Crazy Chestnut Mares... - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 24 Old 10-22-2015, 11:18 AM Thread Starter
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Crazy Chestnut Mares...



A friend and I were recently discussing the whole "crazy chestnut mares" theory, and while we know the stereotype is absolutely not true it got us talking about the truly wacky ones we have had the pleasure of encountering.

I remember when I was a kid, one of my girlfriends owned a beautiful but aging dun broodmare. The entire acreage consisted of this mare and all of her babies.

Well one of those babies was a 2 year old chesnut mare, Daisy. She was flashy for a chesnut, with 4 socks and a nice, even blaze and excellent conformation to boot. She was to be sent to the trainer the next spring, and let me tell you I felt incredibly sorry for whichever cowboy had to break her in.

This horse was spooky all of the time. All the time! From sun up to sun down, this horse bolted and shied away from everything and anything that moved, and even the things that didn't move. I remember spending an entire weekend at their farm, and we had to be careful in the pens because she was constantly bolting all over the place. We slept on the porch that night (it was the middle of summer, and we were kids!) and I found it very hard to sleep because of this mare galloping around the 3 acre pen all night.

I could not believe how regular, how every-day, of a temperament this was for that mare. To this day, I am still baffled by it. I mean, she spooked at things in her own pasture! A pasture which she spent her whole life in! I never did ask how the breaking went, but I can just imagine...

Please feel free to share your crazy mare experiences - only rule is they HAVE to be chestnut!
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post #2 of 24 Old 10-22-2015, 11:28 AM
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My dad had a wonderful mare, Josie. Absolutely stunning and such a gem. We didn't get along so great as horse and rider though. We didn't have the same sort of connection... we could work, but there was no... click, umph, extra, pizazz etc in it.

She had a speciality. You'd be having a great lesson, and she'd spook and spin in to the middle of the school, then carry on as though it hadn't happened. It took a while, but we managed to get her out of it. My dad broke ribs doing it, I managed to stay on a spin and bolt once but fell off at the end and fractured my tailbone.

She is now retired in a huge field with a grass belly and shines like copper in the sun. You could point her at any jump and she'd go for it, she loved it. She had a true heart, she just had a wire loose in their some times and liked to keep us on our toes!

I do miss that ginger fuzz, though. She has quite a rough nose, and she'd get it on your back and twitch it left and right for a party trick.
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post #3 of 24 Old 10-22-2015, 12:17 PM
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I've known only one crazy chestnut mare...and it wasn't entirely her fault.

She came from a big-name Arab breeding barn down in Scottsdale. You know, the ones who are notorious for abusing their horses to get them to "perform right" in the ring. She was going to be sent to auction as a long yearling because she didn't make the halter cut. She was more *le gasp* a riding horse. Well, my friend heard about her from a her boss and went to pick her up. She had her a year before she almost lost her to a horrific pasture injury.

She had her boarded down in the Phoenix/Scottsdale area while she was up here working and when she went to pick up the filly and her gelding to move them up here (we're two hours away from Phoenix), she pulled in to find her filly barely able to stand with a DEEP puncture wound in her poll and a horrible infection in the bone. The lady my friend had the horses boarded with insisted that nothing had happened to the filly while on her property. Anyway, the vet was called and he gave her a less-than 10% chance of surviving, but said if she, by some miracle, did survive, she probably wouldn't be able to walk again. My friend took the chance and had her treated, including removing part of her first vertebrae to help get a handle on the infection in the bone. Several months later, the filly was still alive and doing okay. The vet then said that she'd make it, but if she did learn to walk again, she'd never make a riding horse. Again, my friend took that chance. Six months later, the filly was released from strict stall rest and was able to be turned out. She still had a ways to recover, but the worst was over.

When I started working for my friend, Remi would still walk with her head up in the air, trying to balance herself. If you could get her to trot, she made a giraffe look normal because she'd have to throw her head up to balance, plus her movement was very stiff-legged and side-to-side. Part of my job was hand-walking her in the arena and getting her to walk, then eventually trot, over ground poles to remind her where her feet were. She made a lot of good progress, but she still had her issues. The pipe had done irreparable nerve damage and had done neurological damage, as well. She would spook hard at her own shadow. Anything new was the end of the world, even if it was just a different halter.

