Look. I know what you all are going to say. Get a trainer. Take lessons. Do boot camp.
And I may. Or I may just sell him and move on. I’m currently up in the air on which is better for the both of us.
I’m a realistic person. Or so I try to be. Tuesday evening was glorious. 65 and sunny after 6 straight days of thunderstorms, lightening and torrential rain that left the area with 3″ of standing water everywhere. Thankfully the clay soil around here drains quickly and after 36 hours of sunshine, the arena was usable again.
Add changing pastures to the back “sacrifice” area during the rain to the 10 days off and I knew he’d need to get some energy out on the lunge before I hopped on him. I’m ok with doing that if that is what he needs.
Except he lost his ever loving mind once on the lunge. He pulled a nasty buck/leap/bolt and maybe I should have been able to but he ripped the damn lunge line out of my hand and took off trailing it behind him.
I stood there and said out loud “I hope you break your f*%#ing leg on that line horse” as he tore around the arena screaming for Gem and Pete and eyeing ways to escape.
I immediately ran to the back fence line that happens to have a hole in it when someone ran the bucket on the tractor through it. Ahem. Oops. He eyed that hole as he ran around and then stopped at the far end to graze.
Thinking he was done, I walked over to grab the trailing line only to have him give me serious side eye and tear straight for that hole. He jumped over the fence and into freedom.
Or so he thought. There is a small alley of grass between the arena and the large pasture fence so all he did was jump into a smaller contained space which is why we haven’t bothered to fix the fence yet.
I walked through brambles, cursing his existence the entire time, and called to him. At which point he looked really sad that his evil plan failed and came trotting over to me.
I marched him back through the brambles, over the fence and into the arena where I proceeded to lunge his hooves off him before taking his heaving, sweating carcass to the mounting block to be ridden.
He wasn’t so proud of his little plan any longer.
He then got worked under saddle pretty hard. I held contact. I didn’t allow cantering instead of trotting. We worked hard. We worked long.
Finally I stopped and let him be done but I was angry. Angry that I couldn’t just enjoy a ride on a rare gorgeous free evening. Angry that he is still this obsessed with two horses who never call back for him, never run the fence looking for him, never care if he is gone. Angry that while he does not scare me he also isn’t being very enjoyable.
Sure he had 10 days off due to rain. Sure his friends were moved. But I don’t care. He should be able to function even with that.
Lessons may help. I’m not sure. They’d be at another facility so Gem and Pete wouldn’t be an issue. Who knows if he’d even behave like this while off property?
Boot camp doesn’t seem like a good idea. Sure it wouldn’t hurt. He’d get into a program, get fit and be tuned up while I could also lesson weekly but I’d fear when he returned home and I rode him away from Gem and Pete none of that would matter anyway.
I think back to when I met him. Horses were everywhere. Every paddock surrounding the arena was chock full of horses plus horses were in the barn as well. He was never out of sight of another horse. And he rode perfectly for me. I jumped. I cantered. He was foot perfect. I asked about other horses and got the answer that he didn’t care about them and chose to walk up to people instead.
Which is true. He will leave Gem and Pete in the pasture to come say hi to me every time. He will graze around the bend or 5 acres away and not care. But if he can’t see them he loses it.
So she didn’t lie. I’m guessing she never had him in a situation where he couldn’t see another horse and didn’t know it.
So what to do? Under saddle he was ok. I still had some issues with him trying to blow through me and canter instead of trot when he got tired but he went where I asked, returned to the trot quickly, jumped nicely over the vertical, had bend in my 20 m circles and I even worked purposefully on canter transitions and within the canter itself. Really the ride itself was good once we got there.
But the lead up. I nearly put together a for sale ad. In my head it was half written.
I don’t know. This month has been sporadic with the weather but let’s be real. My riding life will always be sporadic. I’m not a 6 day a week rider. Im a twice a week maybe possibly if something doesn’t come up rider. Those rides can’t suck. They just can’t.
Lots to think about.
In the meantime I’m trying to find someone who can give a lesson in the evening after 630 or a weekend. So far no luck. The one person I found who has an evening schedule is full with people more advanced than me so I can’t fit into the group at the moment. I’ll keep plugging away at it and keep working at home as well but he isn’t happy and I’m not happy and something has to give or he will need a new home and I’ll be back to horse shopping.
41 thoughts on “Thoughts…I have a lot of them”
I’m really sorry to hear this and completely agree that there’s only two options.
