Favorite Quality in a Horse?

Lately I’ve been binge-reading pretty much everything I can find on young event horses. Breeding them, picking them, raising them, training them… I’ll read anything. It’s so fascinating to me to read all the different opinions and see what different people look for in a young horse. There was one article in particular that asked several top riders from different disciples what their favorite quality was in a horse. Some answered very specifically, withย “excellent feet” or “scope”, whereas others hit more abstract things like “heart” or “willingness”.

Image result for horse over jump
This would be a no for me, I like my bones aligned where they are.

It kind of got me thinking… what is my favorite quality in a horse? Obviously I don’t need something with the talent to go out and run a 4* or do Grand Prix level dressage/jumping, so my answer might not be the same as a top pro. I’ve had horses of all different shapes and sizes, so there’s nothing super specific conformation-wise that I really have to have (except, like… basically correct and not hideous). I want a good canter, but I’m not overly obsessed with how they move, either. There is one word in particular that I love to hear someone say about a horse, though: genuine. To me that’s a really high compliment, and that’s the horse I want.

genuine

No shit, Trainer called Henry genuine once and I literally teared up. I have to agree, he is. He has a lot of try, but he’s still smart enough to know when to say no if I mess up REALLY bad, or pull a rail if I start flailing around too much (for real mom, learn how to ride). He saves my butt when he needs to but isn’t afraid to tell me to take a hike when I’m riding like a completeย fool. It makes him a great teacher.

mehennyph

It seems like you hear the Brits use this word more often than we do… most often when a horse bails it’s rider out of a sticky situation “He was very genuine there!”. It might not mean that the horse is easy, but it means that he’s honest and implies a pretty high level of willingness to do his job. THAT is what I want. That’s Henry for sure, and I know a lot of other ammy event horses with the same quality.

Image result for Ginuwine gif
No, not Genuwine. Stop it.

So, I’m curious – what is your favorite quality in a horse, and why? Do you go for something gorgeous, or scopey, or super quiet, or with fantastic gaits, or what?

 

57 thoughts on “Favorite Quality in a Horse?

  1. genuine is a great attribute. and that’s a good word for it too… I’ve always just gone with runkle has a lot of try and a good work ethic which makes him sound a little more flat than he really is.

    physically, i go for a good walk. i love love love a good walk.

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    1. I had one with a terrible work ethic one time and I swore NEVER AGAIN. That’s the one thing (besides unsoundness of course) that I absolutely cannot and will not do. Every day was a fight. Great horse, tons of talent, but terrible attitude. You don’t realize how important a good work ethic is until you have a bad one. Agree on the walk too… it ties in with my love of a good canter, really.

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  2. I love the word ‘genuine’ – it’s a bit more of a full word than ‘honest’ but with the same general meaning. My #1 trait that I can’t compromise on is sensibility. I need a horse that is sensible, with a good head on its shoulders. A sensible horse is teachable, a thinker, and not prone to over-reacting. A sensible horse’s world isn’t going to collapse because something isn’t exactly the same as it was yesterday, and has a think-first-run-later mentality. That type of mental soundness is top priority for me! I don’t have time for whackadoodle, overly-sensitive nutjobs, even if they ARE talented.

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    1. Ha! I was going to write basically exactly this as well, including the bit in the beginning about the use of “honest”. Genuine sounds better though. ๐Ÿ˜‰ And sensible is my favorite trait as well, especially when it’s paired with fancy. When you get sensible and fancy in the same package, you’ve won the lottery.

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    2. I have one of the aforementioned whackadoodle, overly-sensitive nutjobs who is super talented and he’s very cool and I love him to pieces but I’m pretty excited for the next horse to have slower hamsters for sure. Sensibility is usually one of my top priorities as well.

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  3. I love a horse that’s still willing to try even if they don’t understand what I’m asking. I own a 17 year old former lesson horse who didn’t know anything when I started riding him. He’s always been willing to try what I’m asking and he’s come a long way because of it.

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  4. Forgiving is what I look for. I can handle shenanigans, I can handle a kick ride or a pull ride, I don’t need crazy quality, but I really don’t like when a horse holds a grudge. Despite my best efforts, I mess up on the regular and I like when a horse can roll with those snarls and keep truckin’. It’s a lot to ask of a horse, and I always appreciate it when I ride it!

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  5. I think that is exactly why I love my girl Savvy so much. She is 100% an open book, gives me the finger when I earn it and never do I have to guess what she is going to do. She will try her ass off and when she can’t, she tells me so. After riding the horse I had before her that would very much hold it all in and then completely blow, it really is a breath of fresh air.

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  6. I love hearing the word “honest” or “kind”. Those words are what I want my colt to end up being. A horse that is an open book, that tries hard for it’s rider. I love the comment up above that said the trait that they want the most is sensibility. Very true, too.

