Many of us dream of being in the limelight one way or another. Who could have ever thought that horses share that same interest? Or that a horse could help bring their owners into the limelight with their incredible talents and beauty? Here is a little story behind some of the most famous horses and their equally famous owners.
Famous people come to the Lowcountry every day. You can walk down King Street in the summertime and spot a star or two, or while you're sitting at your favorite restaurant in town someone famous could be sitting at the table next to yours. With our beautiful beaches, excellent food, amazing horse riding facilities, and perfect weather, Charleston offers the best of the best. More films and TV shows are being filmed in Charleston every year too, and stars of the silver and smaller screens are becoming a permanent fixture in our beautiful city. Beyond the stars that call Charleston their home or their favorite vacation spot, can you name any horse who has become famous on the big screen? Can you name a famous fixture in history who was known to be an amazing horseman or woman? You might be surprised to know there are many in both categories. Many modern celebrities love their horses or fall madly in love with them while working with them on set, but this list offers a little more than just that!
Many think of this handsome horseman as a TV and movie star. Which is 100% correct! Trigger, a stunning Palimino, was hist faithful horse and companion. To this day Trigger has become one of the most famous horses in film history, and Mr. Rogers was not too far behind him. Trigger stood at 15.3 hands tall, and was born on July 4th, 1943 and died on July 3rd, 1965. A child growing up during Trigger's lifetime knew who he was and that he was a cowboy's best friend. This beautiful horse used his fame to inspire so many, and never let stairs or elevators get in the way of a hospital or shelter visit. When he was born, his name was Golden Cloud. He was sold to the Hudkins Stables of Hollywood when he was three years old. This particular stable supplied horses exclusively for the TV and film industry. He appeared in his first film, "The Adventures of Robin Hood", and was ridden by the incredible Olivia de Haviland in 1938. Around the same time, a very handsome young cowboy who loved the movies changed his name from Leonard Slye to Roy Rogers. He chose the name so he could sound a little bit more like the cowboy he was. A real cowboy, now staring in his film, needed the perfect horse. That perfect horse was Golden Cloud. Rogers knew he was his match from the very first moment he rode him. Trigger earned his new name when a fellow actor of Rogers' noticed how quick he was, similar to Rogers' quick draw with a gun. So, he suggested the name, and it stuck. When their first movie together, "Under The Western Stars" made its premiere, one of the most important duos of all time was born. Knowing Trigger's popularity would continue to soar, Rogers couldn't bear the thought of someone else riding him or taking him away. So, he jumped into action and bought Trigger for his own for $2500, a mighty big sum at the time. Rogers paid in installments, and it was one of the best decisions he ever made. The duo soared to success, making one another more famous than they could have imagined. Trigger appeared in all 88 movies Rogers was in and in all 100 episodes of the Roy Rogers show and was a part of Roger's life until he died. He couldn't bear to see him buried, so he was taxidermied and was on display at multiple museums until the early 2000's when the last museum he appeared at shut down.
Queen Elizabeth and Burmese
The Royal family has been known for their deep love and appreciation of horses for generations. Queen Elizabeth has been one of the most prominent members of the Royal Family who has always loved and dedicated a large part of her life and time to her horses. Thanks to historical TV shows like "The Crown" we have gotten a front-row view of her love of horses and the passion she's had them from the time she was a very little girl. She had her very first pony at the age of three and is still known to ride today at the age of 92. To this day the royal family breeds some of the best horses in the UK, their horses winning almost every race in most recent history. From a very young age, Queen Elizabeth has owned and loved many spectacular horses. The standout of these beauties being Burmese, a stunning black mare that was gifted to her by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in 1969. For 18 years, the Queen rode Burmese in the Troping The Color Parade, a parade given in special honor of her birthday. She rode Burmese next to President Ronald Reagan, and she was also riding Burmese when in 1981, 6 blank shots were fired at her during her birthday parade. The stunning horse stood strong for her beloved Queen, who recovered almost instantly and continued riding with her head held high. Burmese was retired in 1986 and put out to pasture at Windsor Castle until her death in 1990. She is buried on the grounds of the castle, which is an extreme honor and a very unique one. The Queen had a statue commissioned in honor of Burmese's life, and today it stands in front of the Saskatchewan Legislature Building in Regina, Canada. This was the providence that Burmese was born. In the UK's history, the Queen has been ranked as one of the top horse breeders. She has also been ranked as one of the highest-profile horseback riding devotees in the world. Burmese was born in 1962 and was trained by corporal Fred Rasmussen. The Queen rode her daily when she was staying at her country house, not just during her birthday parades. She was a stunning sight to see when she was being ridden and is still remembered as one of the most beautiful horses in royal history.