You either go hell for leather and give it your all with trainers/bootcamp/etcetera and see if getting into a better routine and lessons can get you both to a place where his separation anxiety can be managed with your riding/handling skills.
If that doesn’t seem like something you can or want to do then I say there’s no shame in selling because the horse wasn’t the right fit.
You are incredibly busy, you can not guarantee consistent work and some horses just aren’t suited to that. Finding the perfect partner is something you deserve. He’s young and handsome and he can easily find a lovely new home (if that’s what you want).
I dislike when people are made to feel bad for “giving up” but horse riding is our hobby and you deserve to enjoy what you’re pouring your time, heart and money into.
Sometimes things just don’t work and that’s ok.
Either way you go, you know we’re all here to support you
I’m nearing the end of my patience with him which is a shame because I still believe that given the right circumstances we could conquer all my dreams and then some. But I’m coming to realize that the right circumstances are not the ones I may be able to create for us. Which is sad but I can’t ride potential.
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So I’m going to be 100% honest here because I’ve had a few days to think about things and calm down. And you’re problems are completely similar to mine. Now, we’re talking different horses, different issues, but the root is the safe. They involve other horses and they involve energy. See, you could rationally provide me with advice so I’m going to rationally provide you with advice.
Subi’s issues are a bit different than The Doofus’s but I did say I was putting him down so I think we both hit breaking points. We are better behaved away from friends as we feed off our fellow idiots, but the herd bound stuff is there too. Hell, I walked him away from his friends and we started rearing while his friends were in view because someone moved and he could. So different but similar, but sound familiar?
A few years ago, a very good friend gave me some lunge line techniques. Subi knows how to get out of the circle. She brought a chain wrapped in vet wrap wrapped in electrical tape. Wrap that 100% around nose then clip lunge to chain. It’s soft if horse is good but if they start being idiots(not bucking but rearing and turning to bolt) you have something. You then overreact. First, woah means woah. Immediately. Then, I will say Subi doesn’t like getting yelled at so when she tried to pull crap, she yanked, asked him in a loud fun voice if he was insane and trying to kill her because if anyone was going to die it was him. She was little and scary. But, I believed her and after doing that and a few yanks and overreactions, Subi believed her. You say woah and he slams on the breaks. With or without the magic chain.
I say all of this because most of it is refocusing his attention to you as the leader. Yes the friend thing is hard, but as you reminded me, this winter silliness is killing us all. It really is. I dealt with it last night. Y normal tricks didn’t work so I had to try something else (I usually to backs and halts and turning on the forehand to bring his focus on me and instead I got a horse crowding me, growing into a 17 hand monster and rearing the more I tried), I eventually smacked him in the face… not sure that was wise but it got him out of my space and then we trotted laps on the driveway until he’d listen. I hate just having out work be on the driveway because he always listens there (kind of like you with the others around), but it was what I had last night.
Anyway, all of this is to say, I’m going through this too. I don’t think he needs a 6 day/week rider. I don’t think even boot camp is necessarily the answer. I actually now think you need a good trainer/strong confident horse person to come to your farm and get on/work with him 4-5 times with you there/help you work with him and give you tools like my friend Kim gave me. That way you a toolbox of ideas and techniques to use at home where you need them. Then I think you will be fine, because I think you’re going to be fine at lessons and shows. If you can work through this, you’ll be fine too. I have a guy in PA that would be perfect. Too bad he’s not in your area…
Email me if you want to talk more and sorry for the essay.
But if you want me to tell you to sell him, just tell me that and I won’t offer other advice.
No. I don’t want to be told that. I just want to vent I suppose
Sorry, I was a little snarky. I get the venting. I really think you can get where you want to be with him, I do. I just think you need a couple tools to get from point A to point B. It’s so much easier to sit here and give advice, I know, I just got a whole lot of advice, but I have been taking a lot of it and pieces of other bits of it.
If you don’t have time to ride consistently, can you try and just establish some sense of a routine for a week or 2 and see if it makes a difference? Carve out 10 minutes. And lunge for 10 minutes. If he’s good at the end of the 10 minutes, great. If he’s bad? Fine. But, every day for a week, do something for 10 minutes. I’m trotting my horse up and down my driveway in the dark at night before dinner right now. It’s not much, but it’s something. And I’m not making any judgement and decisions right now. It is what it is. And then I’ll look back after a certain amount of time and see if this is making a difference. Meanwhile, I’m re-establishing voice commands, our woah, and all that. We may be a mess walking to the driveway, but once we get there, it’s ok (except when it’s raining, then it sucks even when he’s good).
