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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hello everyone. I'm in a difficult situation. Im young, 15, and bought an OTTB about 9 months ago. He is the sweetest guy and the most talented horse I've probably ever met. He excels in dressage and jumping, on his good days. The problem is, when we came into winter, he turned into a horse that i no longer felt safe riding. I get so much anxiety even getting on him anymore or thinking about getting on him. He is being worked 5 to 6 days a week, being ridden twice by my trainer, and then 2 lessons a week as well, so we have been trying. The problem is, he started reading straight up in the air, almost going over once, randomly acting up, and to add to it, jumping him causes me so much anxiety because he bucks and bolts after every one. We have checked that tack fits properly, treated him for ulcers, he sees the farrier every 6 weeks, etc. We've looked into everything health related that it could possibly be, but this behavior has been going on for about 3 months now. I just dont know what to do anymore. My mom is upset that I want to sell him because I chose to take him on, but he is a much different horse than he was when we bought him and has only gotten worse as we have gone on. So should I keep trying with him? Should I try and lease him out? Or should I just sell him and find something new and simple to ride? I need serious help here!
 

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What do you know of his history?
Did you get a pre-purchase examination?
Has he been seen by a chiropractor or a lameness specialist?
What are his turnout and diet like?
Besides that weather, has anything else changed?

I am a believer that most horses usually do not randomly change for no reason. Horses change because someone/thing made them change. This change, while seemingly minor to us, can be a major stressor; horses do not like change. Rule out as many physical and mental stressors as possible.

In the meantime, do not ride him. Horses can feel your emotions; and they either feed off of them (or mirror them) or "take advantage of them" (I do not mean this is a manipulative way). Anxiety is of no help, and can actually make it worse. Those behaviors that he is displaying are very dangerous, regardless of riding experience. The "horses do best what they do most" say is a double-edged sword. Three months of reckless, dangerous behavior is a long time - a long enough time for it to become a habit, even if you do fix any of his physical problems.

You should talk with your mom and trainer. There is absolutely no shame in admitting that a horse is too much for you. Actually, it is a good, mature thing. It means that you are honest with yourself and your abilities and realistic about your expectations. If you do lease or sell, disclose all his behaviors, in-person and in-writing. You do not want to be liable if someone gets hurt and accuses you of lying by omission.

(Edit)
Grammar.
 

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You should sell him. He is going to be a whole lot of horse for a long time. At your age, you don't want to get turned off of horses, and it is easy to lose courage and difficult to get it back again.

Your mom needs to know it is easy to make a mistake and get overhorsed, and this is a serious safety issue. This is not a "teach a teen to be responsible and stick with things" issue. You could get badly injured. Please tell your mom that will be the opinion of many horse experienced adults.

My friend who was an excellent rider accidentally got overhorsed and it almost took her enjoyment of horses completely away. She had bought horses before but made a mistake this time, and giving the horse to someone else helped her out very much. I think the horse was a lot happier too.
 

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If you feel seriously unsafe riding him, even with the frequent help of your trainer, I would say look for a different horse. Theres no shame in it. Especially since things seem to be getting worse even with a trainer available. But again that's just me and only going off the info given.
 

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I know an ottb sounds so intriguing to a young rider but, in my opinion they are not the best for beginning riders. They are normally a pretty hot horse that has been under a lot of pressure early in life and are lacking in much besides a crash course in riding. It would be much more enjoyable for you to get a calm, experienced horse that is well broke and unflappable to build your confidence and enjoyment of riding. I think you should talk your mom into selling and have your trainer help you in selecting an animal that would work best for you and most of all build your confidence to move on to more horse in the future.
 

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This is honestly a pretty common scenario. New owner gets a horse, things go well at first, then the horse begins testing limits, and it falls apart. You ARE doing everything you can by getting your trainer to ride him, and doing two lessons a week! That's awesome. But it sounds like this horse is just too much. Don't feel bad - find a person who can handle this horse, and find yourself a very safe horse, a schoolmaster horse is what we call them. That's the best way for you to progress as a rider, and continue to enjoy riding safely.

