Horse Temperament Test

By Terry Golson


The woman who sold Tonka to me told me a story about him to explain his temperament. Her horses were turned out in big grassy fields in rural Maine. It was deer hunting season and shots were fired in the woods. All of the horses startled and bolted away from the noise. Except for Tonka. He stood still and looked in the direction of the gunshots.

The other day the sky suddenly went from sunny to dark, like that scene out of Ghostbusters. Thunder rumbled. All of the horses chose to go inside of their stalls. Except for Tonka. He stood at the edge of his paddock to watch the storm roll in.

Sensibly, Tonka calmly walked back inside before the first raindrop fell. This isn’t a horse who’s been taught to be dull to the world through the technique of flooding, rather, he’s curious, thoughtful and levelheaded.

Tonka was born with a sensible nature, but I don’t take it for granted, and it doesn’t get us through all situations. For that, there’s training. (I’ve written about that several times. Here’s one blog.)

How does your horse react to incoming weather?


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11 thoughts on “Horse Temperament Test

  • Daisy

    Tonka is such an interesting horse and indeed different from the majority ! I remember when you posted a few months ago that you discovered he was curious and looking at the decor when travelling behind the car and you would eventually buy a trailer with a window… 🙂

    Have a good day ! It’s heat wave for 3 days beginning today here in Montreal. How is it in your neighbourhood ?

    • Terry Golson Post author

      I already have a trailer with windows, all around, and it’s got a white interior. Rubber mats, wooden floor. A good traveling space. 🙂 It is hot here, but appropriate for the summer. Not bad!

  • Louise

    We don’t have a horse, but our cat is similarly curious and unafraid. She’s lived with us for 16 years on a bus and then a boat, each with a large, loud diesel engine. The VERY loud airhorns wake her up, but don’t frighten her. When weird noises or sudden motions on the boat happen, she approaches them rather than hiding. We were even struck directly by lightning this year and she only sat up and looked around!

    When I hear that horses are skittish or that cats are “fraidy cats,” I wonder about the wide variety of personalities and upbringings that make those stereotypes.

    • Terry Golson Post author

      How an animal behaves is all a mix. Genetics, exposure to stress, training, parenting, weaning. There’s new research into maternal diets that indicate that deficiencies cause changes in how the babies learn.

  • sara russell

    I enjoyed your post, as usual. It always uplifts and calms me, as well as helps me to better understand my own horses. I raise and show Arabians and I love and enjoy them very much. I just sold two colts that will be headed to the show ring
    Tonka is so beautiful and seems to be very tuned in to you and you to him. He is a very lucky horse..

    • Terry Golson Post author

      Many years ago I rode an Arabian for his owner. Mostly trails, some ring work. He was super smart and personable, and brave. But not brave if the rider was worried, as he paid attention to what you were thinking. I have no idea if that was breed type or just him, but he certainly was a lot of fun.

      • sara russell

        Arabians are super smart and a lot of fun; they do pay attention to what the rider is thinking. I grew up with horses and they are in my blood. I didn’t have any for years when I was raising my family. After my son died unexpectedly when he was 28, my grief level was so overwhelming I knew I needed help.The cause of death was related to two concussions he suffered previously.So, I went into therapy and bought two arabian mares from my friend. I think the horses helped more than the therapy.

        • Terry Golson Post author

          My deepest condolences on the loss of your son. I’m sure your mares continue to be a well to go to for mental health.
          I’d like more experience with Arabians. I think they must be like the Border Collies of the horse world. Not for everyone, but when it’s a good match, it’s the most fun.