Determining Temperament When Looking at Horses for Sale


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A horse’s temperament can have a significant effect on whether you and that horse turn out to be a good match. While some sellers will identify a horse’s temperament in its sale ad, not all sellers do, and you don’t always know that a seller’s evaluation of a horse’s temperament is accurate. When looking at horses for sale, it’s important that you’re able to assess their temperaments before you agree to mount up – otherwise you could be in for a surprise.

Consider the Breed

A horse’s breed can affect its temperament – some breeds are known for being hotter, like Thoroughbreds and Arabians, while other breeds are known for being more laid back, like draft breeds and many Quarter Horses. While a horse’s breed can certainly indicate what his temperament may be like, remember that all horses are individuals, so you really need to assess each horse’s temperament without relying on the typical expectations of the breed.

Assess the Horse with Other Horses

While watching a horse for sale interact with other horses won’t necessarily give you an exact idea of what his temperament under saddle will be, it can give you some information on which to base your assessment. If you have the opportunity to watch the horse for sale in a pasture with other horses, look to see if you can tell where he lies in the herd order. Horses that are more dominant can also have hotter temperaments. You should watch to see how active the horse is on his own, and how he reacts to distractions like sudden movements, cars, or commotion.

Watch the Tacking Up Process

Watching the horse’s behavior as he’s being groomed and tacked up can help give you a sense of his temperament. Watch to see how the horse interacts with his owner. Is he continuously on edge and distracted, or is he relaxed, cocking a hind leg and leaning into the grooming? Does the horse pace back and forth in the crossties, or does he stand quietly?

Observe the Horse Under Saddle

Lastly, watch how the horse behaves under saddle. Is he highly sensitive to the rider, moving forward quickly at light pressure? Does the rider use a lot of rein to keep the horse contained? Watch to see if the horse spooks frequently or is easily distracted by things going on outside of the ring. Alternatively, a rider who uses spurs, a crop, and rides on a loose rein can signify a horse with a colder, calmer temperament.

Remember, too, that a horse’s temperament may differ depending on the rider, feeding program, and environment. It’s wise to visit a horse for sale multiple times before deciding that he is the right one for you.

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