It’s hard to commit to a lot, but 10 minutes is less of a commitment than 20 minutes or a ride or an hour. 10 minutes before he eats while everyone is in their stalls or after he eats before they go out might be manageable. It’s an idea at least. It might fail (lots of my idea do), but it’s something that you could try?
It’s easy to give advice and so hard to follow it, isn’t it? I need to find some lessons. This is posing incredibly difficult. Turns out nobody wants to teach at 5 am or 7 pm. Shocking. Wish I was closer and could use your PA guy.
I’d actually look for someone NOT discipline specific. Because in this case, it doesn’t matter if they’re English, western, eventing, dressage, etc. You just need a good horseman. Try asking your vet or your farrier if they know any good horsemen that might be willing to work with you. That’s actually how I found the guy I worked with. It was for trailer loading, but he does all sorts of stuff from breaking to lessons to whatever. He taught me so much ground work. But, someone unexpected gave me his name.
So… I’ve been there. I think anyone who has ever owned horses has been there at some point. We buy a horse that seems great on paper. We bring it home, and things just don’t go the way we want. At some point, you get so wrapped up in it that you start to resent that horse and… honestly… it becomes hard to see the good through all the bad. With my old horse, most rides ended in tears towards the end. After nearly 3 years of weekly lessons, two trainers, two barns, changing disciplines etc, he was miserable and so was I.
So I sold him. Someone else LOVES him now, and I have a horse who is wonderful. It’s a hard choice, and not one you have to make now. But it’s not defeat, it’s just acknowledging that you and him might not be right for one another.
I’m not sure he needs to be sold just yet but I know we can’t keep going like we are either. It’s not even like he was that bad. He got away from me and ran a mock but eh. Once under saddle he was good. It’s more a me thing. I have expectations and well it sucks when reality falls short
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Man, I’m sorry – that really sucks.
I empathize with you (I rode a 2 yr old that took me 2 solid months of work 6 days a week before she wouldn’t immediately fight me and rear up when I’d hop up in the saddle), and it’s such a hard decision to make. But I agree with the others – if your decision ends up being to sell him, don’t feel guilty. In the end, you have to do what will be best for you, and sometimes, as Emily said, that’s selling the horse and finding a different one. As Eventer in Progress said – we’re all here to support you ❤ ❤
You guys all make a hard working ammy feel the love 🙂 thank you for kind words.
His saving grace is that he isn’t mean or scary. Just an asshole at time.
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Don’t know if this is relevant, but right now I’m not riding. I love riding and I miss it terribly – and the happiness it brings me is worth me going out of my way in several directions. Currently, however, there are too many variables that have to be aligned (some in my control, others not) in order to get that positive experience and (based on past learning lol) for where I’m at, it’s not worth my energy because, other life things.
Basically to say, and I’m sure you’ve considered this in one way or another, are the awesome amazing experiences you have had with H’Appy worth the emotional resource when the variables don’t line up or the potential time/energy investment tracking down outside help? I see equal value whether that’s yes, no, or still needs to be tested to know for sure.
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That’s a very good question and one I haven’t answered yet. I think a lot will depend on how the spring goes, the first show I plan to haul to at the end of March and if I can ever find a trainer or not.
So, I have a different perspective to give. I wonder if he just has the spring/winter crazies? It’s a legit thing, you can look it up 😉
You said he had 10 days off due to bad weather. Which means he probably wasn’t exercising himself by running around. And, this happened right after he had gotten back into a semi consistent routine and was getting fitter.
I don’t know about you, but if I start an exercise program and am then idle for ten days, you better believe I’m going to have pent up frustration and energy.
While he was an ass on the longe, he was good under saddle. In that, he didn’t attempt to launch you AND he listened to your aids.
I think he’s the type of horse who needs consistency and routine. I’m not saying you have to ride him every day, but 10 days off, you’re going to have to expect some antics.
Maybe I’m not seeing the entire picture, but I guess I am still feeling hopeful for you two. I keep thinking about those great jumping pictures you posted….
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Ooohh, Nadia has a great point!!!
