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Definition of Amateur-Friendly Horse?

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  • Definition of Amateur-Friendly Horse?

    As I'm delving more and more into the vortex of looking at sales ads or researching stallions for breeding, one of the details that is either present or excluded is "amateur-friendly": In some cases, a stallion is advertised as passing on an amateur-friendly temperament/ride. In other cases (when it's an ad for a horse that's old enough to be under saddle) it's an "amateur friendly" ride.

    So what does amateur friendly mean to you? What constitutes an "amateur friendly" horse? (And then I suppose the follow up: are there amateurs who don't necessarily require a horse as advertised as am-friendly?)

  • #2
    I use this term often in my ads and on my website.

    To me, an amateur horse is one who deals with less than perfect situation with aplomb. IOW, when you run to the chip, the horse will not only do it, but will canter away without trying to kill you for it. I know that's not a dressage example, but maybe it's simpler to define with a hunter/jumper horse? Beyond that, an "amateur horse" is one who is nice to be around on the ground and that wants to be friendly. It may or may not be spooky, but an "amateur horse" isn't going to try to kill you because it's scared of something, and personally I don't consider a horse that has a spook to fall into the "amateur horse category. It should be a relatively simple and straightforward horse, and ideally one that doesn't "need" a lot of pro rides.

    I had an interesting experience this summer when a gal tried one of my horses (again, hunter/jumper example, though the idea is the same applied to dressage). We walked over early and watched her ride the horse she was trying before mine. The horse was stunningly gorgeous, a "10" mover, and absolutely perfect in every way for all of the flatwork. Then the gal trotted a little fence. Perfect again. Then she cantered a fence. The first time she was a little deep (but generally ok) and the horse swung it's neck a little on the backside. The next time she ATE IT to the little crossrail and that horse landed and did it's darnedest to buck that lady off...hind feet to the sky style. That's the opposite of "an amateur horse."

    I'll share a video of one of my young horses. This is a 12 year old beginner rider at one of her first horseshows. The round is not perfect, and maybe not even terribly good. But this epitomizes the brain that I consider an "amateur-friendly horse." The kid was a little nervous (this was her first time ever in the Short Stirrups at one of her first ever shows), and it shows, but the horse never reacted to her ride or decisions at all:
    Take out the jumps, and it's the same principle. When things go sideways (weather, commotion, other horses acting up), the "amateur-friendly" horse takes care of the rider before trying to get out of the situation itself.

    And yes, there are lots of amateurs who don't "require" an amateur-friendly horse. I am an amateur and I prefer a horse that has a bit of a wicked streak. But the ones that I define as "ammy-friendly" sure are a lot more fun to break and train!
    Flying F Sport Horses
    Horses in the NW


    • #3
      A horse that can take a joke and decipher mixed messages from the rider.Doesn't flip out at a rider mistake and doesn't try to find things to spook at and toss its rider. Generally very easy to work around and kinda happy go lucky. A horse that can think for itself and hopefully has the brains and experience to keep the rider out of trouble.

      Most pro-rides expect perfection and if not given perfection have a tendency to explode. Many horses can start as pro-rides and as they gain experience and learn their jobs go on to be very suitable ammy horses.
      "Anyone who tries to make brownies without butter should be arrested." Ina Garten


      • #4
        Not spooky. Gives you a solid feeling when you ride them--a hard thing to define, but you know it when you feel it. Depending on the amateur, minimal to no spook.

        Depending on the age of the amateur and the status of their back, comfortable gaits.

        Takes a joke, perhaps an entire comedy series, without doing something to scare the rider. In dressage that might translate to a horse who doesn't get worked up about less than perfect aids or moving hands/legs. Hunters it's pretty much what PNWJumper said (and I love her Clinton horse...)

        And yes, there is variation between amateurs. I can do a kind, greenish horse, but I my days of riding stoppers, big buckers, horses that leap 5' over 2.6", and generally naughty types are over. Other amateurs can deal with more personality. Others don't want anything remotely green or silly.
        The Evil Chem Prof


        • Original Poster

          This is very interesting to read, and I appreciate your insights. PNWjumper, that video is fantastic. What a fortunate little girl to have a horse like that for her first time out!

