When to just quit and retire to trails? - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 13 Old 11-29-2012, 02:51 PM Thread Starter
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Location: NC
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When to just quit and retire to trails?

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.

Cinnamon Whiskey 11 y/o 15hh Chestnut AQHA mare, 2'6 Jumpers
DressageIsToDance is offline  
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post #2 of 13 Old 11-29-2012, 03:25 PM
Join Date: Jul 2011
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Is getting a trailer and trailering out out of the question?

What about doing ACTHA style rides with her? Not sure where you are but you can check their website for info: www.actha.us She might be able to do distance riding too, not necessarily 100 milers but maybe 15.
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post #3 of 13 Old 11-29-2012, 03:50 PM
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Sounds to me like you already know the answer, just don't want to admit it to yourself.
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post #4 of 13 Old 11-29-2012, 04:08 PM
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I think it's time. You already have your answer, like Darrin said...Been in your shoes. It was very hard for me to admit when Jester was not able to compete and work anymore too, even though I had been running allt he options in my head. "But he'll be fine with maitenence" was overrun by "But he is breaking down." If I had kept working him and pushing, he would have become permanently lame. Since I quit him, he is getting older and he remains sound enough for occasional riding with no signs of soreness.

Pssh.I didn't pick up the wrong lead
It's called a counter canter...
...A very advanced maneuver.
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post #5 of 13 Old 11-29-2012, 05:14 PM
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Originally Posted by Darrin View Post
Sounds to me like you already know the answer, just don't want to admit it to yourself.
Have to agree here. It sounds like both of you are unhappy, and perhaps it will be best if you do retire her. After all, you know what her physical issues are and you have to know in your heart of hearts that to continue with the more strenuous activity is not going to work in the long term. Give yourself a hug from me, I do know how it feels to have to make that decision.

We grow too soon old, and too late smart.
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post #6 of 13 Old 11-29-2012, 06:49 PM
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Don't think of it as giving up and retiring, but as finally growing up and starting to do some real riding
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post #7 of 13 Old 11-30-2012, 12:45 AM
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Trail rding is not giving up, it is moving to another discipline. Any experienced trail rider will tell you, not just any horse can be a trail horse. Many horses simply aren't brave enough to leave the confines of a ring and face the unknown, and if Amber is, consider yourself lucky. I know people who have been trying to make trail horses out of non-trail horses for years, they would be happy to have your issue.

Moving to a barn where you have trail access and arena access would be best. You still need to school in the arena. Amber still needs to continue (IMO) to grow in her training, as do you, but your primary focus can be trails. I do both arena and trails with Kody, always have. We take lessons in the arena from time to time, but my real enjoyment comes from being out on the trails with my friends. My friends and I try to mix it up.....some days we do arena only, I usually do no more than 30 minutes, and I vary the excercise every 5 minutes or so, otherwise Kody gets sour and anxious. Sometimes we will follow that with a trail ride, sometimes we just head directly out on the trail without any schooling and then just come back, sometimes we switch it up and trail ride first and school a little afterwards. Keeps their little horsey brains guessing at what we will be doing.

When you do work in the arena, especially at first in your trail riding endeavor, work on lateral control and one rein stops from all gaits, and rating her speed and transitions of speed(this will be beneficial safety wise out on the trail). After that, sky is the limit for learning arena stuff. Kody and I spend 75% of our time out on the trail, but we stlll most recently are working on collection, counter canter, roll backs, etc.

We may not be great at them, but at least we are always learning, so just keep that philosophy and you and Amber should have lots of fun out on the trail! Nothing builds a bond between horse and rider like getting into hairy situations on the trail and getting each other out safely. You may be surprised at how much fun you have and how much your horsemanship improves.
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post #8 of 13 Old 11-30-2012, 01:02 AM
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Trail riding can be pretty dang challenging for both rider and horse. All of her dressage training will come into play on the trails. My barn manager's horse was/is trained in dressage. She still works her in the arena on dressage on a regular basis but she also loves to ride trails and has ran a 25 mile endurance ride on Legato, who is a 8 year old Arabian mare. Depending on the trails you go on and what type of topography, you can run into all kinds of situations that will not always be a nice little trot down a flat trail!!!

So sorry that your horse has this issue but as long as you can keep her sound and move to a different indiscipline that is the main thing. My barn has pastures around it but we trailer out to hit the trails. We go camping up at a national forest/Corps of Engineer lake about 100 miles from here. There is a group of us that go and it is a blast. Hope you are soon having Happy Trails!
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post #9 of 13 Old 11-30-2012, 01:30 PM
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Originally Posted by KountryPrincess View Post
Trail rding is not giving up, it is moving to another discipline. Any experienced trail rider will tell you, not just any horse can be a trail horse. Many horses simply aren't brave enough to leave the confines of a ring and face the unknown, and if Amber is, consider yourself lucky. I know people who have been trying to make trail horses out of non-trail horses for years, they would be happy to have your issue.
Yeah. I remember early this spring, one of our first times out, trying to get Ellie to cross a little creek. I tried for about 10 minutes (beginning rider), my instructor/trainer/been riding since she was 2 friend tried for about 15, but no way was she going to cross that thing. (Finally had to get off and lead her back & forth a few times.) Now, after a summer of trail riding, she just nonchalantly jumps over them, no big deal and why are you hanging on to my mane like that?
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post #10 of 13 Old 12-01-2012, 01:30 AM
Join Date: Jun 2012
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If you retire her to trails and decide you made a mistake is there any reason you can't change your mind? If you leave your current barn with an explanation and on good terms it seems likely they would welcome you back if you decided she could do more than trails again
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