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General Horse Information Agents Need To Know


4H-308 (4H-887NP)

Authors as Published

Authored by Celeste Crisman, retired Virginia Cooperative Extension Youth Equine Extension Specialist; Laura Siegle, Former Virginia Cooperative Extension Agent; Bonnie Tillotson, Virginia Cooperative Extension Agent; Cornelia Estep, Former Virginia Cooperative Extension Agent; Debbie Agnew, 4-H Volunteer; and Julie Williamson, 4-H Volunteer. Reviewed by Sandy Arnold, Youth Equine Extension Associate, Virginia Tech

Kinds of Horses

  • Draft - Heavier type breeds generally characterized as work/plow horses.
  • Horse - Regular type breeds that are generally seen as your everyday riding horses.
  • Ponies - A smaller horse. Has to be 14.2 hands or under.
  • Miniature Horse - A scaled down horse, 40 inches or under is allowed at the State 4-H Horse Show.

Basic Materials

  • Saddle - the person sits in it when riding. Two main styles – English and Western and many variations of the two.
  • Bridle and bit - is on the horse’s head when riding to aid in control.
  • Saddle Pad/Blanket - goes under the saddle.
  • Halter - what is on the horses head when leading it from the ground.
  • Lead rope - what the person holds while handling the horse from the ground. It is connected to the halter.

Basic Safety Attire

  • Helmet is to be worn at all times when mounted. Must be ASTM/SEI certified. See inside helmet for label verification.
  • Closed toed shoe or boot is to be worn at all times when around a horse.
  • Boots or shoes with an adequate size heel should be worn when riding.
  • Long pants should be worn at all times when mounted.

General Safety around horses

  • Never stand directly in front or behind a horse, a horse’s blind spot.
  • When leading the horse you want to be just behind the head and beside the throatlatch area.
  • Always let a horse know when you are approaching.
  • Don’t run and/or scream when around a horse.
  • Never loop lead rope or reins around your hand when leading.
  • Always lead and saddle/bridle from the left side when possible.
  • When calling fire and rescue squads to respond to an emergency, let them know to not use the lights and sirens when entering the premises.

Measurement of height, weight, and Body Condition Score.

  • Horses are measured at the withers in hands. One hand is equal to 4 inches. Ex: A horse that is 15 hands is 60 inches tall at the top of the withers.

  • The use of a weight tape is the most common way to measure a horse’s weight at home. Measurement is taken around the heart girth.

  • The Body Condition Score (BCS) is a scoring system from 1-9. A score of 4 – 6 is desirable with 5 being the ideal in most cases. Anything below that is considered too thin, and above that is considered too heavy.

  • Parts of a Horse –

Basic Disciplines

What are some attributes of a healthy horse?

  • The eyes are bright and clear.
  • Should have a shiny hair coat that will shed out when it warms up.
  • The horse should have an acceptable body condition score for its age, discipline and stage of life.
  • Temperature should be around 100.5 degrees.
  • Respiration rate should be 8-16 breaths per minute.
  • The pulse rate should be 35-45 beats per minute.

Good sites for trustworthy, science based information on all aspects of horse care, handling, housing and use

Reviewed by Sandy Arnold, Youth Equine Extension Associate, Virginia Tech

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Publication Date

April 20, 2020