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When to Break Up with Your Horse
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When to Break Up with Your Horse

This is a difficult topic, but it happens all too often. Someone buys a horse, and for whatever reason it's just not working out. Your emotions got in the way and you bought a horse that was too much for you or you're horse has developed some behavioral problems because you unknowingly let his level of respect for you slide. It happens. It's happened to me on more than one occasion.

It's like a bad relationship; everything was great in the beginning. You fell in love with this new horse. He was so cute and had such a good personality. You "clicked". But now after, living with his annoying, and sometimes dangerous habits that all surfaced after you were hooked, you're questioning whether or not it's time to call it quits.

Here's when you know it's time to break up with your equine partner. 

1. Say goodbye if you've lost your confidence.

Once lost, confidence as a rider can be very difficult to restore. If your horse has caused you to fear climbing in the saddle; it's time for him to go. A horse you don't trust will only cause you to become more afraid and wreck your confidence further. Riding scared also puts you at a greater risk of an accident happening. Horses have a sixth sense of picking up on the feelings or vibes from other animals around them; which includes other horses and humans. If you are afraid of your horse, because he has bolted on you several times, that fear will be telegraphed through every contact you have with the horse while astride his back; through the reins, your legs, your seat. It's been thought that horses can even detect the heartbeat of their riders. So, chances are that he will pick up on you nerves and it will only cause him to become fearful too or take advantage of your uneasiness and do the very thing you fear: bolt. It's time to start over. You need a horse that is reliable and will help you regain your nerve. It's nearly impossible to get your confidence back on the horse that ruined it in the first place.

2. Say goodbye if the relationship is beyond repair.

The relationship is beyond repair when you are out of your depth. This is when the things your horse does that you don't like or that scare you are beyond your expertise to fix. Lack of experience and now this fear factor can prevent you from being able to correct unwanted behavior. And you are once again in a dangerous position, at risk of an accident. If you know you can't handle this horse anymore, hire someone who can, to reform him. I don't believe most horses are hopeless cases or lost causes. Someone with the right level of experience and skill can fix the problems you are having. Unfortunately, some folks don't have the money or the desire to send a horse for training. That's understandable. Then try to sell him to someone who is capable of handling him. It's also important to be honest about your ability. If your horse has developed a bucking habit evaluate your skill set and determine if you are capable both physically and mentally to correct the problem. Denying that you are in over your head won't help your case. In fact, it will only get you hurt. There is no shame in admitting you can't fix the horse. Professional trainers devote their lives to learning and working with horses. If you're not a professional, you don't have the experience or knowledge, so why feel bad? That would be like me being reluctant to take my kid to the doctor after I tried to give him medicine for a sore throat, but it didn't get any better. There's no shame in admitting I need help from a doctor, because I am not one.

3. Say goodbye if you don't love him anymore.

People will hang on to a horse that's no good for them purely out of love. I understand if you don't want to give up on your horse even though he's destroyed your confidence and is more than you can handle because you love him too much. Take lessons from a professional or put the horse in training; if you are determined to make it work, you can find a solution. But if you really couldn't care a less anymore, it's time to send him packing. If you don't even like the horse now, it makes the situation worse. You won't be able to work with the horse properly because you're judgement is clouded by your dislike for the animal. You become too critical. He can't do anything right. You can't make yourself fall in love. Either it's there or it's not. The fear your horse has instilled in you and your frustration at being unable to solve the problem can easily force you to lose interest and emotional stock in the horse. In this instance, it's only fair for you both if you part ways. You deserve a horse you really love and the horse deserves someone who will love him.

4. Say goodbye if someone you respect tells you it's time.

It's just like in a relationship, if your best friend doesn't like your man, heed their advice. If your instructor or another respectable professional in the horse industry tells you the horse is no good for you, they are probably right. Good instructors look out for their clients. It's not easy for us to tell someone they need to get rid of their horse, but if we feel strongly that it's a bad deal, we'll do it. So, don't take it lightly. A professional can see where you're at and what the horse is like and can judge whether or not it will work. Trust their advice. They don't want you to get hurt and they don't want to see you regress because you have the wrong horse. Maybe they can step in and help, or maybe they don't think it will ever work. There is wisdom among counselors. Be open to their suggestions.

It's never an easy decision to make when it comes down to selling a horse that's giving you trouble. Hopefully, these tips can help you make a decision if you are on the boarder of a break up. Troubled couples go for therapy, and they make it work. So, don't just give up. Sometimes there's hope if you get the right help. But, don't feel like a monster if it doesn't. Sometimes it's for the best.

Disclaimer: Of Horse! and sponsors do not endorse nor validate the accuracy of a blog post. Each article is the opinion of the blogger.

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  1. AverageJo Equine
    AverageJo Equine
    That was a very good article, and one Ive had to face a couple of times. Saying goodbye is never easy but sometimes it is best...for both you AND the horse.
  2. jst4horses
    This is one of my biggest peeves of horse owners. People need to realize that horses are herd animals, and making you their herd, and then discarding them like an old bike is cruel. I have worn the same pair of boots for a few years, driven the same truck when IT needed to be replaced and gotten myself on the go after serious illness, cancer and accidents to care for the horses in our Foundation.........because I believe I intruded into their lives and have no right to imagine a poorly behaved horse is going to get a good home. Most of them end up on a truck, head to tail, for days on the way to the slaughter, with no food or water, and often a second level of horses above them urinating and pooping on them. The feed lots and slaughter houses are not fun for horses someone gave up on. Even the calvaries of many countries have simply dug huge trenches with bull dozers, and shot all their horses when they had no use for them as tanks, and jets came into being. PLEASE take care to know you are horse person enough to handle a horse before you buy one. Over years of training I have seen owners, and other trainers ruin good willing horses with abuse, bad training and even just spoiling. A horse is a wild animal that lives in a rigid social order, my alpha mares tell the others what to do with ear movements, small noises, across fields, and even across paddock bars, horses need an alpha leader, not a horse "lover" who want my little pony. This is harsh, but people need to know what they are doing and that they are making a commitment to these large animals when they insist on buying them. The horses are the ones that suffer. Trainers can and often do retrain a horse, but for the most part, a ruined horse heads for the slaughter trucks, after a string of owners who do not know what they are doing.
  3. Buckaroo Balance
    Buckaroo Balance
    Great article! It's a tough decision for sure, but I do believe there are ways to build your confidence back...if you're willing to put in the work anything is possible!

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