"Playing the Hero" -- when to 'stick with it' & when to realize it's time to move on. - Page 16 - The Horse Forum
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post #151 of 225 Old 02-29-2012, 06:50 PM
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Great thread! I so wish my old friend would read this. She has a mare that is too much for her. She doesn't respect her, she rears, bucks and has many bad habits. I can't for the life of me convince her to sell that horse. I worry that she is going to wind up very hurt or worse all because of her attachment. As a matter of fact she bought a 2nd horse at one point. That horse was so much better suited for her, it wasn't barn sour and didn't have any of those dangerous habits. We actually could go on trail rides together without a fight! She went through a divorce and couldn't keep two. She sold the good horse to hold on to the problem horse and I was completely baffled. I was on this horse once and believe you me I know it's too much for me and I told her I would never ride it again it tried to run me into the side of the barn and did manage to smash my leg! I can only hope one day she reads something like this and is able to open her eyes.
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post #152 of 225 Old 02-29-2012, 08:30 PM
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WOW Very good post: I bought a horse that quickly learned to show his power and disrespect for me.. I learned I am a rider, not a trainer and knew quickly after some "incidents" that could have been much worse..I was lucky.. he was too much for me,I did not have the experience to deal with the problems this horse was presenting to me.. I could not bring him along correctly...so before he ruined me I sold him to a more experienced rider/trainer and now am taking lessons with a much calmer older well schooled horse... Thanks for this posting.. after a few bad incidents the decision wasnt that hard to make. Love life and to ride!
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post #153 of 225 Old 02-29-2012, 10:21 PM
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Heck! I've got a horse that doesn't have any of those bad habits and I'm still afraid he's going to kill me!
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post #154 of 225 Old 02-29-2012, 10:58 PM
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What have you done with her preparatory to riding her? Starting from scratch with her was good advice. I wouldn't start at all with her. You might get her to where you can handle her but but she would probably never be safe for her owners and you will then be the one who gets thrown under the bus. You could even be held liable if one of them were injured. The people who own her need to be told that she is not a safe horse for them so they can move on. One other comment, this horse is not a lovely horse. If she were a pretty woman she might be labeled a black widow.
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post #155 of 225 Old 03-12-2012, 01:35 AM
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Originally Posted by JustDressageIt View Post
We've all seen it happen, and I'm sure most of us have been there one time or another. Perhaps some of us are there right now: buying the horse that's, well.. too much horse for us. I'm not talking needs a bit of training/settling... I'm talking that horse that makes us look like fools... the horse that has problems, the horse that bucks/bolts/spins/rears/kicks.. you name it... and it's beyond our knowledge level.
It's a frightening spot to be in, and it is one that tests our very mettle.
What it really comes down to are two decisions: do we keep the horse, and work through the problems, or do we sell the horse, and get one that's more level-appropriate?

There are major problems arise with this question:
1) the human ego. We don't like to admit we're wrong, or don't know enough, or aren't strong enough, or ... well, we just don't like to admit that we aren't enough, period.
2) we feel that we've somehow let the horse down. We humans (most of us anyways) get attached to the animals in our lives, however briefly. By the time we realize that the horse is too much, we've already gotten attached. Thus, the thought of selling said horse becomes more difficult.
3) we have been bombarded with so many stories of the underdog (read: inexperienced horseman) taming the wild horse that a lot of people have started to think this is the norm... it is not.
...right along with this point is...
4) the romantic idea of "taming the wild horse" is very, very over-played. Believe me, there is nothing romantic about taking a problem horse and trying to fix it. There is a lot of blood (so to speak), sweat and tears. The end result is worth it... if you know what you're doing. If you don't know what you're doing... well sometimes it doesn't end well at all.

