Horse personalities

What part does heredity play in your horse’s personality?

If you’ve been following my blog posts, most of you know that I like to mix the scientific approach to horses and horse training along with the emotional and spiritual side.

And as a lifelong learner I’m always very curious to see what my horses have to teach me.

For example…

I have been working with two Egyptian Arabians for the past few weeks, Kit and Danny Boy. And amazingly they are exactly opposite in almost every aspect. The more I work with them, the more I see how opposite they really are.

That got me thinking about how and why could two horses of the same breed, about the same age, who have grown up under the care of the same facility/barn manager, be so drastically different?

According to science…”The Principles of Learning and Behavior”, California: Brokes Cole, 1986

Behavioral principles of training are primarily based on two principles; hereditary and environmental influences. It depends on two people; breeder and trainer. Breeder governs the hereditary principles whereas trainer is solely responsible for increasing the performance of horses which largely depends on the environment. The performance of the horse is likely to be heritable in some degree and it varies from breed to breed, for instance, Thoroughbreds have high heritability of racing ability. Training or any sort of learning whether it is human or animal deals with the modification of behavior.

So, basically heredity plays a part as well as training experiences and past traumas.
So with Kit I can see that with his bloodline going back 3,200 years to the original Egyptian Arabians, how his heredity contributes to not only his look, but also his gentle, willing and intelligent personality.

Plus, I can see how his owner/trainer also contributed to his gentle and inquisitive nature now that I have come to know her better as well.

Kit is always willing to think about anything I ask and is very willing to “try” something new. But he is also always thinking, curious, and willing to “talk it over” with me. The thing that stands out about Kit is that he wants to be sociable, loves to cuddle and seems to have a positive outlook towards humans.

And then there is Danny Boy…

I don’t know his background very well, other than that he is an Egyptian Arabian stallion about 23/24 years old.

Danny is extremely sensitive, playful, fearful, curious, intelligent and full of fire. He loves to say “no” in an instant, but quick to then say “maybe”. It seems to me that his heredity gives him the intelligence to see every human as different and the warmth and curiosity to say “maybe”.

But his experience with other humans gives him his fear. The thing that stands out about Danny is that he is extremely timid and distrustful. However, interestingly enough, he seems to really want to give humans another chance and wants to be sociable.

I spoke to his owner today and asked more about his background and found out that his mother was a very sweet, calm, quiet, registered purebred, Egyptian Arabian.

However, his sire was the neighbor’s “crazy” thoroughbred stallion, who was gelded because they didn’t like the high strung, anxious foals he was turning out. However, before he was gelded, he jumped the fence line and hopped into her pasture for one last foal. Which tells me where Danny Boy gets his spookiness and high strung energy… heredity.
Jazz and Apollo
Then I looked at my two boys, Jazz and Apollo, who have been together all their lives (with the exception of a year that Apollo was stolen), had the same owner (with the exception of Jazz’s first year), have the same breed and the same heredity (they are father and son), and I wonder how even these two horses can be different in so many ways.

Here is how Jazz and Apollo are different:

  • Jazz loves water and jumps in every puddle, stream, or lake and plays.
  • Apollo hates water and will jump high into the air over a puddle just to avoid it.
  • Jazz loves Western tack, shakes off English tack, and hates to go over any jump at all. He will actually kick over a one-foot jump if I ask him to go over it just to show me his displeasure.
  • Apollo loves English tack and naturally jumps anything and everything so gracefully, like he was born for it. He will naturally jump 4-feet high even if the jump is only one foot.
  • Jazz loves to play with cows. Like a cat plays with a mouse.
  • Apollo runs from cows and is naturally afraid of them.
  • Jazz has no problem going into tunnels or on bridges, but Apollo won’t do it unless Jazz goes first.
  • Apollo looks at blacktop as if it’s a hole that is going to swallow him up but with Jazz it’s no problem.

Here is how Jazz and Apollo are the same, they both:

  • Have the same gentle, sweet temperament
  • Are very willing to do anything I ask or try something new
  • Are very playful and strong willed
  • Love to interact with humans and horses
  • Are curious and love to explore with me
  • Are very trusting and loving
  • Are intelligent and you can see them thinking and figuring out each new person they encounter
  • Are fearful of men.

I can see how their breeding has brought about the same personality, good nature, intelligence, and willingness. But being that they have had exactly the same experiences and owner, other than one year for each of them when they were with abusive men, it is interesting how they have very different preferences.

So, their differences seem to be only personality preferences. Just like human brothers and sisters can be so similar and different at the same time, horses are individuals as well. All other factors aside, they grow into who they are and what they like on their own – just like we do.

Luckily when we go out riding together if one feels funny about doing or going somewhere, the other is all in. Which means the one who felt uncomfortable will then follow the other, confident one, anywhere. Which is great because there is nothing that we can’t or won’t do as a team (as a herd).

There is a strong trust and a strong bond with all three of us that we feel that we can accomplish anything together. Granted, we have also been together as a team/family/herd for over 28 years!

Now that I’m working with Danny Boy and Kit I see the big difference in trust, willingness, attention, and work ethic. I’m really excited to see the journey unfold for the three of us as well and how they will fit in with Jazz and Apollo when I put them in the pasture next to them.

Got a little work to do before that happens, but it will be fun and interesting to watch it all unfold and I want to take you along for the ride…

Because I am currently working on a (no cost!) video training series which you will get special access to ahead of its public release so make sure you stay tuned.

In the meantime, I would love to hear from you about your horse’s personality so tell me about it in the Comments below. Thanks!

Until next time… Happy Horses!

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