Appaloosas - the good, the bad, and the adorable - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 23 Old 07-25-2020, 04:29 PM Thread Starter
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Appaloosas - the good, the bad, and the adorable

I bought an Appy from a good friend a couple of years ago as a barely started 6 year old. He's awesome. Exactly what I needed - safe and more whoa than go in most scenarios. But he's also very different from any other horse I've ever dealt with - which were mostly Arabs and Quarter Horses. Appys are a whole other story! He's clever, affectionate, goofy, but also, a tad bit stubborn. I know you other Appy owners know what I'm talking about. So how do you deal with this aspect of the breed? It's like they have a whole other side to them. Where QH and Arabs are either submissive, compliant or flighty, my Rusty is sensitive, has a sense of humour, and is very opinionated. So far, I have dealt with this with calm determination. I find that he will always give in eventually, and it's best not to go batpoop crazy on him if he doesn't want to do something because then you pick a fight that will go on for a long time. Also, I really like his personality and do not want to turn him into a shut-down horse, but when I ride him or even when we do ground work, I often wonder whether I should stop before he has a meltdown or push him through it (obviously, if he has a meltdown or a tantrum, we do push through it because I can't stop in the middle of one or he'll be learning that he's won).

For example, when I, or someone else, rides him in the riding ring, we can go for about 15-25 minutes and then he's just had it. He's different on a trail, mind you - he can go on for hours on trails! But in the ring, he gets bored. Should I stop before he throws a fit or ride him until he accepts that we're done when I say we're done? I have done both, but am unsure which will provide better long-term results. By throwing a fit, I mean he doesn't want to trot or canter anymore, and will give little bucks when I tap him with a crop. We have worked through this a number of times, and he eventually gives up and gives me a trot or canter, but he is clearly cranky about it. On the other hand, I play a lot of games with him which he seems to enjoy. For example, we play a game where I get up on the mounting block, and he comes up to it at liberty (not even a halter on), and I hop on his back. He walks to the edge of the paddock until I ask him to stop, I slide off, and pull some good grass from the other side of the fence as a reward for him. All this time, our other horse is loose in the paddock and the gate to the pasture is wide open so Rusty chooses to be with me. This is the connection I don't want to lose. On the other hand, I'd love to do a bit of dressage work with him, but he doesn't have the interest or attention span for it right now.

Thoughts from other Appy owners who share my love for this breed but also recognize the stubborn streak as a challenge? How do you deal with it without losing the Appy personality?

Photo of us snuggling just because.
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post #2 of 23 Old 07-25-2020, 04:56 PM
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I have not owned an Appaloosa, but I have worked with horses with similar personalities.

It is about finding a balance, a compromise, between what you want and what the horse wants. Some horses, no matter with how much training, will never enjoy the arena as much as trails - and that's okay. On the flip side, you can have an Olympic dressage horse lose its mind on the trails or if you drop the reins and ride in "neutral."

Training wise, I want a well-rounded horse, meaning they go well in the arena or on the trails. They do not have to like it, but for safety reasons, this aspect of training cannot be lopsided. My horse is like yours; she prefers the trails rather than the arena. You may have heard that the horse is a reflection of its handler. I do not know if my horse genuinely prefers the trails over the arena or is she is just going off my attitude (I prefer the trails over the arena.) I do not know if that really matters, honestly, because she is a happy, forward hacker.

How you ride in the arena matters. Horses, especially the smart or independent ones, can get bored very easily in the arena. Who wouldn't? "Trot here. Stop there. Cricle to the left." For these types of horses, is it important to vary their "job" and keep their mind busy. The good thing about dressage is that it is so versatile. Instead of jumping where it is, you know, about jumping, simplified, dressage is about training, obedience, connection, and balance. Technically, you should ride "dressage" every time you ride, be it in the arena or on the trails. I do not know what kind of trails you have but do dressage on the trails. Side pass a log, collect the canter in a meadow, extend the trot through a creek, square the halt, et cetera.

