Equestrianism for Non-Horse People

What is equestrianism? Being an equestrian is a lot more than just sitting on a moving beast with a mind of its own. Honestly, we do a lot more than just sitting on a horse’s back. Sometimes, we fall— I mean, dismount with style— several feet across the ground, face first and get a mouth full of arena dirt. The picture above is an accurate representation of being an equestrian. Or maybe it’s just my equestrian life.

The term “equestrian” comes from the latin word, “equus” which means horse. Equestrianism is the sport of or relating to being mounted on a horse’s back. Whether you use a saddle with a horn or not.

To us equestrians, the sport is much easier to understand than it is for most non-horsey types. I mean, who doesn’t ride a 1,200 pound animal, that could kill you with one little mistake, on Saturday mornings?

I asked some of my friends (some of them are or were equestrians) today about what questions they would ask an equestrian. I, as an equestrian, will try to answer them as best as I possibly can in hopes to give the non-equestrians a bit of horse knowledge.

“When you walk behind a horse, what is a safe distance and what are the chances of being kicked?” – Miss Sharon P.

At the barn, they teach most of the students not to walk behind a horse because of the reason that they have a chance of being kicked if the horse spooks or just doesn’t feel comfortable. But, when you do walk behind a horse that is tied (whether to cross-ties or not), you want to keep one hand on the horse’s rear while you walk to the other side. As long as the horse knows that you are behind it, your chances of being kicked are slimmed to none. Especially if you have a really great horse.

“How old do horses get?” – Caity V.

Most horses live up into their early to mid-thirties. Some even live to be older than that! By the time a horse reaches their late twenties, they are usually retired. It all depends on how the horse reacts to work and if they like to work, it might be good for the horse to continue to do mild work.

“How much food (or hay. Or straw. Or whatever they eat! Haha) do they eat a day?” – Aunt Mandy

Horses come in all shapes and sizes (like humans!) and just like people, their diets are different. Some horses take supplements for different needs the horse requires. The majority of horses eat according to their body weight. Like with Neville, I only feed him a flake of hay (that’s a portion of a hay bale that is split) in the morning, half a flake in the evening and half a flake at bedtime. Avery, on the other hand, gets two flakes in the morning, one at lunch, two in the evening and one at bedtime. Bigger horses eat much more than that and require a healthy income to feed.

“Does it hurt when you cut their hooves?” – Caity V.

Not necessarily. Some horses may pull their feet up or back when the farrier comes for the annual trimming. But, that could be just because the horse doesn’t like its hooves to be messed with in the first place (like my Neville). It be kind of like trimming your finger nails. It doesn’t hurt, unless you get too close to the skin attaching your nail to your finger.

“What is your main focus on training a horse? Like how a dog sits, shakes, lay down…and do they catch on pretty quickly?” – Jennifer C.

The main focus on training a horse is getting their attention and forming a bond with that horse. Researchers at Switzerland’s Université de Neuchâtel found that the average attention span of a horse is about 11.8 seconds. That means you have to keep a horse’s attention by keeping the process going and making it fun for both the trainer and the horse.

Most horses enjoy being praised and showered with yummy treats that they so badly crave. You always want to reward your horse after they do whatever you were trying to teach them, whether its a pat on the neck or not.

A horse typically catches on pretty quickly to something once they do it and are rewarded because they automatically think, “Okay, so I get a treat or a pat for doing this and if I do it, I’ll be happy.” But, you also have to teach it to them on the opposite side, which can take some time.

“Why do some horses wear shoes and some do not?” – Miss Jamie S.

It all depends on the horse. Some horses can go barefoot— which is a much cheaper route than being shod— and others cannot. It’s kind of like how some people can walk on gravel and others cannot.

There are some health-issues in horses that they have to have shoes. One syndrome is called navicular. The cause of the disease is yet to be found, but it causes pain throughout the horse’s legs and sometimes back. The horse may seem lame at first, but it could turn into extreme pain for the horse. Horseshoes are typically seen on a horse with navicular.

Some might have sore feet. They may have gone barefoot for most of their lives, but once they show signs of being lame, that’s when you need to call up the farrier and have them come take a look at the horse’s hooves.

Others can go without horseshoes. My friend has a horse that never has to get her hooves trimmed because they never grow! They require regular trimming every 6-8 weeks, but my Neville can go for 12 or more weeks without having a trim.

“How long is a horse usually pregnant?” – Aunt Mandy

The gestation period for horses is usually for 11-12 months. A foal is born with fuzzy coats, short manes and tails and hooves. They usually stand within hours of being born and quickly find their way to their dam’s milk. A dam is a horse’s mother and a sire is a horse’s father.

“Horses eat different foods; why is that?” – Miss Jamie S.

A horse’s dietary needs vary depending on the horse. Some horses require more hay than others or perhaps less grazing time in the field. Horses may need supplements for different health reasons. Others don’t get supplements or grain at all and live solely on hay and grazing time. My Neville only eats hay and gets about half an hour of grazing a few times a week. Avery gets grain, hay and grazing time.

Grain acts like an energy drink would with humans. It gives the horse a little spout of energy for the work it is going to complete. Some naturally hyper horses (not pointing any fingers, but Neville is definitely one of them) don’t need grain and are perfectly fine with their energy being through the roof as it is.

“How is a horse measured? Like…what is a hand?” – Aunt Mandy

A horse is measured in what we call a hand. A hand is 4 inches (or the width of an average man’s hand). Horses are measured from the ground up to their withers (or the top of their shoulders) and that is how tall your horse is. The tallest horse in the world was a shire gelding named Goliath, who stood at 21.2¼ (86.25 inches) and weighed over 3,300 pounds. He held the world record for being the world’s tallest horse until his death in 2001.

“What are the financial responsibilities of  owning a horse?” – My Mom

Owning a horse can be quite expensive. For instance, I’m as broke as a joke. You have to be able to manage money hay, time to spend with your horse (whether your riding or not) and boarding costs (if you chose to board your horse). Horses are very expensive, needy beings. They’re basically a half-ton toddler. Older teens may need to find a job at a fast food restaurant, a farm or an amusement park. If you need ideas on how to make money even as a young teen, be sure to check out one of my past posts, 49 Ways for Equestrian Teens to Make Money.

No matter if you’re equestrian or you can barely tell the difference between a grey and a black horse, what is equestrianism to you?


2 Comments Add yours

  1. Mandy Miller says:

    This is so great. I learned so much from it!!!!! I’m definitely one of the “can’t tell the difference between a grey and black horse” kinda gal, but equestrianism is so dear to me because it brings so much joy to you and your family! I am so proud of you! ❤


    1. Hahaha!! I love you, Aunt Mandy!!


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