We can't talk about famous horses without mentioning Mr. Ed, of course! This popular children's show stole the hearts of the nation and Mr. Ed was at the center of that love. The TV show focused around the friendship between Wilbur Post (played by Alan Young) and Mr. Ed, his talking horse (voiced by Alan Lane). Mr. Ed was named Bamboo Harvester off the big screen and was a stunning Palomino. The majority of the show is about Mr. Ed offering his best friend, Wilbert, advice on life. More often than not, he got Wilbur in trouble because Mr. Ed would only talk to Wilbur and no one else. The show was popular around the world, and long after it went off the air in 1966. The show aired from 1961 to 1966, and believe it or not, no one wanted to pick up the show at first. It took a year of private backing before it was picked up, but once it was the show was a smashing hit. Bamboo Harvester was born in 1949 and was trained by Les Hilton. Hilton was able to teach him to move his lips every time his hoof was touched. Peanut butter could also be used to get his lips moving so it looked like he was talking. Bamboo Harvester died in 1971 after an incredible life and career. No one knows exactly how he died, many stories are floating around Hollywood about it. The most probable story of them all is that he died from heart failure. A little known fact about the show, one of the most famous film cowboys of all time, Clint Eastwood, was on the show too!
There you have it! Some of the most popular horses and their celebrity counterparts of all time. Historically hundreds of horses could be added to this list. Horses have been used from the dawning of time to help conquer, protect, and build civilizations. They have journeyed from building the world to creating a world on the big screen. Who is your favorite TV or Film horse of all time? You never know, the next time you come take a ride at Middleton Equestrian Center, you might be riding the next big star Charleston will ever see!
Horse racing has been one of the most popular equestrian sports throughout all of history. It has echoed throughout centuries, cultures, and the world. There is a reason horse racing has become and remained so popular: it celebrates the strength, power, and beauty of these amazing animals and excites the rider and those who love the sport. But who knew that there were so many different types of racing?
We are getting so excited about these warmer temperatures that keep popping through the rainy cool days here in the Lowcountry. There isn't anything wrong with a brisk trail ride, and there is something to be said about a ride in a drizzle. But these sunnier and warmer days are getting us so excited for our southeastern springs because that means more trail rides and perfect days for trail rides! While we've been waiting for these perfect days, we have been doing our research and continuing our little educational tour on the history and types of equestrian sport. Our most recent tour lead us back to horse racing, and we were just floored by how many different types of racing we found and how much they differ from one another. While you wait for your next ride on our beautiful horseback riding trails, we hope you enjoy this little walk through equestrian sport history!
We have learned through our research of horseback riding that the number of equestrian sports and the many ways you can play them is immense. It's such an exciting sport, and it continues to grow and be nurtured all over the world. In our past few blogs, we've shared some of the more unique equestrian sports and games, and for this blog, we wanted to take more of a classic approach.
There is so much to horse racing and equestrian sport that we could talk about it for blogs and blogs. We have so enjoyed sharing this information with you, and hope it sparks joy in your life. We hope it has inspired you to come to join us for a trail ride on the best horseback riding trails in South Carolina. Come visit us soon, we have a saddle with your name on it!
