Per usual, Saiph brought up some good questions in her comments on my last post about getting a back up horse. After some reflection, I figured I’d write it out here for future reference for me and for full disclosure to those reading along on my journey.
Is H’Appy the horse for me?
Short answer: I don’t know yet.
Long answer: Let’s go back in time to 2009.
Gemmie had just come home with me. And I HATED her. She was a hot mess, most of which I knew when I got her. 150lbs underweight, belly full of worms, front shoes that her hooves had grown around. I had been prepared for all that though. What I hadn’t been prepared for was the running backwards down the barn aisle when I went to bridle her, the stubborn refusal to move an inch under saddle followed by unexpected and mad bolting, her insane spookiness at all things on the trail (which, by the way, thousands of miles later never went away), and eventually her hatred of jumping.
The entire first six months I had her saw me leaving the barn in tears declaring that she was for sale to the lowest bidder if that is what it took. To say I hated her is an understatement.
Looking back, it wasn’t all her fault. I was dumb and had too many wild ideas in my head that were not based on reality. I eventually moved her to a training facility at $1,000 a month for 5 training rides and 1 lesson a week. It was a waste of money and a complete sham. The best thing to ever happen to us was my move to WI which placed her in my backyard and gave me time to slowly build up a relationship and understanding of one another.
Being completely honest, it wasn’t until about 2 years into having her that I began to like her and a solid 3-4 before I was in love with her. Which again, not all her fault. I didn’t even start liking our new dog until we had him 2 years. I take a while to warm up to new animals in my life.
So when Saiph brought up the point of being in love with H’Appy’s potential instead of H’Appy himself, it took me a moment to think on it. Yes, at the moment I am more interested in his potential than in him and I think he has a lot of potential even if the here and now isn’t that great. Thinking more on it though I have come to this realization.
On the ground, I adore H’Appy. He is a complete PITA. Take last night for example. The water trough was low enough to dump and scrub before refilling. I was in the pasture after putting them all out after dinner, dumped the remnants of water from the trough, righted it up and bent over to scrub away the algae on the bottom. Next thing I know I have a large, sloppy wet Appaloosa tongue in my hair and wuffles of air on the back of my neck. I giggled like a 12 year old and looked up to push him away because the dude doesn’t know the line between being cute and biting a chunk out of your skull. While Gem and Pete looked on in disdain from a distance, he followed me all around the trough “helping” with my evening chore. Dusty thinks he is a 1300lb nuisance. I adore it.
There are a lot of things I actually do like about him under saddle. I think back on the time we went xc schooling right after I got him. He was a lunatic at the trailer because other horses were there and OMG 10 FT IS TOO FAR AWAY -MUST BE INSIDE THEIR SKIN LIKE A SERIAL KILLER WHACK JOB and the warm up was hairy as he was not paying any attention to me whatsoever. But…once his head was out of his butt he was steady, never spooked at a single thing, took me over every single jump happily and calmly and I had an absolute blast. That day seems ages ago because three days later he ripped his shoe and most of his hoof off and the rest of the summer was lost to his lameness and hoof regrowth.
On our two trails rides, while again he had that same annoying herd bound behavior at the start, he was willing to go down the trail, over logs, around machinery, by the lake etc…all without a single spook at anything even a deer that leaped out ahead of us. My seasoned 100 mile endurance horse would have spooked at least a dozen times in the first two miles at various trees, logs and stumps. And he was 1000x better the second time out than the first.
Yes, I will admit that there are times he scares me. Gem’s signature move was to drop her shoulder, spin 180 degrees and bolt. It sucked and threw me off more times than I sat it, but I always landed on my feet. H’Appy’s signature move is to curl his head and pop up. I’ve never had to deal with that before and the one time I didn’t stop him he threw me over his head where I landed on my butt/side. It scared me. I don’t like it. It isn’t worth selling him over at the moment, but it is a big reason why I shut him down way to much in our arena work and why I need lessons on him to help figure out the best way to deal with it (boot him forward, I know..but that is hard to make myself do when I am alone).
Well, this post is now rambling, but the point is I really do think H’Appy and I will work out once I can actually ride him, take some lessons, maybe even send him to boot camp for 2-4 weeks this winter as a tune up. Each time I repeat a lesson learned such as trailering out for a ride, the second time he is way calmer and easier to work with. If I can keep that consistency up I just know he will be great. He just needs to stay injury free long enough to get there.
Is he 100% the horse I thought I was getting? No. Is he 100% the horse that is best for me right this minute? Eh..probably not. A horse without any of those issues would be best for confidence boosting fun. Is that horse in there? Yes. Do I believe that with more time he will be there? A qualified yes if I can get him over this herd bound issue which is the only thing that really, really bothers me about him.
