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What makes a great horse partner?

How do you know if your horse is the best fit for you?

Many horse purchase decisions are made on impulse. We fall in love with the look in their eye, their shiny coat, and the dreams of what we can experience together. 

Sometimes, an intuitive connection with a horse leads us in just the path we need to take, even when it’s not the one we planned. 

However, with a little reflection on what you want to create with your horse partner, whether it is your first horse, your next horse, or the best lesson horse, you can choose a horse that is a great fit for you and your riding goals. 

I think of three different factors when I evaluate the suitability of a horse and rider partnership, and I will share them with you in this week’s video. (Hint… a great fit is more than just the horse’s training level.)

These four suitability factors are just as helpful when evaluating the fit with a current horse as well. 

Click below to watch today’s video.

See you in the comments!



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38 Responses

  1. I am 80+ my mare is a quite spooky but I realize my riding ability is limited to the ring now due to medical issues. I will have her here as long as I live & my daughters horse is my horses daughter’s so I think she is going to spend her life here.

    1. Hi Donald,
      She’s lucky to have you. They are lifelong companions. Thanks for sharing.

  2. I am in the search of my first horse and this video was perfect for me! It solidified what type of horse I need to be looking for. Thank you!

    1. Judy,
      So glad to hear this video was helpful to you! Hope you find what you are looking for. 🙂

  3. And, take your time! I tried a horse three times before I gave him up because the cost was too great. Then, not long after, I found the perfect mare that I have had for almost eight years – the right price, and the right level of experience, and a very, very good friend. We’re always finding a way to learn together.

    1. Nancy,
      Funny how that works out sometimes! But lovely you ended up with such a great fit. Thank you for sharing!

  4. I am considering buying my first horse, so the timing of this video cannot be more perfect! I am currently leasing a horse from my instructor and as much as I love Midnight, I feel like he is not the right horse for me. He is a bit dull, and he needs a lot of leg, and I am afraid that I am learning bad habits from him. He also has a big barrel and it’s not always comfortable to ride him for my hips. I would have overlooked that part, so I am glad that you brought it up.
    Thank you for such an informative video!

  5. I bought my last horse rather unexpectedly from a horse trader who knew very little about him. In hindsight, it was not a wise decision, but we are moving very slowly through training together and figuring each other out. He does not have a very comfortable trot, but I am getting used to it!

    1. Falco,
      Every horse has different things to teach us. Glad to hear you are taking the time to feel each other out!

  6. Great information. I will be looking for a new horse soon, so now I have a good reference to fall back on as I look. Thank you!

    1. Vicki,
      Wishing you all the best in your search! Thanks for watching.

  7. The last two horses I have bought just looked right on the pictures. I did go and see them and they confirmed what I thought. Middle weights . One turned out to be super sensitive and the other a mare who was being weaned from her foal.Once in work although green she was great too. My main points to look for were that they were sane! and that I could somehow connect. I really like your advice. It is so true about build and personality but at 75yrs I have had many horses of various breeds and builds and some definitely suited better than others – wish I had your advice then.

    1. Marina,
      It’s sometimes tricky to really know how a horse may grow and change with us. Sounds like you ended up with a nice partner! Thank you for watching and sharing your experience.

  8. Helpful video! Another important consideration is the condition of the horse and if it has/is likely to suffer injuries and/or develop maintenance issues based on breed, age, past experience…

    1. Karen,
      Another very good consideration! Thank you for watching and sharing.

  9. I Love my Mare and her caring emotional side; Problem is; she gets herd bound to horses we see on the trail, if we ride up on a group of horses she will want to jig until we get to them, and when we ride past she wants to fight and argue to go back, mind you, it doesn’t matter even if she is riding with members of her own herd. It’s quite scary if we’re on a sketchy part of a trail with drop offs on either side. EEK!

    1. Christine,
      Buddy sour horses are often that way because of separation anxiety, and it can really test our patience and resolve–especially if the resulting behavior presents a safety risk.
      You may find these two blogs on buddy sour horses helpful as Callie shares some management factors and ways to work through it in a way that builds relationship with your horse.

