The Horse or Equine Industry in Louisiana has grown tremendously over the last 20 years. It can be broken down into three sectors: racing, show or competition and recreational. The racing sector has the fewest horse owners at about 10 percent, but has the largest share of gross farm value. There are four horse racing tracks in the state. The show or competition sector includes horse shows, rodeo, cutting, roping, team penning and other events. About 30 percent of horse owners in the state have show or competition horses. The largest portion of the state’s horse industry is recreational, which accounts for about 60 percent of horse owners. These horses are used for comfort, exercise and enjoyment.
BREEDS AND TYPES OF HORSES
The most popular breeds in the U.S. include the American Quarter Horse, Paints, Thoroughbreds and Arabians. All of these breeds can be classified as "light horses" and are usually used for riding. The average weight of a light horse is 1,000 pounds.
The Quarter Horse is known as “America’s Horse,” and is known for its great versatility.
In Western movies, the horses are usually Paints, with cowboys riding Tobiano-type and Indians riding Overo-type horses. The term “Thoroughbred” refers to a specific, purebred breed used primarily for racing and jumping events. The Arabian is known as the “Father of All Light Breeds.” The largest breeds of horses are called draft horses and are used primarily for driving and pulling purposes. The average weight of a draft horse is 2,000 pounds. The tallest breed is the English Shire. The Belgian is the most popular breed of draft horse in the U.S. Ponies are popular for children’s first mounts. Ponies must be less than 58” tall and they can be either a draft or light horse type. The Shetland Pony has been used for centuries in coal mines and is often called a “pit pony.” Miniature horses have been used as guide animals. To be registered, they must be less than 34” tall.
The unit of measurement used to measure horses is called a hand, which equals four inches. The height of a horse is measured at its withers, the bony point where the neck and back of the horse meet. When correctly noted, a horse’s height will have a whole number, indicating the number of whole hands, then a decimal point, then a number which indicates remaining inches. Because the hand is four inches, the number behind the decimal point can only be a 0, 1, 2 or 3.
A pony whose height is 57” is 14.1 hands tall.
A miniature horse whose height is 32” is 8.0 hands tall.
A light horse which is 15.2 hands tall is 62” tall.
An English Shire which is 17.3 hands tall is 71” tall; if this horse grows 1” more, it would be 18.0 hands tall.
OTHER QUICK FACTS
Horses eat about 3 percent of their body weight daily.
Most mature, idle horses can survive on pasture and hay; however, some horses require extra energy in the form of grain or a grain mix.
Horses are not meal eaters. They prefer to eat continuously through the day. The average horse will graze for up to 18 hours per day.
The horse’s digestive tract is more than 100 feet long.
Horses’ front teeth (incisors) grow longer as a horse ages (hence the term “long in the tooth”).
Horses can sleep while standing because of a certain ligament, called a check ligament that acts as a lock on the leg’s muscles and bones.
Horses live, on average, for about 25 years. The oldest horse recorded was 62 years old when he died.
Most light horses can be ridden at about 2 years of age.
Mares are usually pregnant for a little more than 11 months.
Foals are able to stand and nurse within an hour of birth.
TERMS TO KNOW
Colt - Young male horse
Filly - Young female horse
Foal - Baby horse
Gelding - A neutered male horse
Long Yearling - More than 18 months old and may be ready for the initial stages of being trained to ride
Mare - A mature female horse more than four years old
Stallion or Stud - A mature male horse more than four years old
Universal Birthday - January 1
Weanling - A horse that has been removed from its mother usually around four to six months of age, but before Jan. 1 of the year after its birth, when it becomes a yearling.