Top 10 books for horse lovers

Our list of top 10 horse books for your reading pleasure covers a wide variety of genres, from love to war to the classics.

Are you a horse lover who also enjoys a good read? Check out this list of top ten horse books that should be on your radar.

1. Lost Rider

Lost Rider (2017) by Harper Sloan is the first of three in the Coming Home An injured rodeo star is forced to return home and take over the family business – horse farming. He encounters a girl from his childhood who used to have a crush on him. He didn’t return her feelings back then, but he’s taking notice now.

2. Chicken Soup for the Horse Lover’s Soul II: Inspirational Tales of Passion, Achievement and Devotion (2012)

This book was written by Jack CanfieldMark Victor HansenMarty Becker, DVM, and more in 2012. It’s an inspiring collection of horse stories that will make you smile, cry, and even laugh out loud.

3. American Horse

American Horse by D.A. Michaels captures the attention of horse lovers through poetry and imagery. Patience is required, though – you can pre-order this book now, but it doesn’t come out until October 30.

How Far Can A Horse Travel In A Day?

I’m sure you’ve heard the saying, “It is a day’s ride away.” But what exactly does that mean? How far can a horse travel in a day? The truth is, no one answer is correct. In this article, we learn about several factors that can affect the answer to how far a horse can travel in a day.  

Horse Ownership has Changed in the Last 100 Years

We rely on the fitness of our cars to get us around today. Therefore, we schedule regular maintenance like oil changes, fluid checks, and tire rotation, etc. Just over one hundred years ago, horses were the primary source of transportation. A horse was considered a tool that needed the best care, maintenance, and fitness. Every farmer understood the necessity of good equine health and conditioning, just like today’s mechanics understand the requirements for keeping vehicles running correctly. Consequently, the average horse in the past was conditioned to travel farther than today’s average horse.  

One Day Trip vs. Consecutive Days Trip

Years ago, as well as today, riders needed to take into consideration how many days the trip would take. On average, a healthy horse can travel anywhere from 25 to 35 miles a day. This distance needs to be at a slower pace and with breaks for water. However, asking a horse to keep up this pace for several consecutive days can lead to health problems.

Breeding vs. Backyard Horse vs. Seasoned Equine Athlete

The majority of horses fall into one of these three categories.  

  1. “breeder’s herd.” 

These are the horses that are in selective breeding programs to facilitate desired breed characteristics. These horses travel only short distances, usually within their pastures. The tolls of raising foals year after year can have an adverse effect on how far a broad mare can travel. It would take some conditioning to build up to 25 miles in a day.  

  1. The backyard horse. 

These horses are the ones that fall into the position of a family member or pet. When asked about how horse ownership has changed in the last 100 years Robert Hilsenroth, DVM, executive director of Morris Animal Foundation, had this to say, “Horses were coming away from the farms, being boarded, and becoming pets. Their value changed from one of horsepower to one of love or companion power.”

Does a Racehorse Know if He Wins or Loses?

Q. While I watching the 2015 Breeders’ Cup Classic prerace coverage, there was a lot of talk about running American Pharoah for the horse’s sake, not only so that he can win the “Grand Slam” (the Triple Crown races plus the Breeders’ Cup Classic) but so that he can retire after a win rather than after his Travers Stakes loss. “It’s for the horse” and “so he can go out a winner” seem to be implying that the horse understands winning and losing races. On the surface it seems like a nice thing to say—that the horse deserves to go out as a winner. But how does that fit with what is known about animal cognition? Does it make any sense? I think it is up for debate whether a horse even understands when he has won or lost a race. And, what difference would it make to the horse, really? It seems like it is more about what people want. Any comments or discussion appreciated.

A. These are really good questions on a topic that may be tough to answer without getting down into deep discussion about human-animal relationships, animal welfare, and the ethics of animal use. Certainly philosophers and animal ethicists have devoted much more intellectual thought to these questions, so I’ll just comment best I can from my perspective in equine behavior, and will try not to get too philosophical.

First of all, with my current understanding of horse cognition, my opinion would be that it is really doubtful that a racehorse understands winning or losing a race on the track. It’s not that horses cannot understand winning or losing a chase in natural circumstances, just that so much about racing is not at all natural.

Do Horses Recognize Humans?

Q: Does my horse recognize me from other people?

A: We all get a sense that our horses recognize us by our appearance or the sound of our voice, and that they can distinguish us from strangers or less familiar people. Certainly we know horses learn associations between a person coming around an expected time and their getting fed, turned out, or exercised. It’s difficult from this simple scenario to discriminate between a horse learning by reinforcement and a horse actually recognizing a specific person providing the reinforcement.

