The Best Horse May Not Be the One You Own
We’ve all seen the meme “Everyone says their horse is the best. And everyone is right.” Well, I’m more right than most, because I have the best horse ever. But that was not always the case. Let me tell you why. As much as we may not want to admit it, we sometimes get partnered with a horse that is not a good fit. Maybe it is a mis-match in abilities, temperament, or desired activity and goals. Imagine a horse saying: I’m too scared to be an eventer! Or one that threatens, “I’ll go on a bucking fit if you make me ride another 20 meter circle!”
A horse and rider have to synch, match, meld, understand each other. I have not always had a horse that was a good fit for me because I was swayed by what was flashy, what was competitive, what my then trainer liked, what I could afford… a whole host of reasons that wasted time, money, and undermined my progress and confidence. Yes, the wrong horse caused a backslide in my riding and confidence because the horses were too advanced for me, or intimidated me. Sorry, but in my opinion you cannot “grow into” an advanced, sensitive horse if you are a novice, amateur rider.
Letting Go of the Horse You Love in Order to Find Another
I sympathize with horse owners who love their difficult horses and struggle to ride them, but I have to say you need to let it go and find the horse you can ride with comfort and safety. Find the horse that brings you joy! Life is short! I see riders on horse sites struggling with riding fears that talk about horses that bolt, buck, are too forward, and a host of other behaviors I would never tolerate (much less if I already had a severe fear issue). And people advise they should stick with it. I say: No! Get a horse you can ride! I’m speaking from experience as I am over 60-years old and have struggled through a lifetime of horses. Leave the troubled or extremely sensitive ones to a professional, to the teenagers who will ride anything, or to the “cowboys” who have the guts and get yourself a horse you can have fun riding!
Again, I understand the love. I understand the reluctance to let go, to give up. Let me tell you the heartache I experienced with a horse I loved and had to sell. I raised a baby, Willadore, who had talent and was brave and bonded to me. She would run to me in the field, she would obey all my commands in ground training…but I couldn’t ride her with confidence or joy. I spent thousands of dollars on starting her right, training her right, working with the best instructors…but at the end of eight years and after several “episodes,” I knew I couldn’t ride her, that I was not the partner for her, and would never “trust” her– and it broke my heart. I eventually sent her to be sold and thank God the woman who bought her keeps in touch and I know my beloved Willadore is loved and okay.
Renewed Hope and Confidence and a Future
But…If I hadn’t sold Willadore, I would not have met Dressed for Tea. She is the horse who swept me from despair over my lack of riding skills and lack of confidence to a restoration in my faith in riding, horses, and myself. This April, after a twelve year hiatus from showing, I returned to the show grounds…because I could trust Tea. It was not an easy or straight path…she had some physical issues to overcome after I bought her. But I think many people shy away from an older, experienced horse that may be the perfect match in favor of younger, untested mounts. As I age, I see the value of older horses as well. They’ve gotten over the stupid youngster stuff and I am willing to deal with whatever physical maintenance they need in order for us to carry on many more years together. Happy and safe.
So, dear riders, if you are afraid of your horse (admit it, it’s okay!), or don’t get along, or find no joy in being together, please consider retirement or finding a new home. There is no shame if you do it right. Your dream horse, your perfect partner, your Heart Horse may be out there waiting for you.