Horse & Rider



What’s not to say that the greatest horses become outstandin­g because they all share a common quality—bravery? Bravery is the act or willingnes­s to do something despite being scared. Confrontin­g fear as a human can be hard. Now imagine being a horse—a prey animal that’s occasional­ly afraid of his own shadow. There are select horses that are born with unwavering confidence; meanwhile, others learn to be courageous with the help of their human counterpar­t. Whether it’s having physical bravery to withstand the roar of a crowded stadium or mental bravery to give more effort when it doesn’t seem possible, valiancy can come in all shapes and sizes.

Here’s how five horses conquered fear and in turn helped their riders become confident trainers.


Discipline: Reining.

Bio: McNutt has been riding Arabians since she was 4 years old. She now trains Arabians and Half-Arabians for reining competitio­n out of her barn in Scottsdale, Arizona.

Bravest Horse: Custom Gale, also known as “Custom,” is a 12-year-old gelding by reining champion Custom Crome and out of an Arabian mare that competed in cutting. Custom won a large futurity in Scottsdale, Arizona, as a 5-year-old and has won the U.S. Half-Arabian Nationals three times. You can also find Custom Gale and McNutt of the cover of the December 2018 issue of Horse&Rider.

The Obstacle: “Custom was wild and afraid of everything. He would get worried over the oddest things and was always standing at the back of his stall because he didn’t like when people would walk by. Now he stands with his head over the stall door asking for cookies. He went from a horse that would try to buck you off in the middle of your fast circles, to being one of the most fun horses to circle. You don’t have to worry when you’re riding him; he just does, and he loves it.”

Proving Moxie: “Last year at Nationals, I didn’t show him hard in the prelims; we just kind of went through the pattern. I was sitting in fourth after that run, and they do a composite in the finals. The day of the finals, I pressed on him and he was like something I’ve never felt. Custom just said ‘OK’ and kept giving more. Everything I asked, he’d just go one step above. He’s really special that way. It was amazing to be sitting in fourth and then end up winning by six points.”

Advice: “Be patient with a horse because you can see glimpses of really cool things if you’re patient. As a horse’s confidence builds, his ability is there, and if you wait, he’ll get better.”


Discipline: Clinician.

Bio: Goodnight is a lifelong equestrian and student of the horse. She focuses on classical horsemansh­ip and developing the horse and rider’s relationsh­ip.

Bravest Horse: Victory’s Pep-Sea was a Morgan mare by Saddleback Sea King and out of a daughter of Funquest Shazam. “Pepsea,” as Goodnight fondly called her, came into Goodnight’s life as a 5-yearold and passed away on Goodnight’s Salina, Colorado, ranch at the age of 29. Goodnight guided many trails on the back of Pepsea while ponying foals and difficult horses.

The Obstacle: “Pepsea was bucking riders off deliberate­ly. She'd go so far with each rider based on his or her riding ability. Through poor handling she was taught bad habits, which didn’t work for a horse like her that was hot-as-a-pistol and highly sensitive.”

Proving Moxie: “I remember riding out from my ranch with a few friends. Pepsea was out front, not because she had to be out front, but rather because few horses could keep up with her. All of a sudden Pepsea stopped, picked her head up, and snorted. I pressed her forward, and we went on a little way until she stopped and snorted again. Pepsea wasn’t a young horse; she had a lot of miles under her belt. I kicked her forward again and we rode to the top of the ridge where she stopped again and saw a herd of bull elk. There were more than 100 of

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