5 Reasons to Love Chestnut Mares


If you’ve been involved with horses for any length of time, you’ve probably encountered your fair share of stereotypes. You know—the ones about how all ponies are mean (that one drives me crazy), how horses with four white feet are somehow inferior to those without white socks (huh?), and how chestnut mares are sensitive and moody (so unfair). So in the interest of debunking the negativity about chestnut mares, I’ve compiled a list of five chestnut mares that defy the myth.

Genuine Risk

Every year on the first Saturday in May, the historic Kentucky Derby horse race for three-year-old Thoroughbreds is held at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky. For many years, it was considered virtually impossible for a filly to win the Derby, as only one filly had done so since the race was first run in 1875. But no one told that to the remarkable chestnut filly Genuine Risk, who entered the 1980 Kentucky Derby as a longshot, yet rallied from behind to defeat her twelve rivals in a thrilling and celebrated triumph. She would later confirm her extraordinary talent by placing second in the Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes, two other prestigious races that comprise the “Triple Crown” of horse racing. She remains the only filly in history to have finished in the top three in all three races.




The talented chestnut show jumping mare Sapphire was a two-time Olympic team gold medalist with her rider McLain Ward. A Belgian Warmblood, Sapphire — nicknamed Sara — competed in many major international show jumping competitions over the years, eventually retiring at the age of 17 in 2012. Given the longevity of her career and breadth of accomplishments, it’s safe to say that she ranks among the superstars of chestnut mares.


Lena’s Bar

Born in 1954, Lena’s Bar was a chestnut Thoroughbred mare that achieved success both as a racehorse and a broodmare, and she was inducted into the American Quarter Horse Hall of Fame in 2003. On the track, she ran with success against Quarter Horses in New Mexico, winning 24 races during a lengthy career. But it was as a broodmare that she truly excelled, producing five foals—all winners on the racetrack—including the great champion Quarter Horse Easy Jet, who was a world champion in 1969 and won a remarkable 27 of 38 races while finishing in the top three 36 times.


Sonador, Flicka, and Rain

Of course, fictional chestnut mares are great, too. Remember Sonador, the star of Dreamer? In the movie, Sonador won the Breeders’ Cup Classic. Not bad for a chestnut mare. And Flicka, the sensitive chestnut filly of My Friend Flicka fame, has captured the hearts of millions through Mary O’Hara’s trilogy and the subsequent movies. And we mustn’t forget Rain, the chestnut pinto mare that galloped to fame in Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron.




This one is a bit closer to home, but I’d definitely rank my old pal Ruby—a chestnut Welsh Mountain Pony—among the greats of chestnut mare-dom. (You can read more about the lessons I’ve learned from Ruby here.)


Have you known an extra-special chestnut mare? Tell us about her in the comments!

Liked this article? Here are others you’ll enjoy:
Lessons from Ruby
The Mare Mystique

Samantha Johnson is a freelance writer and the author of several books, including The Field Guide to Horses, (Voyageur Press, 2009). She raises Welsh Mountain Ponies in northern Wisconsin and is a certified horse show judge. Follow her on Twitter: @miraclewelsh


  1. I definitely have a crazy, sensitive chestnut mare, but she is so sweet and special too. She has so much untapped talent and could do anything I asked of her. So much raw talent in her beautiful, muscular Quarter Horse body. Sassy is a gem.

  2. I remember when I was 10 and I first began riding lessons, I was assigned to a 20 year old chestnut QH named Fancy. Fancy was quite the load of sass! She taught me so much, not always in the most gentle way (she had a thing for “spooking” at nothing in particular), but she was an amazing mare! Chestnuts are certainly a favorite for me.

  3. I learned to ride on my Grandpa’s two TWH chestnut mares, a mother and daughter. The mother has passed away and the daughter is lame, but still a big part of our whole family. They were two of the best horses I have ever riden. As a child I could go out and catch them, saddle them (or not) and ride all day without any help. Great article to break down the stereotype!

  4. Where I live in Texas, I have never heard of a prejudice against the color chestnut, but most people definitely prefer geldings over mares….except for me! I have three mares and wouldn’t trade them for the world. I can train them to do anything. They have wonderful attitudes. I think if you put in the time to train and bond with your horse, you will have a good result regardless of the horse’s color or gender.

  5. The sweetest horse I ever owned was my chestnut mare, Millie. She was a QH/Arab mix and just the best. She had spirit, strength, love and heart that endeared her to me and my whole family.
    She is gone now but I miss her each day.

  6. I have a beautiful Quarter Horse Chestnut named Scarlett. She is 14 and acts like she is 4. I wouldn’t trade her for anything.

  7. We have a chestnut purebred Arabian mare that would give her heart and soul to us if she could. My son still rides her in gaming events – winning and she is 18 this year. We stand her loose in the isle at shows so people can pet & love on her, we call her the Arabian Ambassador so all those folks get the chance to love a horse.

  8. Ive had 5 different chestnut mares, i have a grey mare that was born chestnut and i have a chestnut stallion. All of them have lovely natures and are absolutely predictable. Never a problem when they come in season and they are all good reliable work horses.
    I just love chestnuts, they are low maintenance and rough. Go chestnuts.

  9. I have a double-swirl chestnut Quarter Horse mare name is Dee Dee Terrific. Oh yes, she is very sensitive but can read people like a book. I trust her with my life and her judgement is always spot on. She is a retired show horse and is now a therapeutic riding teacher and is one of my best equine partners here at the ranch. Dee is one of the most amazing horses I have ever had the pleasure of owning.