Then we moved from the barn we were boarding at to a barn my friend started leasing. There was a nice barn with 12' by 12' inside stalls. We put Remi in an inside stall during the winter because she couldn't grow much of a winter coat...and she turned into a neurotic mess. She paced, she pawed, she dug. Eventually, we realized that it reminded her of the stall she grew up in (Scottsdale breeders are notorious for keeping their horses in small, dark stalls all the time, only taking them out for shows, to keep them on high alert to everything outside of that stall and thereby achieving that sought-after look and movement in the halter ring). You could not clean her stall with her in it because she would constantly spook and bolt blindly whenever she saw the apple picker (found out later that the Hispanic guys hired to clean the stalls would beat the horses with the apple picker if they didn't move out of their way in a timely manner). We taught her to lunge and as long as the arena looked EXACTLY the way it looked the day before, she was fine. Move a jump or some ground poles, and it was literally the end of the world to her.

After I left my friend's employ, she offered to give me Remi, but I'm just not a mare person and I felt I was too heavy for her light build (I like heftier, chunkier horses ). A few years later, I found out that Remi had been started under saddle and she had outgrown some of her spookiness. I saw her again a year or so ago when the girl who owns her was boarding briefly at my barn. Remi is still a neurotic mess at times and can have meltdowns over seemingly innocuous things, but she has apparently turned into a nice little riding horse.

This is Remi when I first met her:

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Last edited by DraftyAiresMum; 10-22-2015 at 12:23 PM.
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post #4 of 24 Old 10-22-2015, 03:32 PM
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I own the reason chestnut mares have a bad name

Spice is either completely mad or just has a devilish sense of humour. I was once leading a ride with her and she point blank REFUSED to go any further along the path because a beam of sunlight was making a line in the sand. This same horse has done several cross-country competitions and never put a foot wrong.

Once my sister was trying to catch her pony in the field, and Spice decided it was HER time to go riding and wouldn't let my sister's pony get to her. I know I should have helped, but I was on the floor laughing while she ran all over the field with her pony running behind her, trying to get away from Spice long enough to get his bridle on!

Spice is bomb-proof in basically any situation, but she has been known, when leading a ride, to spook dramatically at nothing, thereby upsetting every other horse in the ride, and then continue onwards as though nothing has happened.

She has a thousand other infuriating quirks and sometimes she makes me want to tear my hair out, but she is the most reliable, trustworthy horse I have ever met. I am a chestnut mare fan, and will be forever.

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post #5 of 24 Old 10-22-2015, 04:17 PM
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Man, you guys make my red mare seem like an angel.

Regardless, I'll tell you a little bit about her.
The first time I met Merry, she had been given to a friend of mine for free. She had had one owner ever who raised her from a filly. Supposedly she was kept pretty isolated and pampered and babied, I always think of Rapunzel in her tower. Then when she came of age she was sent off to several different trainers, and from what I've been told it sounds like one of them was blatantly abusive and the other just didn't get her. I guess when they got her back she got ridden around a little bit, but then she got tossed back out into the pasture to sit for a good number of years.

When my friend got her she was wild. She was scared of people and of everything and when you'd put her in the roundpen she'd just tear around madly, kicking up her heels and shaking her head and galloping tirelessly until you stopped her. Her only speed was very, very fast.
When my friend brought me to meet her, this was the horse I saw, and I just fell in love with her. I'm sure her looks helped as she's absolutely stunning to look at, but I've always had a thing for crazy, difficult horses.

I knew that my friend didn't really have the time or energy to really deal with this horse, so I put it out there that I would be more than happy to take her on. First she decided she would send her to the trainer's for a month, and honestly I saw no difference at all when she got back. Still she feared people, still she struggled to stand tied, still she liked to take off and tear around like a wild thing. The trainer cautioned us that she was very difficult to control and recommended a twisted wire bit for riding.

I worked with her for weeks on the ground, gaining her trust and then respect. When she was tied, she would charge you with her shoulder and try to run you over, she would threaten/try to kick with all four legs (I didn't clean the back ones or brush her tail for a good week or so because of this), and if anything happened she didn't like she would pull back. She also HATED being brushed, she would just pace all over the place and again try to trample me when I brushed her. All the while she just had this faraway look in her eye, it was plain to see that she was fearful and mentally not with me. Luckily, after some weeks, she started to come around, and we made a lot of progress.

Finally I was able to ride her. I first got on her in a small pen in a rope halter, and she ignored everything I did and immediately tried to rub me off on the nearest tree. I kept trying and eventually coaxed her to walk around a little bit. As I rode her more and more often and switched her to my smooth snaffle, I found that underneath this initial exterior was an incredibly soft and willing horse. Once I rode her enough times that she was convinced that I wasn't going to rough her around, but wasn't gonna roll over for her either, she started to actually enjoy coming out for rides.

