Mismatched Horses and Riders - The Horse Forum
LinkBack Thread Tools
post #1 of 17 Old 02-20-2014, 11:25 PM Thread Starter
Join Date: Apr 2013
Posts: 635
• Horses: 0
Mismatched Horses and Riders

Just had to share!

Mismatched Horses & Riders

Posted: February 19, 2014

By Will Clinging

Over the years I have seen hundreds of mismatched horse and rider combinations. This unfortunate situation eventually leads to a very hard decision to replace the horse with one more suitable.

What makes a suitable horse and rider combination? This is a personal question that needs to be addressed on an individual basis. Too often I have worked with people who think they have found the perfect horse, the “horse of their dreams,” which is a problem in itself because a horse should not be acquired as an emotional decision. The horse is the right size, shape, and colour, but maybe it lacks some training. Sometimes there are coaches and trainers involved in these decisions, which sometimes presents another problem. Many trainers believe they can make a horse and rider combination work. A few trainers will purchase horses for clients despite knowing that the horse is not a good match. Some of these horses are misrepresented by the seller. Many bad decisions have been made with the best of intentions based on advice given, usually with the client’s best interest at heart.

Ultimately, the owner is responsible for spending money on a horse that is not working out. Before the horse is purchased too much faith is put in the advice of professionals, and not enough research and methodical thinking is done by the buyer. For those considering the acquisition of a new horse, you should make a list of what you need from your horse and what you are honestly capable of handling. Do not decide to buy a horse that you know is inappropriate because you will have the help of a trainer. I can count scores of clients who were abandoned by their trainers once their horses proved to be more of a handful than anticipated.

If you are a beginner rider, you need a schoolmaster or an old, plug-along trail horse. If you rode a lot 20 years ago and you have lost your confidence, now that you are back in the horse world, you do not need a young green horse or a big moving, talented show horse. You need the horse that you can ride now, not one you could ride when you were younger and braver. I know more than a few very experienced and talented riders who are not comfortable riding and schooling unstarted or very green horses, so don’t be embarrassed because you are not a “good enough” rider. Green and complicated horses should only be worked by riders who are experienced at riding unpredictable and challenging mounts.

Photo: Robin Duncan Photography

Buy the horse you can ride now, not one you could have ridden 20 years ago, or one you hope to ride after more training.

Unless you have someone else to do the riding for you — possibly for years — it is foolish to buy a horse that you are not experienced enough to ride. I am not talking about sitting on the horse when all is quiet and you are not asking for much, after it has already been worked by someone else. I am talking about being able to take your horse by yourself and ride it without the help of someone more experienced. The risk of something going wrong is very, very real on a mismatched horse, and it is exponentially more dangerous if you are not aware or capable of handling the situation when things start to go wrong. Almost every day I see people who are in over their heads with the horse they own.

If you are having trouble with your horse, I am sure you realize how difficult it is to find help. This kind of situation can cost more than you may think, not in terms of paying another trainer to help, but in terms of confidence, satisfaction, enjoyment, and in maintaining some value in your horse if you try to resell him.

Once you have decided to change your dream horse, your dream can become jaded. In today’s horse selling economy, you may end up having to give the horse away, so the financial loss can be significant too.

I realize this article sounds like a rant, and maybe it is. As a professional I make my living working for people who find themselves mismatched and out of their comfort zone. I cannot always improve the situation dramatically enough to save the relationship. I see the frustration and the fear firsthand. I get to know the clients and their horses, and see how far apart their respective needs are. This is not an enjoyable part of the job. I am there to help the horse first, but I cannot do that effectively if the owner is not capable of continuing what I have started.

The horse world is wrought with emotion and ego. The romantic vision many people have of horse ownership and training soon goes out the window when things don’t go as planned. Paying someone else to perpetually work a horse that you are scared to ride gets expensive. Don’t feel that you have given up on the horse you love if you decide to trade it for another more appropriate mount. Both you and your horse may well be happier in different relationships. Take the time to find the horse that meets your criteria today so you can haul him home and enjoy riding tomorrow. Do not buy a horse because he has the potential to be what you need unless you know that you may be about to open Pandora’s Box.

Strength is not defined by physical ability. It is determined by your actions and the compassion of your soul.

Last edited by Jake and Dai; 02-21-2014 at 08:34 AM.
Bagheera is offline  
Sponsored Links
post #2 of 17 Old 02-23-2014, 11:15 AM
Join Date: Jan 2011
Location: Ontario
Posts: 17,193
• Horses: 0
I've seen this even amongst the top professionals. Pessoa is a brilliant rider that can get even more out of the best world class jumpers. The article is excellent and being mismatched happens from beginners to the top.
Bagheera likes this.
Saddlebag is offline  
post #3 of 17 Old 02-23-2014, 12:21 PM
Join Date: Dec 2010
Location: southern Arizona
Posts: 9,532
• Horses: 4
I have mixed emotions about this.