I would reiterate this point if this horse hadn’t consistently been an ass every single time he’s been off of work for an extended period of time since Sara has owned him. Her entire story with him has revealed this problem time and time again. This isn’t seasonal or new.
This is why I love blogland! Gets me out of my own closed loop perspective. I threw him on the longe anticipating shenanigans even though he was pretty calm for tacking and grooming. I wasn’t expecting the level of crap he pulled though and yeah I lost it a bit and melted down slightly watching him gallop off. Sigh. No emotions around horses, right?
Emma reminded me of the jumping video when we texted this morning and I guess I’m feeling a lot better than I was last night when I typed that up. He is a good boy. Or at least most of the time. He isn’t scary or mean. I’m a little worried we aren’t a good personality match in the long run. I’m not a easy going, loose, goofy person and he is a loose goofy horse. Maybe we can learn to meet in the middle
I tend to agree with Nadia. There are very very few horses that are going to do well after 10 days off. I also get the ‘omg, I don’t want every interaction to be a battle, I just want to have fun’. In fact I lived for the latter half of last year and don’t know what I’ll be dealing with when (if) it actually thaws!. A rope halter may help with the lunging too. A regular halter is too easy with the pressure when they are idiots.
I suspect he may have run from you because you were pissed off and your body language clearly communicated it. From a horse perspective going away is the right answer so he might not have had a true ‘evil plan’ but just responding to pressure.
Probably he is reacting to not being able to see the horses. He can get over it. My advice would be to react to the behaviour not what you think is causing it. So rather than think ‘oh.my.god. horse you’re fine. They are over there, just get over already’ fhink about what he’s doing- not bending, ignoring you commands and focus on that. He will get used to it but it will take time and consistent work. Is it possible to put him in a field where he can see them but not be with them?
I also know that it’s easy to be a armchair quarterback. You are the only one who can decide if what I wrote is useful or bullshit. If you decide to sell him that is not a bad decision either.
I think Nadia and Teresa have really good points that I didn’t necessarily express. 10 days off is hard for most horses, especially a young horse, especially after a relatively inconsistent winter. I know you want a horse that is OK with inconsistency, but most horses this time of year are going to start acting stupid.
One thing, if you do decide to sell to think about is this. The next horse you end up with, will he or she be able to handle this schedule? And, if you end up with reactions resulting from pent up energy that most of us are dealing with right now (BATT is bucking right now… that horse can be ridden after 6 months off with no issue but can’t walk properly without snorting, spooking, and occasionally bucking), are you going to be in the same place in as with H’Appy? Just putting that out there. If so, are you better off pushing through? Or, selling and taking lessons, seeking out an in-barn part lease vs buying. I’m not saying this to make you angry just as a point of thought.
All good ideas. I do think “oh my god horse you’re fine” quite a lot. I might need to relax with him a bit on that and realize that maybe he doesn’t think he is alright.
When he ran I saw him eye up that hole. Had I not been standing in front of it he would have left earlier. I don’t think he had any plans of running free to start but once he was free, he certainly planned that as an escape route. Of course once through it he looked at me like “help! I did something stupid!”
I agree with everyone here about the 10 days off and then try to ride. I wouldn’t have ridden, I would have only lunged. Here is what I learned the very hard way about my mare. she started being very herd bound to my other mare. So much, that she was dangerous for me. I sent her to a trainer specifically for that problem. Their solution…every time she whinnied, or turned her head to look at another horse before it escalated , she was made to work very hard. Her reward, was to rest when she was quiet. This took a professional to do. Then I brought my second mare to them, and I rode my second mare while they rode thru her misbehavior. Then time to bring her home, and ride. The second she whinnied, or looked away, immediately and forcibly remind her to stay with me. I am not the rider the professional was, so one day, the only tool I had was to back her down a long windy narrow trail. This took all my concentration and hers too. If she whinnied, back up the trail and start backing it down all over. Yes, people were staring and talking, and it took about a hour to do, but after that day she was a believer. I still do not allow whinnying or distraction.
The second thing I do, is I always lunge with a bridle and saddle or surcingle with side reins. This same mare has pulled the lunge line out of my hands many times, until I FINALLY got smart. And I always lead her to the field with a lead rope with chain. She is to wait at my side, with her attention on me until I release her. Doing this has helped to reduce the bolting under saddle.
