We may think we’ve seen it all… but there was definitely a time in every equestrian’s life in which these four totally-normal things gave us heart palpitations before we learned just how commonplace they are.
Disclaimer: this article is not meant to replace veterinary advice. If you have horse health concerns, give your vet a call — there’s no such thing as a dumb question.
1. “My, what perioples you have.”
Kicking off the list with one that I’ll freely admit totally threw me for a loop less than a year ago when I brought my newest horse Jobber home. He spent the first few weeks in a quarantine corral by the barn, and coincidentally we also happened to get a few weeks of seemingly non-stop rain that turned the corral into a total quagmire. While all of my horses live out in whatever weather Mother Nature throws their way (with access to plenty of shelter, blankets if necessary and all the forage they could want) I had never noticed much expansion in the periople before — that’s the band of soft horn at the top of the hoof, where it meets the skin of the horse’s leg.
Fun fact that I now know is totally normal: in extremely wet conditions, such as standing around in mud during an epic multi-week rainstorm, the periople will swell. As you might imagine, the first time I looked down at my new horse’s feet with their suddenly-expanded white band of periople goodness, I panicked for a hot second or two.
Dogs stretch. Cats stretch. Hang around horses long enough and you’ll catch them stretching as well: they will arch their backs and stretch everything “up,” extend a hind leg and stretch back, and on occasion they’ll reach their forelegs out in front of them and lean back into a nice big stretch.
Somehow, despite literally growing up around horses on not one but two family farms, my husband had never caught a horse in mid-stretch before. Fortunately for him, Jobber is constantly downward-facing dog-ing all over the barn on a sunny morning, and it was only a matter of time before my husband witnessed in person. “The H#$! is he doing???” he cried in one such moment, and I turned around in time to see Jobber luxuriously stretching right in the crossties. “What’s WRONG with him?”
3. Sleeping flat-out
The classic. From the novice to the lifelong equestrian, whose heart doesn’t do a little pitter-patter of real fear until we realize that yes, in fact, that horse is in fact just sleeping?
Admittedly, one of the fun facts about horses that seems to get shared a lot with non-equestrians is “they sleep standing up” so it’s extra-scary the first time you catch one conked out on his side in the sunshine catching some shut-eye. But yeah, I’m willing to bet that ALL of us can’t help but do a double-take… just to make sure…
4. The corpora nigra
Okay, Horse Nation, ‘fess up — who’s ever had the “corpora nigra panic”? I distinctly remember being thoroughly convinced that my lesson horse when I was teenager — a cremello with green eyes, which made the whole thing that much more distinctive — had some kind of eye cancer when I first saw the mysterious little structures in his eyes that looked like a drop of ink swirling through water, frozen in time. I think this is a fairly common panic-stricken vet call among newer owners that usually ends in patient and careful explanation. (If you ever see your horse develop a cloudy eye in which the cloud is opaque and milky-looking, definitely call your vet ASAP.)
The corpora nigra serves almost like a hat brim for the horse’s pupil and shades it from direct sunlight. The more you know.
What would you add to the list? Let us know in the comments section. Go riding!