Horse Grazing Characteristics – WHAT YOUR HORSE WANTS YOU TO KNOW!
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Horse Grazing Characteristics – WHAT YOUR HORSE WANTS YOU TO KNOW!

October 23, 2019

In this video, which is the first in the
series, I’ll answer the questions what is a horse, what characteristics do they
have, what makes them different to other grazing animals. It includes a bit about
their digestive system but we will return to this again in the second video in
this series, why fiber is so important but there’s more on that later as well, why a
horse’s head is the shape it is and a little bit about the other parts of the
horse’s body. Please be sure to give this video the thumbs up and if you’d like to
become a more knowledgeable horse owner make sure you subscribe to this channel
and hit the bell to be notified when a new video becomes available every week Horses are large grazing herbivores
everything about the way they are built is for a reason
in this section we’ll concentrate on the characteristics that are to do with
grazing in particular so that you understand why grazing is so important
to a horse. What is a horse? This might seem like a silly question to a horse
owner, they range from very small to very tall but we need to understand that they
all have the same basic characteristics so first of all a horse is what’s called
a monogastric that means a single stomach herbivore and it’s not a
ruminant, a ruminant, which is what most grazing animals are has a different
digestive system whereby the food has to pass through several chambers, sometimes
called stomachs, before it can reach the intestines, cows cannot simply eat more
when times are tough each mouthful of food has to go through a time-consuming
process called rumination, so when food is very fibrous and low quality there’s
simply not enough hours in the day for a cow to extract enough nutrients from
that lower quality food, the horse on the other hand can, because they simply
increase their throughput meaning they eat more, and even if the food is very low
quality they manage to get some nutrition from it due to the
fermentation process that takes place in their hind gut, hence a horse is called a
hind gut fermenter. A horse’s digestive system actually
looks almost like ours, the proportions are different and they don’t have a gall
bladder as we do, but otherwise the same and again we will talk about this
more later. This strategy that horses have means it in harsh times such as winter
or drought horses can survive in conditions that cows cannot, it’s
important to understand this because it’s often assumed that horses need
higher energy food than cows whereas the opposite is actually true. Horses
evolved to eat low energy plants over a large range so their natural diet is
plants that are low in energy but very high in fiber but they aim to eat them
in large amounts as already mentioned, horses fill a niche below that of cattle,
they do well on plants that some other grazing animals would not be able to
survive on>Horses are highly social herd animals, this fact is often ignored but
it’s very important for horse management. Domestic horses are part of the equine
family which also includes domestic and wild donkeys our asses, zebra,
Przewalski’s horses and mules and what’s very interesting is that there nearest cousins are the rhinoceros and the tapir, these animals are also hindgut
fermenters like horses. Please comment below with what you’ve found interesting
about this video so far. Horses, like many other grazing animals that are also prey
animals have evolved a head shape that’s perfect for grazing long grasses and
being able to see predators at the same time. Everything about the size and
placement and function of the eyes, ears, mouth and whiskers and nostrils of the
head is essential both for grazing and for being safe while grazing. The
whiskers better known as the vibrisée have individual nerves attached to help
the horse feel while grazing, check out new plants, objects, other
horses etc this is why you should never trim them, they are actually essential for
the horses sense of feel. The lips of the horse are highly mobile, the top lip in
particular, the top lip is used almost like we use our hands, the whole time the
horse is grazing the top lip is being used to sift and sort and choose
different plant material. The eyes of the horse are the largest of all the land
mammals, a horses eyes are a long way from the mouth, the position of the eyes
mean that a horse can almost see right around itself while grazing, there’s just
two small blind spots, right in front of the nose and directly behind the body,
with just small movements of the horse’s head the horse can actually see right
round, so 360 degrees. The ears of the horse can move, pivot independently of
each other, so the horse can listen forwards and backwards at the same time,
they’ve have many muscles for each year which means that they can rotate each
ear through 180 degrees. Horses can tell what direction something is approaching
from and what distance it is away from them. Horses can become anxious when
their hearing is compromised or overwhelmed so when it’s windy or very
noisy for example. Their nostrils are very large and they use smell to tell
them a lot about what’s happening, again when it’s windy they’re usually more
nervous because it’s more difficult to read the information that’s coming to
them via their sense of smell. The molar or back teeth need to be large they need
to have a large surface area in order to grind all that fiber in the diet of a
horse. Don’t forget with a horse the fiber only gets one chance to be cut up
into small pieces before it’s digested, because the horse is not a ruminant so
it doesn’t regurgitated food and re-chew it like a cow does, the long head shape
means that the teeth have plenty of room to be housed, horses have two sets of
incisors of front teeth that meet like a pair of scissors in the mouth this means
that they can clip and collect even very short grass and for this reason this is
why it doesn’t work to put horses on short grass in order for them to lose
weight but there’s lots more about that later.
Compare the horses front teeth to those of a cow, the cow has only one set at the
bottom, and they used the tongue to gather the food, this is why cows need
longer grass, and a cow will starve on very short grass, whereas a horse will
not, again more about this later. In this video we’ve concentrated on the head in
particular but other adaptations include long legs so that the horse can run away
at a split seconds notice, horses don’t have horns because they rely on running
away from danger rather than facing it like some animals do, the reason they can
kick backwards so accurately is also because of this, they have a thick bushy
mane and tail to protect the body from biting insects etc and keep the body
warm when it’s cold, they have a long neck so they can reach the ground
without having to spread the front legs apart like a giraffe for instance, which
would mean that they couldn’t get away as fast. So you can see how everything
has a reason, so in this first video of the series you’ve started to learn about
some of the important characteristics that make horses what they are you’ve
learned a bit about their digestive system and you’ll learn even more about
that in the next video, you’ve also started to learn about why fiber is so
important to a horse and you will be learning even more about this in later
videos. Well done for taking such an interesting what your horse really is. Stick with this series and you’ll learn so much that will help you to help your
horse to have the best lifestyle possible in your situation. If you’ve enjoyed this video please let
us know by liking it, subscribe and share with your fellow horsey friends and
please leave a comment with what you found interesting. Make sure you look out
for the next video in this series. There’s a link below wher you can get the
whole mini course about horse grazing characteristics for FREE, see the link if
you’re interested in learning more about better horse management by learning
about what is really important to your horse. We have a private Facebook group
but do the course first and see if it interests you.