Have you tried tack-less riding with positive reinforcement? My horse likes that, even if it is in the arena.

I tend to have a philosophy about quitting before the horse quits (and gradually increase the time) and making it enjoyable for them. I do not want them to simply feel like they are "working the clock on the job." Although, if I have to tell a horse to work, I will, but I do not go on long rides specifically looking to work out the "tantrums."
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post #3 of 23 Old 07-25-2020, 04:59 PM
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Daughter had a good one. A mare.

Gypsy liked cow work and traveling long distances. Daughter lent Gypsy to a girl in town to show in some fun classes. Between the young girl's lack experience and natural timidity, and Gypsy's tenancy to get bored going in circles, they had some rough spots.

Daughter encouraged (made) the pair work through them.

As she said, "It's not going to kill Gypsy to be bored. If something happens to me, Gypsy might HAVE to do arena work. It's good for (the girl) to learn to demand something of a horse. This is easy. What if next time it's a serious situation?"

Gypsy had an opinion on many things. And would actually roll her eyes at times. But she knew cattle well and sometimes it seemed she and my daughter communicated telepathically.

She had a distinct dislike for boy scouts (long story) and my oldest daughter (I don't know why).

All that to say "I would make your appy do the drills, or practice the skills, that you want."
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post #4 of 23 Old 07-25-2020, 06:29 PM
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your horse is cute! :)



The only tip I can give you is: any living organism that gets bored starts to behave unwanted. :p Goes for kids, goes for dogs, goes for horses... I would just try to give the horse a job he loves and challenge him... If you want to teach him to push through difficult moments I would intentionally set up some now and then where he gets a big reward or aha moment in the end. This way you can train him to do as you ask so when you're ever in a difficult situation and he needs to obey he will (???)
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post #5 of 23 Old 07-25-2020, 07:04 PM
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I have had two appaloosas the first was a 14.2 appy/arab gelding belonging to a friend. This was the spookiest horse I ever knew and lightening fast when he spooked. He had dumped so many riders and my friend was seriously thinking of having him put down as she was concerned that he could injure/kill someone.
I suggested that I take him for 3 months to see how we got along. I put a lot of time into him and didn't seem to be getting anywhere with him, I took him to a show and he behaved so badly that I began to think my friend was right, he could kill someone, and guess who that might be, I was his only rider.
then at the 3 month mark he just seemed to give up and say OK we do it your way.
To make this story a little shorter we made so much progress and I had a room full of trophies and ribbons that we won. My niece started jumping him and this little horse could win open jumper classes against huge big horses. He won many year end awards english and western. I could do a reining pattern or jump a course with just a string around his neck.

The second horse I got, in his previous home he was ridden by a heavy handed teenaged boy who just raced him around the property with a mechanical hackamore. This horse had the worst head tossing problem I have ever seen and just wanted to take off with you. To make this story shorter, i worked with him and he won for me five year end awards at a fairly high level dressage show. This was my personal best showing at that level. Very proud of him.

so as far as I am concerned Appaloosas are great horses, sometimes tought to deal with but if you click you have a great horse.

Enjoy Rusty he is also a winner.
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post #6 of 23 Old 07-25-2020, 07:44 PM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Woodhaven View Post
I have had two appaloosas the first was a 14.2 appy/arab gelding belonging to a friend. This was the spookiest horse I ever knew and lightening fast when he spooked. He had dumped so many riders and my friend was seriously thinking of having him put down as she was concerned that he could injure/kill someone.
I suggested that I take him for 3 months to see how we got along. I put a lot of time into him and didn't seem to be getting anywhere with him, I took him to a show and he behaved so badly that I began to think my friend was right, he could kill someone, and guess who that might be, I was his only rider.
then at the 3 month mark he just seemed to give up and say OK we do it your way.
To make this story a little shorter we made so much progress and I had a room full of trophies and ribbons that we won. My niece started jumping him and this little horse could win open jumper classes against huge big horses. He won many year end awards english and western. I could do a reining pattern or jump a course with just a string around his neck.