I'm speaking from experience here. I bought a mare who was supposed to be safe, but ended up falling off her many times, eventually getting a concussion. I tried everything to help her, from training to medication to various treatments. She got a little better, but still not a good horse for me. One day, a friend of a friend asked whether I'd consider selling her. I told her all the bad things about this mare, but she wanted to meet her anyway. They hit it off. This person rode my mare very differently (she's a Western rider, I'm English) and it was a beautiful thing to watch. In the meantime, I had gotten myself the most quiet, easy-going gelding you ever met. The mare found a new home that could deal with her insecurity, and I got a horse that made me happy to ride again.

On the other hand, my daughter got herself a schoolmaster. He was older (15), but since she was only 11 at the time, we wanted a safe horse for her. Best horse ever. With a lot of TLC, he is still going strong at almost 22, is still doing some low jumps, and now advancing to second level dressage. She adores him, and doesn't want to hear of getting another horse. He's smart, sane, and is still learning new things all the time. Honestly, I think it's going to take the rest of her life to find another horse like him. That's the kind of horse you want right now.
 

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How old is he? When you say "winter" I assume below freezing and snowy climes. If this is the case, and the "bad" behavior started at this time, could it be weather related? Does he act up (rearing, bucking, bolting) with just you, or does the trainer experience the same? You say you have looked into everything health related but I just wanted to clarify. I feel that sometimes rearing is caused by a horse simply being completely overwhelmed and feeling trapped, and there only way out is up. But I think sometimes it can be pain related. Do you think he could be experiencing arthritic changes? I do think this is not the horse for you, riding is meant to be fun, and this horse is giving you a lot of anxiety. Perhaps talking with your trainer you can get a game plan set up that makes all parties happy. Good luck!
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
I know an ottb sounds so intriguing to a young rider but, in my opinion they are not the best for beginning riders. They are normally a pretty hot horse that has been under a lot of pressure early in life and are lacking in much besides a crash course in riding. It would be much more enjoyable for you to get a calm, experienced horse that is well broke and unflappable to build your confidence and enjoyment of riding. I think you should talk your mom into selling and have your trainer help you in selecting an animal that would work best for you and most of all build your confidence to move on to more horse in the future.
He was completely manageable when we bought him, and has continuously gotten worse. And I am only 15 but have quite a bit of riding experience, been riding since 3 and a half and have worked with many many OTTBs. Thats what makes me so frustrated. Thanks for the help
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
This is honestly a pretty common scenario. New owner gets a horse, things go well at first, then the horse begins testing limits, and it falls apart. You ARE doing everything you can by getting your trainer to ride him, and doing two lessons a week! That's awesome. But it sounds like this horse is just too much. Don't feel bad - find a person who can handle this horse, and find yourself a very safe horse, a schoolmaster horse is what we call them. That's the best way for you to progress as a rider, and continue to enjoy riding safely.

I'm speaking from experience here. I bought a mare who was supposed to be safe, but ended up falling off her many times, eventually getting a concussion. I tried everything to help her, from training to medication to various treatments. She got a little better, but still not a good horse for me. One day, a friend of a friend asked whether I'd consider selling her. I told her all the bad things about this mare, but she wanted to meet her anyway. They hit it off. This person rode my mare very differently (she's a Western rider, I'm English) and it was a beautiful thing to watch. In the meantime, I had gotten myself the most quiet, easy-going gelding you ever met. The mare found a new home that could deal with her insecurity, and I got a horse that made me happy to ride again.

