Noble, patient and reliable, horses and ponies have lived and worked with us for over 6,000 years. As herbivore herd animals, they are gentler than many other animals. Unlike many other herbivores, they are both intelligent and strong. Horses' traits made them much more useful to ancient man than other animals that were simply hunted for food. For many centuries horses were the main source of transportation – we rode them, had them pull heavy carts, and horses plowed our fields. Horses and ponies are now used mostly for recreation in much of the world. Our unique relationship with each other means we owe it to horses to understand them and treat them with kindness.
Horses and ponies live in small groups (herds) and form friendships. They look out for each other as it often takes most of a full day to forage for food when they live in the wild. One horse, at least, will stay awake while the majority sleep so no carnivores can sneak up on them. One way that horses strengthen their relationship with one another is by grooming. You can see both domesticated and feral horses scratching each others' necks. Horses do not like to live alone – in the wild or when kept by people. They need other horses...or at least other animals to be around to remain happy and healthy. Horses form hierarchies within their herds. Horses and ponies will threaten each other with violence more often than actually fighting. Particularly in the wild, stallions will fight for herd leadership biting each other, striking out with a foreleg or swinging around their hind quarters to kick. Rarely do serious injuries happen.
Horses that live in the wild are actually feral and not "wild" horses most of the time. Once there were large herds of wild horses roaming the United States, but they most of them died off thousands of years ago. It was not until the Spanish explorers came here that horses were re-introduced to the Americas. There are very few true wild horses in the world now – the Przewalski's horse that lives in Mongolia is an example...and there are fewer than 2000 of them.
An average domesticated horse lives to their mid 20s. Although many live to be in their 30s or even 40s. The oldest horse on record, Old Billy, lived to the age of 62. Old Billy was an English barge horse who lived in the 1800's. Barge horses pulled boats up and down the canals. Horses are living longer than they once did (Old Billy being the exception) because we now give them much better medical care. Veterinarian as well as farrier visits help keep a horse healthy and happy. Horses and ponies receive a variety of vaccines and tests, just like people do when they go to the doctor.