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I LOVE my horses, but I feel unmotivated and stuck

563 Views 13 Replies 7 Participants Last post by  oakvalley
I'll try not to make this too long lol.
I have two mares, Sugar my eight year old, and Skye my nineteen year old. I have had these girls for awhile now and I love them more than anything, they are stuck with me for the rest of their lives no matter what. I should mention Skye is mostly retired due to an old injury so I don't work her much. Just brush her and take her on small trail rides.

So Sugar and I used to do western pleasure, she's always been a challenging horse, when I used to board her somewhere else, she used to be very spooky and a very hard to handle but I loved her to the moon and back even when my trainer told me multiple times she was the worst horse ever. After about a two years of being at that boarding barn I finally brought her home and I got a second horse, Skye. Sugar transformed into a completely different horse. I did ground work, desensitizing, riding, trails, everything that I wasn't able to do at the previous boarding facility. Sugar has calmed down so much and is happy. She's content and relatively quite well trained. So you may be wondering, what's the problem? Well, after almost two years of having the horses at home, I didn't ride them over the summer. I felt myself and Sugar starting to get bored with Western Pleasure and bored with doing ground work. Plus the bugs were horrible and the weather was way too hot to do anything. So I was expecting to get back into riding this fall. And when I tried to, Sugar was way different than before. She would randomly stop and stall in the middle of our ride. I knew she was bored and didn't want to do this anymore. So I began to try some liberty and maybe tricks and some free riding. But she just is so stubborn and I can't seem to make it fun for her. I will add the paddock I ride her in is only roughly 50' x 55' so I don't have room to make big obstacles and make it really challenging. And now I feel myself feeling frustrated and bored and ESPECIALLY un-motivated. I don't know what to do. I don't even really know why I'm writing this. Maybe so I can get ideas with what I can do with sugar to make things fun but even then I don't know if I can push myself to try them with Sugar. I can't really do much trail riding right now because the Lyme disease ticks are going around because it's finally cool enough to move. I'm just scared I'm starting to believe I'll never be able to do different things with Sugar. I'm scared I'm becoming lazy in a way too. In my head I always have the urge to want to try reining, cow work, jumping, and mounted archery with her but I don't have the space and there's no place around to bring her to do that stuff without paying hundreds of dollars.

I hope this makes sense. Maybe I just need to move away and take my horses with me. I would love to move to the prairies with my girls. I used to live out there years ago and I would love to go back. I'm on my way to getting a certificate in Equine Massage Therapy and hopefully I'll be able to save money to move away. I'm just so bored and tired with life right now. I feel like it's deeper than just not wanting to ride Sugar. I just feel so un-motivated for everything.
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My black horse is very silly and handsome. He is hard to train most of the time.
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Oh dear, I am sorry that you are going though all that!
That is sort of what happens to me different times. I know how discouraging that can be with horses sometimes!!!
I had a similar situation with my black horse. I was keeping him in a farther away pasture with a buddy of his and riding my other horses more than him so I only rode him for a short ride like once a month.
Then after a few months I noticed that he was getting very very balky. He still hasn't gotten over his balkyness 1 year later but he is much better. I find that the more that I ride/interact with him the less balky he gets.

I think that not really riding him for months made him like that. If you didn't ride Sugar very much for a few months that would be the case. I have found out that riding at least once a week keeps a horse from getting very balky and riding a few times a week is even better.

This sounds like the exact same thing with Castillo as with Sugar. It would probably work out for you to-when you are out on a ride, and she balks, ( stops in the path for no reason) ask her to go on, squeeze, cluck, whatever you normally do, if she doesn't go on giver her a smart smack with a little willow twig that doesn't have bumps, or a riding crop.
If she still doesn't go on she is really balky as was what Castillo did. If she still doesn't go on cluck squeeze wait for her to go on like 3 seconds then smack. As soon as she steps forward instantly release, even if you feel a small leaning to go forward.