  10. I ride so many horses, but my favorite and one that is a perfect fit for me, is a smoothe ride, listens well, and has a quieter, but curious disposition (like me!) She is great all around in what I like to do, barrels, calves, trails, leisure riding in the ring. Since I have severe hip arthritis, I need a smoothe ride of a horse, as well as an all around calm horse, which is what I look for. My other favorite is an older gelding Arabian as we have bonded over 8 years together. He takes care of my needs and is very patient as he knows I’m not firing on all 6 cylinders LOL.

    1. Marilyn,
      Sounds like you two are great partners for each other! Thanks for sharing!

  11. I already had my dream horse. His name was Jest In Tyme. We called him Jason. He was a 16 hh, grey, registered Arabian gelding. He was level headed, beautiful to look at and very smart. I got him through a friend that inherited 30 plus horses when their owner died and she needed to rehome some of them. He was amazing! Unfortunately a couple of years after I got him he developed Cushing’s disease. Working with our veterinarian and farrier we kept him comfortable for as long as we could until he foundered for the 3rd time and we needed to euthanize him. I have always loved the Arabian breed. I feel they represent all the best qualities of the horse in a compact, elegant package! Jason taught me so much while we rode together. I think that is another quality to be considered when choosing a horse. He took really good care of me while riding. I will definitely be looking for another Arabian partner in the future!

    1. Diane,
      Such a fun name! He sounds like he was a wonderful equine partner for you and I’m so sorry for your loss.
      It is so fulfilling and rewarding to find a horse partner you can really build that mutual trust relationship with. Arabians are a very personable and intelligent breed.
      I hope you find you another great horse partner to keep learning with!

  12. I’ve not been in the position to pick out a horse. Rather, They more or less come into my life and I learn how to be with them… I’m currently going from tall (17+ hand) OTTB gildings to (15 hand) Stock type mares. The girls like me but they are different

    1. Philip,
      Sometimes horses choose us rather than the other way around! 🙂 We can learn a lot of different things from riding and working with many different horses.

  13. Hi: I am in my sixties and had horses as a teenager. A year ago I bought a 6 year old Tennessee Walker. She is friendly but very spirited and somewhat anxious. I have been trying to learn from any and all I meet. My challenge is that some people who see her and talk with me say continue to be calm and teach her calmly to respect you as leader. Others tell me that I am too easy on her and I need to smack her once in awhile to make her mind. I am confused. Thanks.

    1. Hi Nancy! “Show em who’s boss” is a common ideology taught in conventional riding. In this blog, Callie talks about why “being the boss” is not necessary to be an effective rider and have your horse be a willing partner:
      You may also find this blog on unconventional thoughts about nervous horses useful:
      Hope this helps!

  14. I bought my horse before I knew what I was getting into. I had been riding a friends 30 yr old Tennessee Walking Horse that could barely flat walk. I took my first lesson on another TWH that had a beautiful flat walk, running walk and canter. That’s when I decided I needed to buy my own horse. My trainer told me to try out as many horses as I can. “You will know when it is the ‘right’ horse”
    One day after my lesson, my trainer told me she had a horse that I needed to see. I put the lesson horse away, walked down the aisle and there she was all tacked up. My trainer gave me one instruction: squeeze, don’t kick. I flew around the ring so fast and smooth like a magic carpet ride. We had a chat after about what level of horse I want and I said “I’d like a horse I can grow into” 😂😂😂 Famous last words of a horse crazy girl that did not know what she did not know!!! And that was the beginning of my journey with a horse that was over my experience level…
    It’s taken 6 years of intense learning (lots of spinning, bolting and falling) to bring my skill up to the level my horse needs me to be. I am proud to say I did not give up but it’s not the path I would have chosen if I knew better. Thank you Calle, for addressing this topic in a clear concise manner.

