Lesson horse guilt - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 12 Old 01-17-2019, 01:45 PM Thread Starter
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Lesson horse guilt

So, I feel guilty about lesson horses. I feel terrible for subjecting them to endless hours of me bumping along on their backs while I try to learn to sit the trot or canter, giving them inconsistent signals with various parts of my body, pulling on their mouths, just generally making them uncomfortable. I *know* am not that great of a rider.

Having said that, the two lesson horses I ride, I try to treat with as much kindness as possible. I give them (addictive) cookies, and when Iím grooming and tacking up I find the best hay at the barn and give that to them to eat. I tack them up soooooo slowly and gently. I give them scratches when I see them, if they want. Both of these horses choose to come up to me in the pasture, sometimes chasing other horses away to do so, so they must not hate me. But sometimes I feel so guilty about what I subject them to that I donít even want to learn anything new. Sometimes I donít even want to ride them Ė I ask to ride one of my horses, who are not that well trained, so I spend more time trying to keep them under control than actually learning anything.

There are two responses Iím looking for here:
(1) Donít worry, they can handle it, OR
(2) Here are some more things you can do to make their lives better.

Thanks for any thoughts.
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Last edited by ACinATX; 01-17-2019 at 01:50 PM.
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post #2 of 12 Old 01-17-2019, 01:47 PM
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Sounds like you are doing a pretty good job of it. If they willingly come to you then I wouldn't worry about it.

Some horse people change their horse, they change their tack and discipline, they change their instructor; they never change themselves.
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post #3 of 12 Old 01-17-2019, 02:00 PM
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I sometimes feel guilty, but then I remember that I suck it up when he puts his full weight on my foot or gets my finger instead of the carrot and draws blood as he scrapes his teeth off my finger. (Can't just open your mouth when you realize your mistake, oh no!) I also don't complain when he swings his head around and knocks his chin into my head, or when I sit down with him and he chews his hay above me so I spend the rest of the day with hay down my back.

Then I think, "We both forgive each other's shortcomings, and we both do plenty of things to make each other's lives better." :)
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post #4 of 12 Old 01-17-2019, 02:09 PM
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It sounds like you need some confidence. Is your trainer encouraging?

The horses are in fact, lesson horses - people learn on them, and no rider is perfect of course, nobody is.
Don't feel guilty. It's good that they come up to you - that's a great sign! :)
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Ride more, worry less.
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post #5 of 12 Old 01-17-2019, 02:14 PM
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IMO having empathy and showing kindness is exactly the right way to treat lesson horses.

While they are healthy and gainfully employed, lesson horses are *usually* well cared for. There are always exceptions of course, but most owners or managers would rather keep the horses they have working than look for new ones.


However, after a time, these lesson horses can no longer do the work and that is where you might be able to help. Most of these horses are sent off when their working live is over and many go off to auction and are bought by meat buyers.

I don't personally think this is a just reward for all those people the lesson horse has taught to ride.

So maybe you could help them by working to find loving retirement homes for these horses when they move on. The horses may not understand how you helped them, but you will know you have done what you can to make their lives better.
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post #6 of 12 Old 01-17-2019, 02:32 PM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by AnitaAnne View Post
So maybe you could help them by working to find loving retirement homes for these horses when they move on. The horses may not understand how you helped them, but you will know you have done what you can to make their lives better.
Thank you! I will *definitely* keep that in mind as these guys get older!
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post #7 of 12 Old 01-17-2019, 02:33 PM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by QtrBel View Post
Sounds like you are doing a pretty good job of it. If they willingly come to you then I wouldn't worry about it.
Or, it could be the cookies: "Oh, you wouldn't, by any chance, happen to have any of those delicious noms that you give us sometimes..?"
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post #8 of 12 Old 01-17-2019, 02:36 PM
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I wanted to add that it sounds like you treat them very well. :) You don't just ride and toss them back in the field, you have built relationships with them. That is always good.
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Ride more, worry less.
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post #9 of 12 Old 01-17-2019, 03:10 PM
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Originally Posted by mmshiro View Post
I sometimes feel guilty, but then I remember that I suck it up when he puts his full weight on my foot or gets my finger instead of the carrot and draws blood as he scrapes his teeth off my finger. (Can't just open your mouth when you realize your mistake, oh no!) I also don't complain when he swings his head around and knocks his chin into my head, or when I sit down with him and he chews his hay above me so I spend the rest of the day with hay down my back.

Then I think, "We both forgive each other's shortcomings, and we both do plenty of things to make each other's lives better." :)

When they slowly lift that tail and you hear that breezy sound...


Or get too close to a tree on a trail and you get your leg smooshed because OMG CAN'T GET DOWN IN THE TRAIL. MUST WALK ON HIGHER GROUND!... even if that higher ground is way too close to a tree and even if it's only 4" taller than the trail itself.


When they suddenly lift their head and for some dumb reason I had my head higher than theirs... and I get my chin boxed and my jaw clacked.


I wonder if they stand around in the pasture and say: Man. I feel sorry for that woman. I spooked at my own shadow today and nearly lost her when I jumped sideways. I TRY to do better, I really do but...

"We are here to laugh at the odds and live our lives so well that death will tremble to take us."
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post #10 of 12 Old 01-17-2019, 04:32 PM
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Years ago my husband had the opportunity to buy his lesson horse who was 18 and a bit arthritic at the time. It was so rewarding to be the one to treat him to royal retirement. We watched him decompress mentally and physically for several months. The rest, peace and quiet, and good diet revealed a curious, affectionate goof.
He's better now at 25 than he was back then. That's the best way he could say thank you to a horse who tolerated his fair share of beginners for years. I also think that because of his patience, those riders are better now and much "easier" on their current horses. They are indeed Saints!
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