Sticking with it

This is the option that most of us at least flirt with for a while. The biggest problem with this option is that when we buy a horse that's too much of us, obviously we don't have the experience to deal with the problems the horse has, or to bring the horse along correctly. This is a catch-22. We try our darndest, but we cannot see what we're doing wrong, as we just don't have the experience to see what we're doing wrong. So we keep doing things wrong, thinking we're right -- um, the problem with this is apparent.
So how do we deal with this?
The most obvious answer to most of us is get a trainer/instructor. That would be fantastic... if only we could point at any name in the Yellowpages under "Horse Trainer" and get exactly what we need. Oh, and there's also the slight hiccup of money - trainers cost money.
Not all trainers are created equal... in fact, I'd be so bold to say that there are more bad trainers out there than good... so the odds are stacked against you from day 1. Well, that's kind of crummy, to say the least.
Nonetheless, finding a decent trainer will likely take care of our problems. The horse can either get sent away for training (and come back to us with more wet saddle blankets and miles under its girth) or we can opt to take lessons and learn with the horse, and how to handle its problems and quirks.
With a good trainer, either of these options can be very beneficial, and you can end up with the horse of your dreams... or at least one you can ride and handle.
So, how do we go about finding that special trainer? Your best bet is word of mouth. People like to talk. A lot. They especially like to talk when they can complain - so go hang out at your local tack store, go to shows.... and keep your ears open.
Anyways, that isn't really the point of this post, more of a side-tip. The bottom line is that if you are in over your head with your horse, finding someone reputable that can help you is one of the best steps you can take.

Unfortunately, due to many circumstances, a lot or people that are in over their heads to not get help.... or get the wrong kind of help - though I'm not quite sure which is worse. A lot of horse owners keep a horse that is too much for them. They think they can work through it, but either can't or won't spend the money on a decent trainer, or they don't have any decent trainers around them to help.
With that intro, let's move on to the main point of this post: When to quit playing the hero.
Like I said earlier, it's human nature to either not want to admit we have a problem, or not admit we need help when we do realize that we might just have a big problem on our hands. Couple that with our human need to care for living things, and you can see how easily this becomes very dangerous.
We want things to end up like they do in the movies; we want so badly to be that main character that is able to tame the wild horse that we don't really see the big picture, nor the lack of romance that real life really offers us.
Horses are big animals. They can throw their weight around, and they can hurt us. They can kill us. It's not in their nature to do so, no, but if we're in the wrong place at the wrong time, or react wrongly, well.. we can end up dead.
I don't think enough people appreciate this sentiment.. especially not when we're young and invincible.
Training horses takes a lot of instinct, or 'horse sense' as some call it. The nice thing about this instinct and horse sense is that it can be learned. The problem is, it takes a darn long time to learn it... it's not an easy lesson, nor is it readily acquired.

When a horse is untrained beyond our abilities, and we have no trainer or mentor, we are very liable to ruin said horse, at least for a while. A trainer once told me that we ruin the first 10 horses we touch. We don't have the know-how, we don't have the instinct, we don't have the experience to truly to any real favors to the first horses we touch.

How do we acquire such talents? We learn from experience. We learn from talking to people who know more than us. We learn from paying people who know more than us to teach us how to react in various situations. We attend clinics from people who know more than us. We read books written by people who know more than us..... see the pattern?

As a disclaimer of sorts, I must say that there are some very rare people that can learn by trial and error, and fix a problem horse that they originally had no idea how to fix and do it on their own.... but, let me say this very clearly.... this is not the norm, and it is very very rare.

How does it usually end, if you don't seek help?
More often than not, there's an event or two that lead the owner to realize that they cannot do this alone. Usually this realization results from injury, either to the horse or to the owner.
Sometimes it takes a serious, life-threatening injury to make the owner realize that something has to change.

When you realize it's time to move on.

Right off the bat, I want to say that there is nothing wrong with selling a horse that is too much for you, and getting something more your level. Nothing. In fact, I commend people who realize that they are in over their heads, want to find a good home for the horse, and find a horse that is more suited to their abilities.

This usually comes after flirting with the idea of fixing the horse yourself, or even after having someone try to fix the horse for you. Sometimes it happens when the person sustains the injury I mentioned a few paragraphs above.