  15. I have had 5 horses in my adult life and have enjoyed everyone. Each one has taught me to be a better horse person. My last horse, Jack, I bought at the age of 4 and again he has taught me many things. When I bought him I was looking for a young horse that was calm and curious. Jack is a great horse, I have no serious expectations, I don’t compete but love to do dressage training and trails. Thanks for all your help with Jack he is coming along very nicely.

  16. My equine partner is the right size and temperament, but I had some struggles with his level of training which was not very advanced. I have since worked through that and although I went through a bit of a frustration period as I was used to better trained horses, I am experienced enough and ultimately he has made me an honest rider as he makes me earn everything (LOL) and found a good trainer. The moments when we both grew (like our first good canter and little jump) has made us absolutely best buddies. I can read him like a book now (including his monkey business) and will have him forever. Thank you for these videos and articles – they have also helped me.

  17. I knew I’d found my horse when he calmly walked up to me in the field and sighed. I was hooked. He’s an Arabian, but the most non-spooky horse I’ve ever known, so it’s important to keep in mind that it’s the horse, not the breed that matters.

  18. I bought my mule at an online auction without “throwing a leg over”. He has a kind mind and is willing, BUT I am not that experienced and I feel he takes advantage of that. I would like an equine that is 14H or less and is calm and slow down the trail. Doesn’t spook easily.

  19. I bought my horse after riding him for 18 month. He is kind, curious, often on high alert and feedback from a professional trainer – he doesn’t know much but he tries hard. We are on our learning journey together.

  20. My horse is a 1000# yellow lab Quarter horse/Pony of the America cross who thinks everything is a toy. He is very curious and most of the time wants to be part of whatever your doing. Unless he doesn’t really want to -then he tests your patience. All in all he is a super comfortable ride who takes great care of his Mom (Me). He stands at the mounting block quietly, listens to voice commands, and pays close attention to my needs. Due to previous injuries we mostly walk & trot..but he knows when I’m feeling good & takes care of me when I’m not. We have an amazing partnership. I just love that boy!!!!

  21. My dream horse would be tall and slender. I have always felt safer on tall horses and I don’t know exactly why. Maybe it’s because I think I have more time and more body to hold on to in case of an emergency unwanted dismount? I also feel good on a more forward moving horse because it makes me think about concentrating on my aids more than keeping my mind on just getting the horse to go. I’m 70 and have had a few years of experiencing different kinds of school horses and have loved the experience on all of them.

  22. I just love my horse Fiona, but in terms of good fit, I do not think she had enough training for the level of rider I am. While I am short, I still like a solid large barreled horse below me and she is 15’3″ a good size for me. She is a funny personality as if she knows you she is very sweet and interested if she does not she needs a warm-up time but is not rude just a little standoffish. I love the relationship I have built with her and have needed to readjust my goals so that we are learning together and both building confidence to be a safe and fun partnership.

  23. I just bought a 4 year old quarter horse gelding. I think he is a great match for me physically, and mentally. He has been started, but is not broke to ride. I have great support at the barn I am boarding him at. Training him is challenging, but I think we will be great together.

  24. I am in the learning stage of horses and find these talks thought provoking, helpful and practical. I am currently riding a medium size Hanoverian-Connemara pony mare. She is a great size fit for me. She is also intelligent and a very good worker. We are building a good relationship as we work together. I am not ready to buy my own horse, but I really like how this horse fits me both physically and mentally! I really enjoy these presentations! I would like to buy Callie’s 63 exercises to do with your horse.

  25. I bought my first horse 2 yrs ago. I loved the breed, the size, his personality. But, he is quite sensitive. We are not sure why? He’s an Icelandic and they are supposed to be pretty calm, often he is, but, very reactive to any farm machinery, trucks, cars, any sudden big noises, anything new put in his surroundings ie: a box by the mounting block. Hearing your video and starting to take your course I’m finally realizing we are going to have to go back to basics, get a better connection and work on his reactivity. I don’t really have a trainer per say and will be doing this alot on my own. So, as a novice rider I think I bought a horse thats a little more horse that I planned on. Its taken two years, but, I think he’s starting to connect with me and vice versa. Fingers crossed.

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