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Hay y'all I have a question that I'm not sure I have the right idea about. I am by no means an advanced, or an intermediate rider for that matter, so I've never gotten the appeal of having a "difficult horse."
When I say difficult, I mean a horse that bolts, rears, bucks, etc. constantly. I understand advanced riders or people that train horses finding interest in it, but I'm asking about the people that still have a lot of learning to do (like me) buying a difficult horse.
Am I just a scaredy cat that doesn't want to fall off?? I'm not here to question anyone's idea of fun in a horse, just genuinely curious. I love that my boy is so chill that even when a coyote was circling him and nipping at him he leisurely kicked at him, which scared it off, and kept on grazing.
 

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I really have no clue. I had to dump a lot of my horsey friends because they had or bought unmanageable horses that they thought they'd "fix". And were complete idiots about it.

I really think media has a lot to do with it. The black stallion, black beauty, flicka (I HATE THAT ONE) etc etc etc. They all portray these wild horses being tamed by people who have no idea what they're doing through love and daisies. Oh that poor horse was mistreated, I'll love him and he'll love me. Oh that wild stallion never had a human hand on him, I'll love him and he'll love me. It doesn't work that way!

A girl I rode with for awhile bought a retired barrel racer as a trail horse. She was a complete beginner and her BF was into horses, so she ended up getting her way. He had never seen a trail, was trained in only one gear, was hot and nutty with pain issues. I rode the hour out to see her and we tried to go on a ride. He tried to race Trouble the whole way to our destination, she could not hold him and she had to tie him to my saddle horn (me on a green 2 1/2 year old) and go the rest of the way. Now he's a pasture pet in a lot of pain. She can't afford to keep him medicated so she's just "letting nature take its course". Infuriates me because all of this could have been avoided.

I got an unhandled nine month old colt for my 16th birthday after not riding for six years due to an accident. I was young, stupid and wild. I won't go as far as saying it was a mistake but I truly got lucky, and ended up with the calmest, sweetest guy I've ever owned. Needless to say I won't do it again until I have way more experience under my belt, but we're both learning as we go. If he was a horse to take advantage of a green rider I'd be screwed. Thankfully he's point and go, and his go is a very slow go. I'm only 18 and I still feel no need to get thrown or beat around.

I had my first and largest accident with Trouble yesterday (due to the fault of neither of us) and it kind of shook my confidence. What keeps me going is the fact that it was a freak accident and had nothing to do with his behaviour or my riding. I'd actually call him a saint because he didn't leave me in the dust but stayed with me.

Lots of folks get killed because they think they can fix a problem horse and lack the knowledge or experience to do so, or think they can cure major issues with love and fluff.
 

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"Difficult" is *very* subjective.

Here are two real-world examples of "difficulty": my horse, and my friend's recently acquired horse. My horse is green, spunky, and bright. She is too opinionated and reactive to ever be a real beginner horse. Yet I don't find her hard to ride, and I'm only a rather confident (perhaps stupidly), intermediate-beginner rider. Although she doesn't rear or buck, she is perfectly capable of it, and given a weak or a brutal rider, she definitely would. She is that kind of horse. Treat her right, she will treat you right, but otherwise . . . I have to stay awake on her.

My friend, a rancher who has ridden all her life but has bone problems and needs a smooth sane horse who won't try to lose her, as she cannot afford to fall off, just got herself a Paso. He was advertised as 'bombproof' but when she tried him out he tried to stall, then spin and bolt. Being as she once put herself through school retraining other people's spoiled horses, she had no problem putting a stop to all that in a few minutes, and then he rode like a dream. She told me "he was just trying stuff out he learned to do with the kids who were riding him, but he saw right away it wouldn't fly with me." Someone with less experience would never have seen this good horse for what he was.

You can go on up the scale, to competitors looking for top-flight talent, power and drive, which might come packaged with "needs a very strong rider or gets out of control".

Or you can go down the scale, to people who want their horse to act up so they can look heroic (in their imagination anyway).

But you are very right, the last thing a beginner needs is a spoiled rank horse. They have enough on their plate without that. You don't have to sift through this forum much to find sad tales of beginners who either bought an untrained horse and unwittingly spoiled it, or bought too much horse and now are afraid of it, or bought themselves somebody else's problem horse and can't ride it. Or got hurt and lost all their confidence.
 