There are so many incredibly fun, highly skilled, and exciting sports and events that take place on horseback. Some of these fun sports have been going on for centuries and are apart of certain cultures and backgrounds, while others are no longer played. But in each of them, there is excitement, skill, and a sense of grandeur that is so fun to learn about.
Happy New Year, Lowcountry! We hope all of you had a wonderful holiday, and are so excited to kick 2020 into gear. The weather has been so warm these last few weeks, that we hope you start your new year off with a fun and exciting trail ride with us! For those of you who have visited us recently, have you been inspired by your visit that you've become a little curious about what else you can do on horseback beyond trail rides? You've come to the right place! This week's blog and in the next few blogs to follow, we are going to be talking about the many fun, challenging, and unique sports that can be played on horseback.
Each of these sports we will be discussing over the next few blogs will challenge you in more ways than one. They're fun to watch and exciting to learn. Some take years to master with multiple skills needed to succeed, while others aren't played anymore. If you're here with us in the Lowcountry or are from areas close (in NC, TN, KY), this is a great area to expand your knowledge and explore the world of equestrian sports!
In this blog, we will be discussing some of the more unique and interesting equestrian sports. Each has their own special traits, tactics, and skills needed to excel and do so safely. Some you can still see in competition today while others are just for show. Maybe you've heard or seen some of these sports before, and maybe you'll learn a thing or two today!
That's right! Forget about Medieval Times for a second, and think back to when this was not just the days of yore. When princes and kings ruled the lands and were fighting for the fair princesses' hand. In its heyday this wasn't a sport found at the Renaissance festival or at themed dinner shows, it was a way of life! Jousting was an actual mid-evil sport that was very popular and needed for the training of knights and soldiers. The way it works is that two opponents on horseback wield long poles called lances (that are 6-7 feet long!) with blunted tips on their ends. Dressed in full armor, they ride full speed at one another on a specially made course that is about 110-220 yards long separated by a fence right down the middle part of the field. There is a rider on either side of the fence. The goal of each ride is to knock your opponent off of their horse before you get knocked off. If the riders make it to the end of the course without either falling off, they turn around and start again until someone is eventually knocked off. The sport was originally created to train for battle and warfare, Soldiers would learn what it would feel like to get hit or clash with someone else while wearing a full suit of armor while going very fast. Even during its height, it was also a sport for fun during celebrations, not just for training. Today it is seen in historical reenactments, renaissance fairs, and the ever classic Medieval Times dinner show. It is considered to be an extinct sport and has been for over three centuries.
Cowboy Mounted Shooting
This sport is one of the newest equestrian sports out there, despite its name. It was created in the late 1990's and is a sport for those well versed in horseback riding and shooting. Also know as mounted shooting, this very disciplined sport involves shooting at still targets while riding a horse. As of 2015, the United States is the only place this sport is still played. Each course this sport is played on is specifically designed for each race, and balloons are used as the targets. The goal is to get through the course as quickly and perfectly as possible while shooting as many balloons as you can. Each rider is timed, and each target missed and part of the track not ridden correctly are points that are added to your time. The riders with the lowest time at the end of the race wins. Riders use old fashioned western style single-action revolvers to strike the balloons, and the guns are filled with blanks. Both men and women can play and compete in this sport.
Mounted Horseback Archery
To be efficient at this sport, you need to be well versed in two skills - riding and archery. You need to be able to do both at the same time to succeed. The skills used in this sport are used for mounted hunting around the world. Those to first use these techniques were European nomads during mid-evil times, and the most famous to use it were Japanese Samurai called Yabusame. The objective of the sport is for the rider to ride without reigns on a 90 m course while shooting arrows at different targets that are placed at different distances. This sport takes a different kind of skill than most normal horseback riding or equestrian sports. It is almost harder than riding bareback, as your hands will be used to work the bow and arrow. The guidance of the horse and actual skill of riding will be left to your legs and body. The sport continues to be very popular today, especially here in the United States. Many riding clubs offer classes and courses to learn, and there are competitions held across the country.
