Monday, January 21, 2013

The Horse: A Beginner's Tutorial

The Horse, Exhibit A: One (1) factory-standard horse.

To the outsider,1 caring for creatures whose primary goals are to eat and poop can be a perplexing and mystifying experience. Horse people, like most any other group of folks absorbed by a way of life, hobby, or obsession that they’ve grown to love—or were born to love—have developed a vocabulary that can be confusing to the uninitiated, and that (probably inadvertently) makes entry into the world of horse ownership daunting and maybe even a little scary.2

The Horse, Exhibit B: Food goes in here
(at front, below dual air intakes).

We are fortunate enough to have been allowed to gingerly dip a toe into the murky waters of the fascinating world of the horse—the Latin name for which is horsus horsiis and have gradually learned how some of its more basic terminology translates into proper English. If the following list is too much to follow, take a break partway through to catch your breath, collect yourself, and/or scribble down some notes:

  • mare = girl horse
  • stallion = boy horse
  • gelding = very sad boy horse
  • tractor = not a horse
  • cow = see tractor
  • brown = brown
  • chestnut = brown
  • sorrel = brownish
  • dun = brownish
  • dark bay = sort of like brownish
  • bay = shitty director (see: Transformers, or better yet, don’t)
  • grey = white (seriously!)
  • pinto = horse, or bean
  • draft = horse
  • pony = horse
  • quarterhorse = horse
  • half-Arabian, half-quarterhorse = one (1) horse, 5/8 of normal size
  • horse = crap factory
  • manure = crap (literal)
  • tack = crap (figurative): saddles, bridles, stirrups, horse blankets, and so forth 
  • horse blanket = sort of like a blanket, but for a horse
  • tack room = a place to put all your crap (figurative)  
  • pile = a place to put all your crap (literal)

The Horse, Exhibit C: Thermal Exhaust Port.

Horse people—that is, horse owners, not Houyhnhnms—have spent somewhere between ten and a bazillion years cataloging different breeds of horse, in the very same way that dog owners obsess over the infinitesimal differences between a teacup poodle and a Saint Bernard. Over time, this has generated a dazzling array of breeds with names that are often region-specific, descriptive, or suspiciously foreign-sounding.

Left: a dog. Right: The exact same dog.

Established breeds of horse include but are not limited to: Abtenauer, Aegidienberger, Albanian, American Paint Horse, American Quarter Horse, Andravida, Appaloosa, AraAppaloosa, Arappaloosa, Araloosa, Arabian, Ardennes, Asturcón, Augeron, Australian Stock Horse, Auvergne, Azerbaijan, Azteca, Baise, Baluchi, Ban'ei, Barb, Bardigiano, Belgian Warmblood, Blazer, Boulonnais, Breton, Brumby, Burguete, Calabrese, Camargue, Campolina, Canadian, Canadian Pacer, Caspian, Castillonnais, Catria, Choctaw Horse, Cleveland Bay, Clydesdale, Colorado Ranger, Coldblood trotter, Comtois, Cuban Criollo, Curly Horse, Danube Delta, Dutch harness, Dutch Warmblood, East Bulgarian, Estonian Draft, Estonian, Falabella, Finnhorse, Fjord, Florida Cracker Horse, Fouta, Frederiksborg, Freiberger, French Trotter, Friesian, Furioso-North Star, Gelderland, Giara Horse, Gidran, Groningen Horse, Gypsy Vanner, Haflinger, Hanoverian, Heck, Heihe, Hirzai, Hispano-Bretón, Holsteiner, Icelandic, Indian Half-Bred, Iomud, Irish Draught, Italian Heavy Draft, Italian Trotter, Jaca Navarra, Jutland, Kabarda, Kaimanawa horses, Karabair, Kathiawari, Kazakh Horse, Kiger Mustang, Kinsky, Kisber Felver, Kladruber, Knabstrupper, Konik, Kustanair, Latvian, Lipizzaner, Lokai, Losino, Lusitano, Malopolski, Mallorquín, Mangalarga, Maremmano, Marismeño, Marwari, Mecklenburger, Menorquín, Mérens, Messara, Monchina, Mongolian Horse, Monterufolino, Morab, Morgan, Moyle, Murakoz, Muräkozi, Murgese, Mustang, Nangchen, Nez Perce Horse, Nivernais, Nokota, Nonius, Norman Cob, Novokirghiz, Oldenburg, Oldenburger, Orlov trotter, Pampa, Paso Fino, Pentro, Percheron, Persano, Peruvian Paso, Pintabian, Pleven, Qatgani, Quarab, Racking, Retuerta, Rhinelander, Riwoche, Russian Don, Russian Trotter, Salerno, Samolaco, San Fratello, Sarcidano, Schleswig, Sella Italiano, Selle Français, Shagya Arabian, Shire, Silesian, Sorraia, Sokolsky, Soviet Heavy Draft, Spanish Mustang, Spanish-Norman, Spotted Saddle, Standardbred, Suffolk Punch, Svensk Kallblodstravare, Swedish Ardennes, Swiss Warmblood, Taishuh, Tawleed, Tersk, Thoroughbred, Tiger Horse, Tolfetano, Tori, Trait Du Nord, Trakehner, Unmol Horse, Uzunyayla, Vlaamperd, Waler, Walkaloosa, Warlander, Westphalian, Wielkopolski, Xilingol, Yakutian, Yili, Yonaguni, Zweibrücker, and Žemaitukas. This is far from a comprehensive list, but you presumably get the idea.

Horse owners thus have at their disposal a wide array of specific terminology that can be used to present themselves as a member of this select fraternity—a sort of verbal secret handshake to suggest that they’re in the know and that they belong.

Of course, a thoughtful, informed answer isn’t your only option:

Your horse-owning neighbor, who you’re meeting for the very first time: Oooh, your wife has a horse? What kind?
You: [after a pause lasting roughly eighty-three seconds] . . . brown?

Even if you almost immediately change your answer to the correct one,3 rest assured that you’ve given an embarrassing, albeit accurate, impression about your horse-related stupidity.

If it’s any consolation, though, when it comes to stupidity, you’re still well ahead of many members of the animal kingdom.

The Horse, Exhibit D: The brain at work.4


1. Or “city folk,” as they may not be called anywhere outside of movies and television.
2. It’s less scary if the horses aren’t panicked and running, and are paying attention to where your feet are. Or so we’ve been told.
3. “Brown and fat.” Also acceptable: “Arabian.”
4. Please note that we do not claim that this photo is funny in any way; we use it merely to illustrate that horses are not necessarily all that bright, at least compared to animals that don’t get their heads stuck in things. And if you happen to find it funny, well, there’s nothing we can do to stop you, but you’re probably a bad person.


  1. So the question for me is, what was in that tree? Was it honey? Horses climb trees for honey, right? I remember that one time when Winne the Pooh got stuck in his horse-hole because he ate too much honey. He was a horse of little brain indeed.

    I learned a lot about horses reading this horse primer, but I'm still not sure why they like honey so much. I feel more confused now than ever!

    A Horse

    1. Dear Mr. Horse:

      Thank you for your question. Here is an apple.

      The truth of the matter is that the majority of the horse’s mental processing, especially its capacity for reason, problem-solving, and spatial relations comes from a large cluster of nerves near the buttocks, just north of the Thagomizer. This bundle of nerves is commonly referred to as “John Madden’s Brain.”

      We hope this has answered all your questions, and thank you for reading! Here is a carrot.