Introduction The study of equine locomotion is a study of motion, physics and style. Horses have been bred over the centuries to express their movement for speed, athletic prowess, comfort and pure excitement. For simplicity's sake, the gaits recorded for the equine species have been divided into two categories, natural and artificial. We will discuss the gaits associated with each category and provide many videos to help explain the horse’s movement being performed at each gait. Natural Gaits There are five natural gaits of horses. These natural gaits include the walk, trot, canter/lope, gallop and back. Many breeds perform these gaits. They include stock horse breeds like the Quarter Horse, Paint Horse, Appaloosa, etc. and hunter or English type horses such as the Thoroughbred, Arabian, Saddlebred, Morgan, etc.
Horses are intelligent, sociable and physically robust by nature. They readily adapt to life as a working or recreational companion providing the human has an approach that is acceptable to the horse. In the unrestricted semi-arid environments where they thrive, ample exercise is coupled with foraging for food which is scarce by comparison with pastures of modern day horses who do not have to expend any energy at all to find it. It is by removing them to more temperate climates where we put up fences and subject them to unsuitable forage and feed that things go pear-shaped. Instead of the amenable, trainable, pleasure to own horse they dreamed of, the reality for many horse owners is a series of stresses and frustrations, knocks to their confidence and considerable unforeseen expense. All because their horse has gone down with laminitis, become a head-shaker, developed ‘sacro-iliac’, respiratory or reproductive troubles or any of the vast array of health, movement and ‘behavioural’ issues. More and more ‘labels’ are being assigned to horses - EMS, IR, PSSM, HS and SIJ to name a few. Consequently people are thinking that their horse is ‘flawed’ and that all these are 'separate' issues, when actually they all have the same underlying cause: principally that of grazing unsuitable grass or consuming other inappropriate forage and feed in an environment which does not promote movement.
A foal’s initial food source will be to drink milk from its dam. The first milk or colostrum is extremely important as it contains vital antibodies to help to foal thrive. Foals will typically drink from their mothers for at least four months, after which time the mare’s milk becomes a less importance nutrition source as the foal becomes able to digest grass, forage and supplementary hard food. If a foal is rejected by its dam, or loses its dam through illness or injury, then they can be hand-raised by providing milk via a bottle or bucket. However, hand-reared foals can struggle from a lack of equine ‘instruction’ as their dam teaches them what is acceptable behaviour and and how to interact with other equines. Foals that miss out on these lessons have to carefully managed to ensure this does not have a negative impact as they grow up. Small horses that measure under 148cm to the top of the shoulder when they have reached maturity are called ponies. Foals are horse or ponies of any size aged from birth to one year.