How excited are you to come to visit us now? One trail ride could lead to you becoming the next best show rider, a career in show business, or just learning how to show off some very exciting skills. We will see you next time for the next round of equestrian sports blogs. Until then, come visit us for a ride and have a happy new year!
It was such a joy to walk down the honored halls of some of the most famous horses of all time that we couldn't just limit it to one blog. It was hard enough to pick just a handful to celebrate, but it's been such fun to comb through their history and share their stories with you!
Happy November, Friends! Have you stopped by to enjoy the cool weather and beautiful foliage on our riding trails yet? It's starting to get chilly - so make sure you come to see us soon! While you are waiting for your next ride, we wanted to continue our history lesson with some of the most famous horses of all time. We are moving forward with Seabiscuit and Seattle Slew!
This amazing horse was the grandson of Man O' War, one of the horses we discussed in our last blog. Ironically, Seabiscuit didn't show any racing qualities until later in life and was on the smaller side. He was born in Lexington Kentucky on May 23, 1933. Just two years later he made his racing debut at Hialeah Park in Florida on January 19, 1935. Thankfully he was purchased by Charles S. Howard after his first few unsuccessful racing seasons. He lost 17 races in a row before Howard found him with trainer Tom Smith. They found Seabiscuit 200 pounds underweight, exhausted, and in a terrible temperament. He needed rest, relaxation, and to heal before anyone raced him again. That's exactly what Smith gave him, and he came out of his vacation a brand new horse.
With the help of Smith and his jockey Red Pollard, Seabiscuit won 11 of the 15 races he entered in 1937. Pollard was a bit of a controversial jockey. He was much bigger than most and was blind in one eye. But both underdogs took to one another right away, and the pair became famous virtually overnight. His popularity soared during the Great Depression and gave the country something to hang on to. He was named Horse of The Year in 1938 and was the champion handicap horse in 1937 and 1938. One of his crowning moments, known as the "Match of the Century", was when he defeated Warm Admiral in 1939 at the Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, Maryland. War Admiral was considered the fastest horse of his time, and no one saw this race turning out the way it did. Seabiscuit retired in 1940 and went on to inspire many books, movies, and a major motion picture in 2003 with Toby McGuire, Chris Cooper, and a full star-studded cast.
In his six racing seasons, Seabiscuit won 33 of his 89 races with a total winning of $437,730. At the time this was a record for an American Thoroughbred. Just a few days shy of his 14th birthday, Seabiscuit died of a heart attack and is buried at Ridgewood Ranch in California.
This stunning horse was born on February 15, 1974. His owners were Mickey and Karen Taylor and Jim Hill of Tayhill Stable. His parents were Bold Reasoning and poker mare, My Charmer. No one expected much from Slew when he was born, but thankfully someone gave him a chance. The moment he hit the race track, he was a born runner.
When Slew was born he was described as ugly, He was an almost all-black bay, something that didn't catch the eye. He had big floppy ears and a very big personality. He was big for his age, and very clumsy when he first started. He needed time to grow into his body, and to learn how to become the powerhouse he was destined to be. He was bought by Tayhill Stable at a steal of $17,500 in 1975. He was then trained by Bill Turner, and under his tutelage Slew learned quickly and had great confidence in his skills. At three years old he made his career debut with jockey Jean Cruguet, who helped him make a 5 length victory at Belmont Park on September 20th, 1977. He went on to win the Triple Crown that same year.
Slew was the 10th Triple Crown winner for the United States and the first to complete the series with an undefeated career record. Through his career years between 1976 and 1978, his total earnings were $1,208,726. He had 17 starts, 14 first place wins, and 2 second place wins. Just two months before he was set to retire he defeated the heir to the Triple Crown, Affirmed, in the Grade 1 Marlboro Cup at Belmont Park.
After he retired, he sired more than 100 stake winners. He was the only stakes winner to sire a Belmont winner, A.P. Indy, who also sired a Belmont winner, Rags to Riches. At the tender age of 28, Slew passed away 25 years to the day he won the Kentucky Derby.