In between your ride times, even if it is a few minutes, try to do something with your horse. Back them up and then come forward, turn on the haunches, turn on the forehand, side pass. Teach him to bow. Or stand with all four feet on a small piece of plywood. Anything to help reinforce your training.
good Luck and Best wishes.
Good luck, and Best wishes
Hmm..I guess I got too used to Gem. She could sit for forever and not have an issue returning to work. 10 days doesn’t seem that much to me.
He isn’t dangerous and once he gets his initial idiocy out he is a lamb. He came right over to me, stood perfectly still for me to slip his bridle on and to mount and had brakes, bend and aides well installed. It’s just the beginning and the next time I go to ride as long as it is within the next few days he will be excellent again.
I know you aren’t asking for advice, and I hesitate to give it unsolicited, but I think there is an underlying current of respect/confidence issues here (his) that could be helped by going back and devoting to a lot of groundwork for a while. If he’s that worried about his friends, he doesn’t see you as a trustworthy leader, and he’s not confident in himself or what he’s doing. A lot of his behavior both in the barn and in the arena show that he doesn’t have respect for you or confidence in either himself or in you. He seems unsettled and rudderless, from your description, rather than happy, confident, and focused. It could be chalked up to spring crazies, sure, lots of them get wild hairs up their butts this time of year, but some of these behaviors have been consistent with him for a while, and they show up in everything he does, not just in the riding.
Yes he does need more consistency, having 10 days off and then expecting to pick right back up is a little unrealistic, but I don’t think that’s 100% the root of the issue here. Even without having much interaction for a while, a well-adjusted horse should still be able to do the job at hand, if his foundation is good, even if he does it a bit exuberantly. The holes that you’re describing here go way past riding-specific issues or spring crazies, to me, and go all the way to the very core of the horse and the relationship.
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You are right. I think because he is so brave under saddle, compared to Gem who spooked at everything, I assumed he was a confident horse. But he isn’t. His behavior on the cross ties has improved with a lot of work.
There is a really well respected trainer who focuses on ground work nearby. I’ll give her a ring and see what her availability is for lessons even if we just do ground work lessons for now.
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I think that could really be a great idea for both of you. So much of what we see in barn and ridden behaviors are really symptoms of deeper-seated issues… I think rolling it all the way back to square one could really help. Meg K has been a great example of that lately, if you’ve been keeping up with what she and Spicy have been up to on her blog!
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I love the idea of groundwork. I think it can solve a lot of issues.
I had a comment written about groundwork but I’m just going to leave it at: what Amanda C said x 10 billion.
A lot of horses require consistency especially if we as riders expect them to do things like jump etc. So in a situation like this I’d suggest an experiment which is just go back and read your own blog (that’s why we have them right as a record), map out the times off he’s had and the behavior exhibited due to that time off. Note all the times you were happy, and all the times you were upset and frustrated.You can mix things up, shake the status quo – go take regular lessons for a while or try to and, journal the feedback your brain gives you and the horse gives you and then look at the actual evidence on paper.
If the good outweighs the bad then sell the horse, he doesn’t fit in with your lifestyle and what you want and it’s very hard to make square pegs fit in round holes. Find a horse whose the same horse day in and day out they are out there. It sucks because it’s trial and error. But don’t hit your head against the same wall over and over again – life is too short for that.
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All good points. I do think this post came across differently than I intended. He was quite enjoyable under saddle and went on to do all the things I asked and I got to work on my canter seat and even jumped all very enjoyably.
The beginning was very rough and really he has always had a shit attitude from day 1 for the first 10 minutes of the ride. After he warms up and settles into it the rest is great. It’s something I’m not used to as Gem came out ready to rock and roll
I agree with Amanda on the whole ground work thing. The trainer who worked with Nilla did a LOT of ground work and it really helped her under saddle as well. Establishing a basis of respect and trust will help with the under saddle issues as well.
