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Juniper 04-13-2010 01:23 PM

Am I anthropomorphizing? Or does this horse miss being worked?
I thought my daughter's horse would be happy with the change in his life. He went from lessons a couple of days a week, showing, and lots of ground work and desensitizing to keep him safe, to being my husband's trail horse. He lives in a huge pasture with my horse, he has horses along all the fence lines to play with . He was always a cheerful horse, never sullen or resentful.
He spends a lot of time playing with the gates. Is he trying to get out?
Yesterday, when I was holding him for the shoer I got the distinct impression he misses all the ground games and desensitizing and interaction I used to do with him.
My daughter cannot do team sports and a tougher school regime and horses and chose to give up horse riding. Sad but typical at this age I hear.
I thought her horse would appreciate living a more "natural" horse life but I am questioning that now.
Horse experts, what do you think?

Alwaysbehind 04-13-2010 01:32 PM

I would guess he is simply bored, not so much that he misses work.

speedy da fish 04-13-2010 01:37 PM

well im no expert but it sounds like he does miss work. a long time ago, there was a pony at my old stables he was a 28 year old lesson horse. the owner of the stables (and owner of the pony) decided to retire him and he suddenly bacame very ill. i dont know who realised this, but it turned out that he was missing being in work. after a few months of him being back in work, they decided to sell him to a young client, that summer we saw him at a show and he threw his owner off with excitement! i think bringing him back into work saved his live, he was so ill and we were all worried about him. now as far as i know he is still alive, with the same owner and well into him 30s.
good luck with your daughters horse, maybe try taking him out on trails just to get him off the pasture for a bit. or maybe loan him out to someone who can work him.

Juniper 04-13-2010 01:48 PM

He does get trail ridden, usually twice a week, and to different places. We just went for a couple of hours on Sunday.
You are probably right, it is the human thinking to say he misses work , but he is bored. He is only six so that is likely. I thought the big pasture and other horses would do it, for entertainment, but apparently not.

Alwaysbehind 04-13-2010 01:58 PM

Do the other horses in the big pasture play with him? He is young enough that he probably wants to play. Like his chewing on the gate - something moves when he lips it.

I highly doubt he is miserable by any stretch of the imagination. He is just looking for ways to amuse himself. A bored little boy.

NittanyEquestrian 04-13-2010 01:59 PM

I had a mare that I had to rehome that was in her late 20s because she wanted worked more than the horses I had in for training did. She would try to push through the gate when I came out to grab horses, she HATED the sedate trail walks I used to take her on and would grab the bit anytime there was a level area or hill and take off at a canter til the ground changed or she ran out of room. Not because she was bad, but because I was only taking her out a few times a month and I wasn't letting her do any more than a walk or a jog because of her age. She had been a successful AA jumper in her day, then she was a lesson horse, then she was my show horse for quite a few years as a kid and then did some lessons again and then I decided to let her retire once she hit what we thought was around 28. She would drop weight in the winter and take a while to put it back on and had some good sized melanomas on her tail (joys of grey horses) and generally was getting harder to keep weight and condition on her.

Well she HATED retirement. I eventually gave her to a family with 4 kids, two of which were little girls 8 and 10 who had a pony and needed another horse to do 4-H with. I got Christmas cards from the girls with my mare every year and went to see her occasionally. She always remembered me and would come charging across the pasture to slime me when I called her name. Then one Christmas I got I got a long letter from the family telling me that she passed away in her sleep but had been pretty healthy for an old girl up until then. She had started having trouble getting up and down and had been spending more time in the barn. Their vet had suggested monitoring her as she was not in obvious severe pain, just old age discomfort. She had been ridden sparingly the year before she died around the farm at a walk and through the woods and loved every minute of it. Enclosed in the Christmas card was the youngest daughter's senior picture, taken of her bareback in a field atop my mare. Her age was undetermined but she had to have been close to 40 when she died.