These amazing horses have such inspiring stories to tell. We are inspired by them daily and the legacy they have left behind. We have loved walking down memory lane with you and look forward to the next time we meet. See you at the stables!
What are the Corolla Wild Horses and where did they come from?
All of us here at Middleton have always known that there was something very special about the beautiful and majestic horse - and the beautiful beaches that line the coast of the Lowcountry and her sister states. So, what happens you combine the two? Something truly spectacular. If you have ever traveled a little north of the Lowcountry and into the Outerbanks, you might have heard about the Corolla Wild Horses, a herd of very special horses that come from a mysterious and long line of majestic ancestors.
The Corolla Wild Horses are such a special attraction and are so beautiful because they are such a mystery. How did they get to this side of the world and who introduced them into the wild? Today around 400 wild horses making up several different herds that live on the North Carolina stretches of the Outerbanks. They can be spotted between Cape Lookout and Corolla. These incredible animals have survived hurricanes, human settlers, and everything else in between. Even though these horses are wild now, they are descendants of domesticated horses. Many historians believe they are direct ancestors of the Spanish Mustang. But really, how did they arrive here?
During the days of early exploration and settlement from Europe to the America Colonies, many Spanish ships were caught in the dangerous shallows along the Outerbanks called the Graveyard of the Atlantic. Many Spanish ships that were attempting to come to the early colonies and sunk in this graveyard have been found, many dating back to the early 1500s. The Corolla's ancestors could have come from any of these ships because don't forget - horses can swim. They could have been on these ships and have swum to shore after they sunk and took refuge in their new surroundings. But more likely, the Corolla are descended from Spanish Mustangs that were left behind by Spanish Settlers who had to abandon them and head back to their ships after being threatened by Native Americans, sickness, or failure to settle successfully. But let's dig a little deeper into their mystery shall we?
As I stated above, the history of these horses dates back almost 500 years, making them the oldest settlers in the Outerbanks. The Native Americans are the only other group that is older to American soil than these majestic creatures that first called this land home. Spanish settlers probably brought these horses to our shores, but when? What explorations? One of the first possibilities is that they could have arrived in 1521 with some of the very first explorers to the coastline with Lucas Vasquez de Allyon, a Spanish Explorer. Some speculate that this exploration party landed near Cape Fear and made it as far down in their journey as the Outerbanks. The Native Americans were not thrilled about these new visitors and were not welcoming to them at all. They killed them or forced these explorers to leave quickly and retreat to their ships and leave behind their livestock and crude settlements. There is some thought that the Corolla horses started their lineage here, as their ancestors would have been the livestock left behind.
A second, more plausible option, happened 60 years later as Richard Greenville was making his expeditions along the North Carolina Coast. His commander, Sir Walter Raleigh, made regular trips along with the West Indies to the early colonies of North Carolina and Virginia to deliver goods to its settlers and had Greenville many of these trips himself. In 1587, Greenville was leaving the West Indies set to deliver goods for his commander to the colonies. Greenville, as historical records go, hit trouble along Cape Fear and then again when the ship hit the shallow waters in the Graveyard of the Atlantic in an area called Diamond Shoals. At least one of the ships that was lost during these troubles contained live wild stock. The animals that survived the sinking could have swum and made it to shore. Some of these animals were also believed to have been the Spanish Mustangs.
Even though these two historical options are the most documented options, these are plenty of other speculations. But no matter their origin, the mystery of their appearance has been one of their biggest assets. After having been undisturbed for almost 400 years, the herd was almost pushed to extinction in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The herd hit a record low of 40 horses due to inbreeding, eating bad food, and being hit by vehicles. The herd was moved to a more stable beach that could support their needs and promote their growth. But now, thanks to being protected by the National Park Service, the state of North Carolina, and by private funds and sanctuaries, they are ensured to remain for many more generations to come. They are an amazing gem, and truly something special to behold.
Now, with a rich history and healthy numbers - the Corolla Wild Horses will remain a beautiful staple of the Outerbanks. If you have the opportunity to encounter them, take the chance. You won't want to miss out on seeing these myster
Horses are incredible gifts to us in many ways. But outside of riding them on trails like we have at Middleton, what other resources do horses offer us?
