I've been seriously thinking about retiring Amber to trails lately.
I haven't been on the board in a while, so for those who are unaware, we have had serious issues with her soundness, and for a while it was mystery lameness, one on top of another. In the end, we come to find that it all stems from her pelvis. It's prone to coming out of alignment, and it tends to shift to the right. According to the vet who was finally able to diagnose her, the pelvis causes problems from there down if it wasn't maintained.
Although we have been maintaining, and she is on high quality joint supplements, I'm scared to push things too hard. She was cleared to return to normal work long ago, but only a couple of months ago we tried to see how she would handle jumping. She did okay the first day, but we did a couple of easy lines the next, a small x-rail in and a 2ft rolltop going out. And she did great, and I got tons of flying changes, but something just wasn't the same and I didn't feel she was comfortable.
I haven't jumped her since, we've mostly been doing 30-45 minute easy rides on the flat.
But she has become increasingly sour in the arena. I have tried letting her take a break and trail ride, but that has made it even worse, because now all she wants to do is finish with the arena and go explore.
And all I can think is, here we are and all we are doing is spinning our wheels. She is a nice horse with many great qualities, none of which will take us far in hunters anyway. Jumping was the one thing that would have gotten us somewhere at shows - she was truly talented. But I'm not willing to risk her soundness on that now that we know what problems she has.
She hates doing flatwork in the arena, and while I realize that no horse really "wants" to do work, at the same time, why push so hard to make the horse do something that is not going to benefit us in the end? Arena work is beneficial, even to the non-showing pleasure horse, but if she's getting so sour about it, she can't benefit with her attitude.
I've been considering retiring her as a light pleasure and trail horse. On the trail, the attitude completely disappears. Not only that, she moves better. She is so much less tense, and so much happier.
Part of me says that I'm "giving up" and letting the horse win out because she doesn't want to do something. But riding is barely even fun anymore because I know the horse is so unhappy with her job. I don't want to lose sight of the real reasons to ride - for the happiness and fun of the horse and rider.
I think it comes to more than working through something that a horse doesn't want to do in their workouts.
To retire her to trails, if I want to actually have real trails to ride on, I will have to move her to a new barn. Our barn has nothing but roads and a big pasture to ride around the edge of, and I won't even ride on the roads anymore because we've almost been hit TWICE by idiot drivers in the area. Once by a school bus!
I'm just scared I'll make a mistake, and go to a new place and I'll hate it and Amber won't like it. I've already made that mistake once leaving my current barn, and I am not sure I could take the shame of coming back knowing they were right when they said I'd leave and wish I could go back. My trainer has done a lot for us, she's brought us farther and closer together than I thought was possible. I would just feel so bad to leave, and be scared I couldn't go back.
It's just frustrating.