Learning to ride a horse

Interesting Horse Sayings

Everyone learning to ride a horse will at some time hear sayings about horses outside their standard horseback riding instructions. While there’s truth to some of these adages, others should be taken with a pinch of salt!

White Feet

This is a warning for horse buyers:

“One white foot, buy him Two white feet, try him Three white feet, look well about him Four white feet, go without him.”

Conventional wisdom says that white feet on a horse are not as strong as dark feet. However, some famous horses have had four white feet – Secretariat, the Triple Crown winner, among them.

In the days of carriage horses, their color mattered for matching purposes. It was harder to team a horse with three or four white feet than with one or two.


The well-known saying “chestnut mare, beware!” is not completely without foundation. Some go further and add “chestnut Thoroughbred mare, beware!”

If you read Anna Sewell’s classic novel Black Beauty, you’ll recall that Ginger, Black Beauty’s close friend, was a chestnut mare who showed a fiery temper on many occasions.

My own experience with two mares unfortunately bears out the truth of this saying. But ironically the third one, a dreaded Thoroughbred chestnut mare, proved to be the best horse I ever owned.

I’d say chestnut mares should be treated with caution, but not completely ruled out.

Prophet’s Thumb

This is a pronounced dimple usually found on one side of a horse’s neck, and said to be the sign of an exceptional horse.

The story goes that the Prophet Mohammed marked his favorite five Arab mares with his own thumbprint, and that horses with this mark are descended from those mares.

I once owned a horse with this dimple who was a phenomenal jumper, able to jump a five-bar gate from standstill. So I cannot refute the truth of this saying!

An Interesting Quote

“When the horse’s jaws are in motion, his mind is at rest.” Pete Rose

You’ll understand the truth of this the more time you spend learning to ride. A horse munching grass or hay or his feed is content. When chewing the bit, he’s happy under saddle.

The only time this doesn’t apply is when he grinds his teeth, which a horse does for the same reason as a human. He is unhappy: either his teeth or his bit (or both) need checking, or the rider is being too severe with the hands.

You’ll discover that horse sayings are like old wives’ tales: fascinating but not always true!

Read more topics at the Horse Riding Resources page.


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