Majestic, strong, beautiful creatures. Those are just a few words that describe these beautiful animals we call Horses. They have always given so much to us, and still continue to do so every day. They bring such joy to our riders who enjoy our trails every day, and for centuries have provided transportation and help to farmers, builders, businessmen, and more. But with the dawning of technology and their uses in transportation and daily life growing less and less - what have these beautiful creatures been doing to help us? A lot more than you would think! Every day they give back to us and the planet and are one of the biggest contributors to keeping our ecosystem and our planet healthy, clean, and functioning.
When it comes to trails and trail riding, horses automatically give back to the environment and your safety. For any park, nature preserve, or historical lands horseback riding saves the land from human damage. Horseback riding is low energy and a low impact on the world around you. People can trample through areas and destroy so much precious vegetation or delicate landmarks without even knowing it. Horses can be trained to walk around and guide their riders to see these beautiful areas without touching them - keeping them safe and intact. You can see the world around you without harming it, reducing any footprint a human leaves behind.
Horses are also much safer than hiking alone through the woods. The sounds and vibrations a horse makes naturally when walking are calming and common to many animals found in nature. Many dangerous animals to humans, including snakes and bears, will not react to their presence like they would a human. You are dramatically reducing the rate of getting bit, attacked, scratched, or put in danger all while riding a horse. Since these animals are not bothered or scared away from their natural habitats when we are on horseback - it keeps them in their environment and homes where they should be. This helps keep the ecosystem in balance and keep the wildlife intact. Wild horses give so much to the world around them too and they are known as nature's healers. Where ever they roam and graze, they help the world around them rebuild and continue to flourish, and help the ecosystem thrive just like owned horses. A wild horse can break through the ice of lakes and streams so animals who don't have the power to do so can reach a water source in the wintertime.
Horses are also one of the biggest contributors to renewable energy and resources. Horses produce up to 9.1 tons of manure every year, and this manure can be turned into green energy for the farms it's created on or for energy companies around these farms. If the farm itself doesn't want or doesn't have the resources to turn their manure into power - the manure can be sold off to companies that can, which brings revenue to the farm itself. But, if the farm does have these resources the power it creates can be sold off and become another form of revenue. Horse manure can also be turned into safe and clean fertilizers, much quicker and safer than factory-made fertilizers. A lot of farms have the resources to turn manure into fertilizers on their property and can get it to their fields and crops much faster than factory-made fertilizer. They also have the opportunity to sell it for yet another form of revenue for the farm.
Fertilizers made from horse manure have a lot of wonderful benefits for the world around it. It's made to prevent air and water pollution and can be used in fields close to water sources or in areas that have large amounts of runoff from fields into streams. It also improves soil quality and productivity. It increases the number of nutrients in the soil, keeping it healthier and creating a better ecosystem for plants to grow in. Higher productivity leads to more growth of grass and vegetation which prevents erosion and prevents the growth of brush. Without this brush, the chances of wildfires spreading or happening decreases dramatically.
Horses also help preserve grasslands. If a farmer practices rotational grazing, this prevents overgrazing and promotes grass to keep growing. With grass still in the grazing fields from rotational grazing, this also prevents erosion and promotes healthy growth of vegetation in these fields for years to come. Rotational grazing also allows manure to decompose. The broken-down manure provides incredible nutrients to the soil.
Other forms of grasslands like pastures, farms, trails, and other green spaces that horses call home are also home to a lot of other wildlife. Keeping these spaces healthy and safe for horses provides a healthy and safe home for other animals and vegetation. Habitats of many animals are maintained through horses grazing patterns. Tall grasses and plants left uneaten by a horse, hide and protect larger animals. Whereas shorter grasses eaten by horses protect smaller animals who need this grass to hide from predators. A well cared for pasture can retain at least 70% ground cover all year, unlike cropland. Rotating these lands and keeping them well cared for protects not only your horses but also your farm's well being, and the ecosystem around it.
