The HEART Of A Horse

By: Deb Kitchenmaster

On the album Hoofbeats, Heartbeats, and Wings, singer Mary Ann Kennedy sings about how she was born to ride like a bird was born to fly. “Love me…Love my horse…Treat ‘em like the air I breathe. The way they move is poetry…My heart feels fuller…My soul feels freer…The world looks better from the back of a horse.” Let’s take a moment and consider some interesting data on a horse’s heart and share some horse trivia.

A horse’s heart weighs roughly 1% of the overall body weight. The average horse’s heart weighs 8-10 lbs. and pumps 7 to 10 gallons a minute at rest. During exercise, the equine athlete’s cardiac output can reach over 65 gallons per minute. Heard of the racehorse Secretariat? He had the largest recorded heart at 22 pounds.

The equine heart is not much different from the human heart, only bigger. Both are 4-chambered and pump warm blood. A horse’s heart is located in the same place as a human heart — between the lungs and ribs and above the diaphragm. The heart is beating approximately 48 times per minute. If you have a stethoscope you can hear the horse’s heartbeat from the left side, right behind the elbow, around the area where the girth of a saddle would lay.

Horses, like other mammals, have only one heart. However, the frog (an area located underneath each hoof) acts like a pump to push blood up the leg with each step the horse takes.

A 2010 study found that horses remembered how an individual human behaved towards them based on just one interaction, even as long as 8 months later, and behaved better with handlers who used positive handling techniques, such as stroking or speaking in a soft voice. Horses can hear a human heartbeat from 4 feet away! They are in tune to that person’s heart — healthy or unhealthy, good or bad.

Some studies have suggested that horses can synchronize their heartbeats with that of their owner. That would explain why humans and horses can have such close bonds. There was a time that I and my horse, Annie, were in training for a Kandi Classic Morgan and open horse show. We were training to compete in the Western Pleasure class. Annie wasn’t especially fond of showing. She preferred trails in the prairie grasses in open terrain. I was a bit nervous. Annie was totally aware of what was going on inside me and her new surroundings. Emily came up to us on her horse as we were exercising our horses in the outdoor arena the night before the show. She told me to pick out a song (any song) and sing it INSIDE, setting the tempo for how I preferred Annie’s speed of movement. Without moving my lips, I began singing a song from my heart. What happened? Annie relaxed and slowed down! It worked! We did well.

Let’s jump start our own hearts with some fun facts about horses. The oldest horse to ever live reached the age of 62! Old Billy was his name, and he lived 37 years longer than the average life expectancy of a tamed horse.

The smallest horse that ever lived was only 2 feet tall. Einstein, by name, is the smallest ever recorded and was only the size of a box of cereal at birth.

In 1846, a Shire horse in England named Sampson was the tallest horse that ever lived. He measured 7.2 feet tall.

Horses always have a lookout in the pack. No pack of horses will ever simultaneously lay down at the same time, as one will always stand as lookout for the others.

Horses have fewer bones than humans. Humans have 206 bones in the skeleton whereas horses have one less at 205.

What about the eyes? Horses have the largest eyes of any mammal on land, even bigger than an elephant’s. Due to size and placement, they can almost see 360⁰!

I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. Ephesians 1:18-21