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Horse breeds are loosely divided into three categories based on general temperament: Horses and humans interact in a wide variety of sport competitions and non-competitive recreational pursuits, as well as in working activities such as police work , agriculture , entertainment, and therapy.
Horses were historically used in warfare, from which a wide variety of riding and driving techniques developed, using many different styles of equipment and methods of control.
Many products are derived from horses, including meat, milk, hide, hair, bone, and pharmaceuticals extracted from the urine of pregnant mares.
Humans provide domesticated horses with food, water and shelter, as well as attention from specialists such as veterinarians and farriers.
Specific terms and specialized language are used to describe equine anatomy , different life stages, colors and breeds. In horse racing , these definitions may differ: For example, in the British Isles, Thoroughbred horse racing defines colts and fillies as less than five years old.
The height of horses is usually measured at the highest point of the withers , where the neck meets the back. In English-speaking countries, the height of horses is often stated in units of hands and inches: The height is expressed as the number of full hands, followed by a point , then the number of additional inches, and ending with the abbreviation "h" or "hh" for "hands high".
Thus, a horse described as " The size of horses varies by breed, but also is influenced by nutrition. The largest horse in recorded history was probably a Shire horse named Mammoth , who was born in Ponies are taxonomically the same animals as horses.
The distinction between a horse and pony is commonly drawn on the basis of height, especially for competition purposes. However, height alone is not dispositive; the difference between horses and ponies may also include aspects of phenotype , including conformation and temperament.
The traditional standard for height of a horse or a pony at maturity is Height is not the sole criterion for distinguishing horses from ponies.
Breed registries for horses that typically produce individuals both under and over Ponies often exhibit thicker manes, tails, and overall coat.
They also have proportionally shorter legs, wider barrels, heavier bone, shorter and thicker necks, and short heads with broad foreheads.
They may have calmer temperaments than horses and also a high level of intelligence that may or may not be used to cooperate with human handlers.
Horses have 64 chromosomes. Horses exhibit a diverse array of coat colors and distinctive markings , described by a specialized vocabulary.
Often, a horse is classified first by its coat color, before breed or sex. Many genes that create horse coat colors and patterns have been identified.
Current genetic tests can identify at least 13 different alleles influencing coat color,  and research continues to discover new genes linked to specific traits.
The basic coat colors of chestnut and black are determined by the gene controlled by the Melanocortin 1 receptor ,  also known as the "extension gene" or "red factor,"  as its recessive form is "red" chestnut and its dominant form is black.
Horses that have a white coat color are often mislabeled; a horse that looks "white" is usually a middle-aged or older gray. Grays are born a darker shade, get lighter as they age, but usually keep black skin underneath their white hair coat with the exception of pink skin under white markings.
The only horses properly called white are born with a predominantly white hair coat and pink skin, a fairly rare occurrence.
The estrous cycle of a mare occurs roughly every 19—22 days and occurs from early spring into autumn. Most mares enter an anestrus period during the winter and thus do not cycle in this period.
Larger horses have larger bones; therefore, not only do the bones take longer to form bone tissue , but the epiphyseal plates are larger and take longer to convert from cartilage to bone.
These plates convert after the other parts of the bones, and are crucial to development. Depending on maturity, breed, and work expected, horses are usually put under saddle and trained to be ridden between the ages of two and four.
The horse skeleton averages bones. The horse's legs and hooves are also unique structures. Their leg bones are proportioned differently from those of a human.
For example, the body part that is called a horse's "knee" is actually made up of the carpal bones that correspond to the human wrist.
Similarly, the hock contains bones equivalent to those in the human ankle and heel. The lower leg bones of a horse correspond to the bones of the human hand or foot, and the fetlock incorrectly called the "ankle" is actually the proximal sesamoid bones between the cannon bones a single equivalent to the human metacarpal or metatarsal bones and the proximal phalanges , located where one finds the "knuckles" of a human.
A horse also has no muscles in its legs below the knees and hocks, only skin, hair, bone, tendons , ligaments , cartilage , and the assorted specialized tissues that make up the hoof.
The critical importance of the feet and legs is summed up by the traditional adage, "no foot, no horse".
The exterior hoof wall and horn of the sole is made of keratin , the same material as a human fingernail. The hoof continually grows, and in most domesticated horses needs to be trimmed and horseshoes reset, if used every five to eight weeks,  though the hooves of horses in the wild wear down and regrow at a rate suitable for their terrain.
Horses are adapted to grazing. Stallions and geldings have four additional teeth just behind the incisors, a type of canine teeth called "tushes".
Some horses, both male and female, will also develop one to four very small vestigial teeth in front of the molars, known as "wolf" teeth, which are generally removed because they can interfere with the bit.
There is an empty interdental space between the incisors and the molars where the bit rests directly on the gums, or "bars" of the horse's mouth when the horse is bridled.
An estimate of a horse's age can be made from looking at its teeth. The teeth continue to erupt throughout life and are worn down by grazing.
Therefore, the incisors show changes as the horse ages; they develop a distinct wear pattern, changes in tooth shape, and changes in the angle at which the chewing surfaces meet.
This allows a very rough estimate of a horse's age, although diet and veterinary care can also affect the rate of tooth wear.
Horses are herbivores with a digestive system adapted to a forage diet of grasses and other plant material, consumed steadily throughout the day.
Therefore, compared to humans, they have a relatively small stomach but very long intestines to facilitate a steady flow of nutrients.
Horses are not ruminants , they have only one stomach, like humans, but unlike humans, they can utilize cellulose , a major component of grass.
Horses are hindgut fermenters. Cellulose fermentation by symbiotic bacteria occurs in the cecum , or "water gut", which food goes through before reaching the large intestine.