You might also try not making your training sessions all the same. ( I don't know how you do it but here are some tips)
This works if you have a lot of time and be patient, this varying has to take place over a few weeks for it to sink in very well if you keep varying a lot all the time.
I like to vary up my training sessions so your horse never knows what you are going to be doing next. Like you could..... ride for a long time and you could stop and rest for a while in the middle of the ride, another day get her and bring her to house/barn and brush for a long time do some groundwork and then let her go ( she might be surprised that no riding) one day get her saddle ride around for like 5 minutes unsaddle then let her go, another time you could saddle her and lead her on a " ride" another time you could ride somewhere with really nice grass if you have places like that, picket or tie up and let her graze for like 30 minutes, just basically varying your interactions with her a lot but do that a lot not like 2 days a week.

Sorry for the long reply lol!
Good luck and I hope this helps! 🥰 🥰
 

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It sounds to me like you have more going on than just 'unmotivated'. I suggest you figure out what that is, and then decide if you still want to ride or to even have horses. I'll leave you with something my father used to tell us kids. "Don't look for a place to make you happy. Find a way to be happy in the place you're in.". He was a very wise man.
 

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My black horse is very silly and handsome. He is hard to train most of the time.
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I'll also add I can't ride in the fields because they are so hilly and bumpy
A quick question, why ^^^^^? Not to be offensive though. I think that riding all over the place is excelent for horses and hillwork is very good for them and the bumps, well it is part of the fields. If you ride on a smooth trail or an arena all the time all the horse see's is a smooth path and not a pasture like they stay in when you don't use them. Maybe you could try riding in the pasture that you keep Sugar and Skye in.
P.S. We have small " trails" in several places where there is a path through woods for like 100 mts longest or like 20 mts usually and the horses are glad to get off the path on onto the rest of the ride though the pastures like usual. They don't like paths very well unless they are short ones.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
A quick question, why ^^^^^? Not to be offensive though. I think that riding all over the place is excelent for horses and hillwork is very good for them and the bumps, well it is part of the fields. If you ride on a smooth trail or an arena all the time all the horse see's is a smooth path and not a pasture like they stay in when you don't use them. Maybe you could try riding in the pasture that you keep Sugar and Skye in.
P.S. We have small " trails" in several places where there is a path through woods for like 100 mts longest or like 20 mts usually and the horses are glad to get off the path on onto the rest of the ride though the pastures like usual. They don't like paths very well unless they are short ones.
I kind of meant I can't ride there doing circles and working on flying lead changes and all the stuff we used to do. If we just go in straight lines and do big circles it's fine. I'm just a little weary that she might trip and fall on her face if we were doing harder and more difficult work on the bumps and hills. I don't know, I may just be overthinking that lol.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
It sounds to me like you have more going on than just 'unmotivated'. I suggest you figure out what that is, and then decide if you still want to ride or to even have horses. I'll leave you with something my father used to tell us kids. "Don't look for a place to make you happy. Find a way to be happy in the place you're in.". He was a very wise man.
I like that quote.
I guess I just haven't been content with myself, stressed out a lot too. Ive always been an overthinker and maybe a bit of an overacheiver with certain things. What's been upsetting me the most is that my horses used to be the thing that made me light up and forget those problems. I love them more than anything and will do anything for them, I just feel down and un-motivated and frustrated especially because of my step-back in the progress I had with Sugar. I feel a bit better now. Today, after being done chores and writing the post, I went out to the field and just sat with my girls like I used to and I just kind of had a moment to just relax and breathe in the things I love most, them.

Definitely something I needed to do, especially because I just needed to realize it's not them that I'm upset with, it's just the riding part. I could sit outside all day with them and never move if I was allowed to and didn't have to do other things lol.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Oh dear, I am sorry that you are going though all that!
That is sort of what happens to me different times. I know how discouraging that can be with horses sometimes!!!
I had a similar situation with my black horse. I was keeping him in a farther away pasture with a buddy of his and riding my other horses more than him so I only rode him for a short ride like once a month.
Then after a few months I noticed that he was getting very very balky. He still hasn't gotten over his balkyness 1 year later but he is much better. I find that the more that I ride/interact with him the less balky he gets.

