Horses have a wide variety of personalities and temperaments, just like people. The hardworking horses used in lesson programs and at riding camps, however, seem to fit five specific types. While some are more challenging than others, they can all help improve your riding. Here’s a look at each of them.
Mr. Lazy Slowpoke
What You’ll Learn: Since this type of horse is always looking for an excuse to slow down or stop, you’ll learn to keep your hands quiet and ride with light contact on the reins. You’ll also develop a super strong pair of legs, thanks to the constant effort of keeping the lazy slowpoke in forward motion.
The Speed Demon
In contrast to the lazy slowpoke is the classic speedster. This is the type of horse that seems in a hurry to get to the end of the lesson or trail ride. Each gait—from walk to canter—begins at a reasonable pace. Within a few strides you’re whizzing past the other horses. The background becomes a total blur and the only sound you can hear is your riding instructor telling you to slow down. Sadly, no matter how hard you pull back on the reins, the speed demon ignores you.
What You’ll Learn: A stronger, more severe bit won’t fix a speed demon. That’s an important lesson for all young riders. Instead, ask your instructor to help you practice half-halts and large circles, both of which will help you regain control of rapid gaits.
The word “cantankerous” describes the grump. He’s annoyed when you come to fetch him with the halter and he clearly doesn’t enjoy any part of grooming. Throughout the lesson he grumbles; he pins his ears and swishes his tail whenever you squeeze with your legs. He refuses to trot along the rail, and insists on cutting the corners. Worse, when you urge him to canter, he threatens to buck. He’s the horse version of a bully, always trying to scare you into letting him have his way. Sometimes he’s successful.
What You’ll Learn: Once you’re assured that the grumpiness isn’t caused by ill health or pain (like a sore back), you’ll have to get tough. When he wants to argue about cantering or staying on the rail, use tactics suggested by your instructor, like adding a hard tap from a riding crop. Be firm but fair. The grumpy horse may never love you, but he can learn to respect you.
The Super Spooker
Always on high alert, this type of horse sees ghosts in every corner. He notices anything new in his environment, from flowers in bloom to freshly painted fence rails. As a result, you can never relax and enjoy the scenery. At any moment he might perform his trademark movement: tossing his head skyward and dashing off in the opposite direction. Rather than struggle with his antics, you steer clear of any part of the arena or trail that makes him wary. Unfortunately, that leaves you with a very small area of acceptable riding space.
What You’ll Learn: Most spooky horses are insecure, so they need someone confident who rides with a clear plan. Look where you want the spooky horse to go, even if it’s a scary part of the arena. Keep your chin up and your eyes focused straight ahead. Encourage the spooky horse to march forward by using strong legs and a deep, secure seat. Make him be brave!
Much like a fairytale prince, this type of horse is handsome, kind and trustworthy. Despite the white hair sprinkled around his eyes and muzzle, it’s obvious that he was once a champion. A proud horse, he takes every jump and meets every trail obstacle as if his reputation was at stake. Of course, everyone wants to ride him, including you. And why not? He floats across the ground at every gait and is genuinely happy to work. You feel like—and no doubt look like—the next equestrian superstar when you’re aboard him.
What You’ll Learn: The dependable senior equine must be treasured, even if he requires some extra care like a special diet. He is the horse who will build your confidence: He’ll carry you safely over jumps and be a babysitter on rugged trails. As a bonus, he’ll let you experience advanced movements like a flying lead change. Rides aboard this princely horse will help you discover how wonderful a life in the saddle can truly be.
This article originally appeared in the March/April 2019 issue of Young Rider magazine. Click here to subscribe!