          I've struggled with this term as I'm beginning my shopping/research due to the fact that my first horse was owned by me (an amateur) and he never really did anything (to me) that really made me question if I would get hurt riding him, but he would not take a joke, nor was he especially forgiving of riding styles he considered offensive to him. At all. I also school my instructor's horse who is decidedly not amateur friendly (the most generous way I can describe him is that he's perpetually on some sort of hallucinogenic so it's just a matter of if he's having a good trip that day or a bad one. You get no warning which it is) who, due to the background with my guy, I don't have much of an issue with but she's tried to use him in intermediate/advanced lessons in the past and it has gone...theatrically.

          So I look at ads that are "amateur friendly" or "not am-friendly" and wondered how people decided what the phrase meant for a frame of reference and how to reconcile it with my own experience and what I should reasonably be looking at.

          This is very helpful to hear everyone's definitions and experiences with the phrase. Thank you!


          • #6
            I think whether you need to look for an amateur friendly horse is at least partially dependent on what kind of rider/person you are. If you’re a timid rider or have anxiety/fear issues, then a horse with minimal spook that can take many jokes is probably important. If you’re an amateur that isn’t put off by spooky (as long as its not stupid) or reactive (as long as its not psychotic), then you may be less concerned.

            My current horse wasn’t an amateur friendly reiner, nor is he really an amateur friendly dressage horse. He’s spooky and reactive and can be anxious or at least high energy in new places. But he didn’t scare or unsettle me when I first rode him (though perhaps he should have) and even though I’ve come off a few times and gotten run over once, he still doesn’t scare me. I respect his antics but mostly laugh at him and put him back to work. Would I buy another one like him? Absolutely. I’ve owned and leased calmer amateur friendly horses and while they’re are solid citizens, I missed the sparkle.


            • #7
              Amateur friendly to me (a typical amateur) means at a minimum that he doesn't get angry or scared when the rider makes a mistake (eg, looses balance); he doesn't go crazy if/when he spooks; and no buck/bolt/rear.

              We have one in our barn who takes advantage when the rider makes a mistake (as opposed to getting angry or scared). I would consider him an educated and strong amateur ride but not a timid or uneducated amateur ride. Unfortunately, he's owned by the latter.


              • #8
                Amateur-friendly - solid citizen, level-headed when the unexpected arises, forgiving to rider mistakes, been there done that soul, people-oriented, not ultra sensitive or overly reactive. I have produced and developed a few over the years. I've been lucky in that I think my stallion has produced amateur-friendly mounts. He is amateur-friendly as was multiple of his siblings.

                That all being said any good horse can be ruined. I have taken on more than my share of not so amateur-friendly mounts of the same breed. I have to admit that at least 2 of them I believe started out amateur-friendly but due to improper handling as a result of unrealistic expectations they were no longer an amateur ride.

                I personally prefer a more sensitive horse that is forward; but, I don't like a horse that will injure itself in order to get away from something it doesn't like or fears. I don't mind spooking and have backed many a baby, bringing them along to more advanced stages of riding/training. My one MUST is that they are level-headed.
                Ranch of Last Resort


                • #9
                  Kind, able to process outside stimulus calmly and most important...forgiving
                  Groom to trainer: "Where's the glamour? You promised me glamour!"


                  • #10
                    I think the term should be taken in the context of 'who' the seller is. Is it your average backyard horseperson? A trainer?

                    I am an average backyard horse owner, albeit far from green. I recently spent many months looking for my next horse. I learned to ignore most of the words in the ad, and focus on what I see in the video. If it looks promising, make an appt and go see it. Make ZERO assumptions because odds are, you'll be wrong! Nothing beats getting face to face with the horse you're interested in - and don't be put off by 'not a good fit' for the current owner, because what doesn't work for them might be perfect for you.

                    Make a list of imperfections you can and cannot live with. Soundness issues, vices, riding issues, whatever. Depending on your criteria & budget, be prepared to act immediately. The good ones go quick.


                    • #11
                      Consistent and forgiving. I love my purebred but there have been many shows when his evil twin took over and ruined a class for us. He is a sweetheart on the ground, good on the trails, but he has a tendency to be anxious and tense. He would never rear, buck, or hurt anyone but you just have to deal with his silliness. I think he's a horse for *many* amateurs but certainly not all. He's one of those for humans that can take a joke from the horse!