Only registered users can comment.

  1. I hope you like this video! This is the FIRST in the series – Horse Grazing Characteristics – Part 1. This is the information that your horse or horses WOULD REALLY LIKE YOU TO KNOW! You can skip ahead and watch the whole mini-course if you like on our website Please let us know what you think by commenting below 🙂

  2. Great info especially for those starting out with horses, but also very relevant for those who already own them, as a reminder to provide for the horse in the way nature had them evolve. Easy to digest video!

  3. I was surprised to learn that horses can exist on poorer quality pasture than cows. I wish my horse would eat the grassy hay I offer him rather than waiting for me to give in and give him tasty lucerne. I love watching his top lip sort through the grass, pushing aside sticks and leaves, when he's grazing.

  4. I agree with the comment below that this is very good info for both new and longer horse owners particularly when you look at the drought we are now in.

  5. Great information. Had horses for over 40 years, but you never stop learning. A useful reminder of how far away from their 'natural' lifestyle we keep most of our horses…it's probably surprising they cope as well as they do.

  6. Very interesting, I've just moved my 15yr old horse to pasture grazing from a dry track with only hay 24/7. The reason I moved her is because of breathing issues, this video has helped and I hope to gain a lot more from the series. Thanks Amanda

  7. Thank you so much for putting this video series together, and the excellent thought and work that went into them. I already learned so much from the first one.

  8. Thanks for this series of videos, all this information is fascinating and makes me want to learn all the rest!!

    I'm just troubled by one thing. In this video you seam to insist that food ferments in the horse's stomach compared to cows, but isn't what ALL digestive systems are, including for humans : fermenting bowls?

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