However, I will say that it will take a LOT of work. It’s not going to resolve with a few weeks of training. Especially with your schedule. Even if you send him away to a trainer, when he comes back you’ll need to work with him consistently. It’ll take months – at least – to fix this crap. I’m very sure he is fixable. I just think you need to decide: is this really what you want to spend your time on? Like, do you enjoy this stuff? I know some people like doing all the groundwork and the whole training thing. Others just want to ride their damned horse. I’m in that second camp. I’m not opposed to some training, to constantly keeping up with an established base of training, to lunging, to working on some ground issues, but at the end of the day, I want to consistently be able to ride my damned horse. Even if they’ve had 10 days off. Even if their best friends are out of sight. My husband pulled Eugene out of the pasture after having 2+ months off, on a cold-ass day (below freezing), tacked him, hopped on, and rode off on a solo trail ride around the property miles away from the rest of the horses. Eugene was excited to go out again, but there was no temper tantrum, no bolting, bucking, no nonsense at all. He just went and did his job. Those horses exist. To be fair, Levi isn’t one of them which is why I haven’t ridden him this winter. He needs a lunge before I could possible try riding him and I have no place to lunge at the moment. So I’m not saying all horses who can’t handle inconsistency aren’t worth owning. I clearly own one. But I prefer the more consistent types myself. If Nilla weren’t injured, she would be like Eugene. I can hop on her after time off and she’s the same as before. She’s always an obnoxious bitch of a mule – I’m not even going to try to pretend she’s ever easy – but she’s not different because of time off or lack of consistent riding. Horses who can tolerate inconsistent riding and training exist.
I just wanted to sort of play devil’s advocate though and offer a different story to what everyone else is saying here in the comments about how you can solve it with this or that and just say you could solve it by owning a different horse. I’m not saying you SHOULD sell him. If you like this horse and you want to keep him, then go for it. But you do have options and you should do whatever makes you happy. Like L said, life’s too short – and I’ll add horses too expensive – not to be happy.
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See that’s the cross road I am at. I don’t want to train my horse. I’m not a trainer. I don’t have time. Maybe in the future when I’m not working and have a 6 year old. Right now I want to ride. I’m not asking for fancy stuff here. Just ride.
But I’m not sure I’m ready to give up on him yet either so I’m a bit stuck.
I might be exceeded my allotted amount of comments (sorry). I will point out that you are always trainging a horse- everytime you sit on them, work with them, feed them. Always. I have gotten some great success with short sessions of ground work (like 10 mintues). The horse will remember. It is the frequency more than the time.
Ok. I want to add to what has already been said after all.
You don’t want to hear this but IMHO working on a made horse in a lesson program would help your riding and your confidence. Even one lesson every other week would be worth the investment. There has to be someone that can give you private lessons on the weekends. Here is why I’m mentioning this: You are dealing with tons of baggage from Gem + new additional baggage from this horse, in a new sport that you’ve never tried before that intimidates you, without eyes on the ground to guide you. It is commendable that you are trying to do this by yourself but at the same time you are making this as difficult for yourself as it could possibly be because….? None of us have that answer.
When you have a good ride on H’Appy, it boosts your confidence. When you have a bad ride, it just adds to that already existing baggage with no hope of resolution other than the feedback you get from a bunch of strangers on the internet who are going exclusively off of what you tell us. We can’t see what is happening in order to really help you.
One step forward, 3 steps back.
Another note: I would have killed for ONE person to tell me it was okay to give up on Lily. Just one. I would have made that decision a lot sooner and been so much happier. Equestrian Blogland tends to be very reluctant about giving that particular piece of advice…and you have multiple people here telling you that that choice is okay. Worth thinking about. I like L’s advice above to go back on your blog and weigh the good vs the bad.
My other question, and this is for you to think about, not necessarily answer here: why eventing? I think, and again this is just my perspective as an outsider, that eventing, especially with this horse, might be unrealistic given your lack of time. (Though you did specify in this post that you can’t ride more than 2x/week and that’s if the weather cooperates. Which is a big “if.”) It’s a sport that encompasses THREE difficult sports, that requires tons more time than endurance conditioning. Once you have a baseline fitness on an endurance horse you can cruise and get away with just riding a couple times a month. Eventing is 10x harder: there are things that constantly need to be improved upon. Half the fun of the sport is that you never stop learning. All of the eventers we see in Blogland, even at the lower levels, ride constantly and consistently.
It is hard to progress in such a complex sport without an instructor, especially when you’re just starting. It is even harder to progress when you’re not only just starting but also struggling with your horse’s basic training. It is even more difficult when life constantly gets in the way (which is a natural part of being an adult and running your own business) which keeps you from both practicing and working on your horse’s issues consistently. In order to progress with *this* horse, you need to change some of those variables.
