Top Misconceptions About Horses

There's no doubt about the mystic of horses. They seem to capture our imagination and are a symbol of strength and freedom. There are a lot of traditions and lore around horses, and some of the information we hold onto may no longer be true. As we learn more about horses, some things we believe go by the wayside. So, some things we commonly believe about horses just aren't true.

  • 01 of 06

    My Horse Loves to Jump (or Barrel Race, or Any Other Sport)

    horse jumping
    Show jumper Lauren Renwick competes at Grand Prix level jumping.

    David Ramos - Getty Images

    You'll often hear something like: "My pony loves ​doing games" or "My horse just loved the trail ride." It's fun to think that your horse or pony likes doing the same thing you do. But your horse probably doesn't share your enthusiasm for horse sports. When have you ever seen a horse run barrels, jump a course of jumps, or execute a perfect 20-meter circle spontaneously with no human prompting?

    A horse may have qualities that make them more suitable for a certain sport but that doesn't mean it likes it more. Your horse probably enjoys eating grass, hanging out with his buddies and just being a horse.

  • 02 of 06

    Horses are Just Like Dogs

    dog and horse looking at each other
    Dog and horse behavior is very different.

    Maria itina/Maria itina/Getty Images

    Aren't horses really just big dogs? No, they are quite different. Your dog and you have a number of common interests. You both like a warm bed, the same kinds of food (to an extent), humans and dogs can survive by hunting and we all live in 'packs'.

    Horses are prey that hunters might like to eat, but they are herbivores and their social structure is quite different from dogs (and humans). As well, if I take my dog for a walk I can safely let it off the leash and know it will stay with me. You can't do that reliably with a horse. Although many people believe their horses are companion animals, they are not the same as dogs.

  • 03 of 06

    Horses are Dumb

    This is something that lessons students often say about the horses they ride. Just because you can't make a horse do something doesn't mean it's stupid. Perhaps it just doesn't understand. It may mean you are not communicating clearly what you want.

    Horses quickly sense which riders are clear communicators and make their cues irresistible. They also know which ones can't. Since horses aren't naturally motivated to do what we ask them, they won't if they think they can get away with it. Horses aren't smart in same the way people are, but they are very adept at being horses.

  • 04 of 06

    Horses Communicate By Neighing and Whinnying

    This myth is partially true. Horses do whinny and neigh to communicate. But they don't carry on a conversation the way you sometimes see in the movies, with the a constant stream of screams, squeals and nickers. Horses are relatively quiet animals. Much of their communication with each other is in the form of body language.

    Continue to 5 of 6 below.
  • 05 of 06

    Horses Hooves are Solid Objects at the End of Their Legs

    The hoof on a horse certainly looks like a solid object like a piece of wood. But it is really a complex structure of different materials including keratin, blood-rich tissue and bone.

  • 06 of 06

    Riding a Horse is Just Sitting

    riding lesson
    A Riding Lesson. Image: K. Blocksdorf

    Ask anyone who rides and they will tell you that riding is much more than just sitting there. Your muscles will tell you that after the first time you ride a horse! Really good riders make riding look easy. Watch reiners or dressage riders and it seems the horse is going through the patterns on its own accord.

    The better rider you become the more refined and inconspicous your signals become. It may look like sitting but riders use their legs, arms, weight, hands, balance and brains to ride.