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Art Deco Breeding; Temperment Quirks

Hey all,

I have been there, done enough… not all of course, with many walks of horses and especially experienced with starting/restarting youngsters and problem horses yet this one has me stumped… The most tricky part, the behaviour seems to run in the sire line.

I know the owner of the stallion who is by Art Deco and he is known for doing these exact same things.

This mare, not owned by me, but a family member, is lovely, nicely put together, lunges well, handles well etc but she can be a total cracker to ride. You have to be soft, soft, as in don’t move just think or else she will become a little bronc with cow kicks and wild twists and leaps.

My brain of course automatically goes to look at the body, tack fit, strength or lamness issues when I cannot figure something out, yet this one has been vetted, now multiple times over two years with nothing triggering to be seen other than mild stiffness here and there. (Five year old). Mare gets chiro and massage therapy…

I rode her again today, the owner is fed up, the ONLY thing that seems to make her forget about being naughty is giving her something to anticipate. Simple things, as in, in this corner we walk on a long rein with lots of praise and good girls.

I have chatted back and forth with the owner of her sire and she states this is the exact behaviour her sire does and ultimately why she ended up with him because he is just too difficult for previous owners.

NOTE: This mare was never with the current stallion owner, so not a person learned issue.

I have spoken to a few random Art Deco line owners and they seem to express that their horses were difficult, one person types until middle age teens.

Is this actually something? A sire line that produces unruly but talented babies?

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As it appears most if not all physical issues have been checked off the list, perhaps look at possible metabolic causes. Things to check off:

Vitamin E
Vitamin B’s
muscle enzymes

Is it possible she had Lymes (mild case, something that no one would notice but may be enough to set her over the edge)?

Good luck trying to figure things out.

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Hmm that interesting…

Selenium is known deficiency here. We haven’t tried a supplement for that yet.

We did take her off grain because she was just hot hot. But she was on Masterfeeds Fushion and Equalizer for years.

Lyme is definitely prevalent here. I have yet to google those ‘symptoms’, thank you!!!

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Not ruling out physical issues which could indeed be congenital.

But some horses just want a softer ride. If the horse goes nicely with a softer ride, then ride her more softly.


That did cross my mind and with our attempts at figuring her out some of the riders may not have been the quietest. Thus likely why she may have escalated recently.

Mind you, she does relax a little after a good 15-20 minutes but she is already slathered in sweat simply from LIGHT walk trot canter with mainly walk.

Super unusual, I have never ridden one this sensitive.

Thank you all. It’s much appreciated.

She wants to teach you to be a better rider.

My current mare is not spicy reactive but boy does she hate a grinding seat. I had a fairly competent but basic trail rider type trying her out who reflexively tried to scoot her forward with her seat or even bounce her seat when she put on her leg. More horse got stoppy, more she bounced her seat. Once I really got it through to her that was not Ok maresy went better for her!

The dressage “driving seat” is a bit different from the trail rider twerk, but I would try to avoid that with your mare and have super soft glutes. No driving seat into fixed hands.

You might get away with this with a gelding

There’s a mare at our barn that I think might be Art Deco lines. Her rider is very push into fixed hands, effective but crude lower level dressage style. They have not been an easy pair. Mare is not very happy.


I don’t know that you can blame or exonerate Art Deco here. He was quite fashionable for a few years and was bred to a ton of mares – of varying degrees of quality. The one “own son” that I personally knew well was deaf (not sure this was on AD) and quite spooky as a result. I do know that his sire Samber was considered to be a moderating influence in terms of temperament.


Oh wow that’s very interesting!

Right! I am always up for ‘free’ lessons!

It is interesting to bounce these ideas, new light in what direction to explore next. Oddly I’m quite intrigued by her.

The sire, Smooth Criminal (Art Deco), had a bit of a rocky past and now a soft landing. A good portion of his quirks now could be previous handling if they are simply very sensitive types.

Slathered in sweat from light work makes me think of PPID (Cushings) even if she is young.

Really? That is super interesting… I have to google this

Interesting pedigree, Smooth Criminal was a Art Deco grandson (top side) and Art Deco great grandson (bottom side) with a good dose of QH, Paint and Thoroughbred in there. What is the dam of the mare?

Have you had her back x-rayed? I had a mare that showed extreme “quirks” under saddle, passed all vet checks, chiro’d and messaged regularly. Wasn’t until we shot xrays were we able to detect how terrible her kissing spine was.


I’ve never personally had an Art Deco, however… in college I was friends with a girl from Virginia (back in the late 90s) who seemed very familiar with his offspring, and had a mare by him, and she definitely left me with the impression that many of them were very quirky and could be “tough” to ride… and she was an excellent rider herself.

But I don’t have any first hand experience.

I owned a mare out of Art Deco. She was very talented and VERY sensitive, but she did not ever bronc as you described with the mare you posted about.

My mare had an extensive show record prior to me, first owner that showed her was very successful for many years. She had a very long list of first place finishes and showed every weekend year-round from Florida to New England and Canada too. She rarely had time off from what I could tell. Then she was sold to the next owner who was not as successful, she had some dnf and poor showings. She was passed along very quickly to another owner, a non-pro who did not mesh with her either and she was again quickly put up for sale. That’s when I got her. I only added this info because maybe she was a one-person kinda girl when she was younger, I’m not sure.

She was a ball of nerves when she arrived, and you could just feel her pent-up energy. She would make faces and act all tough at first when I was getting to know her, but she never actually acted out physically in any way. Any outbursts were done very respectfully, I know that sounds weird but I’m not sure how to describe it. I’ve never seen another horse react like she did. There was never a foot or head or body part anywhere near me. She wore her feelings on her sleeve, so you always knew what she was thinking but she kept any actions contained, always kept in her space, not mine. Her expressions were always easily readable.

I didn’t make too much of any protests, just acknowledged them and gave her time and space as needed until she was comfortable with me. She never what I would call acted up under saddle, but you could tell if she was confused (rider error on my part of course) or if something was bugging her. She definitely would let you know. But I thought of it as more of a communication thing, not an acting out thing. Not dangerous or bronc like.

She was definitely the most sensitive horse. Crazy sensitive. I could see and expect if someone did ride her heavily or without clear aids or ignored that something was bugging her or whatever, that she would have likely gotten very frustrated and maybe kept upping the volume of her frustration. Luckily for me, my mare was an easy read. If she wasn’t, it probably would have been very difficult, maybe like what you are dealing with.

She was very bright and very willing; you just needed to think about what you wanted; the lightest aid would do. However, she could be very stoic when in pain, so I always tried to be alert for that, always listening because that was one thing she didn’t always tell you about.

I do recall she had strong opinions about certain things. I was told she was used to a strict schedule, limited turnout, and she always wanted to be first in and out of the barn. They were correct. I’m pretty laid back, no strict schedules here, and have a lot of turnout. It took a bit for her to unwind and adjust to a non-busy, non-show barn lifestyle, but despite her initial strong opinions, she adjusted very well, and I had many wonderful years with her. So maybe you just need more time to get to where you want to be with this mare.

Anyhow, I don’t personally know of any other Art Deco horses, so I only have my experiences with her to share. I will say that I just loved my mare to pieces and still miss her terribly.