You might have heard of the idea before; that hair whorls on horses indicate certain personalities. It’s an idea that dates back as far as equine domestication itself does. Swirlology, Whorlology or Whorl Theory all suggest that you can gain insight into the kind of horse you’re looking at based on the patterns in their hair.
Is it even worth considering?
There is a lot of anecdotal evidence out there that suggests whorls are significant – if you speak to people who take note of whorls, they’re likely to say they do matter. But his could be tradition or bias; people who talk about whorls are just more likely to think they’re significant.
Is there a biological basis for the idea?
Yes, there is. It isn’t very clearly understood, but the embryonic tissue that ends up becoming facial skin (and therefore changes whorl patterns) is the same tissue that ends up in the brain. So it isn’t inconceivable that the two things could be correlated.
Is there scientific evidence for whorl theory?
Proper evidence eventually came about when researchers observed 1,500 cattle being moved from fields. As one observer recorded the position of their facial whorls, another recorded their behaviour and ranked levels of aggression or agitation.
They found that whorl positioning did have an effect on the behaviour of the cattle; if the whorl was above the eyes, the cow was more likely to become agitated. They also found different correlations between hair patterns and certain behaviours in guinea pigs, rats, foxes and humans.
The same pattern found in cows was found in horses; whorls that were above the eyes of the horse meant the horse was easier to agitate and harder to work with.
The researchers stressed that, although they had found significant results, they couldn’t predict detailed aspects of horse personality. Instead, high whorl positions indicated that a horse was more likely to be frightened and could therefore be more difficult to work with. They stressed the importance of using this information when training. Horses with high whorls should never be reprimanded for being difficult, because it’s often an indication that they are uncomfortable.
The positioning of a whorl does not define a horse’s personality. It is one influence amongst many, many others and can often be drowned-out. Think of it as a single voice in a symphony; although it makes a difference, it’s usually difficult to see the effect it’s having.
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The Eleven Biggest Mistakes When Buying Your First Horse
1. Buying a rescue horse.
Although rescuing a horse is excellent, this is usually more appropriate for an experienced rider. Rescue horses can be anxious and difficult – many of them have come from abusive or uncomfortable situations. This makes them difficult to rider, especially for new riders.
2. Not getting a vet check.
This is super important. All horses will have certain issues, but you need to be aware of what they are and whether they will affect your intended riding goals.
3. Not cantering the horse.
A good tip for buying a new horse is to ask the current owner to get it to canter it. Cantering isn’t as natural as trotting or walking, so you can see how well the horse has been trained and how tolerant it is.
4. Not considering your riding goals.
You might meet a beautiful horse, but if it hasn’t had experience in your riding discipline, there isn’t much point buying it.
Make sure your horse is a match with how you intend to ride it.
5. Purchasing a wild horse.
Some people like the idea of breaking and taming their own horse. For obvious reasons, this is enormously challenging and should be done by a professional.
6. Rushing into a purchase decision.
It might be work considering leasing a horse for a while. That way, you can get a sense for what horse ownership is like. Most sellers will be happy to make an arrangement along these lines.
7. Buying a young horse.
Young horses (under the age of 2) are generally cheaper, but aren’t always suitable for people with little riding experience. They require more training, and this shouldn’t be part of your first-time horse experience.
8. Not considering your riding style.
By ‘riding style’ I mean the energy of your horse and the energy of the rider. If you’re a calm, collected rider, you may fit well with a horse with a bit more energy. But if you’re an energetic, excitable rider, you should be looking for a calmer horse.
9. Underestimating the importance of a good nature.
If it’s your first horse, you definitely need one that won’t react against your mistakes. Some horses can be very touchy, so they get frustrated by mistakes made by novice riders.
10. Buying a horse without visiting it first.
Some people get very excited by online horse sales and make a purchase without visiting the horse first. This is a huge mistake. You should aim to maximise the time you spend with a horse before you make the decision to buy it.
11. Buying a very advanced horse.
A highly trained horse can appeal to people that think the skill of the horse will make them ride better. But highly trained horses need highly skilled riders. If you’re a new rider, a highly skilled horses will likely end up in frustration for you and your horse.
READ MORE: How much it costs to build an indoor arena.