Horses get bored and miss the exercise, the mental stimulation and companionship of steady work. Some more than others as some horses would prefer to be set free in the wilderness instead of having to work. They have different personalities and work ethics just like people. I would suggest considering free leasing him to a 4-H kid that is horseless or a horseless adult rider to trail ride with you. Or just drag your husband to the barn more often and make him play with "his horse" =P

Juniper 04-13-2010 02:10 PM

The other horses play with him but not to the extent he wants to play. He does not actually chew on the gates but plays with the chains that keep them closed. The chains loop around and then go through a little wedge kind of thing. He has gotten them undone before and come out to play. So now they have extra closers. My husband loves this horse and they get along well and trail riding is what we do together. and he is far from miserable so we will not be giving him another home. I have offered him to other people to ride with the condition that they take a couple of lessons on him to make sure they are safe and get along. No one has taken me up on that. Most people just want to get on and ride. He is very responsive from all the work my daughter did with him and I don't think that would be fair to him to let any old person on him. My husband works many hours so any extra attention will have to come from me. I am pretty busy with work, my horse and kid's schedules, so I am wondering how important it is for me to fit in some time with him. I think I will try for once a week for an hour or so and see how that goes.

Juniper 04-13-2010 02:23 PM

I would let some of the local 4-H kids use him but I don't think he would be quite appropriate for any of them. My daughter won a lot on him, but only after many, many lessons. He is a very forward going horse and sensitive.

My daughter spent many an hour with the trainer and learned his in and outs, but I don't think you could throw any old kid on him.

justsambam08 04-13-2010 02:26 PM

At my barn, we have a TB gelding whos 25 or 26. He's blind in one eye, a little spooky sometimes, but in his day he was a racehorse. Still at 26, his favorite thing to do is to open the gates by himself, take a galloped lap or two around the barn yard, and then put himself in his stall like nothing ever happened. He's not ridden anymore unless its bareback to and from his stall, he has a severe swayback and so saddles just don't sit well on him anymore. I would say that he's more bored than unhappy, but he certainly enjoys work when its given.

Theres also a lesson horse (a TB cross) who is dead to most leg cues and is used for absolute beginners, but can be ridden by the more advanced students as well. At the last show he was at, he was ridden by three girls because one of the other horses turned up lame. He showed better for the third girl than the first, and he still had it in him for more when they were packing up to go home. He's also a cribber, and I think he's bored also, not necessarily unhappy.

Then there's my guy. More or less fresh off the track, 12 years old, and he just plain loves to work. There's no doubt about it. He gets attitudy and nasty when he's not ridden at least 3 times a week....its escalated to the point where he attacked the BO. Before I bought him, he was in a pasture 24/7 and I think he enjoyed that....however, he associates a stall with work, so when he doesn't get it.....I wouldn't classify him as bored, I would say that he is unhappy.

I think it just comes down to what the horse has come to expect from its life---a grand prix show horse suddenly turned out to permanant pasture might not do as well as a weekend trail horse.

iridehorses 04-13-2010 02:32 PM

I think that some horses, like many people, love their jobs. Hollywood was a guide's horse for the 6 years prior to me owning him. He was used everyday for 5 or 6 days per week.

I rode him several times per week but far shorter then he was used to. Well, winter came and it was colder then normal. I had other obligations so our rides were fewer then normal. A few weeks ago I took him out for a ride, his first in about a month. We rode for about an hour and he gave me a hard time when I tried to get in back into the barn to unsaddle him. I finally got him in and ground tied him to take off his tack. Typically after I take off his bridle, that is his signal that he can leave for the pasture. Instead he just stood there. I went about my business cleaning the tack up area and he was still standing there. I left the barn to get a wheel barrel and he was still standing there.

Finally, I retacked him and took him back up to the field. I remounted, gave him his head and expected him to turn around to head back to the barn - instead, we just trotted out to the field and made a few circuits. He just enjoys his job. Some horses are that way I guess.

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