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Can a horse be too brave?

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  • Can a horse be too brave?

    After owning and/or riding a good dozen horses in my lifetime, is there such a thing as having a too brave of a horse? I have never experienced this before. I acquired a lovely yearling gelding a couple of months ago and he is so different than any other youngster or horse I have worked with. He has not spooked once. He never throws a fit when asked to do anything and will let you take him into any new situation he asked to do without batting an eye. I do think he would walk off a cliff with me.

    While I feel lucky, I wonder what this will mean when I start him. Will he go to shows and perform with strollers, umbrellas and in hurricanes? Is this only a phase? His line is supposedly easy to start and good for amateurs but I find this the oddest horse. Ever new thing I put to him I am ready for a "reaction" and he looks at me as if to say "ok what's next". Although I must admit he hated his nose being wiped today and had his head in the air in protest. There were blankets hanging on the half wall next to him, they slipped and fell down, he jerked his body "it scared me too" but he never moved his feet.

    Am I just analyzing too much and should thank my lucky stars? As with any horse I am not going to let my guard down and be too comfortable though.

  • #2
    sounds like he's being how he was bred to be.
    chaque pas est fait ensemble


    • #3
      Thank your lucky stars.

      My last horse took just about everything in stride (everything but cows...hated cows). While I didn't have him as a yearling, I got him as a late 3 year old. One of his selling points was his bravery and quiet outlook on life. That way of thinking carried through from his first shows and on. He was a true pleasure to deal with.

      My current horse is quite brave, though not like the last one and doesn't have the general calm demeanor of the last one. However, he isn't afraid of things, so taking him into new situations is a cinch. I never really worry about "life" bothering him at events. He can be wild, but it hasn't nothing to do with his bravery...he can be wild and brave at the same time

      The only downfall I have had with a very brave horse (the current one), is he has jumped us into trouble a couple of times. He is extremely bold into water, and that has caused a rider fall


      • #4
        I'd say enjoy having a horse with a great brain!! But because he is still young, just be careful not to let his seemingly bomb proofness keep you from treating him like a baby - being careful in new situations, etc.

        I'm jealous, hope I can find a baby like that


        • #5
          PS- I have always encourage curiosity in my horses (especially young ones). I am always encouraging them to touch things, walk over things, go under things. Developing a keen curiosity seems to also develop a strong sense of courage. A timid horse can grow quite a bit braver if encouraged to check scary things out instead of sheltered from scary things. And letting a brave horse check things out just keeps them interested and engaged.


          • #6
            Too brave = sticking their nose in a snake's face.

            Cactus, too.

            But as for training - I'm not sure there is such a thing. I am quite happy to have purchased a baby with a great mind from a family who are ALL extremely trainable and brave. But she's still a baby, so I'm sure we have future interesting times ahead...
            If Kim Kardashian wants to set up a gofundme to purchase the Wu Tang album from Martin Shkreli, guess what people you DON'T HAVE TO DONATE.


            • #7
              Sounds like you got a nice one. This is why i nought my guy. Only broke less then a year when i got him he is like an old been there done that guy. He may get lookie at something that he hasn't seen but all he does is put his ears up and look. I love it. Coming from one that would jump 10 ft up and 10 ft over when he spooked it's so nice not to have to worry. Though I do love my now retired spooker lol.
              Horses aren't our whole life, but makes our life whole


              • #8
                Depends what the rest of his character is like. My gelding is like this, brave and self-confident. I got him when he was two and he is now seven. The only things I've ever seen him afraid of were loudspeakers blaring rock music at a show and crossing a bridge. His rare spooks are attempts to get out of work or playfulness.

                However, his bravery and self confidence soon translated into the courage to challenge the herd pecking order and also to challenge his rider.

                My mare is also brave and rarely spooks. However, she seems to gain courage from the rider/handler whereas the gelding's confidence seems more innate. She will rarely challenge you and when she does it is a mild challenge. She is on the bottom of the herd pecking order and he is at the top.


