Chestnut or Bay: Which is Better?

Is there any proof than chestnuts are more hot-blooded than horses of different colors? An equine behaviorist weighs in.

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While some coat colors are clearly linked to behavior, the evidence that chestnut horses are sensitive and hot-blooded is weak, if it exists at all. | Photo: iStock

Q.I’ve been looking for a new horse and have fallen for a chestnut mare. My past horses have all been easy-going bays, and I was curious if chestnut mares are as hot-blooded as people claim.

—Via e-mail

A.Some coat colors are thought to reflect a horse’s temperament, including the belief that chestnut horses are sensitive and hot-blooded. This stereotype may be true, but the research is limited

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Written by:

Robin Foster, PhD, CAAB, IAABC-Certified Horse Behavior Consultant, is a research professor at the University of Puget Sound in Seattle, Washington, and an affiliate professor at the University of Washington. She holds a doctorate in animal behavior and has taught courses in animal learning and behavior for more than 20 years. Her research looks at temperament, stress, and burn-out as they relate to the selection, retention, and welfare of therapy horses. She also provides private behavior consultations and training services in the Seattle area.

One Response

  1. My dad was fond of saying “If the horse is good, the color is good.” Pretty much he used that for just about everything. Cars, trucks, bicycles . . .

    And, I guess that is entirely true. I developed a fondness with for gray horses. But only had one, a pretty iron gray Welsh pony. After him there was a buckskin, red roan, several bays of varying hues, my favorite being a mahogany bay Welsh pony, and a chestnut, ah, and a palomino, and a palomino pinto pony.

    Dad had a red dun Quarter horse at the time and a deep bay Morab.

    One of my sisters owned a blue roan and white Tobiano mare name Tobianna, who foaled a red and white filly called Summer Breeze or Bree for short.

    Wish I still had them all!

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