How to better understand what the horse would excel at.

“Do you have anything to offer us in matching you to a new horse (horse purchase)? How to know which horse will pair up nicely, and how to understand the capabilities of the horse I order to match your goals, and possibly getting a better understanding of what the horse is most interested in before you buy? This last point I can provide an example where we bought a horse which did not enjoy dressage, the endless flat work about the discipline. However, once you put a cow in front of him, he excelled and enjoyed his job. Perhaps we could rephrase saying; how to better understand what the horse would excel at. Do you have a podcast already done on this topic? Is it possible to find direction on these points of interest?”-Lori

This is an interesting question to break into different thoughts.

Quick answer

The quick and easy answer is to know specifically what you want to do: reining, dressage, barrel racing and buy a horse that is already performing at the level you want to compete at.
The second easiest recommendation is similar to the first but requires a professional, preferably the person who will be training the horse, who will help you evaluate a horse that is not fully trained yet but has potential for the discipline.


The complications are this:
1) does the horse have the physical talent to ride at the desired level?
2) does the horse have the aptitude for the training that level requires?
3) does the trainer like the horse?
4) does the trainer have the talent to train the horse to the desired level?
5) does the rider have the talent to ride the horse at the desired level?
6) does the rider have the true desire to ride at that level?

The easiest way to envision the extremes here would be to picture a child in 4H who wants to show in all of the classes. Typically one child and one horse can show in ALL the classes; western pleasure, barrels, reining, showmanship, jumping, trail…everything.
But not all at the same level.
And not at the level of a world champion.

There are a lot of levels between this example and the highest rungs of each level.

Amount of training required

Another layer to consider is the requirements of different disciplines as a whole. Oddly enough…I have found that when evaluating horses most are open to training to a solid level…across many disciplines. That means one horse that can do an average or slightly below average job…at a lot.
Typically the physical limits begin to get in the way: the average horse that isn’t really built to slide, the barrel horse who’s heart just isn’t in running, the dressage horse that struggles with upper level moves.

It is easy to confuse a horse liking one job over another due to the job requirements rather than the actually aptitude of the horse. Given the chance to do jobs that require less training…most horses (and humans) will pick that route…especially if the pay rate is the same!

I could easily argue that Willow enjoys trail riding more than dressage or reining. I could argue the same thing for myself! But I do both because the more detailed work, even though it does feel like work, helps us both to improve our physical coordination and mental connection.


  1. Jan McDougald on February 7, 2021 at 2:08 pm

    Enjoyed this relatable article. At my age, a Medicare card holding senior, my two horses are what I have and I would not want to sell either to have one with more aptitude. I have fun with obstacles, an occasional local gaited show and intro level dressage – test of choice, plus a couple lessons a month. It’s a way to stay challenged, learning and having fun. Non of it overtaxes my two Fox Trotters physically, if anything it’s more mental. Many days we enjoy a good trail ride. My formula would not work for equestrians that want to reach greater goals in the competition world, but it works for me and my horses.

  2. Colleen Spada on February 4, 2021 at 1:18 pm

    I love this topic! How would you or did you consider these when you adopted Presto? We are seriously thinking of adopting from Last Chance this Spring, but I would like to keep these pointers in mind when picking the foal. Please, your suggestions will be so helpful. Thank you in advance, Colleen

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