                • #9
                  When horses are brave to the point of not having any apparent interest in self-preservation, then yes, it can be too much, IMO.

                  Years ago I had a gelding that was "walk off a cliff" brave, and honestly, it could be a little scary at times. I used to trail ride him a lot, and when we got to places where we were going down a trail that was terraced in steps, he would literally just walk forward, straight ahead, and then let his feet fall until they hit solid ground. Made my stomach lurch every time, like when you're on an elevator that moves too abruptly. He never seemed to slip or have trouble with the footing doing it, but man was it ever disconcerting.

                  Another time, we went into the river near a bridge on a long trail ride, so the horses could stop for a drink and so on. The bridge was there because there was really no discernible way to get in or out on one side of the river. My horse walked across to the far bank, which rose close to straight up from the river. And he just kept going. I slid off his butt into a standing position behind him (or maybe I should say he slid out from under me, since I really didn't change position much at all as he charged up into a near-vertical position) as he clawed his way up the incline above my head. Knowing him, I should have given him some instruction to go in some other direction, but it really never occurred to me that he'd just plow on through what looked like impassable terrain. I mean, I had trouble climbing up that slope after him.

                  I'm not saying that your horse falls into that category at all, as it's entirely possible for a horse to be extremely easy going and unflappable without crossing that line. IME, the horses that really take it that far are pretty rare, and are far outnumbered by horses that are just quiet and relaxed good citizens.
                  "In order to really enjoy a dog, one doesn’t merely train him to be semi-human. The point of it is to open oneself to the possibility of becoming part dog."
                  -Edward Hoagland


                  • #10
                    What is his breeding?


                    • #11
                      I enjoy a brave horse

                      My mare has always been VERY brave – curious and smart! I do not find it a detriment at all, she has been SO easy to work with. I purchased her as a weanling, and she is now a 5 year old.. She has been known to chase down and grab plastic bags that blew into her field, she will boldly walk up to tractors or other “scary” loud things. This was her reaction to a large flapping flag near her head (yearling photo)

                      I have never come off her, as she doesn’t spook, and never offers a buck. Her first ride was in a halter and out in a large field. Within a week we were doing solo trail rides.

                      She is now jumping around 3’ and has never refused a fence. We ride out solo and can come upon some pretty extreme terrain, and I can trust her to boldly find her way out of tricky spots. Plus, I can move cattle and horses off of her – she is a cool horse.

                      I find her very fun, I can totally trust her, as she totally trust me, I like a smart and brave horse.
                      APPSOLUTE CHOCKLATE - Photo by Kathy Colman


                      • #12
                        Enjoy it.

                        My first horse was an Arab who would spook at just about everything and was upset by the littlest things. He was nearly impossible to show and is only finally settling down (a little) at the age of 20.

                        My current horse is one much like yours. His sire is billed as super amateur friendly and this horse has been so easy to deal with since birth. He's 7 now and the only thing he really doesn't like is the noise motorcycles make, though he'll deal with it - I rode him in the 4th of July parade this year.

                        I bought one of those huge balls for him to play with. My Arab was as far away from it as he could be at all times. With Oreo, I literally kicked it at him like a soccer ball and all he would do is move his head so it didn't hit him in the face. He acts more like a seasoned Quarter Horse than a young warmblood. I've often used him as a lead horse for water and ditches for my friend's eventers.

                        The only thing I've found is he is a little clumsy with poles and jumps. He just doesn't care much when he hits them. XC jumps he won't touch, but he knows poles will just fall down. I mostly just do it for cross training, so it's not a big deal to me, but I have to be very careful with distances.

                        It took a little adjusting to his super laid back personality, I was so used to waiting for the explosion to come, but I've really come to appreciate it. I had to figure out how to teach him things because what motivated him was so different than most other horses I've worked with. Showing is finally fun and easy, I can do anything with him, and I always feel safe with him.


