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A word about Appaloosas

Max tolerates me rubbing the tarp
Max tolerates me rubbing the tarp

...and wears it ok even when the wind raises it
...and wears it ok even when the wind raises it

Over the years, I have heard complaints about the Appaloosa temperament. People say Appaloosas are "stubborn", "intractable", "stupid", "difficult to handle", "a handful," "an outlaw", it goes on. My favorite is, "an Appaloosa has a mind of its own," as if it's expected to have someone else's mind.

True Appaloosas are none of those things. Many horses you see today that are being called Appaloosas have been infused with so much Arabian and Quarter Horse that it is the high percentage of those breeds forced on the Appaloosa which are being complained about. I would bet that the vast majority of those behavioral complaints have resulted from poor training in the horse's early years rather than genetic faults.

What a True Appaloosa is independent. Remember, these are the horses of Genghis Kahn that conquered one-third of the earth. They are descendants of Nez Perce stock that escaped cavalry roundups and bounty hunters. The True Appaloosa is a survivor. And survivors are intelligent and resourceful . Watch your Appaloosa paw through snow to look for grass the way he did on the Mongolian steppe 700 winters ago. Revel in the way he learns to untie himself quicker than the other horses, then unties them! When I kept Okie at a stable, the owner, Steve Backer, told me he was the only one of fifty horses there that could find a way through 2 fences and never get a mark on himself. Okie's idea of a fun night was to figure out his door latch, get loose and take every single article in the barn in his mouth and throw it around. That isn't stupidity, that's a sense of humor and don't ever think an Appaloosa doesn't have one. Any difficulties I had with Okie were the result of poor horsemanship on my part and about 20 years of listening to the wrong people with respect to training.

Will an Appaloosa test you? You can be sure of it. The best thing you can do with your Appaloosa is to present him with new challenges. His capacity to learn will astound you. He's easily bored with repetition so don't lunge him in idiotic circles to provide a workout, he'll just get disgusted and shut down mentally. Take him jogging with you. Get on him and let him take you somewhere, give him a job to do. Back him into his stall or paddock, rather than leading him in. Back him up a small hill. Mount him and dismount him from the offside for a change. Pony another horse behind him. Walk him over a scary blue tarp until he can wear it. If he's a jumper, try to rope a fencepost off him. If he's a roping horse, trot him over a one-foot jump. Ride him up the steepest, ridable hill you can find then hop off and lead him halfway down, stop, turn him sidehill, use the high side of the hill to mount him and go back up. Try to do as many different things with him as you can even if they are only small and subtle. Don't be afraid to test him.

If you own an Appaloosa now or considering owning one please email me for some training ideas.

Appaloosa tows a pickup to get it started...
Appaloosa tows a pickup to get it started...

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