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  • Writer's pictureLouise Stobbs

A horse is a horse

A horse’s breed or type is often used to explain away a behaviour as “just how they are” but I find most of the time there are management practices or training that could be addressed to improve things. Sometimes what we see as personality traits are actually the result of needs not being met or a horse not coping with the way they are being trained.

Is the horse naturally sharp and explosive because of their breed, or are they sharp and explosive because they don’t get adequate turnout, are fed high energy feed and find their training stressful?

Is the horse naturally lazy and stubborn or are they being asked to do work that their body finds difficult and have learned to ignore pressure through ineffective training due to their quiet nature?

You often see horses advertised as “not your typical Thoroughbred”, but I have yet to meet a Thoroughbred that meets the Thoroughbred stereotype once they have their needs met and are trained quietly. Could it be that its not the breeding but the management and high stress lifestyles that create the myth?

I used to know a very high-end competition horse who was labelled sharp and quirky due to his breeding, he was lead in a chain everywhere. He was never allowed turnout “in case he hurt himself”, he lived in a stable where his only view was the wall, he couldn’t even see another horse let alone interact with one and the only time he had space to move more than 12 feet in a straight line was when he was being ridden in the arena in draw reins. The only rolling he could do was in the bedding in his small stable. This horse was very friendly and affectionate with people because his only interaction or stimulation in life was people coming into his stable throughout the day. Sharp and quirky? Or mentally ill?

Warmbloods are bred to be athletic and energetic but that doesn’t mean they should need to be lunged into the ground to be safe to ride or have to be ridden in harsh equipment to keep them under control. There are dozens of amateur teenage girls successfully jumping their warmbloods tackless on social media, they haven’t just chanced upon some rare quiet ones, its all in the management and training.

You often hear people say Friesians are naturally inclined to have high head carriage, which is true but that doesn’t mean you just continue to ride your horse around with a hollow back and refuse to try and improve the situation because “he’s a Friesian”. Friesians are perfectly capable of improving their posture and being more comfortable as riding horses with the right training.

I see quite a lot of Highland ponies, they are usually labelled lazy, bargy and stubborn and that its just their nature because they’re bred to be so strong. But they can be just as soft and responsive as any other breed if we train them appropriately and slowly build their bodies to be capable of the things we’re asking them to do. It takes two to pull. These quiet breeds are often very quickly desensitised to pressure through poor training, they’re easier to be harsh with as they’re less reactive and when they start to shut down it is labelled as laziness.

Now I’m not saying horses don’t have different personalities or that breeds don’t lean towards different traits and qualities. I am saying that your warmblood isn’t bucking because they’re a warmblood and your cob isn’t “lazy” because they’re a cob. We can get trapped in these limiting narratives and it can prevent us from seeing the bigger picture and realising we can help our horses feel and perform better.

All horses have the same basic needs of freedom, forage, friends and feeling safe. All breeds can make great friends when you meet their needs and treat them with respect and kindness. 🥰🐴

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