Horses cannot vomit , so digestion problems can quickly cause colic , a leading cause of death. The horses' senses are based on their status as prey animals , where they must be aware of their surroundings at all times.
Their sense of smell , while much better than that of humans, is not quite as good as that of a dog. It is believed to play a key role in the social interactions of horses as well as detecting other key scents in the environment.
Horses have two olfactory centers. The first system is in the nostrils and nasal cavity, which analyze a wide range of odors.
The second, located under the nasal cavity, are the Vomeronasal organs , also called Jacobson's organs. These have a separate nerve pathway to the brain and appear to primarily analyze pheromones.
A study in the UK indicated that stabled horses were calmest in a quiet setting, or if listening to country or classical music, but displayed signs of nervousness when listening to jazz or rock music.
This study also recommended keeping music under a volume of 21 decibels. Horses have a great sense of balance, due partly to their ability to feel their footing and partly to highly developed proprioception —the unconscious sense of where the body and limbs are at all times.
The most sensitive areas are around the eyes, ears, and nose. Horses have an advanced sense of taste, which allows them to sort through fodder and choose what they would most like to eat,  and their prehensile lips can easily sort even small grains.
Horses generally will not eat poisonous plants, however, there are exceptions; horses will occasionally eat toxic amounts of poisonous plants even when there is adequate healthy food.
All horses move naturally with four basic gaits: These include the lateral rack , running walk , and tölt as well as the diagonal fox trot.
Horses are prey animals with a strong fight-or-flight response. Their first reaction to threat is to startle and usually flee, although they will stand their ground and defend themselves when flight is impossible or if their young are threatened.
Most light horse riding breeds were developed for speed, agility, alertness and endurance; natural qualities that extend from their wild ancestors.
However, through selective breeding, some breeds of horses are quite docile, particularly certain draft horses. Horses are herd animals , with a clear hierarchy of rank, led by a dominant individual, usually a mare.
They are also social creatures that are able to form companionship attachments to their own species and to other animals, including humans.
They communicate in various ways, including vocalizations such as nickering or whinnying, mutual grooming , and body language.
Many horses will become difficult to manage if they are isolated, but with training, horses can learn to accept a human as a companion, and thus be comfortable away from other horses.
Studies have indicated that horses perform a number of cognitive tasks on a daily basis, meeting mental challenges that include food procurement and identification of individuals within a social system.
They also have good spatial discrimination abilities. Horses excel at simple learning, but also are able to use more advanced cognitive abilities that involve categorization and concept learning.
They can learn using habituation , desensitization , classical conditioning , and operant conditioning , and positive and negative reinforcement.
Domesticated horses may face greater mental challenges than wild horses, because they live in artificial environments that prevent instinctive behavior whilst also learning tasks that are not natural.
One trainer believes that "intelligent" horses are reflections of intelligent trainers who effectively use response conditioning techniques and positive reinforcement to train in the style that best fits with an individual animal's natural inclinations.
Horses are mammals , and as such are warm-blooded , or endothermic creatures, as opposed to cold-blooded, or poikilothermic animals.
However, these words have developed a separate meaning in the context of equine terminology, used to describe temperament, not body temperature.
For example, the "hot-bloods", such as many race horses , exhibit more sensitivity and energy,  while the "cold-bloods", such as most draft breeds , are quieter and calmer.
They are bred for agility and speed. Muscular, heavy draft horses are known as "cold bloods", as they are bred not only for strength, but also to have the calm, patient temperament needed to pull a plow or a heavy carriage full of people.
Today, the term "Warmblood" refers to a specific subset of sport horse breeds that are used for competition in dressage and show jumping. The term was once used to refer to breeds of light riding horse other than Thoroughbreds or Arabians, such as the Morgan horse.
Horses are able to sleep both standing up and lying down. In an adaptation from life in the wild, horses are able to enter light sleep by using a " stay apparatus " in their legs, allowing them to doze without collapsing.
A horse kept alone will not sleep well because its instincts are to keep a constant eye out for danger. Unlike humans, horses do not sleep in a solid, unbroken period of time, but take many short periods of rest.
Horses spend four to fifteen hours a day in standing rest, and from a few minutes to several hours lying down. Horses must lie down to reach REM sleep.
They only have to lie down for an hour or two every few days to meet their minimum REM sleep requirements. The horse adapted to survive in areas of wide-open terrain with sparse vegetation, surviving in an ecosystem where other large grazing animals, especially ruminants , could not.
All that remains of them in modern horses is a set of small vestigial bones on the leg below the knee,  known informally as splint bones.
Thus proto-horses changed from leaf-eating forest-dwellers to grass-eating inhabitants of semi-arid regions worldwide, including the steppes of Eurasia and the Great Plains of North America.
By about 15, years ago, Equus ferus was a widespread holarctic species. A truly wild horse is a species or subspecies with no ancestors that were ever domesticated.
Therefore, most "wild" horses today are actually feral horses , animals that escaped or were turned loose from domestic herds and the descendants of those animals.
The Przewalski's horse Equus ferus przewalskii , named after the Russian explorer Nikolai Przhevalsky , is a rare Asian animal. It is also known as the Mongolian wild horse; Mongolian people know it as the taki , and the Kyrgyz people call it a kirtag.
The subspecies was presumed extinct in the wild between and , while a small breeding population survived in zoos around the world.
In , it was reestablished in the wild due to the conservation efforts of numerous zoos. The tarpan or European wild horse Equus ferus ferus was found in Europe and much of Asia.
It survived into the historical era, but became extinct in , when the last captive died in a Russian zoo. Attempts have been made to recreate the tarpan,    which resulted in horses with outward physical similarities, but nonetheless descended from domesticated ancestors and not true wild horses.
Periodically, populations of horses in isolated areas are speculated to be relict populations of wild horses, but generally have been proven to be feral or domestic.
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