Temperament and Being Alert (Book Excerpt)

Look for a horse that’s alert to its surroundings and pays special attention to unusual objects. This is where the subtlety comes in. You want the horse to be observant, but you don’t want it to become agitated and frightened when it sees something.
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Editor’s Note: This is an excerpt from Happy Trails by Les Sellnow.  

We’ve all heard trail riders say with pride: “My horse will go over or through anything.”

On the surface that sounds like the temperament you want. However, good temperament is a little more complicated and subtle. Yes, it just may be fine if a horse steps right over a log and pays no attention to the large brown object beside the trail. But what if that log partially covered a crumbling hole or what if that brown object turned out to be a snoozing bear? Then you’d want the horse to give pause and take a second look at where it’s going. Look for a horse that’s alert to its surroundings and pays special attention to unusual objects. This is where the subtlety comes in. You want the horse to be observant, but you don’t want it to become agitated and frightened when it sees something unusual.

If the horse encounters something that it fears and wishes to avoid, its reaction is either to go around it or leave the scene. In such situations you want a horse with a quiet, trusting temperament–one that will let you overrule its instincts and will go forward instead of fleeing

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Les Sellnow was a prolific freelance writer based near Riverton, Wyoming. He specialized in articles on equine research, and operated a ranch where he raised horses and livestock. He authored several fiction and nonfiction books, including Understanding Equine Lameness and Understanding The Young Horse. He died in 2023.

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