One Last Chance
3 years ago I got my lovely arabian yearling. He was for free due to having SCID genes and the breeder wanted to get rid of him and cut their loses. I had him gelded at a year and a half. Since then he had some very bad experiences happening including this one crazy guy who lived next to the ranch and broke in. He had a thing against arabians and apparently beat my horse. Like he said he would if I would just let him and it would teach my horse a lesson. Overnight my horse went from quite and sweet to panicked and charging the gate.
Since then we've had some up and downs with various boarding facilities (we moved my horse due to the fact that the ranch owner didn't want to look into the person that broke in and the missing tack and the sudden freak out by all the arabians there.)
Training wise, I've probably been a horrible owner since I was very cautious of my horse's joints and health. He was very clumsy as a colt and the one thing he loved was running. Which equals a bad combo. He's cut up his leg before. I agree that some of my horses problems were caused by my ignorance and others I know started when that one episode happened to him.
With the last place my horse was boarding, the owner came to me and said if I didn't get him under control he had to leave. He had been biting and leaning on the pen and kicking it. Plus she was ticked at the time that I had been absent for a month which was due to my mom needing heart surgery and care. Later when she found out I didn't know much training wise and was having trouble challenging his mind since I was only taught a few things; she offered to train him. Within a month his behavior was great. He accepted everything, from the saddle to the bit to obstacles. We didn't move to riding him though and I only got to work with her guidance a bit. The bummer was it was going to cost us over 800 a month in training plus board and feed and we just can't afford it.
The hardest part was the last time I was at the ranch; my hand got tangled up in a rope on accident and it took all my strength to free myself from it. Leaving me with no hand to hold my horse's lead rope and the only woman there said to my boyfriend "I can handle horses but I won't handle THAT horse." My boyfriend has never been around horses in his life and I had to hold down my fear cause I wasn't sure what would happen. Though almost any animal he touches immediately goes calm or tries to snuggle him. Which my horse went from panicked over my yelp to just standing there calmly sniffing my boyfriend in moments.
My horse has never purposefully hurt me. The only time he had was an accidental step on my foot or his old habit of nipping that we broke him of. The trainer told me my horse had very aggressive behavior and that I needed to be more assertive with him. Including bending a bit in my not wanting to hit my horse. Which I understood since my horse had started the habit of kicking out when lounging. And giving him a firm whack stopped him from every biting me again. Took me maybe two hits and that was it. My father was angry saying my horse isn't a bad horse. But he also didn't understand what she was saying. She showed me some of my horse's behavior that I had just never noticed. Including invading personal space, ignoring certain commands, and his habit or kicking out when hoof picking. And the occasional test he always had liked to make of running towards you a bit to see if you would get scared or not. Which never scared me until I was told that one day it would grow to the point of him full out charging and hurting someone. This is what I am really scared of. I don't want my horse to turn bad because of me as his owner.
This leaves me with my question. I was told if I couldn't change myself and become aggressive/assertive then I should sell my horse. This is a hard thing for me because I know him inside and out. What subtle eye motions mean. I can tell when he's asking me to let him to run. But there's also this problem of me being gone on and off for a few months. I know he's changed some since he's 4 and has hit the rebellious stage. But I still think somewhere down there he's still that peaceful horse I knew who just loved to run. I wish I could figure out all the reasons he acts out. I wish I wasn't made so scared about the danger that could happen if I keep owning him. I also know that they said if I sell him at this time he most likely will end up at slaughter. It's hurting me badly and tearing me up with guilt. I want so hard to keep him but am I doing the right thing? I know I have asthma that gets in the way sometimes or other health issues. But I also know that maybe there's hope around the corner. Maybe someone can teach me so I can be what my horse needs. I was told I would always have to keep him at arms length due to his personality. But I also know he was never really taught how to behave or communicate with other horses correctly. I want to reverse it so he can be a good horse. That and I was told his magnum psyche bloodline can mean he might not be right in the head.
I moved him to a new place where everyone is really friendly and everyone there wants to help me. And a friend of the family who trains horses is willing to take me every step of the way to getting him calm and well behaved.
