Horses Research

How Do Genetics Affect a Horses Behaviour?

A large part of a horses behaviour is learned, but did you know there are some behaviours which are determined by genetics?

These include:


Horses’ eyes see independently to the front, side and rear at the same time. They have good sideways vision, which is why a horse may shy, when a rider least expects it, at something glimpsed from the corner of its eye.

Horses have blind spots both to the front and rear, making it difficult to focus on objects directly in front. To bring an object into focus, they must raise and lower their heads. They are believed to be colour-blind and to have difficulty distinguishing small objects such as rabbits or birds, but they are highly sensitive to sudden movements.

Hearing and Smell

Both of these senses are well developed in the horse. Horses can hear tones higher than humans can, and may be frightened by a noise that the rider does not notice. Sudden or loud noises are especially upsetting to horses, while calm gentle voice tones are pacifying and will generally elicit a good response.

On windy days, horses often become unsettled because they cannot hear or smell the usual sounds and scents. They can become unsettled by unfamiliar scents. When a colt is introduced to a saddle and blanket, it should be allowed to smell the new objects for the first few times it is saddled.

Skin Sensitivity

Horses’ skin is highly sensitive, especially at the mouth, feet, flanks, neck and shoulders. This makes these areas useful in training and handling. Some horses are more sensitive than others and extra care must be taken when grooming them.

Memory and Learning Ability

Horses’ brains are very small for their size and their behaviour is governed by instinct rather than reason. They are considered to have a very good memory which is why they can be trained and remember what they have learned. They learn through a system of repetition, rewards and correction (conditioning and shaping). To ensure successful conditioning, the rewards or corrections must be given immediately after the action because the horse will not connect the behaviour with the trainer’s response if there is a delay between them.

Herd Instinct

Horses in the wild band together and each horse has its’ place in the social hierarchy. A single leader exerts authority over the other members of the herd. This instinct to look for and defer to leadership allows trainers to exert control, providing that person gives clear, consistent and calm instructions and handling.

The herd instinct also means that when a new horse is introduced to other horses, it must be watched carefully because the horses may injure each other while they try to establish their place in the hierarchy.

Animal Welfare Horses

How Often Do Horses Need Shoeing?

As a horse owner in Australia you may be wondering how often do horses need shoeing?

Horses are magnificent creatures, and a horse lover yourself you will know their hooves are crucial to their overall health and well-being.

Proper hoof care is essential to keep your horse healthy and comfortable, and shoeing is an important part of that care.

But how often do horses need shoeing?

The Fundamentals of Horse Shoeing

Shoeing a horse involves attaching a metal shoe to his hoof to protect it and provide traction on different surfaces. Horses that are ridden frequently or used for work often need shoes to protect their hooves from excessive wear and tear.

However, not all horses need shoes, and the frequency of shoeing can vary depending on the horse’s use and hoof health.

What Affects Timeframe of Shoeing?

One of the most common reasons for shoeing is to provide extra support and protection to your horse’s hooves if they commonly work on hard or uneven terrain.

For example, horses which are used for jumping, racing, or trail riding may need more frequent shoeing as they’re susceptible to more excessive wear and tear. In contrast, horses used mainly for leisurely trail rides or kept in a paddock may not need shoes as frequently.

The frequency of shoeing also depends on the horse’s hoof health. Horses with weak or brittle hooves may need to be shod more often to protect them from further damage. Additionally, horses with conditions such as laminitis or navicular disease may require special shoeing techniques or frequent shoeing to manage their condition.

So, How Often Should you Shoe Your Horse?

The general rule of thumb is to have your horse shod every 6-8 weeks, but this can vary depending on the horse’s use and hoof health.

Regular check-ups with a farrier are essential to determine the best shoeing schedule for your horse.

It’s also important to note not all horses need shoes. Barefoot horses can do well if their hooves are strong and healthy, and they are not used for strenuous work or riding on hard surfaces. However, barefoot horses require regular trimming and maintenance to keep their hooves healthy.

