Lets have a little conversation on horse breeds. I receive a lot of emails asking for breed-specific advice and it's one of my pet peeves.
We'll start with people looking for a horse. In this situation, people are often swayed by breed characteristics. I'm not talking about looks. I'm talking here about temperament and trainability. If you want a Haflinger because you've fallen in love with the look of Haflingers, great. That's fine. That's not what I want to discuss. That I understand. Some people love draughts with all their feathers, some love the dishy nose of the Arab, some the big bum on the Quarterhorse. If you know you like one breed above all others because of the way the breed looks, by all means choose the right horse for you within that breed.
No, what I want to talk about is the person who's not so looks oriented, but who is choosing a breed for temperament. The believer of all Arabs are flighty. She'll be bad tempered because she's an Appaloosa. He'll be quiet because he's Standardbred.
Grrr. In my opinion - wrong wrong wrong. Breed temperaments are TENDENCIES, not in any way are they absolute guaranteed characteristics. When choosing a horse, the buyer needs to be looking at the INDIVIDUAL horse. Not it's breed.
Perhaps framing the scenario like this will help: I would like a horse with lots of 'go' and I don't mind what breed. I've heard that Arabs and Thoroughbreds TEND to fit this description, so I'll look at these breeds for an individual that's firey (because I know not all Arabs and all Thoroughbreds are firey), and I'll look at other horses that as individuals fit my criteria.
Or another one: I'm looking for a calm child proof horse. Someone said that Cleveland Bays are really quiet. There's a green four year old Cleveland Bay for sale. Should I buy him for my beginner child? Uh, NO, you should be looking for an older horse (8yo+) who has seen everything and is totally bombproof. That could be anything from a Thoroughbred to a Shetland. TEMPERAMENT of the individual (and in this case training). Not breed.
The other part of the breed peeve goes like this:
Q. My horse is an x (insert breed here). She has terrible ground manners/I'm scared of her/she's wild where do I start?/etc. What do I need to do to train a (insert breed again here - mini horse and pony owners please take particular note!) properly?
A. You own a HORSE. An equine. At this level of training, which is basic horse-human interaction where you are teaching your horse to respect and trust your leadership, all horses are the same.
The differences and challenges will come from:
- Their experiences of people so far ie the things they have been allowed to get away with and the things people have done to them in the past.
- The temperament (personality) of both you and your horse.
- Your experience with horses.
None of this is breed specific. The belief that breed is hugely important in temperament and basic training is - in my opinion - wildly inaccurate. Please remember to look at each horse as an individual with his own past experiences, intelligence and temperament. I find it a far more helpful way to assess and work with a horse.
Picture by genewolf