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  7. I like a horse that is personable. Not saying that I haven’t ridden some great horses that won’t even give you the time of day on the ground, but having a horse that lets you know that they enjoy having you around is always a plus. I have both right now. A super fantastic affectionate Welsh/TB, and a stoic QH gelding that could care less if he ever sees another human (but is amazing under saddle).

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  8. Curiosity. I expect a young horse to spook, but I’m looking for one that, when presented with a new challenge, is up for the experience. It’s the first thing I look for with a prospect. Throw something pretty spooky at them and see how they cope. Do they startle, then come over to try to see what that was? That’s the type of mind that can usually cope with the chaos of a show ring later on. If they’re at the end of the rope going ‘NOPE’, it’s going to be a much longer haul and I probably won’t even get to show off whatever fantastic athletic abilities they have.

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  9. I want scope first, work ethic a close second. I don’t need blow-your-mind scope, but enough so that the horse can ignore my stupidity about distances and jump 1m-1.10m from where-ever. I strongly appreciate a horse with an innate good work ethic, but I also think a work ethic can be taught at least a little bit if the horse is responsive to fair riding, so perhaps I should say receptiveness. But I don’t want a kick ride. I think “honest” and “genuine” are above and beyond work ethic and while they are excellent and extremely desirable qualities, I personally don’t mind a horse with opinions or that might play a trick on me or keep me on my toes. I think if I were in a different discipline I would feel differently about that.

    The professional who said “excellent feet” is very, very wise.

    Definitely interested to see everyone’s responses to this!

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    1. I think Karen and I are pretty close together on this. Not sure how anyone can pick just one. To add to her list, I still want a pretty face in the barn. Life’s too short to stare at ugly horses ๐Ÿ™‚

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  10. The French use the word “entire” as an adjective, usually describing people but I think it also can apply to horses. With the idea being, idk, that the horse is complete. Well rounded. Versatile. Can do the things, and probably ok at that.

    Maybe it gets even more basic for me than that tho. At the end of the day, I want a horse that is pleasant to be around. Pleasant to work with. Wrapped up in that is the assumption that the horse is suitable for the work (otherwise it’s hard to be “pleasant” lol). But basically yea. I just want to enjoy the time I spend doing the things with horses.

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  11. I love the word genuine! The way you describe it is great, and gets at the same concepts I usually call “a good brain.” But it’s a bit more than just the brain – it’s intelligence, honesty, work ethic, forgiveness, and teamwork all rolled up into one excellent word.

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      1. I was also going to say good brain, but I agree I think genuine sums up what I look for much better! Especially as an amateur rider it’s important to have a horse that tries hard, is generally honest, and doesn’t need me to be an expert rider.

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  12. Kind is a huge bonus for me. My horse Hagrid is a hot sport horse under saddle, but on the ground he will let children pull his nose and play with his ears. Kind is like to genuine though, and I think the reason these traits are important is because they’re personable. We care so much about out horses its nice to know they care back.

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  13. LOLOLOLOLOL @ Ginuwine – I needed that!

    Henry is your heart horse. He will save your ass and you will save his in return. Enjoy the ride!!

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  14. Vaguely, I look for a presence. MUST have a decent canter and excellent work ethic. Bucking and other naughty behaviors are a big NO for me, but I dont mind a spooky, tense or hot horse as long as they work out of it. I want to see a horse spook or look, then want to go Forward and sniff, not turn and bolt. Natural in the pasture lead changes … if they dont do them naturally, it will always be a fight (in my experience).

    I dont care about size, color or breed as long as theyre over 15.2 and have some body to them. I do prefer the WB / QH type body. Very square bodied and a high set neck. A deal breaker for me is a horse that moves, or worse, Feels downhill when you ride him. Yuck. Double yuck.

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    1. You hit the nail on the head for me in your first paragraph. When they spook, I want them to spook forward. Worst case scenario, I get left in the back seat. If they drop their shoulder and spin, I’m gonna be falling off A LOT.

      I’m great at bringing my own projects to a certain point (like most of us here, probably) but teaching changes is something I’ve never been good at. So, I love a horse that has natural changes in a pasture too. That way as long as I set them up good enough they eventually get it & I can save my lesson $$$ for my problems.

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  15. I’m not sure if I can some everything up in one word, but I can do it with a few ๐Ÿ˜‰ I want a horse that is brave (but not stupid brave, if I’m asking for something crazy, it’s ok to say, “lady, you crazy… please try again”), careful enough (but not crazy careful…I’m not that accurate), kind, and overqualified ( meaning, if I’m jumping 1.30m, I want the horse to have the scope for 1.45m).