I think that not really riding him for months made him like that. If you didn't ride Sugar very much for a few months that would be the case. I have found out that riding at least once a week keeps a horse from getting very balky and riding a few times a week is even better.

This sounds like the exact same thing with Castillo as with Sugar. It would probably work out for you to-when you are out on a ride, and she balks, ( stops in the path for no reason) ask her to go on, squeeze, cluck, whatever you normally do, if she doesn't go on giver her a smart smack with a little willow twig that doesn't have bumps, or a riding crop.
If she still doesn't go on she is really balky as was what Castillo did. If she still doesn't go on cluck squeeze wait for her to go on like 3 seconds then smack. As soon as she steps forward instantly release, even if you feel a small leaning to go forward.

You might also try not making your training sessions all the same. ( I don't know how you do it but here are some tips)
This works if you have a lot of time and be patient, this varying has to take place over a few weeks for it to sink in very well if you keep varying a lot all the time.
I like to vary up my training sessions so your horse never knows what you are going to be doing next. Like you could..... ride for a long time and you could stop and rest for a while in the middle of the ride, another day get her and bring her to house/barn and brush for a long time do some groundwork and then let her go ( she might be surprised that no riding) one day get her saddle ride around for like 5 minutes unsaddle then let her go, another time you could saddle her and lead her on a " ride" another time you could ride somewhere with really nice grass if you have places like that, picket or tie up and let her graze for like 30 minutes, just basically varying your interactions with her a lot but do that a lot not like 2 days a week.

Sorry for the long reply lol!
Good luck and I hope this helps! 🥰 🥰
Thank you!
 

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My black horse is very silly and handsome. He is hard to train most of the time.
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I kind of meant I can't ride there doing circles and working on flying lead changes and all the stuff we used to do. If we just go in straight lines and do big circles it's fine. I'm just a little weary that she might trip and fall on her face if we were doing harder and more difficult work on the bumps and hills. I don't know, I may just be overthinking that lol.
Oh I see now! That makes sense, it isn't the greatest place to do arena work out in the fields lol!
 

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I go through something like that almost every year for a while. For me it's usually in the Spring - after planning to ride during the winter and then not doing it at all, then getting excited for warm weather and riding only to be reminded that the trails are too muddy to ride until it gets practically too hot to ride. Then I start thinking I should just sell my horses and move into town - then Fall comes and I'm happy as a clam again!

This year I SWEAR I'm going to ride in the winter!

A lot of it is depression for me. When I'm not active I get depressed. Then when I'm depressed I don't feel like doing anything so it becomes a vicious cycle and I miss out on riding even when the weather will allow it, because I'm just too down in the dumps. I hate going to the gym and get so bored doing indoor workouts at home. For my birthday this year, I got an Oculus Quest so I can do virtual reality workouts on the days it's too nasty to get outside and do anything fun. I'm hoping if I stay more active then I'll be more likely to want to ride when I'm able to.

We also live in an area where there's a lot of lyme disease, and I work as an infection control manager and see every case of lyme disease that comes through our health system. Even so - I'm not going to not ride. I bought permethrine to spray my clothes with and make sure to spray down with lots of bug spray, including in my hair and on my helmet. I spray my horses down well with fly spray and make sure to shower and do a tick search as soon as I get back. The ticks have to be embedded for 24 hours to give you lyme disease - and you can buy doxycycline online if you look for it. I keep some around and if I do find a tick that may have been embedded a little while I can take a couple of doses.

You have to find ways that you can be active and happy and then DO IT :)
 

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Just replied to your other thread.

Yes, that is a tiny, tiny ring. Still, you could set up an obstacle or two or three. Do something different every night. Learn to do mounted archery! It sounds to me like you just need to find something new to do with your horse because you have both gotten bored of doing the same old same old.

