Yesterday we completed the OHC# 3: Horses. We are blessed to live near the Chincoteague wildlife refuge which has wild horses. We traveled through the preserve yesterday observing the horses in their natural habitat. Their graceful beauty was stunning. The origins of the Chincoteague ponies is shrouded in mystery. There are two theories of how the ponies came to live on Assateague Island. The legend is that a Spanish galleon wrecked off of Assateague Island and the surviving ponies swam to the island. However, there is little evidence supporting this theory, and the more likely origin of the ponies is that early 17th century colonists let their animals loose on the island to avoid fencing laws and livestock taxes. Whichever theory is true, the free-roaming ponies of Assateague have been living there for hundreds of years. According to Wiki the breed varies greatly in physical characteristics since there is no true breed standard. Chincoteagues are known for being easy keepers and often do not require shoes. Most are between 12 to 13.2 hands (48 to 54 inches, 122 to 137 cm) high, but when raised under domesticated rather than feral conditions, some have been known to reach 16 hands (64 inches, 163 cm). Chincoteagues come in a variety of colors and patterns, with pinto being common. The Chincoteague Pony was made famous by Marguerite Henry’s 1947 children’s novel Misty of Chincoteague.
After we observed the wild ponies we traveled to a local horse farm to study the ponies more closely.
We compared the lengths of horse and dog necks and observed how each was suited to facilitate their eating habits.
We also studied the horses tail. The tail functions to help the horse balance and the long tail hairs are used to swish away insects. Horses also express themselves with their tails. While running in a pasture you may see a horse lift its tail over its back signalling high spirits. A floppy tail may mean a relaxed horse. An irritated horse may swish its tail in a cat like manner.
As usual we had a wonderful time with this week's nature study and can not wait to complete next weeks study of apples.