Part of my education working with horses is learning more about their bloodlines and individual characteristics, and how to help them succeed.

I remember when I first started riding performance colts. I was totally green and way under-qualified, and knew very little about horse bloodlines. I thought cutting horses were total peewees, and I couldn’t remember Dual Rey from Dual Pep from Peppy San from Peppy San Badger. However, I knew it was important to educate myself on horse bloodlines. So, I would ask the trainer’s bookkeeper (who would pop out from time to time) what each horse was that I was riding for them, and she always responded with a shrug, “It’s brown.”

Well, most of them were sorrel, not brown, but I wasn’t about to correct her. And now, looking back, it makes me laugh when I realize that they were some of the better horses in the industry at the time and I had no clue. But I get where she was coming from, to a certain extent. To folks who don’t ride or spend any time with horses, they all sort of seem the same. My sister-in-law calls my roan horses “the pink ones.” We even had a kid work for us once that never even noticed horses came in different colors, so at least she was ahead of him, I suppose. 

Horse bloodlines tell about their individual characteristics and potential.
Whether it’s color, conformation, personality or trainability, no two horses are exactly the same.
Photo by Ross Hecox

But for me, one of the most wonderful things about our equine partners is how different each and every one of them is. It truly amazes me that of the thousands of horses I have known, no two are exactly the same, and even more so that I can remember so many of them and their characteristics. 

I have two ponies right now, for example. One of them has come from a string of different homes and is very seasoned and gentle, but green as far as her knowledge of where to put her feet and carry herself. She is as kind and sweet and patient as a person could ever want a riding partner. For all the people and all the riding and all the poking and prodding and ordeals she has been through, her attitude and demeanor is top notch. She meets me at the gate every time, whether she’s had a week off or back-to-back long rides. On another beat, I have different pony who came to me untouched. We’ve done all the work on him and he’s been brought along slowly and happily and on his own time, and he’s just not a very willing individual. He is all business and no friendship. He would rather be left alone and never meets me at the gate, despite the treats and currying I provide. It’s just his personality. 

That’s not to say that we can’t hone certain traits and discourage others. But when it comes down to it, some horses are born class clowns and some are a little flat. I’ve had geldings I don’t think I’ll ever reach the bottom of and some that are lazily dragging their feet after a trip to the mailbox. As their partners and keepers, we have a tendency to gravitate toward certain traits over others, and that’s when we hope horse bloodlines can help clue us in to what we might expect in an individual (though there is no guarantee with that, either). 

I feel as though my education is constant with what I do, and I embrace learning more about the mighty horse and how I can play a small part in helping him succeed with other people. I love talking to others about what their horses behave like and what they love and dislike about different individuals. It’s hard for me to remember that non-animal people might not recognize the subtleties that make each equine unique and unforgettable, brown, pink or otherwise.

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