SHORT VERSION: Since the fall, I've been working with some unbroke horses that are owned by a very inexperienced family. The family won't go near one of the horses, who is intended for their teenage daughter (beginner rider) and so I've ended up spending more time with that one than the other one. We've bonded, simply due to the circumstance of spending time together, and members of our community have started referring to her as mine, saying she should be given to me and a more experienced horse bought for the daughter to learn to ride on. Over the past few weeks, the mother of the family that owns the horses has made a few comments towards me about my "bond" with this horse, and her unsuitability as a mount for a beginner rider (a recent convert from being one of those people who believes horses and kids should "grow and learn" together). It has occurred to me that she might be offered to me and I'm currently thinking about how that might be for me.
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LONG VERSION: There are two 6 year old unbroken QHx mares that I'm working with. They belong to my neighbors/friends of my parents, who got them from another friend who was going through a divorce and couldn't keep them. They got the horses when they were 3 or 4, but haven't done anything with them since. I offered to work with them for free (although they offered to pay me) for a few different reasons, one of them being that the people who own them now have very limited knowledge of horses (aside from the fact that they are supposed to eat lots of hay and oats, apparently). The mother and children of the family have been hurt several times in situations with the horses and have become afraid of them. The mother spends time with her horse sometimes, taking her for walks and grooming her and such, but the daughter is totally afraid of her horse (and not all that interested in horses in general, I suspect). The daughter's horse is a dominant mare. Apparently she has been aggressive towards everyone in the family, has been hard to catch, has kicked them, bitten, and rubbed them into trees. I have never witnessed this behavior, and the few times she has made moves to misbehave, I've nipped it in the bud. They see her as some kind of violent terror, but it's pretty obviously to me that she just needs straightforward and consistent handling and then she's a dream! She's very intelligent and sensitive, yet willing and engaged, and even has a bit of a goofy side to her. However, it goes without saying that she is certainly not yet suited to an absolute beginner.
Anyway, over time it's happened that this horse and I have bonded quite a bit. The owners think it's "magic" or there is something special between us, but I know plain and simple that I'm the only one who has actual boundaries her it comes to her behavior, so of course she respects me and recognizes me. I've suggested to the daughter several times to make a habit of going out and seeing her every day, even for 10 minutes, so her horse would get to know her more, but she doesn't. Since I live in such a small town (well village really...), everybody knows what everyone else is up to, and a few people have started referring to her as "my" horse from seeing us out for walks, hearing about the work I've been doing, etc. I've always corrected them, but most people know that this particular family is quite over-horsed and have made the suggestion that she should be given to me and the family should buy an older, more experience horse for the daughter. I haven't really stated my opinion about this to anyone, except to say that I am concerned for the daughters safety given her skill/knowledge level, and that it would be a considerable amount of time before this particular horse would be able to facilitate her as a rider.
I figured this talk was mostly just people gossiping, but the other day when I was at the barn grooming said horse, the mother came out (it's not uncommon for her to work with her horse while I work with the daughter's, so I can show her things along the way) and after a few minutes said "You know, I think she (the daughter's horse) might be better for a more...experienced person." I just sorted of said "Oh..." and nodded, but I wasn't sure if she was trying to get more a response from me about it, or she was just saying that out of the blue...Since then a she has made a couple more comments of that nature, including "You're the only person who ever spends any time with her." and "She recognizes your truck when you drive up." I know that those things are true, but I don't take them personally.
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CONCLUSION: Call me paranoid, but I think something's up. I haven't spoken with the family about what they plan on doing about this horse long term, or providing a ride-able horse for their daughter. It's not really any of my business. But I have been considering what might happen to this horse in the future. I'm aware that not many people would be interested in taking on an untouched (until 3 months ago) 6 year old with an unknown pedigree and only decent conformation, especially in this economy. I'm beginning to realize that she may in fact be offered to me on some level, be it a sale or something else, and this feels a little bit overwhelming. I'm still processing the possible outcomes, and like I said, I just wanted to get this off my chest. I have a lot of things to consider...and I just had to tell someone. Thanks for listening.