Or you just need a break from riding. Nothing wrong with that. You say you have lost your motivation for doing anything... that sounds like more than just being bored of riding or dealing with a challenging horse. It might be time to do some soul-searching to find your groove again. What do you want out of life? What are your goals? How are you taking concrete steps to achieve them? This sounds deeper than just an issue with your horse.

Not sure how old you are, but if you're still young and trying to figure out a career, this feeling is pretty normal. I think many of us have been there. Setting goals is important to feel like you're moving ahead. It sounds like you're working towards a career so that's a good goal on which to focus for now. I spent years studying for my career and during that time, I couldn't have horses (no money, no time). I have no regrets. I had two kids, built a career. As a mature adult, I have the means to have horses in the way I want and I love every minute of it. There are different phases in life when you might be more or less involved with horses and that's perfectly ok.
 

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There could be several things going on here. You seem aware that the issue may go deeper than just being unmotivated to ride. Often a sign of depression is no longer having interest in the things you used to enjoy.

However, it could be that the less-than-optimal environment for enjoying riding could be a major factor that might be leading to the feelings you're having and then a snowball effect is happening.

I had my own farm for 20 years. Before the farm, as a kid, I rode daily...sometimes twice a day! As a young adult before the farm, I rode several times a week. I worked at the barns where I kept my horses, so I was always heavily involved. Then I got my own place and for the first several years I was active as heck. I had two broke horses and was getting in projects and babies to work with and start all of the time. At one point I had six horses of my own. I had boarders on and off. I was busy, busy at the barn (and teaching school full-time).

Eventually, my interest in messing with project or young horses went away. I had two retirees and one "show horse". He got shown four times, and then I lost interest in doing that anymore too (been showing since I was 14). I didn't have people to ride with, and it just wasn't that fun anymore.

When my retirees crossed the rainbow bridge, I decided pretty quickly to sell my farm and move my remaining horse to a boarding barn. That was three years ago. Prior to selling and moving, I hadn't ridden my horse in at least two years. For the last three years he's been ridden more than he has all total in his life on my farm. Going "out to the barn" is my happy place now. When the horses were just steps from the house, they seemed to be part of my chores. I still loved them to pieces, but I'd literally feed them and clean up after them and that was it. Now my main aim is going to the barn to ride. It's self-care, so I still feed and look after my gelding too, but I enjoy that too.

I think when your riding has centered around showing from the beginning (mine did...shows were the goal from my first lesson), you do feel a little lost when you're "just riding" the horse. I'm at a dressage barn now, and I've ridden dressage plenty back in my late teens and early adulthood. I thought that's what I'd do with my (western pleasure bred) appaloosa too. For about two years we piddled at it and did some schooling shows and...meh. A few months ago I bought a western saddle (I also did AQHA shows with my older geldings...though mainly hunter under saddle and eq, but we dabbled in western pleasure too). Since buying that saddle and letting go of the "have to do it the dressage way" mentality, my horse and I have been having a blast just riding around the property. We jog and lope (not like the western pleasure horses lope...ick) and explore. It's fantastic. I ride him more and for longer than ever.

All of this to say, if you have the means to just get on and go trail riding or moseying around a field with no real agenda, that might be fun? Or would it be possible to board out again? Not in a show barn, but at a barn where people "just ride" and have fun?

I truly do sympathize. And I saw your other thread. I guarantee you the horses don't care if they're ridden or not. So don't worry about that.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
There could be several things going on here. You seem aware that the issue may go deeper than just being unmotivated to ride. Often a sign of depression is no longer having interest in the things you used to enjoy.

However, it could be that the less-than-optimal environment for enjoying riding could be a major factor that might be leading to the feelings you're having and then a snowball effect is happening.

I had my own farm for 20 years. Before the farm, as a kid, I rode daily...sometimes twice a day! As a young adult before the farm, I rode several times a week. I worked at the barns where I kept my horses, so I was always heavily involved. Then I got my own place and for the first several years I was active as heck. I had two broke horses and was getting in projects and babies to work with and start all of the time. At one point I had six horses of my own. I had boarders on and off. I was busy, busy at the barn (and teaching school full-time).