If you cannot afford to hire someone to teach you how to deal with the problem horse, or send the horse away for training, or there is no decent trainer around you, I usually suggest selling the horse.
If you try and "play the hero" and fix the horse yourself without any know-how or guidance, it usually doesn't end well. You either don't know how to react in a situation, or react poorly in a situation, and make it worse. For example, I saw one lady that simply jumped off her horse when it started to hunch up or buck; she didn't know how to deal with the bucking horse, so she taught the horse that if it hunched up or bucked, it would be rewarded by being allowed to relax. The owner had no clue what she was doing wrong, and grew more and more terrified of the horse, and kept teaching the horse bad habits.

If you don't know how to fix it, can't send the horse away to get fixed, and can't get the help to learn how to fix it, sell or give it to someone who DOES know.
A horse is not worth your life. If you can't get the help, it is not worth risking your life to fix. It is also not worth ruining the horse more for the sake of your pride.

Sometimes, a horse is just too much for us. There is nothing wrong with admitting this. Even if you've worked with a dozen trainers, and you're still in over your head.... well.... it's time to move on.

It will be best for you and the horse to part ways. You can take necessary precautions to make sure the horse ends up in a good home - usually, a problem horse won't fetch a lot of money, but they also won't take up more of your money in feed and upkeep costs. This way, the horse can be ridden and trained by someone that has the knowledge to work through the problems.
You, in turn, can either spend money on lessons, or buy a horse that's more appropriate for your level of riding, and learn on it.

Of course, another option, if you have the time and money, and if the horse is safe to handle on the ground, is to retire the horse to a pasture ornament. This works for some horses, and not for others... some horses need to work to be happy, and others are perfectly content being a pasture puff, but it is another option to consider.
i agree with all you said i am there right now,I have a real nice heading horse with lots of speed.Have already won some good ropings on him.But if he has not been worked for a few weeks,He is likely to buck when i turn the first steer or 2,We cannot find anywhere where he hurts and he has never bucked when we just go ride.He has lots of spirit and maybe too much for me
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post #156 of 225 Old 03-20-2012, 07:39 AM
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I do agree with this in theory - to cope with "problem horses" does require a lot of time and patience, awareness of what you are doing and how you are interacting with the animal. The issue of being over horsed is a big one, and certainly in my area we see a lot of riders with big, pacey warmbloods who are merely sitting on top and relying on the horse's generosity to get them through their test/course. However, if you know that you don't have the experience to fix the horse yourself, there are plenty of great instructors out there who can help you get together with your horse.

I now actually work 'fixing' behavioural issue with horses, and it all stemmed from my first horse as a teenager who I took on knowing in advance he was too much for me. He bolted and bucked, and I actually broke my hand the first day I tried him out elsewhere. But we had a connection, and I was determined to sort him. With the invaluable help of my instructor, I essentially re-broke him from scratch, lunging him in new tack and to build up the muscle in his hindquarters and saddle area, and within two months of restarting him, I had a fantastic, close to bomb-proof horse with amazing paces and real scope for dressage. Unfortunately, he ended up getting an injury in the field which left him unrideable almost a year after we'd gotten together, but sorting him (which was really a case of taking things slowly and listening to him to find out what it was that scared him so much about being ridden) gave me the bug, and I've since been employed by my former instructor to help with all the difficult horses she's had at her yard since. I have known only one horse in the ten years I've been around that yard now that couldn't be helped just by letting it relax into a laid back environment, and gentle work based around what it finds difficult. We've even had some proper broncs, who I wasn't sure would ever be rideable, who with time and effort have become kid's ponies who I would trust implicitly.

My current horse, for example, is one I picked up for free because he was thought to be too difficult to handle - he was known for dragging his owner around, refusing to load, breaking off the lorry when out and rampaging around show grounds, breaking through electric-fencing in the field and generally being a menace. However, I've discovered a lovely horse who simply hates being shouted at and bullied, and with careful management techniques he is the sweetest, most affectionate and lovely to handle horse I've ever had. The so-called problems don't go away, they are usually down to management and training, so whilst ym horse is perfect for me, my sister for example hates handling him, as she is a much more domineering person than me, and he does't like her way of handling him, so misbehaves the way he used to.