On the other hand, my daughter got herself a schoolmaster. He was older (15), but since she was only 11 at the time, we wanted a safe horse for her. Best horse ever. With a lot of TLC, he is still going strong at almost 22, is still doing some low jumps, and now advancing to second level dressage. She adores him, and doesn't want to hear of getting another horse. He's smart, sane, and is still learning new things all the time. Honestly, I think it's going to take the rest of her life to find another horse like him. That's the kind of horse you want right now.
Thanks so much! Its so frustrating because I've helped retrain so many green horses, including OTTBS (been riding for over 11 years at this point), and am generally pretty fearless, but for whatever reason, my own horse is making me nervous
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
How old is he? When you say "winter" I assume below freezing and snowy climes. If this is the case, and the "bad" behavior started at this time, could it be weather related? Does he act up (rearing, bucking, bolting) with just you, or does the trainer experience the same? You say you have looked into everything health related but I just wanted to clarify. I feel that sometimes rearing is caused by a horse simply being completely overwhelmed and feeling trapped, and there only way out is up. But I think sometimes it can be pain related. Do you think he could be experiencing arthritic changes? I do think this is not the horse for you, riding is meant to be fun, and this horse is giving you a lot of anxiety. Perhaps talking with your trainer you can get a game plan set up that makes all parties happy. Good luck!
Thank you! He is only 6 years old, and has been off the track for about 2 years now. It is definitely partially weather related, as it started when it began getting colder. Hes generally a more anxious horse, so riding at night, even in a fully lit covered arena makes him nervous. We have looked into every possible health related thing out there. Chiropractic, tack fit, treatment for ulcers, as well as a PPE when we bought him
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
What do you know of his history?
Did you get a pre-purchase examination?
Has he been seen by a chiropractor or a lameness specialist?
What are his turnout and diet like?
Besides that weather, has anything else changed?

I am a believer that most horses usually do not randomly change for no reason. Horses change because someone/thing made them change. This change, while seemingly minor to us, can be a major stressor; horses do not like change. Rule out as many physical and mental stressors as possible.

In the meantime, do not ride him. Horses can feel your emotions; and they either feed off of them (or mirror them) or "take advantage of them" (I do not mean this is a manipulative way). Anxiety is of no help, and can actually make it worse. Those behaviors that he is displaying are very dangerous, regardless of riding experience. The "horses do best what they do most" say is a double-edged sword. Three months of reckless, dangerous behavior is a long time - a long enough time for it to become a habit, even if you do fix any of his physical problems.

You should talk with your mom and trainer. There is absolutely no shame in admitting that a horse is too much for you. Actually, it is a good, mature thing. It means that you are honest with yourself and your abilities and realistic about your expectations. If you do lease or sell, disclose all his behaviors, in-person and in-writing. You do not want to be liable if someone gets hurt and accuses you of lying by omission.

(Edit)
Grammar.
We bought him from an eventing trainer near us, she got him off the track when he was 4 and a half or so (he is 6 now). Nothing has changed that i know of, same barn, same turnout, same food. Sees the chiropractor every month. He is not an easy keeper so he has free choice orchard grass hay and two flakes of alf alfa per day. Also gets loads of grain with supplements and everything he needs to keep weight on. We have also made absolutely sure that nothing in his diet would cause him to have more energy (except the alf alfa, but whenever we try and take it out of his diet, he starts to lose weight again.
 

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Wait, "loads of grain"? You do know too much grain can make a horse hot right? I understand that he's a hard keeper, but there are ways to get calories in him without getting him loaded up with carbs and high energy food. You might try beet pulp and hay cubes, for example. I'm sure others here will have more suggestions, but I don't think that most horses need grain. I'd be trying to change his diet before selling him, if only because you'll have an easier time re-homing him if he's not so explosive.

And I get that you're experienced. I'm a 50 year old who grew up with horses. I'd never fallen off a horse in my life. But then my mare came along and had the most explosive spooks ever. She figured out she could get me off, and wouldn't stop until I came off. No matter what I tried with her, it kept happening, and I lost my confidence completely on her. It was day and night when I got on my new horse, Rusty. Even though he was young, and barely broke, he never tried to dump me. If he spooked, he took me with him rather than try to unload me. I joke that I couldn't fall off him if I tried.

So even if you get this horse under control, the reality is that the trust between you is broken. Maybe it could come back, but maybe not. I think you should find him a better home, and find yourself a safer horse for now.
 

