Cows and Bushes and Hair…Oh My! The Many Funny Quirks of Horses
Let’s face it – we all love the horses that challenge us. The ones that have unique, quirky personalities that drive us crazy. As years go by, these horses are the ones that we recall as our favorites. They are the ones that taught us the most during our show career. These horses are like mischievous kids that get into trouble but we secretly love them for it.
Often times, these horse are also the ones that go on to become famous because they have the “It Factor” and that special spark that sets them apart from the rest. While at the same time, you have to deal with all their funny and strange behaviors.
From spooking at a bush, puddles, a piece of paper on the ground, ponies, cows, alleyways – you name it – they may have seen these things a million times before, but all of a sudden, they may decide to take off bucking while you hold on for dear life. That’s why we love them. They keep our lives interesting and their quirks help us create a special bond with them.
We asked several well known exhibitors to share some of the funny quirks of their horses, and they did not disappoint.
Samantha Armbruster: Oops I Am Good (Hudson)
Hudson has quite the “quirk” when it comes to his hair-do. Anyone who knows his personality knows that he is a gentle giant with a puppy dog-like personality. However, if there is one thing in this world that spooks him like no other, it would be his forelock.
In spring of 2016, we were in Wilmington, Ohio at our first show of the season. On the last day of the show, I had Hudson in his stall and was prepping for the English classes later that day. Just as I had done many times before, I gathered up his giant forelock and began to braid it down so that I could tie it up to fit under the browband. All of a sudden, Hudson got a glimpse of his forelock hanging down in a tight, stiff braid and before I was able to tie it up – he went nuts. Thrashing around in his stall, leaping into the air like a fire breathing dragon, and shaking his head restlessly, he came unglued. I have honestly never seen a horse go cross-eyed before, but he thought that something was attacking his face. After a few seconds of sheer panic that felt like an eternity, I was able to catch him and quickly rip the braid out.
Ever since then, whenever I attempt to braid, straighten or even try to make his forelock look neat and manicured, he still acts goofy and would much rather have it be a disheveled mess. I claim that he likes to have his “bangs” in his eyes. For such a large horse, I am blessed that nothing else phases the big guy. However, that one quirk will always make me laugh, as, like many big creatures, he truly can be afraid of his own shadow.
Abbi Demel: There Goes My Zipper (Oops)
Oops has many quirks. Every morning when you walk into the barn, he whinnies very obnoxiously until you feed him, so we have just made it a habit to feed him first. Also, we are not sure why, but every year at the youth world he will spook after my patterns when the crowd claps, yells, or whistles. We always hope the judges are looking down or interpret it as if the pattern is done so that there is no penalty. What is weird is that he never spooks at any other shows in that same arena, only during the youth world.
Darcy Reeve: Ima Petite Classic (Kramer)
Every time Kramer gets a treat he sticks out his tongue and sucks on it. He will go a good few minutes with his tongue out. No one has ever been every to figure out why but I think it’s a tactic to look cute to get more treats…. which usually works!
Harley Huff: GW Jack Bar (George)
George is terrified of cows and won’t go anywhere near them. When I go to the Briggs’ house before the World Show, we always have to plan out when I’m going to ride and then when the boys can rope or else my horsemanship patterns consist of prancing in circles. He also has this habit of farting with his mouth. It’s so loud, and people always give me weird looks for it. Sometimes he does it in the inspection in showmanship, and it’s hard for me to not laugh during my pattern.
Meg DePalma-Whelan: Hotroddin Ona Harley (Harley)
My horse, Harley, is pretty observant about things. The time that sticks out in my mind was while practicing at home in Georgia. The outdoor pen is along a tree lined hilly road, which provides us some shade in the summer. My trainer, Clint, and I were just finishing up trail practice. I was walking Harley and cooling him down when he spotted something coming down the road. He slammed on the breaks, put his neck up like a giraffe and I’m pretty sure his ears were touching. I grabbed the horn just in case since I had long trail reins. Moments later comes a power truck with people in the bucket along the tree line. I have no idea how he saw that bucket through the trees and over the hill, but he did. I thought I was a goner.
Alyssa Hill: So Noticed (Danny)
When Danny and I went to the Congress last year in 2016, we entered the Youth 15-18 Trail as well as many other classes. We started out our trail pattern beautifully until Danny decided that a bush sitting by the rail in the back of the arena was a monster. I tried to get him to go over a lope over that was near this bush, but he veered sideways and refused to get anywhere near it. This ended up messing up our lope over. Of course, the rest of the pattern was one of the best patterns I’ve ever had on my horse. It’s funny how a single bush can mess up your pattern.
Kaleena Katz Weakly: Hours Yours and Mine (Blondie)
Blondie is notorious for getting her saddle under her belly when she is tied in her stall at the shows. I will loosen the girth in between rides to let her relax, so she manages to flip it under. She also tries her best to lay down when she is tied up because she loves her beauty sleep. Last but not least, we have to duck-tape her leg wraps overnight because she will take them off.
Olivia Tordoff: Sterling Version (Sterling) and Too Blazin Cool (Willy)
Surprisingly, Sterling is a very “spooky” horse. The mere sight of a push broom or a little pony and you are guaranteed to see Sterling start prancing and snorting.
Last year while showing Sterling in the horsemanship and doing rail work, someone was sweeping the aisle and he took off bucking. All I could do was try to calm him down and laugh it off. If it is windy and tent flaps, Sterling will snort or purr, and rather loudly I might add. It has become a running joke among my peers that Sterling is often “purring.”
He also has a habit of rubbing his nose on his front right leg following each ride once I take off his bridle. Sterling also has a love for treats; some may call it an obsession. Each time I give him a treat, he nickers and will continue to chase me around his stall while he scavenges through my pockets looking for more treats. I love Sterling with my whole being, and his little quirks make him even more unique. No matter my mood, he can always bring a smile to my face.