As for groundwork. Every horse I have owned has gone through extensive groundwork bootcamps with me, from 3-6 months where riding was minimal and we mostly worked from the ground 3-4x/week…sometimes every single day if I had the time. I was willing and able to put in the time. It helped me fill in training holes, establish a leadership role with my horse, helped me see how they react to different stimuli and what kind of guidance they needed from me. It also helped us to just simply get to know one another. Riding is more fun, but groundwork is essential in helping establish some sort of relationship with a horse you don’t know well yet, especially an insecure one, and especially when dealing with a major issue like being herdbound. Being herdbound *is* a major issue that can be very dangerous, and like Amanda C said above, it is a direct result of his insecurity: he trusts neither himself nor you.
Your problems are fixable. But all of those fixes involve time, work and dedication. More time than just 2x/week. It’s okay to not have the time, but like others have pointed out, it might be unrealistic to expect a young green horse to be well-behaved and trainable when you can’t dedicate more time to working with him. It’s not a “you” issue or a “him” issue: neither one of you is less because of it. His personality and requirements are simply not a good fit for your lifestyle. If you can’t dedicate more time to him, then in order to make his personality and requirements fit your lifestyle you’ll have to either send him to a trainer that can put in the work for you, or have the trainer come to you to either train him on site or teach you how to train him.
Except it doesn’t stop there. As has been pointed out in previous comments by different bloggers in previous posts: it takes years of consistent work to “make” a horse, to get them to the point where you can pull them out of the field after 2 weeks of rest and you have the same horse you had 2 weeks ago. To give you a solid example, it took me 3 years to get Gracie to that point, and she was older, more confident and had had more training than Doofus to begin with.
Do you find the time and/or the finances to work with the horse you have, realizing that he may still require more time than you are able to give in order to maintain him for an extended period after he is “made”…or do you start over with a horse that might be better suited to what you have realized you really need?
Just more for you to think about.
That’s all I’ve got. I’ll go back to my corner now.
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Like Teresa, I’ve probably exceeded my allotment for comments on this post.
Sara, I listened to your video yesterday and saw today that you took it down. My response to it was going to be this: I think most of us understand the difficulties of horses + family + work. My biggest concern for you, after listening to your video, is your state of mind when it comes to your horse. This is unsolicited advice, but I’m saying it because I’ve met you in person and I care about you, and I would love for you to succeed. Again, take it or leave it, and be mad at me if you want. But where I come from, listening to others’ perspectives was always helpful to me, even when it was something I didn’t want to hear.
You admitted in the video that you constantly focus on where you and your horse *should* be, instead of where you are at now & what you could do now in order to improve on what you are doing now. You admitted that this sets you up for constant frustration. (Again if you want to progress faster lessons, even lessons *not on H’Appy* (which would take the hassle of hauling him somewhere after work out of the equation) would help you reach your goals a whole lot sooner…I wish I could illustrate the benefits of this for you in a way that you could really see what I mean so you could at least consider it. But since you’ve never had this experience of consistently learning on others’ horses before, it is impossible for me, who learned to ride and jump on other people’s horses FOR YEARS (17 years. Unlike most of Blogland who is very fortunate, I owned my own jumper for exactly **ONE** of those 17 years), to explain it clearly for you. It’s like trying to explain the color blue to a person that was born blind.)
Arriving at an end goal is great, but there is no fun in trying to achieve a goal when you aren’t enjoying the journey to get there. If you really want to achieve a goal, you figure out what you need to do in order to achieve it and break it down into smaller, more doable steps, and focus on each of those steps. It’s a lot more satisfying to focus on each step of a difficult climb and realize one day you’ve arrived at the top. You have the energy to calmly appreciate the view…and maybe even keep on climbing further than you’d planned! It is so much more thrilling than exhausting yourself by trying to get to the top as fast as you can…and then realize you never get there because you wore yourself out when you were only halfway up the mountain.
As Type As, we are very, very competitive. We want to succeed…and sometimes that just kills us. A coach I respect very much told me this recently: you can’t live your life comparing what you are doing to what everyone else is doing because you will never be happy with your progress. You will completely miss out on your own success.
It stung a bit at the time when he said this, but it is so, so true.
You talked about your mindset in the video…and then later proceed to talk about how you will “make complete fools of yourselves” at your first show in March. You stated it out loud twice in consecutive sentences. You are affirming out loud that you will, indeed, make a fool of yourself at your first show. And that’s the type of self-talk that Amanda C was writing about in her awesome post about The Mental Game Part 2.
Your body hears what the mind says.