OTOH, if someone is a total beginner, I would recommend taking 2 lessons/week for 6 months. At $40/lesson, that would run around $2000. Take a look at the deductibles on your health insurance and call it cheap. And along the way, you'll find out if you like horses or not...which could save you far more than $2000!

At that point, if someone is looking for a horse to buy, then "an old, plug-along trail horse" would NOT be my recommendation. Mind you, at the end of my ride yesterday, I would have gladly traded Mia for "an old, plug-along trail horse"...or even for 500 lbs of dog food! It happens...I understand!

But by that time, I think most riders could handle a horse with a bit more challenge to them. Over 2 years after having Mia trained by a pro, I'm still not a real good match for her...but she is also what makes riding so interesting to me. There is a balance I haven't quite yet found: "an old, plug-along trail horse" would bore me, but Mia may never be completely sane.

At some point, a rider needs to be stretched if they are going to improve. Stretch too far, and you break...and I have a nagging back injury to remind me of that truth. But if you never stretch, you'll never grow.

On the whole, I agree with the article. I think more people buy a horse they are not ready to deal with than the other way around. However, I think you can make an error in both directions.

And BTW, I hate the description "an old, plug-along trail horse". With all the work I've done with Mia, she is still a long way away from being a competent trail horse. I think "good trail horse" is a high compliment to the horse's breeding and training. I admire good trail horses!

"Make the right thing easy and the wrong thing...well, ignore it mostly."
bsms is offline  
post #4 of 17 Old 02-23-2014, 12:49 PM
Join Date: Aug 2013
Location: Colorado
Posts: 7,440
• Horses: 1
^I'm with you on this one. That is... sort of on the fence.

Maybe this has to do with having a wholly submissive nature, or some affinity for authoritative figures, but I place whole and complete trust in my trainers. When I was horse shopping, I let my trainer do all of the leg work, and completely trusted her opinion. We couldn't find anything that suited me, and so she ended up gifting me a "temporary" horse (until we could find something more level appropriate) that I ended up falling in love with, and am honored to give a happy retirement to. A good trainer should know what their student can and cannot handle, as well as what they are really looking for, in my opinion.

That said, this does happen often. I see many riders who get in over their heads.. Bah.

The sensitivity of the internet baffles me.
Zexious is offline  
post #5 of 17 Old 02-23-2014, 01:08 PM
Super Moderator
Join Date: May 2012
Location: CT USA an English transplant
Posts: 24,590
• Horses: 3
We made a lot of money out of buying horses from people who'd been overly optimistic about their abilities when they bought their first horse - or been too trusting of the sellers - and then finding and selling them their perfect match
Sometimes its better to be a bit bored with that reliable mount than end up losing your confidence altogether. And when the time comes that you are more capable there's always a good market for the 'Steady Eddies' and you can rehome them and buy your next step up the equine ladder
jaydee is offline  
post #6 of 17 Old 02-23-2014, 01:25 PM
Join Date: Sep 2013
Location: South-Africa
Posts: 191
• Horses: 0
I think that article was placed JUST FOR ME! I was sitting here wondering whether I should sell my 7yo mare, and I came across the article. Winter is too much horse for me, whether I like it or not! But my heart doesn't want to let her go!!!
Heleen Strydom is offline  
post #7 of 17 Old 02-23-2014, 03:24 PM
Join Date: Dec 2010
Location: southern Arizona
Posts: 9,532
• Horses: 4
Originally Posted by jaydee View Post
...And when the time comes that you are more capable there's always a good market for the 'Steady Eddies' and you can rehome them and buy your next step up the equine ladder
Excellent point!
Bagheera likes this.

"Make the right thing easy and the wrong thing...well, ignore it mostly."
bsms is offline  
post #8 of 17 Old 02-23-2014, 04:31 PM
Join Date: Jul 2010
Location: East Central Illinois
Posts: 7,109
• Horses: 3
I think Clinton Anderson put it best:
"Give your horse a heart attack..."
"Give YOURSELF a heart attack" every time you ride.
I loved this article.
NO AMOUNT of health insurance will fix you when you handle a horse you don't have any business trying to ride and it puts you in the ER.
MUCH BETTER To buy one that you outgrow. Then, someone else gets to buy and own that nice horse and the nice horse gets another nice home.
There aren't nice homes for the badly trained rogues who keep getting traded and end up starving in a field.
If you buy one and sell it worse that it was, THAT will be that horse's future...AND YOU HELPED!!!