A Final Thought on How Often Do Horses Need Shoeing

In conclusion, shoeing is an essential part of a horse’s hoof care routine, and the frequency of shoeing depends on the horse’s use and hoof health.

As a responsible horse owner it is essential to work with a knowledgeable farrier to determine the best shoeing schedule for your horse. Remember to schedule regular check-ups and maintain good hoof care practices to keep your horse healthy, happy, and comfortable.


What types of horse shoes are available?

There are several types of horse shoes available, including steel, aluminum, and synthetic shoes. The type of shoe used will depend on the horse’s needs, the terrain it works on, and the type of work it performs.

Is shoeing painful for horses?

Shoeing should not be painful for horses if it is done correctly. However, the process of shoeing can be uncomfortable for horses, as it involves holding up their legs for extended periods of time and the noise and vibrations from the tools used.

Who can shoe a horse?

Only trained and licensed farriers or blacksmiths should shoe horses. It is a skilled profession that requires specialised knowledge of equine anatomy and hoof care. Attempting to shoe a horse without proper training and equipment can result in injury to the horse or the handler.

Animal Welfare Community Research

Horse racing’s big hit: why use whips on horses?

Why are whips used in horse racing?

Do whips make horses run faster or win races?

Are jockeys using whips to steer and stay safe, or are they simply whipping tired horses?

These are questions that prompted Professor Paul McGreevy of the University of Sydney to research the use of whips in horse racing.

Paul is recognised by the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons as a specialist in Veterinary Behavioural Medicine.

His research focuses on the behaviour and welfare of horses and dogs, and he is the author of six books and over 120 peer-reviewed articles on animal behaviour.

Paul’s award-winning research examining the use of whips in horse racing aims to further our awareness of the experience of horses, extending to a recent experiment capturing the thermographic effects of his own leg being hit with a padded whip.

As the Spring horse racing carnival hits its peak in Melbourne, Australia this week, we asked Paul to discuss his findings and what it means for horses, beyond the glamour and excitement of race day.



Paul McGreevy - Why are whips used in horse racing?
Paul McGreevy – Why are whips used in horse racing?

Thomson, P., Hayek, A., Jones, B., Evans, D., McGreevy, P. (2014). Number, causes and destinations of horses leaving the Australian Thoroughbred and Standardbred racing industriesAustralian Veterinary Journal, 92(8), 303-311.

McGreevy, P., Caspar, G., Evans, D. (2013). A pilot investigation into the opinions and beliefs of Australian, British, and Irish jockeys. Journal of Veterinary Behavior: clinical applications and research, 8(2), 100-105.

McGreevy, P., Hawson, L., Salvin, H., McLean, A. (2013). A note on the force of whip impacts delivered by jockeys using forehand and backhand strikes. Journal of Veterinary Behavior: clinical applications and research, 8(5), 395-399.

McGreevy, P., Ralston, L. (2012). The distribution of whipping of Australian Thoroughbred racehorses in the penultimate 200 m of races is influenced by jockeys’ experience. Journal of Veterinary Behavior: clinical applications and research, 7(3), 186-190.

McGreevy, P., Corken, R., Salvin, H., Black, C. (2012). Whip Use by Jockeys in a Sample of Australian Thoroughbred Races – An Observational Study. PLoS One, 7(3), 1-6. [Open Access]

Evans, D., McGreevy, P. (2011). An Investigation of Racing Performance and Whip Use by Jockeys in Thoroughbred RacesPLoS One, 6(1), 1-5. [Open Access]

McGreevy, P., Oddie, C. (2011). Holding the whip hand – a note on the distribution of jockeys’ whip hand preferences in Australian Thoroughbred racing. Journal of Veterinary Behavior: clinical applications and research, 6(5), 287-289.

Paul McGreevy: Google Scholar profile with further publications


Paul McGreevy: University of Sydney

The Conversation:  Whips hurt horses – if my leg’s anything to go by

RSPCA Australia position on racehorse whips

Header image used with permission © Liss Ralston