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As far as I'm concerned you should sell him. It might be in your best interest to buy a schoolmaster for your next horse. And if you bought a OTTB because they're cheap off the track, then at least try to find a cheap non race horse the next time you buy one. I know schoolmasters can vary in price, but there are a lots of older horses who still have many good years to go and those are generally the ones that you want to be looking at. But yeah shortly it's already difficult enough to train a horse but retraining them is even harder and by the sound of this, I don't think you're the right person for the job. But there are people who sell retrained OTTB's if you really like the breed and such, so no worries if you still want to own one.
 

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To clarify, does he behave the same while your trainer rides? You said it started when it'd got cold, but also say its continuously gotten worse. Did this behavior show before the cold and escalate after?
What's his living situation? Stalled or turnout? Is he blanketed? Some horses get really grumpy when cold, so you might want to blanket if he's not, or try blanketing heavier.
What's your warm up like? If you spend more time at a long rein walk, maybe with a quarter sheet, does that change anything?

Nothing wrong with selling, especially if you've already done your due diligence by having a trainer ride regularly and having him vetted. If you decide to sell, I reccomend stopping riding him and increase the number of trainer rides.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Wait, "loads of grain"? You do know too much grain can make a horse hot right? I understand that he's a hard keeper, but there are ways to get calories in him without getting him loaded up with carbs and high energy food. You might try beet pulp and hay cubes, for example. I'm sure others here will have more suggestions, but I don't think that most horses need grain. I'd be trying to change his diet before selling him, if only because you'll have an easier time re-homing him if he's not so explosive.

And I get that you're experienced. I'm a 50 year old who grew up with horses. I'd never fallen off a horse in my life. But then my mare came along and had the most explosive spooks ever. She figured out she could get me off, and wouldn't stop until I came off. No matter what I tried with her, it kept happening, and I lost my confidence completely on her. It was day and night when I got on my new horse, Rusty. Even though he was young, and barely broke, he never tried to dump me. If he spooked, he took me with him rather than try to unload me. I joke that I couldn't fall off him if I tried.

So even if you get this horse under control, the reality is that the trust between you is broken. Maybe it could come back, but maybe not. I think you should find him a better home, and find yourself a safer horse for now.
Thank you for the input. When I said loads of grain, I meant lots of things that we made sure wouldn't change his energy level much. He for free choice orchard grass hay before we started with all the grain, but found that he just wasn't much of a hay eater, again making it hard to keep any weight or muscle on him, so we started the grain and he's put a lot of weight on. Slowly I might add, but its happening. So just to clarify thats what I menat.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
As far as I'm concerned you should sell him. It might be in your best interest to buy a schoolmaster for your next horse. And if you bought a OTTB because they're cheap off the track, then at least try to find a cheap non race horse the next time you buy one. I know schoolmasters can vary in price, but there are a lots of older horses who still have many good years to go and those are generally the ones that you want to be looking at. But yeah shortly it's already difficult enough to train a horse but retraining them is even harder and by the sound of this, I don't think you're the right person for the job. But there are people who sell retrained OTTB's if you really like the breed and such, so no worries if you still want to own one.
Thanks so much! I love thoroughbreds, and I've worked with many green horses in the past and loved it, so when looking for a new horse, I wanted a bit of a challenge and to build him up a little bit. But he became too much when we got him in shape and the weather started to shift, which is something I didn't think about in the beginning
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
To clarify, does he behave the same while your trainer rides? You said it started when it'd got cold, but also say its continuously gotten worse. Did this behavior show before the cold and escalate after?
What's his living situation? Stalled or turnout? Is he blanketed? Some horses get really grumpy when cold, so you might want to blanket if he's not, or try blanketing heavier.
What's your warm up like? If you spend more time at a long rein walk, maybe with a quarter sheet, does that change anything?

