Horsemanship / Neu Perspectives

The Snorty Horse

Horses that are naturally edgy can be dangerous. But some horsemen and -women prefer the snorty type, listing several advantages.

That gelding bends his neck and looks at me like I’m a cobra ready to strike his leg. His eyes are wide, bright and outlined in white, indicating a combination of deep worry and a sharp desire to dart around me. When I step to him, he turns away in one fell swoop and blows air out of his nose in a rattled snort. I can see every muscle flex in his neck and shoulder as I slowly walk up to offer the option of a halter, and because of my angle and the corner of the pen, the snorty horse stands for it, but not happily. 

Meet the snorty horse. And I don’t mean the kind of horse that sneezes a lot. He blows his nose at the same things time and again and questions everything. He fits into the category of dubious, tight, touchy, spooky and concerned. I own a couple of horses like this, who are chronically skeptical. No matter how many years they’ve been with me, they are always on edge, certain that someone is hiding behind every shadow with a bullwhip ready to strike. Of course, they have no reason to be like this. They’ve known nothing but reassurance and patience their entire lives, but it’s just ingrained in them to be mistrusting or worried. 

Snorty horses can be athletic and intelligent
Some snorty horses can be athletic and intelligent, with a lot of feel.
Photo by Ross Hecox

The plus of a snorty horse? Many horses this way seem to be athletic and intelligent. Often they have quite a bit of feel and it doesn’t take much pressure for them to learn a lot. And some of them really aren’t nearly as spooky as they seem, it’s more of a habit than anything. We have a lot to learn from a snorty horse, and it’s very rewarding to see them change when they do. 

The cons? They are not much fun for most people who want a relaxing time with their horse. At best, their habits are annoying, and at worst they can get in a wreck and become even more scared and uptight. People can get hurt and fragile horses can get ruined. I’m always worried that someone won’t read the situation correctly and startle them from behind and get kicked. They will set back, run away and blow their nose at you while they’re doing it. And then, once loose, get into your grain bin. 

I understand that some horses are a little bit haunted from past experiences. But some snorty horses haven’t been exposed to much in life. They just seem to be born into that mold. Strangely enough, it doesn’t bother some folks. In fact, I know of a few fellows and gals who claim to prefer them that way. 

I don’t happen to be one of the latter. I like knowing that if I trip over my own clumsy mudboot when I go out early in a hurry with a halter that my mount won’t whirl away and never allow me to catch him again. I like something that I can ride and text from with peace of mind (uh…not that I would, but I could). And I really appreciate having and selling something that has a quiet mind and a friendly disposition.

Something with self-preservation? Yes. Quirky? Not a problem. Sensitive? Oh yeah, you bet.

But if I see something that’s just flat-out snorty? Well, it spooks me a bit. 

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