  10. My purebred Arab mare Avi is not an easy horse – she only likes me, continues to be skittish and fortunately has great hooves because she will not let a farrier touch her – and her hooves still look trimmed. She is 8 years old and my terrific previous vet told me once when he was trying to help me with an injury she sustained running in the pasture that no one should ever ride her because of her unpredictability. She is now just a lawn ornament around the farm, but I keep her because I hope someday in the round pen she will realize she is in no danger. The let time she was ridden was in 2009 and I hate to even try to get her hooves worked on because sedation goes right through her. Anybody got any advice?

  11. My first horse was a chestnut Arab/WB cross named Ruby. She was an amazing horse and had only two modes, lazy and Racing. Sadly she was a lease horse and I had to return her to her owner because she couldn’t jump without hip pain. I learned a very important lesson from her….”Don’t Panic!”. Due to this I can now ride my ottb without flinching when she gets into her crazy racehorse mare moods. 😀

  12. I have a 12 year old Chestnut OTTB mare I adopted and she definitely is the moodiest horse I have owned but when she is not in heat, she is also the sweetest horse I have ever owned. Always turning her nose to me to give me kisses and she lets me hug her as long as I want. I love her like she was one of my kids. I would not sell her for anything.

  13. We have an awesome chestnut mare, she is an Arabian and we get flack over owning Arabians all the time, but she is a true spokeswoman for the breed, owned since she was 4 and she is 22…she is teacher for the grandkids and for those who don’t know how to ride…she changes for each person who rides her….our “mom” takes care of the other horses and people in her family…have gotten wow what a beautiful faced quarter horse…no she is a registered Arabian Polish/Egyptian! Wow, she does not act like an Arab! What! Yes she does!

  14. Our chestnut Arab mare, Ru is the most chill horse ever. She is so sweet, not spooky at all- her motto is, “Whatever.” She is our kids’ horse, & she is always so sweet and careful with them. They can do whatever they want with her, & I absolutely trust her with them.

  15. For Susan in Ava, MO:
    Parelli Natural Horsemanship training teaches you how to work with your horse based upon how a horse thinks, & enables you to become a partner with your horse. I would highly recommend that you purchase the Level 1-4 DVD set, watch them slowly & over and over, & implement what he is teaching with your horse. If you could find a Parelli certified trainer in your area, it would be well worth the money to be able to enjoy your horse fully in relationship and riding- not just looking at her in the pasture.
    Pat Parelli can take a horse that he has never worked with before, & in a short period of time, get it to do things the owner could never get it to do before.

  16. You can add Brown Sugar Dance (Dancer to those who know and love her) to the mix. she is a very calm and thoughtful mare. In April she will turn 17 and has been my owner for the last four years. I could not have asked for a better horse to get my confidence on after a nearly fatal accident 8 years ago. I had bought my first horse at 45, owned it for one month, fell off, breaking four ribs in about 10 place, punctured a lung and stayed in the hospital for 12 days. Swore I’d never ride again. After almost 5 years, and looking at least a billion horses, I found her and I’d like to say it was love at first sight. I t kind of was and kind of wasn’t. The first time I got on her only lasted five minitues. I know I was going to throw up, have a heart attack and to top it off, I was shaking so badly, it was only a matter of time before I vibrated off her back. To make a long story short., she put up with my ineptness, never got crazy because of my fear and has always been good to me. She has taught me how to ride and how to be more patient. Do we have our challenges? Sometimes, but we work through them. Do I still have fear, absolutely. Being able to trust her has helped a lot with that.

  17. My first horse was a chestnut mare. I hadn’t heard the stereotype when I bought her, but it wouldn’t have mattered. She was the perfect horse for me: bomb-proof, willing, patient, and athletic. She bolstered my confidence, taught me to jump, and let me live all my horsey dreams. When it came time to sell her, I sold her to a family with two little girls, and know she took excellent care of them!

  18. My late chestnut mare,Ginger,was a sweetheart.She did have her moods,and,yes, she was very sensitive. Ginger needed special attention,and I was more than happy to give it to her. We forged a special bond, and I wouldn’t trade that for anything. Chestnut mares need and deserve our extra attention, because they’re worth it.

  19. I owned a wonderful chestnut mare that I bought off the internet. I drove 400 miles to bring her home. Annie Fannie aka Princess Big Butt was the best spare mare anyone could have. She was always there for friends to ride in a pinch.Solid and sweet, Colic claimed her last May and I still look for her every time I go to the barn
    to feed.

  20. One of my four horses is a chesnut mare, and she is no more moody, or difficult than the rest. In fact, she is “bomb proof,” loveable, and sometimes, seems to have a sense of humor!

  21. My first horse is 14.2hh chestnut mare. She’s as stubborn, spirited, and opinionated as they come, but I basically grew up on that mare. Even as a beginner I used to ride her everywhere bareback (too short to lift the saddle all the way up) at hair-raising speed. We both loved it. I never did get her to canter on the right lead or be rideable in a snaffle, but eleven years and many other horses later the now 26-year-old mare is still one of the best horses I’ve ever known.

  22. My first horse was a 14.2 Quarab chestnut mare which I bought as a 3 year old. She was the best horse I’ve ever had. She was smart and generous of spirit. If someone experienced got on her, she was spirited but if a child or inexperienced person got on her she was as calm as could be. She was the easiest horse I’ve ever had to train and super athletic. I rode her bareback constantly and often times without a bridal too. People always fell in love with her and I had many offers to buy her when they would see what an incredible mare she was. She will always have a place in my heart.

  23. Lola, an appendix chestnut care, owns me. I am very lucky to have this girl in my life. She takes care of me all the time but doesn’t hesitate to tell me when she thinks I am wrong. Yes, she’s spicy. She’s a flirt and sometimes a drama queen. She’s the best!


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here