why do horses sleep (even) stand up?

"A man without a horse is like a bird without wings, " says a traditional Mongolian proverb. And indeed a very special bond is created between the nomadic shepherds of this country and their steeds. A new horse is among the first gifts a child receives, and having many is considered a sign of great prestige. Almost always left at liberty, these animals are spared from burdensome burdens and treated in every respect: after all, they are said to be the direct descendants of the fast steeds that allowed Genghis Khan and his army to build such a vast empire. In the photo, a herd of horses galloping through a region of Inner Mongolia (China), challenging a temperature of - 30 ° C.

See also a photogallery and a special dedicated to horses

After so much effort, the deserved rest. Here is a racehorse that relaxes under a "fog curtain", where thanks to the nebulizers that create a thin drizzle and some fans you can refresh yourself.

The days are long gone when the first horses roamed freely sheltered from men: the oldest ancestors of horses, appeared on Earth about 55 million years ago, did not exceed 30 - 40 cm in height at the withers (the most top of the back) and the legs were formed by four fingers, with which they walked well on the soft soil of the forests. But when the soil gradually began to dry out and the predators increased, this animal was forced to run faster and change the type of limbs, which became more elongated and with a single hoof at the bottom.

You might also like: The first pants in history are 3 thousand years A horse for a friend The horse is an animal with frugal habits: it is satisfied with a little grass and adapts to the most adverse environmental conditions. Icelandic horses, used to living in the cold of the fjords, know something about it. In addition to being as strong as rocks, they are also very gentle. For this reason they are suitable for beginners and children. But even the most experienced do not disdain the so-called "five-speed horse". In addition to the three classic gaits - step, trot and gallop - in fact, this horse also moves with the "fast ambio" and the tölt. The first is a trot marked by the simultaneous forward or backward movement of the limbs of the same side, while the second is a particularly loose 4-stroke fast pace, with graceful and linear movements for a relaxing ride without the typical jog.
Photo: © Stuck in Customs
Texts and photographic research by Alessandro Bolla