There are many myths surrounding horses that are spread far and wide, and continue to be passed on as the truth. We have gathered some of the most commonly heard misconceptions in the horse world and shine a light on the truth about them.
Myths about Horse Tack
Myth: Snaffles are the best bit for horses
Snaffle bits are the most commonly used in the horse world. Many people believe this popularity makes them the best option for every horse. While they may be the best option for many horses, they are not necessarily the best choice for everyone. Part of this misconception stems from the belief that all snaffles are mild, which is also not always true.
Most are very mild because they do not rely on leverage from a shank like other bits, but there are other variables that can make a snaffle harsher. Harsh snaffles are made with wire or a twisted metal that creates a sharpness to the bit. The overall milder design of a snaffle bit that has no leverage may not be the right choice for every horse and every rider. Some horses will do better with pressure from a shank on their bit.
There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to horse bits, and there are hundreds of different options on the market. The best bit is the one your horse is the most comfortable in.
Myths about Horses
Myth: Walking Behind a Horse is Dangerous
Fact: New riders are often told to never walk behind a horse because they will kick. While it is true that this is a possibility, not all horses are prone to kicking, and you can learn to safely walk behind them. Being aware of a horse’s body language is key. If they are uncomfortable or frightened, then walking behind them is not recommended.
Walking behind a calm, relaxed horse does require a few precautions. The first is to keep talking to them as you move around them, and the second is to keep one hand on them as you walk behind them, staying close to them to lessen the impact if they do kick. This lets them know where you are at all times, and that you are not a predator. The other option is to walk around them with enough distance between you that if they do happen to kick, they won’t be able to make contact with you.
Myths about Horse Hooves
Misconceptions regarding horses’ hooves are some of the most prevalent.
Myth: only a farrier can trim a horse’s feet.
Fact: This is not entirely true. Some horses that do not require specialized hoof care can be trimmed by their owner or trusted barn staff. It does require basic knowledge of how to go about trimming a hoof safely and correctly, which can be learned through independent study, online courses, and job shadowing a farrier.
Myth: White horse hooves indicate soft, weak hooves.
Fact: Horse hooves are most commonly dark-colored; however, some horses may have white hooves or a combination of white and black stripes on their hooves. Some people believe that the lighter-colored hooves are softer than the darker-colored ones. Research has proved this is false. The hoof wall is made of keratin and has the same structure regardless of the color of the hoof. The difference in color stems from pigmentation in the skin directly above the hoof, which is why horses with white markings on their legs are more likely to have white hooves.
Myth: Never touch a hoof’s frog with a hoof pick
Fact: New riders are often told not to touch the horse’s frog with the hoof pick while cleaning their feet. The frog is made of the same material (keratin) as the hoof wall, but it contains more moisture, which makes it softer. While you definitely do not want to be aggressive when cleaning the frog, it is important that it is cleaned regularly to keep bacteria out.
The grooves on either side of the frog should be cleaned out completely, and any rocks or clumps of dirt stuck in the central cleft of the frog should be gently cleared out as well. A hoof pick with stiff bristles on one end is ideal for brushing excess dirt off the frog. The frog itself is not sensitive; however, there are sensitive structures within the hoof just above the frog. Because of this, it is imperative to call a vet if the frog is punctured or wounded.
Myth: All Horses wear horseshoes
Fact: Many people believe that all horses must wear shoes. However, horseshoes are not actually necessary for every horse, and many horses are left barefoot. There are several factors that go into deciding if a horse can go without shoes.
The first thing to consider is what the horse will be doing. Are they primarily a trail horse, a show horse, or a horse that hangs out in a pasture, etc? Show horses typically do wear shoes, although it is not always necessary. Trail horses often wear shoes to help protect the soles of their hooves from rocks and other hazards on the trails.
Alternately, there are protective boots that can be worn on trail rides instead, and they can be left barefoot the rest of the time. A horse hanging out in a pasture all day is typically fine to be left barefoot, although they will still need their hooves trimmed several times a year.
Myths about Mares and Stallions
Myth: Stallions are Dangerous to handle
Horses are often generalized and stereotyped for various reasons. One of the most common generalizations is that all stallions are dangerous. While many stallions tend to be more high-strung than mares and geldings, this is far from always being the case.
Just like with people, each horse has their own personality. Some stallions can be dangerous, but so can some mares and geldings. There are also many stallions who are not dangerous to be around, and may actually be quite gentle. Stallions are not the only ones to be negatively stereotyped.
Myth: Chestnut Mares are Crazy and Unpredictable
Again, researchers have conducted research to affirm this myth as false. Mares are frequently portrayed as being crazy or moody, particularly those that are chestnut (brown) colored. This generalization is also completely untrue. Mares are just as likely to be laidback and easy to work with as a gelding (what’s a gelding? Learn the definition here); it depends on the individual horse. Color also has no bearing on a horse’s personality traits: chestnut horses are not more likely to behave disobediently than any other color of horse.
Myths about Horses and Emotions
Myth: Horses do not have emotions
There are many people who do not believe that horses have emotions. While horses may not experience and express emotions the exact same way that humans do, that does not mean that they do not have them. Anyone who interacts with horses and pays attention to them can see that they do in fact express their feelings. You can see in their eyes if they are sad or happy. A horse’s whole demeanor can change when reunited with an old friend – either equine or human.
Final thoughts on Horse Myths and Realities
There are countless other misconceptions regarding horses. If you are unsure about something you have been told, it is always ideal to do some research to see if it is valid. In addition to research, the more time you spend with horses, the more you will learn. Just like humans, they are complex creatures, each one with its own likes, dislikes, and personality. What is the case for one horse, is not always the case for another.