I've worked with her now for around 5 years and she is a very different horse. She's calm in the pasture, lunges and rides well, LOVES to be brushed, and isn't scared of people anymore, just thinks they're made of carrots. But she still has her quirks. Every now and then she doesn't want to be caught and likes to spin around like she's about to kick when I go to do so (though she's never done it), she likes to kick her hind legs out and swish you in the face with her tail when you pick her back feet up, she HATES working outside of an arena, she bucks a little bit every once in a blue moon when she doesn't feel like doing something undersaddle...She's just probably never going to be that reliable trail horse I hoped she could be, but in the arena she'll do anything you point her at and I often feel like I don't do her nearly enough justice. Still, nobody gets her like I do, and we have an understanding about that.


"Tell a Gelding. Ask a Stallion. Discuss it with a Mare... Pray if it's a Pony!"
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post #6 of 24 Old 10-22-2015, 04:49 PM
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I'm usually pretty rational but I won't touch red mares. Maybe it's just my experience but it seems 2 out of every 3 chestnut mares are either bad tempered, difficult or nutters. Only colour I won't buy. I've owned two before, and known plenty more.

My last one Rosie, you'd give an inch and she would take a mile. Tough love made it so I could handle her, but when my dad came to visit she tried to back him into corners. She would challenge people in the paddock and always try to trample my dog.

My one before that was so unreliable. One day she might be fine, the next she would be trying to kick, bolt, spinning. She was aggressive. Not worth my time, I'd rather spend it on nice bays :P
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post #7 of 24 Old 10-22-2015, 05:58 PM
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The horse I'm currently riding is a chestnut mare. I've known her for a couple of years, but only started riding her towards the end of this summer after my gelding died. Chestnuts aren't my favorite color (no bias against them, but I don't think it's the most attractive color) and I dislike female animals of most species. Still, she's what I could get access to.

She also has a reputation around the barn for being nuts. She's prone to violent spooks, which can be triggered by any little thing. If she doesn't want to do something then she'll majorly act up, and stay worked up for the duration of the ride. I've seen the owner ride, and while she managed to stay on during these episodes it did not look fun. Riding in the outdoor arena almost always resulted in a battle between the two.

I haven't had any significant issues with this horse since I've started riding her. After talking to the trainer (who knows horse and owner very well) I tend to agree that most of her issues are caused by her owner. She rides very infrequently, and when she does she expects a lot out of her green horse. She immediately resorts to jerking her around to get her way, and the horse responds in the same manner. The mare has always been very quiet and willing for me, and responds well to a quiet rider with a quiet hand. The owner has ridden once since I've been working the horse. She was 10x worse the next time I rode her. Perhaps sheer coincidence, but idk how she would manage to screw that horse up that badly with only one ride. I don't pay for a lease or anything so have no right to complain about the owner riding, but I always hope she doesnt make it out...

It is interesting to see how her attitude has improved with consistent, proper work. When I started riding her she never did anything worse than some minor spooks during one ride, but she was always seeming very anxious and alert to her surroundings. No confidence in her rider at all. Now she's finally starting to chill out. She'll actually stretch and walk on a loose rein, stand quietly when asked instead of anxiously stepping around, and try to do what I ask of her. Even on the ground she used to be constantly looking around and stepping from side to side when tied. She went from that to standing quietly, and now she'll even try to play with the lead rope and interact with you when grooming her. It can get quite irritating, so we're working on the line between being comfortable/playful and being too annoying. Even a couple of other boarders have commented on how much nicer she's looking.

I do intend to buy another horse at some point, so I'm being careful not to become too attached to her. When I decide the time's right to start looking I'm considering asking the owner if she's willing to sell, but I do understand that she may not at all be interested. If that's the case I'll feel bad for moving on from her, but it is what it is. As it is I really appreciate all I'm learning from her! She's the complete opposite of my old horse, and that's what I need right now.
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post #8 of 24 Old 10-22-2015, 06:20 PM
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i have one chestnut mare that it an absolute saint and i have another one that is the entire reason for the "crazy chestnut mare" stereotype.


the "crazy" mare is Zinnia (aka Zinny). i love her to death but i would NEVER let an inexperienced person handle her. i got her for free and paid $1 for the bill of sale and her APHA papers because her previous owner was a beginner and was terrified of her. he never should have bought her in the first place. it was an honest mistake but he was in way over his head.