For example, last year while showing at Cloverdale, Indiana, Willy and I were competing in one of our first equitation classes and halfway through the pattern, Willy took off leaping like a deer. Once I calmed him down I hopped off and gave him a scratch on the neck, and it was if almost instantly he calmed down. Of course, I had to walk all the way across the pen, in front of the judges and apologized for the brief distraction and hoped they enjoyed the chance to laugh.
My trainer, Brent, and I still get a great laugh when someone asks, “Were you the girl whose horse took off bucking and leaping all the way across the pen?” So we have learned that Willy is not a fan of that arena, but otherwise he is so incredibly laid back and sweet.
Both of these horses mean the world to me and I love them both so much, quirks and all!
Paige Wacker: Ima Moxie Man (Frog)
Frog loves to flip his lip up at me whenever he’s feeling handsome, sassy, or irritated. He’s a character and always knows how to put a smile on my face. Frog tends to get spooked easily. For example, in the NYATT Showmanship at the Congress last year he got scared of the photographer. His reaction was equivalent to when you see your ex in public. Even though it was horrifying, it’s hilarious to look back at the video.
Ashley Hadlock: Touched N Moonlite (Regis)
In today’s world of social media, perfecting the ‘perfect’ selfie seems to be a must. Well, Regis has a very friendly, outgoing personality who loves his selfies. Any time the camera is out, he is ready with ears up and all. Ryan (Cottingim) likes to call him ‘Mr Selfie’ and ‘selfie time.’ If Regis is near you when the phone is in your hand, he nudges you wanting to take a quick selfie, and he knows how to smile too (pictured left).
Jenna Jacobs: Doodle Jump (Doodle)
Doodle has quite a few quirks. To start, when he was a three-year-old, he would eat everything. His favorite was to chew on the grooming supplies, so we got a small grooming towel with his name, embroidered on it and it became his chew toy. We would always have to bring it to the show pen so he could chew on it between classes. Another habit of his is that he loves to zip up people’s coats. To keep him occupied between splits and finals at the Congress, he would go around and zip up mine, my trainer’s, and other people’s jackets.
Lastly, Doodle is the most docile, bomb proof horse. So naturally, when we were doing our photo shoot with Mallory (Beinborn) a few years ago, we thought a bareback outdoors picture would be cute. My mom was holding Doodle and I was getting on when some noise spooked him and he took off running into the woods. I, of course, fell off and was in the dirt because I did not have my balance. My trainer at the time, Heidi Piper, had to ride off back to the woods on another horse to catch him.
Cori Cansdale: Promotional Asset (Chucky)
My horse, Chucky, has one quirk. He does not like to go down the chute in covered arenas, such as at Youth World or Congress. He has to be hand walked down the chute by one, or sometimes two, people. Once he gets about halfway down the chute, he’s perfectly normal and ready to show. He just doesn’t like the initial walk in. I first found out about this at Congress, and I freaked out because I didn’t know what was going on. Now I’m used to it and expect it.
Natalie Vargo: Art of the Deal (Rocco)
At the last horse show before the youth world in 2015, Rocco and I were doing our pattern when he spooked at the judges’ chairs. He flew across the arena, and I had no idea what was going on. He is a 12-year-old horse who spooked at judges’ chairs that he has seen his whole life. I cannot even begin to tell you how scared I was for the youth world after that.
Hannah Warren: Must Be A Detail (Stewie)
Stewie, my mom’s horse, is 14 years old and 17’1 and thinks he knows everything. He has the most personality of any horse I’ve ever met. First of all, he can smell an apple from a mile away and will practically tear down cross ties to get to one just out of reach. He has nuzzled open stall bags and dug through them to get to the apple at the bottom. He even eats them whole, in one swallow without even chewing. It scares us to death, but he’s a vacuum when it comes to treats. Potato chips, jelly beans, he’s had it all.
When he’s tired after a long show, he’ll hide his face behind his hay bag and thinks you can’t see him. If you walk away he’ll poke his head back out and then as soon as you go to his stall he’ll dart right back behind it. He’s also a yoga expert. After a long day of showing, he’ll stretch himself out, lift one leg up for a while, switch and do the other one, so he looks like a flamingo. Then he’ll make little lunges on both front legs. He takes care of himself.
He’s also too smart for his own good. If you’ve practiced a pattern a few times and then go to show and mess it up and make a wrong turn or something, he’ll resist you and try to go the right way that you’ve been practicing. We can tell he just sighs when we make him do it wrong and mess up the class for him. We should always listen to Stewie.
Sarah Elder Chabot: A Well Dressed Man (Calvin)
One thing that has always been funny about Calvin is that he is a big time sleeper. He sleeps all the time and snores a lot. He will not even get up sometimes when we are trying to put blankets on or take leg wraps off. His former owner, Janae Walker, and I joke all the time about him being a “world champion sleeper.”
After all these experiences, I think it’s safe to say that horses certainly are interesting characters. But, no matter what silly object may spook them, we all still love the horse that works to achieve all of our dreams, no matter how many scary bushes we have to pass along the way.
Does your horse have any funny quirks? Let us know in the comments section in this article or on our Facebook page.
About the Author: GoHorseShow intern, Emily Ambrose of Chardon, Ohio is in the 12th grade at Notre Dame-Cathedral Latin, commonly known as NDCL. She trains under the guidance of Seth and Amber Clark from Pierpont, Ohio. Emily avidly shows her horse, Play For A Minute, known as Ralphie, who is an 11-year-old quarter horse appendix. Her love of showing has been strengthened with the support of all of her friends in the Quarter Horse community and will continue her passion through and follow the completion of her college career.