                      The 3 year old 3/4 Arab I just bought and have ridden 5 or so times has a completely different mind set, even as green as he is. I can tell that he is going to be consistent and easy. We took him to a show in October to show in hand and the biggest spook we got was a tiny 1/2 step to the left when he saw the scarecrow in center ring. We are going really slowly with him under saddle as neither the trainer nor I want to ruin his fabulous brain.

                      I love them both but have to admit that I bought the new horse not only for his beauty but for his excellent temperament. Just for a change, I'd like to get noticed for how good my horse is, not for his quirks!


                      • #12
                        Follow-up question for everyone: when I see a horse marketed as "amateur-friendly," I tend to assume that it's also likely to be somewhat less talented than the ones marketed towards pros (though sometimes they are marketed for both)--do other people think the same thing?
                        Building and Managing the Small Horse Farm: http://thesmallhorsefarm.blogspot.com


                        • #13
                          I would agree with all the above (basically, forgiving temperament; not overly reactive, spooky, etc), and would add - fairly easy to SIT! I've had friends (decent riders, experienced, able to sit the trot), and they go look at some horses and can not ride their gaits. So I think that needs to go into the mix.

                          And - as far as I'm concerned, such a horse should be easy to load, able to tie to a trailer, have been to at least a few shows.

                          I think after that, the definition starts to diverge a bit - for some, it would be a light and forward horse (but sane and not spooky), for others, a bit lazy (but safe) is OK. Sadly, I have seen many horses advertised as Amateur horses, and it is simply because they weren't fancy enough for a pro rider. But they were still hot, spooky, difficult - so there is THAT to be aware of...


                          • #14
                            Ammy friendly is generally a kind, safe horse who knows his job and attempts to do it, almost regardless of his rider.

                            I have 2 ponies, so we are talking kid-wise.

                            One is super safe, schoolmaster, older and requires ,maintenance. He knows his job (better than most people). If a bad steering kid points him in the VICINITY of a jump- he'll go for it and do it safely without complication or complaining. He lets the littlest ones tack him up, walk around. He becomes NON ammy friendly when an unskilled, not balanced person/kid is on him. He just won't trot around and carry someone. But an OK kid he will just do his job on the flat (jumping he is a machine). He's priceless.

                            Our fancy pony- he loves loves loves carting beginners around. He'll trot all day with a horrible steering kid or person bouncing around on top of him. When it comes to jumping- he is a typical pony and has a few tricks. He's green so he has potential.

                            If we could mind meld these two- they'd be the perfect pony.

                            I have a QH who we call the Mom Horse. He is the most ammy friendly horse I have ever owned. I'd put my grandmother on him. He has zero spook. Will go QH slow shuffle, lope around or turn it on and put in a decent dressage test. He can do hunters, he does low level eventing. ANYONE can get on him. If you suck- he'll take care of you. If you are good- you think you are Greg Best. IT's a good thing because the trade-off is he's a miserable pig in his stall.
                            Come to the dark side, we have cookies


                            • Original Poster

                              Originally posted by Libby2563 View Post
                              Follow-up question for everyone: when I see a horse marketed as "amateur-friendly," I tend to assume that it's also likely to be somewhat less talented than the ones marketed towards pros (though sometimes they are marketed for both)--do other people think the same thing?
                              I tend to have this implicit bias as well (specifically related to dressage, actually). Some of the more expressive gaits or horses that demonstrate really dynamic changes of gait are going to naturally be harder to ride. Those are qualities I tend to affiliate with a more talented (or more educated!) horse and not necessarily amateur friendly.

                              Thst said I have been finding a decent number of really attractive, high quality horses described as am-friendly. Now, beyond seeing video I can't really attest to the veracity of the statement but it looks like there's a decent number. (And most of them are schoolmaster types.)


                              • #16
                                IMHO... there is a beginner horse, and there is an ammy friendly dressage horse. And I do think there are some real between ammy friendly for jumpers and for dressage.

                                A beginner's horse is somewhat oblivious to what a clueless rider is doing up there in terms of pulling/kicking/losing balance, etc. That horse will w/t/c and steer while allowing the rider to learn to stay on - but won't really allow the rider to learn dressage.