Should I keep going? Should I give it another chance with this place that it won't backfire horribly like the other three places? Everytime I think of selling my horse I sob because I feel like if I give up on him I will never forgive myself. I will never buy another horse because I'll be terrified it'll end up the same. And because if I give up on him, I'm giving up on myself and letting down another animal in my care. I can't forgive myself for letting go of another animal that I agreed to take care of for it's lifetime. I've wanted a horse since I was 6. I dreamed of it every day. I don't want that dream to be crushed now. Especially since in a month I am graduating from highschool and will be able to devote almost the whole summer to training him.
the only way you are going to change the horse is if you change yourself to be assertive and realize that if you want a safe horse there should not be an excuse you can't afford training from a professional to fix things especially if you on purpose or not spoiled him so he doesn't listen. i believe you didn't spoil him on purpose and have intention of being a good owner but some horses no matter if they were abused or not will take a mile if given an inch and you obvisously have one of those horses.
personally the horse from what you have mentioned is way to much for you and i would sell him to an expereinced horse person and get yourself a calm reliable horse who will actually teach you how to handle horses from the ground up to riding. which at this point with your current horse i don't see happening anytime soon without consistency and training with a professional.
You needing training to help train your horse, period. Sounds like you have an offer to do this, jump at that chance. However, in order for you to keep owning that horse successfully & safely, you need to make a serious time commitment no matter what well is happening in your life otherwise you will fail, sorry to sound harsh but it is the reality. Make up a schedule for when your family friend will come to your barn and stick with it, no matter what. Get them to give you exercise to do with him between training sessions and do it every chance you get! If the friend can't help you to contol this horse properly to where he is a safe horse for you then find someone else capable of it. This is only way for you & your horse to have a future together, make it happen, working on your own sounds like a recipe for disaster. I hope you can succeed, it's certainly possible with your commitment.
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Some horses just don't fit with us as a person. Your horse belongs with a more assertive, more experienced horseman, and there's nothing you can do to change that unless you change yourself.
Selling him is not giving up on him, just as the same as putting an animal down is not giving up on them. You must do what is best for HIM, do not let your personal feelings get in the way. If he could be much happier and at peace with another owner, isn't it a bit unfair to keep him from that?
Right now you need to do what is best for him. Is that changing yourself to be a more assertive and responsible owner? Or is it giving him to someone who can truly put him in his place from day one like he needs to be? The only person that can answer that question is you.
Here's what I see from what you described: you're about 17-18 years old, and you have your very first horse. You have an Arab, you picked a very sensitive and intelligent breed as a first time horse owner, and a youngster at that.
Regardless of perceived errors or mistakes made, and circumstances which were beyond your control with his past abuse, if you have given your word to the horse to care for him for life, that is a rare and special commitment few horse owners will make, and I want to say how much I appreciate your dedication. I appreciate that you were compassionate and took a horse in that may have otherwise been sent to slaughter.
I hope the new barn friends you've made will help give you and your horse the confidence and learning tools that will work for you. The two of you are young, and you can learn and grow together in untold ways. Everyone has opinions, and you may be overwhelmed with different perspectives, techniques, attitudes, training tips, etc. Just pay attention to your horse and what works for him. It sounds like you know him better than you think you do, and it's just a matter of finding the right environment and people to give you both a hand up.
Horses mirror us, for better or worse LOL, and we are all learning about ourselves and our horses no matter where we are in our journey. I'm an old bat and I still screw up LOL. I don't believe anything is impossible.
If for any reason you should decide that he will be a better match for someone, you can protect him by lifetime leasing him with a very explicit and detailed free lease contract, rather than selling him. If that is something you feel is right.
I pretty much agree with everything the previous posters said.
I do want to mention though that aggressive=/=assertive and assertive=/=aggressive. Aggressive CAN be assertive but one does not the other make.
I know with my Arab mare (also "hot", not intentionally dangerous but has a knack for getting into those situations) being aggressive is going to get me zero anythings. She needs me to be assertive and trustworthy, not assertive and, in her mind, dangerous.
I lay down rules for her, that are totally unchanging, and expect her to follow the rules. If she doesn't, it's an "ask, tell, DEMAND" progression. I'm never arbitrarily "mean" to her and before I "demand" I make a quick check of her current behavior to make sure she understands what I want and isn't resisting because she doesn't understand.
I've found that often she will resist because something hurts or she doesn't understand. She very very rarely just doesn't do something for the sake for not doing it, there's generally a reason for everything she does or doesn't do.
Anyway, don't get sidetracked by being "aggressive". Focus on being assertive and getting your guy's trust via being the trustworthy leader. His love will follow, once he knows her can count on you.
And remember where your guy comes from: Lady Wentworth, a famous Arabian Horse breeder many years ago, once wrote "If they don’t shy from a butterfly, they should be shot."
Arabians are the best, they just take a little extra extra sometimes.
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