she is a beautiful APHA chestnut overo with 2 blue eyes. gorgeous shiny coat with high stockings on all of her legs. the 2 front legs have white up to or just over her knees and the 2 rear leg markings go almost to her belly. she has a white splotch on her belly on one side and her face markings look like a blaze on one side and the other side is a true white face.

she has a couple nick names. sometimes i call her my Jekyll and Hyde mare. my husband usually refers to her as Crazy or the She Devil. lol

this mare is high energy and not afraid of anything. if she finds something she doesnt like, instead of spooking like a normal horse would, she will confront it and attack (she either paws and stomps at it with her front legs, or spins around and double barrel kicks it. she has great aim too). we have had to weld several fence panels back together thanks to her and she left a few of them un-salvageable.

she absolutely HATES most other horses (and any other animal for that matter) and would just assume kill them if she can reach them. one time one of our goats had the misfortune of deciding to climb under the fence and into the pasture with Zinny. she instantly pinned her ears and charged full speed across the pen and after the poor goat. luckily the goat got back under the fence and out of reach before Zinny could get there. otherwise it would probably have been the last thing that goat ever did.

she likes to pretend to be friendly towards other animals to lure them into her trap. she will nicker and act cute and friendly until the other horse (or whatever other animal she is focusing on) gets close enough for her to reach. then she will pin her ears flat and charge them.

the only horse she likes is my older gelding Wally. it took the 2 of them months before i could even let them sniff each other with a fence between them without explosions from both of them (Zinny knows exactly what buttons to press to set off even the calmest of horses). now they are neighbors that share a fence line and love each other. but every now and then you will hear an ear piercing squeal from Wally because Zinny found a new way to **** him off or decided to randomly bite him for no reason.

when this mare is in season EVERYONE knows it. she will squirt and wink and flash and squeal at anything that moves. she is a true mare and will not let you forget it for a second.

Zinny does have another side to her. with me she is a very sweet horse. i had to give her some tough love in the beginning and we had a couple good battles when i first got her but i earned her respect. she now knows better than to try any of her tricks with me so i have been able to form a close bond with her.
if i call her when she is in the pasture she will stop whatever she is doing and come trotting up to me and put her head down so i can rub her forehead.
she nickers at me every time she sees me and is very calm with me and follows me like a puppy dog while still respecting my space.
i can walk her around the pasture and through obstacles and patterns with no need for a halter.
when i am grooming her she will pick up all 4 feet without me barely having to ask her.
i can even wash her face with soap when i give her a bath and she will let me rinse her head with the hose with no objections.
because of her white face around her eye and mouth on the one side and the fact that we live in the desert she will sun burn so i have to put sunscreen on her daily during the summer. i dont even have to halter her in order to do this and she will let me use the "scary" aerosol sunscreen on her with no issues.

this mare definitely has her long list of quirks and fits the "crazy chestnut mare" stereotype but she is my favorite out of the group to work with (shhhhh dont tell my other horses). she can be frustrating and make me want to pull hair out but she is very rewarding to work with when it is just me and her. ive always believed that even the craziest of mares has another side to them. ive seen examples of this time and time again over the years. that other side may only come out for certain people or in certain situations but it is in there somewhere. thats why "chestnut mares" are some of my favorites.
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post #9 of 24 Old 10-22-2015, 06:26 PM
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I have an overwhelming bias in favor of the "nuttiest of the nuts" - chromed-out chestnut Thoroughbred mares. I inherited it from my mother ;) I love them. I just love charismatic and brainy horses in general, though.

“Thoroughbreds are the best. They’re lighter, quicker and more
intelligent. The best of any breed is the Thoroughbred horse, the best
of that breed is better than any other breed." - George Morris
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post #10 of 24 Old 10-22-2015, 06:41 PM
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There is a reason my most special chestnut mare is registered as KC Poison Ivy. My son thinks of her as the dragon at the gate. Very one person only oriented and while I enjoy her and her antics for the most part there are very few others that she will allow in her space. Halloween is my favorite time as for me she'll happily play the part of Clifford the Big Red Dog complete with her own studded collar and tricks like sitting, rolling over and playing dead. She shakes, too. Invade her space or threaten me though and she will literally pick you up and shake you like a rag doll which is why she is segregated and there are warning signs on her fence. The other three all have their quirks and are quick to take advantage but are solid as rocks. Well, except Jazz who will silently stalk you if you walk in the pasture at night and then charge or blow up in front of you stopping just short of running you over.
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