                                An ammy friendly dressage horse is comfortable and compliant, but he's also ride-able in a way the beginner horse is not. He's sensitive enough to go round and through without being difficult/complicated/tricky/hot or requiring finesse. He doesn't kill the rider for the occasional mixed message, spur poke, second of balancing on the hand, or stiff lower back. His gaits are comfortable enough to sit and he isn't prone to any sort of antics. Most training level + riders would describe him as fun or pleasant.

                                Some are more generous than others in figuring out what the rider wants from less than perfect aids, but I don't consider that required. It might be more fun, but the horse that ignores weird aids and waits for better ones is the better teacher.


                                • #17
                                  Originally posted by Edre View Post
                                  I tend to have this implicit bias as well (specifically related to dressage, actually). Some of the more expressive gaits or horses that demonstrate really dynamic changes of gait are going to naturally be harder to ride. Those are qualities I tend to affiliate with a more talented (or more educated!) horse and not necessarily amateur friendly.

                                  Thst said I have been finding a decent number of really attractive, high quality horses described as am-friendly. Now, beyond seeing video I can't really attest to the veracity of the statement but it looks like there's a decent number. (And most of them are schoolmaster types.)
                                  Sounds like we agree. A couple friends who are horse shopping send me links, and yes there are quite a few high-quality "amateur-friendly" horses out there. I still don't think most high-level pros would be interested but that could also be the price range (under $60k) and level of training (3rd-4th level) my friends are looking at. If you go above $100k there are probably horses who are trained to 3rd-4th level that are amateur-friendly and also pro-quality.

                                  "Schoolmaster"--yet another definition we could discuss! A couple people have referred to the horse I'm leasing as a schoolmaster, I guess just because he's trained to Grand Prix? The owner, who is a pro and trained him from a yearling, laughed at that. Yes, he's well-trained but he is not a straightforward ride. He's very powerful and requires more correct riding than any horse I've ever ridden before. Also, if you push him too much in the piaffe, he can explode upward. I competed my own (definite amateur) horse successfully up to GP and still feel like I've had to up my game tremendously for this horse. On the flip side, if you do ride him correctly the feedback is immediate so I'm learning a lot from him. Still wouldn't quite call him a schoolmaster though.
                                  Building and Managing the Small Horse Farm: http://thesmallhorsefarm.blogspot.com


                                  • #18
                                    I would add I would add impeccable ground manners to the calm reactions to rider mistakes and outside stimulus and changes in the environment. For a horse that’s going to compete , I would add not stressed by show arenas, noise, etc.


                                    • #19
                                      For me amateur friendly means able to tolerate some degree of less than perfect riding/handling without requiring constant pro intervention. Depending on the type, they either do what is expected regardless of what's asked or they do what's asked even if they know it's wrong/weird. But they don't lose their marbles because of mixed signals or frustration, and they don't require a pro ride to put them back together every week and keep them happy in their program.

                                      I think the requirement that there is no spook or buck is something different. I usually see that talked about in regards to whether a horse is bombproof, and I don't think it's necessary for an amateur friendly horse to be bombproof.

                                      Obviously for a beginner or timid rider, you want both amateur friendly and bombproof. But for a certain level rider, a horse with a bit of an edge that is reasonable--but not necessarily bombproof--in their reactions can still be very amateur friendly. It's still about how the horse recovers from it: if something spooks them, do they maybe scoot forward a step or two or take a step sideways (keeping their rider under them) and then go straight back to work? Or do they duck a shoulder, spin, take off for the next county, and then spend the rest of the ride looking for reasons to spook again? The first is amateur friendly for riders past a certain skill set; the second, not so much. Same with bucking--a rider jumping a certain height should be able to handle a little bit of play after a fence as long as the horse isn't trying to get them off and then goes on to jump the next fence like nothing happened. That's different than a horse that takes a big jump, scares itself, lands bucking like it's auditioning for the rodeo, and needs an aggressive ride to get through the rest of the course.
                                      She Gets Lost


                                      • #20
                                        I think my definition of amateur-friendly has been well covered. I've learned that definitions certainly vary. When shopping I explicitly ask the seller what is their definition of an amateur-friendly horse.

                                        Often our expectations align but occasionally they will indicate behaviors that may seem amateur-friendly to them but are not what I envision in an amateur-ride (e.g., he throws bucks at the canter occasionally but nothing too big; he doesn't cross tie so I have someone hold him while I tack).