The truth though is that even if he isn’t the best riding horse for me, I really enjoy having him around. He makes me laugh on a daily basis with his silly antics, friendly disposition and curious nature. Gem and Pete adore him as well. In all my years with them and all the horses that have come and gone from their pasture with boarding, they have never blinked an eye at another’s arrival or departure. With H’Appy, they nicker when he returns home from an adventure, call for him when they wander off and he doesn’t realize it and then takes off in a panic to find them (amusing to watch and happens way more often than it should) and are always hanging out near him and/or playing with him. I honestly believe they would be heart broken if he disappeared forever.
So at least for now, he has a permanent spot on our farm. Time and miles will tell if he remains my main mount to conquer my eventing dreams with or not, but I foresee a future of him brightening my day for a long time to come regardless of his saddle usage as we move along.
23 thoughts on “Is H’Appy The ONE?”
I’m really glad you wrote this post! He seems like a really friendly and sweet horse. My hunch though? If you get a solid back up horse, H’Appy is going to turn into your back up horse. No one likes to ride a buck (trust me, I know!) and if I had a horse who was sound and reliable, I personally wouldn’t go back to the one who may buck and isn’t always sound. I haven’t read all your comments on your last post, so maybe people already said this, and is clearly what prompted your post. I don’t think you need to sell H’Appy if you can afford an additional horse, I just think things may not work out exactly as you planned. Which may be totally fine!
It is hard to tell what will happen. He is such a different horse than when I first brought him home. 6 months off will do that. Right now I’m trying to figure out if I can get him back to the horse I brought home or not and only time will tell that.
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I think perspective is everything when getting a new horse.
My first horse I bought and was convinced that I would keep him forever. He was so sweet. BUT we didn’t click under saddle. There was a lot of self-imposed pressure to make the partnership succeed. I cried A LOT and finally decided to sell him. It felt so shameful, but he is in SUCH a better home now.
Meanwhile, when I got May, my first through was that I could flip her as a trail horse if she didn’t work out. Our first rides were terrible. She tried to run out of the arena, couldn’t make a circle, etc etc. Did I get upset? Nope. Because she wasn’t supposed to be my “heart horse”. She was just a horse I was riding for her future owner. Now? I am that future owner.
I’m stuck in phase of not knowing at the moment and I’m ok with it for now. I need him to stay sound and free of injury for a few months so I can ride consistently and get some lessons in and see what I have under me. When I first brought him home I never wanted to dismount when I was in him w/t/c. He was fun. He was easy. He was calm. 6 months of pasture rest later and he is a beast with an attitude. I need to figure out if I can get back to that first month behavior or not
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and that’s totally fair! It’s hard to take the time to really get to know them without putting any pressure on him or you. It’s a long process that never really has an end.
I can get this. I am not as slow to warm up as you were but I remember I really disliked Carlos at our very beginning when my Trainer owned him and I was tasked with riding him that summer. Full disclosure though – I really dislike the mindset that things need to be perfect or that there is a “One” of anything – house, horse, love interest, taco, etc.
I went back and read Saiph’s comment – and she’s not wrong. No one is telling you you have to keep this horse. It can be hard to commit to a decision like that though in one direction or the other. Riding is too expensive of an endeavor to be mostly unhappy. Also remember we are heading into winter. Don’t know what that looks like for you there but it can be tough to form a working relationship with a new horse in the winter – weather gets in the way, they act like morons, the holidays etc. I feel like I’m rambling at this point.
Rambling is good.
I have never had a “heart” anything, but maybe I just have’t found that big connection yet. I don’t know.
If the darn guy can stay sound and injury free, I’m interested to see if I can get him back to the horse I had pre hoof injury in May/June. That horse was a lot of fun and I really enjoyed riding him. A lot of rides I never wanted to dismount. They were that much fun. Right now he is a bit of a loon, but 6 months off, no consistency and cooler weather can do that. If I can get him back to where he was in June I will be thrilled. And I think I can get there. Time will tell on that.
Your post hit home exactly today, as I encountered things in the woods where all my previous horses would have spooked, even Princess Buttercup, and Mag just looked and then decided on his own that it’s no threat, despite the tension running nonstop through my body. I literally used all my Centered Riding skills to get through my day.
Most Arabians spook at most everything. I love that Mag holds it together. He’s twitchy in other ways but doesn’t let things worry him. Your H’Appy is a playful child like Mag – he’s constantly putting things in his mouth, like, everything, all the time. It’s so annoying on rides. He doesn’t play in water like H’Appy, but he drinks at every puddle, as if dying of thirst.
Gem is lovely, and it struck me that you are at peace with not riding her, though I saw you do it on that House Hunters video: )
You said, “10 feet is too far!” omg, honestly today on my ride I said that out loud, telling Mag about my heart horse, who was so awfully herd bound, he needed to be “within 10 feet”, or “inside”the horse in front of him to be happy (as you said). Good grief. I abhor that, and have no idea how to fix it. It’s not the rider, cuz Mag doesn’t have that “drang” as the Germans say. Wish I could help.
At the end of the day when I go to load the trailer I still would rather load up an orange butt than a bay one and that is very telling. I love Gem. I love everything she has given to me and taught me. But I’ve moved on to a ground relationship with her and we are both much happier with that.