Most horse farmers utilize trough watering for their animals. This promotes the protection and safety of natural water sources like lakes, streams, and ponds. It prevents erosion along the edges of these water sources and keeps them flowing naturally. Horses are being used to not only keep their farms and pastures healthy and flourishing, but they are also being used in the conservation of parks, green spaces, and rural landscapes. These horses are inspiring these areas to grow back or continue growing healthily. Horses also spread seeds while grazing just like birds do. Once they are passed through their digestive system, they are left behind to grow in very fertile land. Horses are also very picky about what they eat. They will eat grass and weeds, making way for other plants to grow and thrive and kill off weeds that are harmful to their growth. They will also naturally trample unwanted weeds and plants that are harmful to the growth of healthy grass and plants too.
Horses aren't just beautiful to watch and fun to ride, horses are helping the planet grow and stay healthy every day. From farms to trails like you can find at Middleton, horses are keeping your world healthy and safe. Come visit us and enjoy taking part in this wonderful circle of life.
How did one of the most majestic creatures get the term "hands" when they're measured and why is it still used today?
Horses are some of the most beautiful and magnificent creatures alive. They're regal, kind, hardworking, and such fun to ride. But do you know how these beautiful animals are measured? It's with a unit of measurement called a "Hand". Seriously, we aren't making this up! A "hand" is an ancient unit of measurement equal to four inches and is still commonly the breadth of a man's hand. It is used to measure the horse at the highest point of its withers, which is the highest part of its back that doesn't move. But this unit of measurement doesn't include its head and neck, so even if a horse is 15 hands tall, that's only from the ground to its withers - and it has a beautiful stoic neck and head sitting on top of this "hand" measurement.
The "hand" measurement is written by the whole number of hands followed by the remaining inches of the horse, ex: 15.4 hands. When using this measurement sometimes it takes on the form of a noun - so when referring to the horse, it becomes its number. So if a horse was measured at 15.4 hands it becomes a "Fifteen Four". But where did this unit of measurement come from and why has it stuck around for so long?
The first system of measurement appeared in Ancient Egypt. Their system of measurement was based on the Royal Cubit. A Cubit is the length of a man's arm from the elbow to the tip of the middle finger. Units of various lengths like a Royal Cubit were used by the Hebrews, Greeks, and the Romans. The "Hand" used to include (confusingly) both the fist and the palm and was measured at 7.61cm. This changed in 1541 to clear up any confusion when King Henry VIII of England decided to change it to the breadth of the hand. This became the traditional measurement of 4 inches. The actual measurement was based on the palm of the King's hand from one of his statues. Once the unit was changed under the King's rule, it has been used to measure horses ever since.
Today the measurement of a "hand" isn't used for anything else except measuring horses. Almost everywhere in the world today still uses the "hand" unit except the FEI (International Federation of Equestrian Sports) and most European countries. They use meters and centimeters when measuring the horse. The "hand" measurement is still used today by so many because it has been used for so long. So much of a horse's common measurements are based off of the "hand" and have been for so long that it would be hard to implement a change. Even those countries who have changed it, that still took time to get used to. It is also still a practical way of measuring an animal where ever you might find yourself and is an easy form of measurement to communicate. At least for those who are used to measuring this way!
The largest horse ever to be recorded was named Sampson. He was a Shire Horse Gelding born in England in 1846. He stood at 21.2 1/2 hands high, standing at almost 7.5 feet. The biggest horse in the world today is Big Jake the Belgian Gelding horse. He became the tallest horse in the world on January 19, 2010 standing at 20 hands and 2.75 in tall, which is almost 7 feet tall!
The smallest horse ever to be recorded is Thumbelina, a Dwarf Miniature Horse who was born in 2001. She stands at 17 inches or 4.25 hands!
The next time you come and ride horses with us at Middleton, make sure you ask how many hands tall your horse stands! I bet it will still surprise you even after reading this!
Middleton Place Team