                        • #13
                          Ha, I've thought over this very question. My 5 year old (that I broke and have owned since he was 3) is extremely confident. I don't think he has ever, truly, experienced fear. I've never seen him rattled or unsure. He is fine alone, or meeting a new horse in the pasture. An alpha mare will come at him, teeth barred and he merely backs up a step. He is always a leader in any herd with any kind of horse. Breaking him out was simple. First day with side reins, he simply give to the pressure and goes. First day I got on, similar deal--no big deal. I fell off the other day while jumping in an open field. He canters off, steps in his reins and rather than breaking his reins and panicking, he simply stops and waits for us to untangle him. Then, I get back on and he does the lines of jumps with complete cheerful focus.

                          It's weird, for sure, but really wonderful not to have to soothe him or worry about him being afraid. The only drawbacks is that it's hard to establish trust/submission with a horse that doesn't look to you for reassurance. He trusts himself, basically. Sometimes his cockiness can cause disobedience issues, but overall I really like having a horse like him. He's so smart and aware that sometimes I let his good sense and attitude influence me, rather than me always trying to influence the horse. I've learned alot about how to enjoy riding and the training process by owning a horse that is happy, uncomplicated and low stress! I aim to be more like him.
                          2007 Welsh Cob C X TB GG Eragon
                          Our training journal.
                          1989-2008 French TB Shamus Fancy
                          I owned him for fifteen years, but he was his own horse.


                          • #14
                            The issue I have seen with horses that are "too brave" is that they often just internalize their concern, but because they appear brave, trainers can push them too hard, too fast, and think they can get away with skipping steps when training.

                            These horses often react by either shutting down; becoming dead to aids or nappy, or they react by becoming bolty.

                            I would still take this kind over the opposite end of the spectrum, but be careful to follow a progressive ground training plan before you first get on, and once under saddle, continue on the same slow and steady plan you would take with a more "normal" horse. Also really get to know his "I am worried" warning signs. They are there, just subtle, and treat those as you would treat a less subtle sign.
                            Freeing worms from cans everywhere!


                            • #15
                              However, his bravery and self confidence soon translated into the courage to challenge the herd pecking order and also to challenge his rider.
                              This would be my only real concern... I'm dealing with this a bit with my yearling as he is very brave as well, but he did come with some personal space respect issues. Nothing major but not something that is not acceptable to any degree in my book so I make sure it is abundantly clear that I am the boss and we respect my space 110% of the time.


                              • #16
                                Originally posted by CHT View Post
                                The issue I have seen with horses that are "too brave" is that they often just internalize their concern, but because they appear brave, trainers can push them too hard, too fast, and think they can get away with skipping steps when training.

                                These horses often react by either shutting down; becoming dead to aids or nappy, or they react by becoming bolty.

                                I would still take this kind over the opposite end of the spectrum, but be careful to follow a progressive ground training plan before you first get on, and once under saddle, continue on the same slow and steady plan you would take with a more "normal" horse. Also really get to know his "I am worried" warning signs. They are there, just subtle, and treat those as you would treat a less subtle sign.

                                I agree with this to some extent--i.e. it can be easy to push the confident ones too hard. On the other hand, some horses simply are more confident/less worried. They aren't always internalizing concern; sometimes they aren't concerned. But yes, the whole training scale should be followed with the same care as with any horse--even if they aren't worried, the slow plan guarantees understanding and obedience.
                                2007 Welsh Cob C X TB GG Eragon
                                Our training journal.
                                1989-2008 French TB Shamus Fancy
                                I owned him for fifteen years, but he was his own horse.


                                • Original Poster

                                  I agree with the "get to know his warning signs". I really do not know them yet. He is a long yearling and I only bring him in a couple times a week to work with him. He isn't pushy or clumsy and he carefully places his feet. He seems as honest as they come. He did look at a sunbeam today in the barn, tilted his head sideways as we walked though it, that's about it.

                                  He is a mix, registered CWB. He's by a Dutch stallion Whirlwind II (Haarlem/Goodtimes) out of a Anglo Arab mare. I really liked him when I first saw him, he has a fantastic canter. It's a waiting game, it will be interesting to start him.