One very old study showed that horses depended on facial features as well as clothing to recognize individuals. A number of more recent studies have shown that horses seem to be able to tell when the audio recording of the voice and the sight of familiar handlers match up; that is, compared to when the voice recording is from a different person than the one a horse is shown. This is known as “cross-modal recognition,” because the horses were asked to combine multiple sensory cues. By the way, this also seems to be true when researchers asked the question of whether horses recognize and discriminate between familiar horse herdmates. Horses seem to detect when the recorded horse vocalizations played for them and the visual appearance of the horse actually presented match up.

How to Teach a Horse to Cross Water

Planning: Set your horse up for success

An important first step is to set-up suitable water challenges. One option is to build a water obstacle, but because it bears little resemblance to a moving stream, you’ll also need access to natural bodies of water. Training involves introducing the horse to the water, and the starting point will depend on the water feature, the horse’s distance from it, and how distracting the environment is to the horse.

If you start training your horse now at the canal, make sure she’s relaxed when the canal is dry, find out how close she can get before showing signs of tension, and train at a quiet time of day with no vehicles, riders, or other distractions make her anxious.

Fear is the most likely underlying reason why horses won’t cross water, so use training exercises designed to reduce that fear. Train below threshold (the point at which a stimulus is of sufficient intensity to begin to produce an effect), avoid situations that are too challenging, and gauge the horse’s level of anxiety and distress by closely observing her body language. The sweet spot for training is when the horse is both calm and paying attention to the water obstacle—in other words, “attention without tension.”

Patience: Training is a process, not an event

Create positive experiences

Help your horse become calm and confident about crossing water by using positive, low-stress training methods. Desensitization and counterconditioning can change the horse’s emotions by pairing the feared object or situation with something pleasant. As an example of the application of counterconditioning, you could lead your horse toward the canal, stop while she’s still relaxed, pause briefly, and then scratch her favorite itchy spot and/or give her a treat. After repeating this a few times, your horse will learn that approaching the canal comes with a scratch and a treat, and she will respond less fearfully. In some cases, training with another calm and confident horse can help; your horse is likely to follow the other horse, and will be relaxed by its calm demeanor.

Reward desired behavior

It’s easy to focus on trying to eliminate the unwanted behavior, but it’s more effective to recognize and reward the desired target behaviors. You can use several different reinforcers can, including treats and scratches.

Responsible Trail Riding for Horse and Rider

If you’re spending time with your horse on the trail, it’s important to do so responsibly. Below are many ways in which you can be sure that you ride responsibly.

Travel responsibly

  • Stay on designated roads, trails and other areas open to horses.
  • Ride single file to reduce trail damage. Spread out in open country where there are no trails. Spreading out, rather than following each other’s footsteps, disperses impact and avoids creating a new trail.
  • Comply with all signs and respect barriers.
  • Riders should match their skill level to the temperament and ability of the horse they ride. Learn more about selecting the appropriate horse for you.
  • At trailheads or staging areas, park vehicles and secure horses in a manner that provides a safe distance between the horses and passing traffic.
  • Less experienced horses and riders should ride behind more “trail-wise” horses and riders.
  • Learn more about safety on the trail.

Respect the rights of others

  • Be considerate of others on the road or trail.
  • Be prepared to let other trail enthusiasts know what needs to be done to keep you, the horse and other passersby safe when you meet on the trail.
  • Be alert and aware of the presence of other trail enthusiasts. If possible, pull to the side of the trail when you hear oncoming off-highway vehicles or bicycles.
  • Leave gates as you find them. If crossing private property, be sure to ask permission from the landowner(s).
  • Do not disturb historical, archeological or paleontological sites.
  • Avoid “spooking” livestock and wildlife you encounter and keep your distance.
  • Water animals in areas where stream banks and water access can withstand hard use and are downstream from campsites.

Educate yourself

  • Obtain a map of your destination and determine which areas are open to your type of pack animals.

45 Most Random, Amazing and Bizarre Facts about Horses

Horses have been called the noblest of creatures, and it’s easy to see why. Depending on which scientific accounts you believe, they’ve been man’s original best friend since anywhere from 4000 to 2000 B.C. They’ve taken us wherever we’ve asked them to including the fields of battle.

Yet here we are in the 21st Century, and there are still plenty about these noble creatures you still don’t know. Want proof? Here is our list of the 45 Most Random, Amazing and Bizarre Facts about Horses that we’ve managed to gather. Which is your favorite?

1. Horses have the largest eyes of any land mammal. (Source: HorseswithAmie)

Horses have the largest eyes of any land animal.