So whilst sometimes the way these horses act is a build of of bad handling/riding, which can be released and the horse re-established for novice riders again just with perseverance and help, others are merely sensitive enough to react that way to different types and levels of riders. So your issue of being over horsed is a complex one - sometimes, a relatively green rider and horse can come on great and through issues with the help of someone experienced, but in other cases, it simply is that the rider is unaware both the horse and the signals they are giving that horse to react to.
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post #157 of 225 Old 04-13-2012, 10:50 PM
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i like problem horses but i know how much problem i can handle... lol
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post #158 of 225 Old 04-14-2012, 01:32 PM
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I thought I could handle a 12-year-old Rocky with good training. No abuse in his past, good ground manners, stands still for mounting, great with farrier. But having a severe lack of personal confidence in the saddle changes everything. No matter how well trained a horse is, if you lack confidence then it's kind of pointless. My husband made a statement last night that made a lot of sense. "Having a horse was your dream, but it doesn't make you happy." A lot of money spent on what is supposed to be a great horse is still wasted money if you don't believe in yourself.
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post #159 of 225 Old 04-14-2012, 07:24 PM
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Originally Posted by sjwrightauthor View Post
I thought I could handle a 12-year-old Rocky with good training. No abuse in his past, good ground manners, stands still for mounting, great with farrier. But having a severe lack of personal confidence in the saddle changes everything. No matter how well trained a horse is, if you lack confidence then it's kind of pointless. My husband made a statement last night that made a lot of sense. "Having a horse was your dream, but it doesn't make you happy." A lot of money spent on what is supposed to be a great horse is still wasted money if you don't believe in yourself.
I feel for you sjwright; this is a very difficult situation to be in. I know what lack of confidence in the saddle feels like, I used to be a bunch of nerves on even the quietest horse. The thing that has helped me most has been doing Friendship Training. I started it to help my horse relax and get over some issues (he used to be very spooky and resistant), but it has made an amazing amount of difference to my confidence - I never realised how much fear I had around horses until it left me. Also, being with the horses and doing other things we both enjoy - going for walks on the lead for example (i.e., me on my feet leading him), and playing around obstacle courses, and just hanging out together. And riding where I feel very safe, and progressing at the rate that is right for me (snails pace compared to how other people progress, but making definite progress).

Yesterday I was able to mount a (nice, quiet, 15.3 hh) horse I had never met before and ride him with just a bareback pad and a halter. I did ask someone to stand next to him when I mounted so I could be confident he wouldn't move as he felt very tall, but then was able to mount with only the tiniest hesitation and tiniest tremble of my hands, and within 30 seconds was relaxed and comfortable, and after 15 minutes of ambling and talking was confident to take him out of the round yard for a little ride. This is a huge personal best for me, normally even on quiet horses it takes several rides for my twitches to leave if I don't know the horse. My riding has gotten much better now I am riding less and doing lots of other things with my horse, and I have discovered there are lots of enjoyable things to do with horses other than just riding them, and I get a great deal of pleasure just out of the relationship we have together.

Rider confidence is a huge issue, it's on lots of forums on the net. If you like this boy when you are on the ground, I suspect he can help you with your riding hugely if you just take things slow and progress at the pace you need to to feel safe.
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post #160 of 225 Old 04-16-2012, 06:36 PM
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Im glad i came across this post, I am getting my first horse soon and this very much applies to me!
The horse Ive been given is a bit of trouble and im hoping I can bring out the good in her. They say she used to be a dream to ride but has been let to rot in the pasture and has resorted to bucking (i think the bucking is pain related though)
The good thing though is that if i do find that she is over my head the previous owner will take her back.

I have high hopes that with a little understanding and regular exercise she will be a great horse. Plus she is just too pretty to rot in the pasture and she is very underweight where she is now.
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