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  16. Self preservation. I want a horse who can and will take care of themselves out on the endurance trail. My mare may be a spooky disaster at times, but she has a great sense of self preservation and I never have to worry about her running us off a cliff or something equally tragically dumb. She eats and drinks and won’t run herself into the ground just because I ask her to. Along with that, she is honest and not overly dramatic. When she tells me she is tired or not right, I can believe her 100%. It saves my brain cells for more important things than micro managing her every foot step on the trail/

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  17. Willingness, every time. Willingness to try, to obey, to be brave, to learn, to submit. A willing horse can learn to be anything. All my favourite horses have been willing. Some have been silly, or stupid, or spooky, or separation anxious, or hot and reactive, or abused, or quirky, or plain unpredictable but if it’s willing it can do anything in the world.
    Nonviolent is a close second. I like being alive. Viz., it should preferably not kill people.

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  18. I would say honest and I think of it as a lot like what you described. I want a horse that is forgiving enough to save me when I botch stuff but smart enough not to listen if I’m trying to get us killed. Annie checks the box for me. She’s still green but she definitely has heart over fences which is where I need it the most.

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  19. Genuine is a really good word. Being an ammy I highly value an honest, kind and willing horse. This doesn’t mean “easy” by any means. But it’s one who likes it’s job, and can take a joke. The horse I just sold had these qualities. I would have been tempted to keep him if he had been a little bit bigger because he definitely had the whole package!

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  20. Work ethic. Hands down. It’s really similar to honest or genuine, and basically interchangeable, but a horse that consistently always comes out to work or play is priceless to me.
    I would take a horse with terrible conformation and weird gaits, with a great work ethic, over a horse with stellar conformations and flawless gaits that just plain does not want to play. I think work ethic will take you farther in the long run than anything else.

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  21. One thing? Oi. I would say that Bacon is very forgiving, and I am forever grateful for that quality. I put us in crappy situations, and she just continues to do her best. So, sort of along the lines of genuine too. It really is hard to beat that quality!

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  22. Another one here for sensible. I can handle one who isn’t the most lovey-dovey of horses (actually neither of my mares were particularly cuddly), who isn’t the fanciest, but I have learned that NOTHING will shake my confidence like one who can’t keep its brain between its ears. I can handle work ethic (or lack thereof, ahem lazy Quarter Horses), I can handle temperamental, bitchy mares, I just need there to be an agreement that my horse isn’t going to lose all functioning brain cells out of the blue.

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  23. If I had to pick one singular quality, I would pick an intangible one ~ heart. A horse with heart will try by any means necessary to do what is asked of him/her, and having heart can turn a plain horse into a superstar. Instead of waxing poetic about the archaic qualities of such a horse, I will give you the first example that popped into my mind– Seabiscuit. **drops mic**

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  24. That is such a great way of expressing that honesty in a horse. I’d have to say that personally I really love willingness. As an AA without guts for the crap that some horses can pull I am so happy to be able to go to the barn and ride my willing horse every day and not have to feel scared or worried that she’ll be different the next time I ride, even if I’m not able to make it out to the barn every day.

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  25. I’ve never had the ability to be picky, so until we actually bred for what I wanted, my only want (beyond sound and won’t try to murder me too often) has just been ability–can it do the job I need it to do if I give it the right ride? Growing up as a trainer’s kid I was dealt a lot of weird stuff, and I learned to at least find motivation in a talented horse. Now that I’m an adult though and better able to be picky, I’m still willing to put up with some nonsense for a talented package, but a good brain is a much higher priority. I want a horse that can handle some nonsense, be it my own mistakes, or the surrounding stimuli. A little spooky is fine, expecting me to generally ride well is fine, but the horse needs to be able to move past stuff quickly and not get hung up on stuff.

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  26. I love this post! Henry is a super genuine guy ๐Ÿ™‚ I keep coming back to “good brain”. Maybe it’s a little boring but it’s something my three very different horses have in common, they are incredibly sensible (for 1000+lb prey animals anyway).

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  27. Interesting post, and interesting comments. I think some people might say my horse has a bad work ethic. Maybe. I think I’ve said it a few times. But, really, I think he’s the polar opposite. He tries too hard, and wants to please too much. He’s also easily frustrated when he feels like he can’t get the right answer or can’t do what I’m asking. Sometimes that can come across as bad attitude. Unfortunately. But every day he comes to work with ears pricked. And every time he gets praise for something he redoubles his efforts (Note to horse: Stop trying so damn hard. Sometimes the canter depart just needs to be a quiet one, not a rocket launch.)

    I wouldn’t call him genuine, though. He’ll lie about what he can really do, and turn himself inside out to try to do it. So I have to anticipate when I’m pushing him too hard. It’s really kind of interesting because I have so suss out when he’s being truthful and when he’s pressuring himself too much. That can be tough.

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  28. I always say Heart. But for me I think it means the same as genuine. I want a horse that cares as much as I do. That tries his hardest even if he has a little stage fright. That bails me out when I need it, and trusts me to do the same for him. I’ve gotten to have that horse twice in my lifetime. And while I may never find another, I keep looking for him.

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