Eventually, my interest in messing with project or young horses went away. I had two retirees and one "show horse". He got shown four times, and then I lost interest in doing that anymore too (been showing since I was 14). I didn't have people to ride with, and it just wasn't that fun anymore.

When my retirees crossed the rainbow bridge, I decided pretty quickly to sell my farm and move my remaining horse to a boarding barn. That was three years ago. Prior to selling and moving, I hadn't ridden my horse in at least two years. For the last three years he's been ridden more than he has all total in his life on my farm. Going "out to the barn" is my happy place now. When the horses were just steps from the house, they seemed to be part of my chores. I still loved them to pieces, but I'd literally feed them and clean up after them and that was it. Now my main aim is going to the barn to ride. It's self-care, so I still feed and look after my gelding too, but I enjoy that too.

I think when your riding has centered around showing from the beginning (mine did...shows were the goal from my first lesson), you do feel a little lost when you're "just riding" the horse. I'm at a dressage barn now, and I've ridden dressage plenty back in my late teens and early adulthood. I thought that's what I'd do with my (western pleasure bred) appaloosa too. For about two years we piddled at it and did some schooling shows and...meh. A few months ago I bought a western saddle (I also did AQHA shows with my older geldings...though mainly hunter under saddle and eq, but we dabbled in western pleasure too). Since buying that saddle and letting go of the "have to do it the dressage way" mentality, my horse and I have been having a blast just riding around the property. We jog and lope (not like the western pleasure horses lope...ick) and explore. It's fantastic. I ride him more and for longer than ever.

All of this to say, if you have the means to just get on and go trail riding or moseying around a field with no real agenda, that might be fun? Or would it be possible to board out again? Not in a show barn, but at a barn where people "just ride" and have fun?

I truly do sympathize. And I saw your other thread. I guarantee you the horses don't care if they're ridden or not. So don't worry about that.
Thank you for this!
 

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This is a response to both this thread and the other that you posted.

As long as your horses get to live outside and be horses, have equine friendships, receive good food, shelter from the elements, and their regular maintenance (farrier, vet, etc.) isn't neglected, they absolutely won't care whether they're ridden or not. It's crazy how many people think they need to sell their horse thinking it'll be unhappy if they don't ride it. If it's locked up in a stall all day? Maybe. Yes, some horses are truly adventurous spirits- but they are few and far in between. Most horses are totally content to just eat grass with their friends, get brushed, petted, and that's it. There's a great group on FB for unridden horses that I enjoyed when I was still on social media.

I think a lot of this thinking comes from the western culture obsession with DOING and WORKING ourselves to death- ignoring the BEING part of life. Interestingly, horses are amazing teachers of being truly present, in your body, and living in the moment. People who don't see the inherent divinity of horses outside of riding will never truly understand horsemanship IMO. Horses are also expensive, and most people are taught that they have to justify their expenses with some sort of tangible, "proof" that it's "worth it". Nobody can place a value on ones friendships- lots of us have had that "once in a lifetime dog" who we wouldn't have sold for a million bucks. Reptile, bird, and exotic animal owners get a lot of satisfaction and fulfillment just by providing their animals a beautiful, safe, close to nature life. Just watching their animals exist happily in an enriching and suitable environment is comforting. Why should horses be so different?

With that said, I do think that if you have high expectations of a horse under saddle (especially on a time limit), the commitment, consistency, and work required to get there and maintain it is likely going to be uncomfortable at times. "Blood, sweat, and tears" is not for everybody, and it's okay to need a break or stop living that type of lifestyle completely. It doesn't make you any "less than"- don't let anyone convince you otherwise. Choosing ease and flow over the grind doesn't make you a loser, but you may need to alter your expectations to be more realistic.

Take the time to decide what you really want. This decision may not come overnight. Focus on the way you want things to feel more than the mechanics of how that might look. I don't know if there is a private messaging system on here, but I'd be happy to lend an ear if you ever need to vent.
 
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