The second horse I got, in his previous home he was ridden by a heavy handed teenaged boy who just raced him around the property with a mechanical hackamore. This horse had the worst head tossing problem I have ever seen and just wanted to take off with you. To make this story shorter, i worked with him and he won for me five year end awards at a fairly high level dressage show. This was my personal best showing at that level. Very proud of him.

so as far as I am concerned Appaloosas are great horses, sometimes tought to deal with but if you click you have a great horse.

Enjoy Rusty he is also a winner.
How'd you like to come train him? :)

Kidding. But thanks for those stories!!! That makes me really hopeful. I'm not hoping for a bunch of ribbons (not even planning to show him), just to get him to cooperate when I ask him to do do arena work for more than 15 minutes. It sounds like just being persistent and patient is the right approach. Rusty always gives in eventually so I know he will comply if I just keep asking, I just wonder sometimes whether this is the right approach because it doesn't always seem like we are making progress.
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post #7 of 23 Old 07-25-2020, 07:49 PM Thread Starter
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@hobbyh , yes, I think we are on the same page. I agree - Rusty needs to have basic skills and these include arena work. I have also taught him to lunge, even though he thinks that's the most boring thing ever. Not that I think horses need to be lunged all the time, but because I think it is an essential skill. There are times when a vet needs to see your horse move, or when you want to put a new rider on a horse but still be in control. He's accepted it, but it took a lot of patience and time on my part. A few rewards too.

I don't mind puttering around on him without a bridle or saddle, but to actually ride effectively I think would be difficult. And on a trail, he has actually taken off on me a few times so I feel I still need a saddle and bridle for my own safety. He gets excited and easily distracted, and will just accelerate. I've learned that I need to keep him focused on me, and if need be, do some transitions on trails so he remembers to listen. That has led to some much more pleasurable rides. Your suggestions for incorporating dressage on the trail are excellent! I will try that. Thanks for your reply.
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post #8 of 23 Old 07-26-2020, 12:40 PM
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One thought, the appy that I could ride on a string, I would never even think of doing this on a trail as he could spook and lightening fast. Usually you have a nano second warning of a spook but this boy none of that by the time he thought of it, he was landing 15 feet over there so it would be hazardous to try no bridle out on the trails.

I would suggest when you are schooling Rusty have a clear goal in your mind what you are going to do, if it is a serpentine focus very clearly on that and try to think forward, forward and pass your energy and determination on doing it and hopefully Rusty will get this forward focused idea and respond to it. I don't know how to explain this correctly but that is what i do. And I try to keep it interesting by lots of direction changes, transitions, circles when unexpected to keep my horse thinking and focused on me for what may be coming next.

It takes time but when the horse is working with you it is a great feeling.
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post #9 of 23 Old 07-26-2020, 12:47 PM
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Quote:
so as far as I am concerned Appaloosas are great horses, sometimes tough to deal with but if you click you have a great horse.
I couldn't agree more. I have owned 9 appaloosas in my lifetime and every one of them was amazing. I agree, they can be very stubborn, but all the good things other people have described also. Plus their crazy fun markings always are a joy to look at. Icing on the cake.
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post #10 of 23 Old 07-27-2020, 10:25 AM
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I have owned Appies most of my life and can remember when a lot of registered Appaloosas were HUGE horses and not really built like the quarter horse. I currently have 1 appaloosa. I hate to define a horse by its breed because most of the breeds have had so much influence from other breeds they are not really pure any more.

Rusty sounds a lot like my gelding Steve - Steve easily lost interest. When it was something Steve wanted to do the ride was a lot of fun. When it was not Steve's idea the ride could go south quickly or it just didn't go.

I think Rusty is adorable and am glad you found a good partner
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