But most of all: your horse hears what both your mind and your body say. Every time you approach your horse while holding the thought, “We are failures” or whatever variant of that you are thinking, he hears that. He feels your frustration. He sees the frustration in your body language. Every time you talk about him with resentment, about what you’re not getting done, and then go out and try to do something with him…he feels that. It’s not going to encourage him to want to follow your leadership or work with you. Project that at him with enough force and he might even want to try to run away from you.
Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe you truly adore him and the world revolves around him when you’re with him and you just haven’t written about that aspect of your relationship with him enough. But the way you portray him and your relationship with him on the blog is, most of the time, quite the contrary, so that is the frame of mind we see you holding towards him.
You write what you want of course, as it is your blog to do with as you wish. If this is simply meant to be an outlet for you to vent your frustrations, that’s great! We all need to do that. You might want to specify that this is the intent though, and what you want response-wise from your audience, since your audience cares about you and your story and will want to try to help you when you are struggling.
And again, this is simply meant as more food for thought for you. ❤
I didn’t take it down. It disappeared and I don’t know why. I’ll get to the rest of this when I have tome.
I’ve been thinking about this for a bit. And I’m kind of in agreement that it could be a perspective thing on your part and meeting him where he is living with you.
Gwyn will do the same thing if she’s been off for a while and is feeling good via the weather. In fact, she’s predictable enough that I’ll often specifically tie up the reins and unclip the lunge line just to let her tear around my arena for a minute before reapproaching and getting to work. She’s always ALWAYS in a much better headspace for work if I let her do this. It’s become more of an amusement than a struggle.
I know you purchased him with different expectations of his work ethic and behavior. But as you’ve pointed out, his living conditions are quite a bit different from the barn where you test rode him.
I agree on the groundwork. Definitely see if that groundwork trainer can fit into your schedule. Keeping his attention and becoming a confident figure in his herd will be beneficial. That doesn’t have to be in the saddle, and as you said, he listened when you rode him after lunging. Working on that groundwork, with someone who can help you with your body language with him while he’s in the throes of ‘I WANT MY BUDDIES’.
But also, you don’t have to keep him. But you should evaluate if you’re willing to meet him halfway.
I also find groundwork to be a very useful tool, and I will use it over lunging most times. I find it more helpful to get a horse to tune into me and get a better feel for what horse I have that day, and also allow them to settle without letting them run around in circles. Lunging is a very useful tool, and sometimes they really do just have excess energy. Another thing is that I lunge in a bridle and side reins. Lunging is work. My horses lunge much better when fully tacked up than just in a halter. They can tell the difference.
I think you need to work out if H’Appy can be the horse you want him to be and what it might take to get there. I think if you had more of a support network the journey will be easier. It’s always easier with friends! Friends can also help keep things in perspective.
If it were me, i would write a list of pros and cons of keeping him and selling him. Sometimes it is better to cut your losses and sell. For me with Henry, I thought that would be the best for us. I listed him for sale and as soon as I did, my attitude towards him changed. I took all the pressure off and suddenly started enjoying it again. Now things keep getting better and better!
I really feel for you, it’s so hard when things don’t work out how we want them to, and horses are really good at stuffing up our plans!
Ah…please don’t get too mad. But he’s six right? And coming off a year of hoof and saddle experimentation. His brain doesn’t really roll back in his ear until he’s five. I know we expect stock horses to be smarter faster, and then believe a warmblood or an arab shouldn’t be started and saddled until they’re 4 or 5-it’s really unfair, isn’t it? I understand completely how it sucks to never quite know if this ride is going to be awesome or awful, but it’s also par for the course. They’re their own beings. Maybe some old school John Lyons round pen methods might help both of you establish your relationship better? It’s a solid system that refocuses the horse on you. If you’re sincerely interested in selling him,( and I get back to GA ) I’d be interested in seeing him. ☺ He might be a bit of a devil, but he seems kinda cool.
It’s hard being a limited time rider. To give perspective, Finn apparently got loose from WS while being turned out last Weds, after not being out for days, and ran around the property.
Then Saturday i lunged him well got on, he was very…responsive. Then another horse bucked and escaped on the lunge line, running at us trailing the long red line and he obviously got a little unsettled. Other horse ran a muck. Winter brings out their worst.
When I did night lessons, winter was a survival time, even the steady eddies spooked at the open end of the arena, and needed lunging. Maybe give H’Appy til later in spring to be fair?