I think one thing that might help so that you can have a horse to actually evaluate, is to throw a couple weeks of training rides onto him, if you can swing it. I mean, HE will need to cooperate and 1) keep shoes on and 2) stay sound, but stop and start is so much harder to evaluate. H’Appy is smart. This works for you and against you. Once he realizes what you want and what is expected, he seems to improve really, really quickly. So, a couple weeks of training rides? That could do wonders. Of course, he is smart so he can learn what scares you can and laugh about it too, because brains put to no good… If you have some good rides on him, you’ll be better able to handle it and he’ll realize right away that nope, not a good idea. Subi has a wicked buck, but it rarely came out. Through some training rides (and a couple lessons), you’ll have the tools and his antics may never be an issue again. He’s lazy so if he realizes that trying something is going to make him work harder or something? Way too much work.
Just my thoughts.
I really want to send him off for 2-4 weeks of boot camp. Problem is that he needs to be sound and with shoes for is and ugh. Right now I’m cautious about that being reality. I think a boot camp is needed to get his head in the game and would be way cheaper than buying another horse.
Details, right? Hopefully that can happen because I think that will end up being your best solution. ::fingers crossed::
Agree 110 percent with Sarah! I was coming to write this and she got to it first 😉 I would TOTALLY get him to your trainer for 2-3-even a month of training. I know you would have to separate the three amigos but not only would it help him to have consistency you could go ride there while he is at the trainers! win win. Even Remus benefited from having boot camp and brush up on yes I CAN canter and do all the things without being a pin head.
I like him and I think he can be what you want. I hope. But even so it is worth trying for now. You couldnt really sell him right now anyway doubtfully (winter time, he has had ‘some issues’ etc). And the herdboundness will go away. I realized that on Sat with Remus he used to be HORRIBLE at events where he would whinny and whinny and want to go with whatever horse he laid his eyes on. He never even nickered Sat and he was quiet and standing in the trailer while the haflingers lost thier shit over their buddy leaving etc. I was like OMG this is what it is like to have a grown up horse. It has taken Remus a LONG time to get there and I think H’appy will too. The more you take him out the better he will get.
I like rambling posts it helps you kind of figure stuff out. And him being lazy will help. Immensely. Sarah is wise (once in a while hA HAHA)
You’re so nice, I think? 😂
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He is a typical appy in my eyes. Curious and sweet, herd bound and silly, but when you get “it” with him, he will be amazing.
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I think selling a horse is the kind of decision you can only make after a good day.
It’s easy to have a bad ride, a bad week, soundness issues and decide to move them on. But then your left wondering if you gave up, should have done more, tried something else etc.
When you don’t click with a horse and it really isn’t working, the good rides don’t even feel good anymore. They don’t have that same satisfaction as an average ride on a horse you love.
It’s such a tricky place for you to be in because a) who knows how you guys actually get along when you barely know each other b) how can you move on a horse who’s dealing with soundness issues.
I feel for you because I have been here and it was the worst.
Very good point. It is easy to give up after a bad ride, but if I still want to give up after a good one that would be very telling.
Thankfully he is perfectly sound now that he has shoes on. I have formulated a plan of action that I’ll detail later, but hopefully if he stays injury free during the fall and early winter I should know for sure what is what in short order.
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Sarah hit the nail on the head. Once he’s sound you can evaluate.
Good thing is he is sound now, just minus one shoe an that gets tacked back on Wednesday.
ugh i feel ya on this. buying charlie filled me with self doubt and made me second guess everything. i was definitely buying him for the “potential” of what i thought we’d be able to do together, vs what he could be at that exact moment. and when he turned out, in that exact moment, to be a delicate hot house flower with a penchant for sourness that resembled nothing so much as a dinosaur mired down in the deepest of darkest tar pits…. well. ya know. all those doubts seemed totally reasonable.
sometimes, tho, i’m pretty sure that it’s the work that goes *into* relationship building that really makes the partnership grow. it really sucks that the first few months with H’Appy have felt a bit like a failure to launch, but i bet you guys will get lift off soon – and that’s when the real fun starts!
I keep reminding myself that good horses aren’t born, they are made. Its just..well..I spent a lot of money thinking I was paying for that “made” a tiny bit already. Not in a “yay now I’ll go do a BN course and win” made sort of way but in a ” I bought the basics and at the beginner level the horse should be good at basic w/t/c way”. I’m having to wrap my head around the idea that that isn’t true and it is bothering me a bit.
We’ve all been there- we think we’re not good enough for the horse that we have. Trust me, I’ve told myself a million times I’m not good enough for P. I think H isn’t exactly what you thought you were getting, but you’re willing to put the work in, which is what matters the most. And for what it’s worth, I don’t think it’ll take nearly as long as it did with G before you guys have an awesome partnership!
I’m prepared to do the work as long as he is prepared to meet me in the middle which is my sticking point with him at the moment. I do think that if we can get on the same page that I will have a heck of a fun horse in a few years. Its just deciding if I want to do that or not with this particular horse.