Nothing wrong with selling, especially if you've already done your due diligence by having a trainer ride regularly and having him vetted. If you decide to sell, I reccomend stopping riding him and increase the number of trainer rides.
Yes, he behaves the same with a trainer, but the trainer he has riding him has no fear of riding any horse with any problems, and knows how to tell him to knock it off, so its never as bad with the trainer. This behavior started when it got cold out and has gotten worse since then, never happened before the cold. We would have the occasional green horse with energy moment, but aside from that, nothing else. He is stalled at night and turned out during the day by himself, but next to other horses. He is blanketed heavily since he is so sensitive to the cold and grew hardly any winter coat this year. We already use a quarter sheet, tried without it, just made it worse, so went back to it. I've tried starting at a long rein walk, but one of the things he's started doing is throwing small bucks during the first 5 minutes or so, so im not fully comfortable on a long rein in the beginning at the moment. We do about 10 minutes of walk, 15 to 20 minutes of trot, and then we work on our canter for max 10 minutes. We also do a lunging session beforehand. Thank you so much for your input!
 

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What are his longeing sessions like? Does he act up? Does he wear his saddle? I find some horses do better warming up on the longe line without a rider, but I make sure they move with and without their saddle before I get on. I let all the bucking, etc come out on the longe line so they can settle down and focus on the work. I would rather that stuff come out before I get on, especially if the horse is cold backed. If the horse is warmed up on the line then getting on and going is ok. (With a lap or two of walk each direction as we settle in mentally)

Have you thought of putting him in full training with the trainer for a little while?

What was he like when you first got him? Is it possible he was shut down when you got him? I know of a few horses that were shut down after being on the track. Two of them were supposedly event horses, but their riders had to start back at the beginning when all the dangerous behaviors started to come out. They were overwhelmed from being rushed through their training and were confused and afraid.

Shut down horses are dull, "sleepy", lack personality, need strong aids to get a response, do not notice or react to things around them, etc. Some horses shut down for work, others live in that place. I find the horses that shut down want to do what we ask, they just can't handle it and don't want to get in trouble. They are too kind to react, so they shut down to make everything seem ok. Then one day things change. A new home, new rider, someone who is a better listener, slower/faster paced training, show atmosphere, etc. Will wake them up and all their concerns come out.

I know what it's like to feel afraid of your horse. I was determined to not give up on my dangerous horse because I knew I would not find another home for him. He taught me a lot and I am very grateful to him.

You need to do what feels right for you. If that's selling him then that's ok. If you want to try a little longer, then go for it. As for your parents, just be honest about how you feel. If they don't understand then you can fudge it a bit and say you know this horse will seriously injure you one day. If they haven't seen you ride lately encourage them to watch one of your lessons. Maybe seeing him rearing will be enough for them to agree with you. Maybe have a heart to heart with your trainer about this horse, so she can talk to your parents and back you up.

I wish you the best!
 

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Thank you for the input. When I said loads of grain, I meant lots of things that we made sure wouldn't change his energy level much. He for free choice orchard grass hay before we started with all the grain, but found that he just wasn't much of a hay eater, again making it hard to keep any weight or muscle on him, so we started the grain and he's put a lot of weight on. Slowly I might add, but its happening. So just to clarify thats what I menat.
Yes, but grain may still contain too much energy for him. Switching to beet pulp and hay cubes still allows you to add calories, but without excess energy. I feed Evolve to my senior as well - just hemp husks - because he needs a little more in terms of calories since his teeth aren't as good at chewing hay as they used to be. It is my belief that the vast majority of horses do not need grain. Only high performance horses should really get it in my humble opinion. Here is a good article by equine nutritionist Dr. Kellon: "The bottom line is that while grainfree, high forage diets make sense for most horses, grain is not poison and has a place in the diets of our upper echelon performance horses." Is your horse an "upper echelon performance horse"? Specifically, she is talking about "racing, eventing, and endurance" here. (Do Any Horses Benefit from Grain?)
 

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The cold weather can certainly turn a dead head into a hot head! Mine is different at 90 degrees as opposed to 40 with a cold wind. I agree with the above that most horses do not need grain. A balancer feed that usually is about 1 lb/day and maybe 2% of body weight in grass hay not alfalfa works with most that are not working hard or older. He will eat the hay if you quit the grain. If he does not eat then there are gastric or anxiety issues.
I am not advocating keeping a horse you feel unsafe with. However if you do want to keep it stop riding it and go through a relationship groundwork training path such as Warwick Schiller’s.
 
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