2. Horses can run within hours after birth. (Source: ScienceKids)

3. When horses look like they’re laughing, they’re actually engaging in a special nose-enhancing technique known as “flehmen,” to determine whether a smell is good or bad. (Source: Dictionary)

Horses Laughing

4. At one time people thought horses were colorblind. They’re not, though they are better at seeing yellows and greens than purples and violets. (Source: The Horse)

5. A horse’s teeth take up a larger amount of space in their head than their brain. (Source: LiveScience)

6. You can generally tell the difference between male and female horses by their number of teeth: males have 40 while females have 36 (but honestly, most us are going to use the much “easier” way).

7. Horse hooves are made from the same protein that comprises human hair and fingernails. (Source:  Ker)

8. The horse trailer (“horse box”) was invented by Lord George Bentinck, a U.K. man who needed a more effective transport for getting his six horses from one racetrack to another.

9. In 1872, Leland Stanford (1824-1893) made a bet that at some point in the gallop all four of a horse’s legs are off the ground at the same time. Eadweard Muybridge (1830-1904) proved him right by using a series of 24 cameras and photographing a racehorse named Sallie Gardner. (Source:  HorseswithAmie)

10. Horses are more secure and comfortable when trailering if they can face the rear, but they prefer openings. (Source:  Animal People News)

Conditioning Your Horse for the Summer

NOTE: This transcript is from an online, live chat. The major topics have been captured in the material below. If you have further questions, please search the eXtension Horses page for more in-depth and detailed information.


Q: When should I start increasing the amount I feed when I start to condition my horse for the summer show season?

A: As you start to increase work intensity or duration, start increasing feed intake to keep up with the energy expenditure; however, it’s also important to maintain the horse’s body condition. If the horse is too fat, then continue at the same level before increasing feed. If the horse is thin, increase the feed intake to increase its weight. Many horses carry more weight than they need from the inactivity of the previous months and may not need much of an increase in feed. If the horse is out of shape, make sure you gradually start bringing him back into work.

Q: What would be a good weight for a horse for summer showing?

A: Body condition scoring is the most effective way to determine if your horse is where it needs to be weight-wise. Check out eXtension’s Horses Body Condition Scoring learning module for additional information. Aim for a body condition score of 5 or 6, then work up to that point.

Q: Isn’t fat a more stable source of energy?

A: Fat is a better energy source in that it doesn’t give that rapid conversion to energy like carbohydrates do. Corn and other high-sugar and high-starch grains convert to energy rapidly, which is why corn is usually referred to as a “hot feed.”

Q: Any thoughts on refined versus unrefined oils?

A: I am not totally familiar with the differences, but I do know corn oil tastes best to horses. Canola oil has a higher level of Omega 3s, and fish oil is the highest in Omega 3s. Rice bran is a good source of fat because it is high in fat, horses love it, and it is high in fiber.

Q: What are your thoughts about high protein supplements?

A: The best quality protein sources are soybean meal and alfalfa. If you have to use a supplement, make sure it is fortified with lysine and threonine. They are amino acids that are limiting in the horse’s diet and need to be the first amino acids supplemented.

Q: How is soybean meal dispersed?

A: Soybean meal is usually available in a flaky form or powder. You can feed it as you would bran or other supplement. The amount of soybean meal added to the horse’s diet depends on the horse. If you feed horses a high-protein hay such as alfalfa, you shouldn’t need soybean meal. However, if you have a very poor-quality hay or are feeding a growing or lactating horse, you will need higher levels of soybean meal.

Q: What about protein levels for a growing horse that is starting training?

Maintaining Healthy Equine Microbiota

The bacteria, fungi, protozoa, and viruses that colonize the equine gastrointestinal tract, collectively known as the microbiota, play a crucial role in the horse’s health.

The bacteria, fungi, protozoa, and viruses that colonize the equine gastrointestinal tract, collectively known as the microbiota, play a crucial role in the horse’s health. Microbiota is involved in numerous biological processes: regulation of immune homeostasis, metabolic functions, synthesis of vitamins, nutrient uptake, development of pathology, and disease resistance. If the delicate balance of the microbiota is disrupted, typically through some combination of poor diet and stress, a state of dysbiosis develops.

Dysbiosis is known to have broad-reaching effects within the digestive tract and may lead to increased susceptibility to infection, local and systemic inflammatory reactions, and diminished nutrient uptake. Other health effects beyond the gastrointestinal (GI) tract may include respiratory and metabolic disease, and even obesity. In the horse, manifestations of dysbiosis are typically identified within the GI tract itself presenting as gastric and colonic ulcers, diarrhea, colitis, colic, laminitis, and inflammatory bowel diseases.