The Open Book
From reined cow horse competitors to weekend pleasure riders, most horse owners want a partner that is easy to work with. The perfect horse for an inexperienced rider has an “Elsie the Cow” type of eye: round, open and kind.
Buckley says that the non-complicated horse advertises its willing attitude.
“This light chestnut with the flaxen mane displays my ideal horse eye if I wanted a horse that was a pleasure to ride and be around. The expression is warm, friendly and trusting, as well as confident,” he says of the horse pictured on this page. “His eye displays the type of horse people gravitate toward.”
The round, open eye, with little or no wrinkle around it, is an example of a horse that doesn’t worry a lot. The horse is receptive to what is going on, doesn’t show much fear, and accepts any challenge the rider puts forth.
“There is no filter or concealment with this horse,” he says. “He will do anything for you because he automatically wants to please you and get along.”
This type of horse might not be a high-caliber show horse, Buckley adds, but is ideal for many riders.
“Most horses bred to compete are the type that the rider needs to be smart in deciding how much pressure is put on the horse, and when to ease up. It is kind of like driving a sports car as opposed to a truck—it is more sensitive,” he explains. “With a more open horse like this one, you can keep going or stop, and within reason the horse is going to be good with it.
“If you’re looking for something to trail ride on or to instill confidence in a new or inexperienced rider, you want a confident horse but not one that will walk right over you. Look for a horse that will walk up to you in the pasture, but not too close, and one that carries its head level and not up in ‘alert mode’ when walking.”
Buckley says that because of specialized performance horse breeding, few horses fit this bill, so finding a kind yet confident horse can be like mining for gold. While this horse may not have the athleticism to make it to the final round at the National Cutting Horse Association Futurity, it will keep a rider safe on the trail and in the arena.
The Work Horse
Most horses Buckley has seen fit into his middle-of-the-road category. The horse is semi-confident but looking for secure leadership. Often, this horse has more wrinkles around the eye and its shape is more oval than the round, open look of the “open book” horse. Buckley says this horse is suited for a more experienced rider.
“The middle-of-the-road eye is one that is often seen on good working horses,” he says. “They are intelligent, not overconfident, but not overly worried, either. It is a normal horse eye as far as expressing emotions. Often, this type of horse becomes a nice horse to bond with because it doesn’t challenge fair leadership.
“The horse is a little more concerned about things it is unsure of, but willing to follow the rider. This buckskin [pictured here] is like a country kid that you take to the city: he looks around and is worried about what he sees. He is a little shocked and shows innocent naiveté. The horse wants you to show him what to do to be safe.”
A more oval-shaped eye, with refinement through the nose bone, indicates a horse that will perform for the rider once it is shown how to do the work. This personality trait shows up when the horse is caught from the pasture.
“When I catch this buckskin, you can see the horse’s attitude change,” Buckley says. “He is confident in the pasture, walking up to me, but when I catch him and he’s around people, he expresses worry through his eye.”
With a horse that displays both confidence and worry, the rider should be the leader and be able to show the horse what is expected of it. Once this type of horse understands its job, Buckley says it becomes a good working horse.
Click page 3 to continue …