A Jack and Three Queens, the latest book by James C. Dedman, Amazon.com
Hope that you fall in love with "Trot", like I did! http://www.horseforum.com/general-of...queens-617793/
Corporal is offline  
post #9 of 17 Old 02-23-2014, 05:01 PM
Join Date: Feb 2010
Location: Saskatchewan
Posts: 13,224
• Horses: 2
LOL, everyone knows where I stand on this....from Why you don't want to learn the hard way


The world According to Gibbs

and this

Golden Horse is a bit broken update

It is best for everyone to ride what your abilities can cope with, it is why the best advice for buying is take along a trainer/experienced friend who will make a buying decision with their head not heart.
Bagheera likes this.
Golden Horse is offline  
post #10 of 17 Old 02-23-2014, 05:14 PM
Join Date: Dec 2010
Location: southern Arizona
Posts: 9,532
• Horses: 4
As someone who bought a horse he had no business owning, and who still wonders at times why I keep her...it is a matter of degree. If the horse is going to try to kill you, then few riders have any business dealing with them. But what about a horse who spooks & bolts a lot?

Riding a horse is never entirely safe. There are things we can do to reduce the risk: helmets, Australian saddles (IMHO), lessons, a professional trainer, where we ride, etc. If those options will not reduce the risk enough to meet your desires...sell the horse. Or better still, do not buy the horse! But if you get a solid base of riding ability in first, then working to overcome some level of challenge can be very rewarding.

For example, Lilly was an Arabian mare we sold. She & Trooper hated each other with a passion, and my family voted to keep Trooper - who is an excellent horse. However, we bought Lilly unbroke and paid to have her broken to ride. When she was green, I rode her. Shortly thereafter, my youngest daughter rode her. She was not a push-button horse, but she also had no mean in her. At least, no meanness toward anyone beside Trooper!

I would have loved to try to expand my horizons while expanding hers. She was much more graceful than Mia and more willing to boot. Ask her nicely and she would give you her all. She was not a standard beginner's horse, yet she would have been a great horse for a beginner - provided the beginner had an OK seat and was willing to keep slack in the reins. The people we sold her to introduced her to trail riding and I'm told by mutual friends she is doing great.

It is a matter of degree. Each person needs to decide how much challenge and how much risk is too much.

My youngest and Lilly, almost 4 years past now, learning together from the woman who broke Lilly to ride:

"Make the right thing easy and the wrong thing...well, ignore it mostly."
bsms is offline  

Quick Reply

Register Now

In order to be able to post messages on the The Horse Forum forums, you must first register.

Already have a Horse Forum account?
Members are allowed only one account per person at the Horse Forum, so if you've made an account here in the past you'll need to continue using that account. Please do not create a new account or you may lose access to the Horse Forum. If you need help recovering your existing account, please Contact Us. We'll be glad to help!

New to the Horse Forum?
Please choose a username you will be satisfied with using for the duration of your membership at the Horse Forum. We do not change members' usernames upon request because that would make it difficult for everyone to keep track of who is who on the forum. For that reason, please do not incorporate your horse's name into your username so that you are not stuck with a username related to a horse you may no longer have some day, or use any other username you may no longer identify with or care for in the future.

User Name:
Please enter a password for your user account. Note that passwords are case-sensitive.


Confirm Password:
Email Address
Please enter a valid email address for yourself.

Email Address:


Human Verification

In order to verify that you are a human and not a spam bot, please enter the answer into the following box below based on the instructions contained in the graphic.

Old Thread Warning
This thread is more than 90 days old. When a thread is this old, it is often better to start a new thread rather than post to it. However, If you feel you have something of value to add to this particular thread, you can do so by checking the box below before submitting your post.

Thread Tools
Show Printable Version Show Printable Version
Email this Page Email this Page

Similar Threads
Thread Thread Starter Forum Replies Last Post
obese riders hurting horses Showjumper1289 Horse Talk 4 03-25-2013 10:30 AM
Any riders that don't own horses? Thoroughbred Lover Horse Riding 0 05-26-2012 06:40 PM
Uh oh! Mismatched stirrup leathers! Mickey4793 Horse Tack and Equipment 1 11-07-2010 06:54 PM
Do the riders and horses that you know match? matzki Horse Riding 20 03-25-2010 07:15 PM

Posting Rules  
You may post new threads
You may post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are On
Pingbacks are On
Refbacks are On

For the best viewing experience please update your browser to Google Chrome