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If I had to guess, I think very few people intentionally choose a difficult horse.

I currently own my second horse - owned my first for 5[?] years before she passed away from colic, and have owned my current horse for nearly 3 years.
My first was spoiled by her previous owner and had un-diagnosed vision issues. Her changing vision caused her to be spook and unpredictable - giving the appearance of "difficulty." I bought her on a friend's recommendation and had no idea that she was going to be anything other than an easy first horse! It was ok after we figured out her issues, she calmed down as she lost vision [shadow-y vision is scarier than no vision!], and I rode her everywhere which helped on the training side of things. She was the perfect mix of challenging, yet easy. A good first horse for me! She kept me utterly safe while having just enough "spice" to remind me that I wasn't God's gift to horses. :lol:
She ended up being pretty easy in the end, but she wasn't easy to begin with!

My current horse, ha. He's another matter completely. HE is challenging. I've had him for 3 years and we've gotten little accomplished. I have no doubt that he will be difficult until his dying day.
When I got him, he was supposed to be in training to be a therapeutic riding horse, but he didn't seem to be enjoying the work there [according to his owner].
Long story short, it has turned out that he has a severe muscle disorder that causes him intense pain depending on the day. Knowing that about him gives me a lot of patience with him, but it doesn't make him less difficult. Simple, every day, tasks are a humongous challenge for him - getting his blanket taken off, being groomed, being led...some days he's reliable as can be, other days he's set off by everything. He's been like that everyday, for 3 years. Riding is likely completely out of the picture. Maybe he'll settle once we get his disorder all ironed out and so forth, but who knows. For now, he's a big, high-maintenance, pasture pet.
I adore him to pieces and I wouldn't part with him for any amount of money, but he is, by far, the most difficult horse I've ever been around. The thing that makes him hard is that he looks fine, and then BOOM. He's bolting into you or biting you, or skittering sideways because he accidentally bumped you and terrified himself...It's exhausting. He doesn't have a mean bone in his body, but he goes from zero to a hundred in no time flat.

I got him thinking that he needed a little tune-up from after the therapy place, in different surroundings, and that he'd quickly turn into a young "anyone can ride"-type horse. I had worked with him extensively previous to bringing him home, it wasn't like I saw him once and that was it. I had so many dreams for him, he was only 10. We would be able to explore so many riding disciplines, do so many things, before any thought of old age/retirement crept in.
BUT, with him, I only saw him in the summer. His muscles hurt less in the summer, of course he's gonna be more "normal" in the summer...

Anyway, I don't really know where I'm going with this, except that I got two horses that both ended up being more challenging than I expected. My mare was a good level of challenging for my level, but my gelding.... Man, I mean, I am growing a TON in my groundwork skills and my handling..I guess that counts for something! He's teaching me that riding isn't everything.
But I sure do dream of the day that I can hop on my horse and go for a leisurely, uncomplicated, ride.
 

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I'm coming out of lurking for this one. Your previous respondents have been on point. Whether it's arrogance and wanting to show off skills they don't really have, or someone with a big heart that means well but gets in way over their head with a horse they can't fix, way too many people end up overmounted. In the best cases, the owners will realize there's a problem and get help. Almost always, their own development stalls out because they can't help the horse develop skills they don't posses yet themselves. Far too often, and much worse, the horse's behavior remains bad/unpredictable/etc or deteriorates in that direction, and dangerous things happen.

As a beginning rider, you should always have a horse who either knows more than you or will be forgiving of your mistakes. I think intermediate riders are the most tempted to take on more than they can handle. There's a time and place for challenging yourself, but be very careful if you want to do that with a horse you're purchasing.

On the other side of the coin, one of my mentors who's been riding longer than I'm alive has this quiet palomino gelding named Pocket. She raised him, trained him, and if any horse is bombproof, he is. He will move out when asked, but he's never fussy and the most beginner rider can trundle around on him. Not only could he care less, but he rarely takes advantage, unlike many schoolmaster types. Now that he's "finished" and does everything she wants him to... his owner gets really bored with him. It cracks me up, but I understand at the same time. He'll always have a good home with her and a job teaching newbies, but she prefers to take on the difficult projects or new babies to train.
 

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I also agree that very few people chose a difficult horse, which is not the same as a green horse, but rather a spoiled and dangerous horse, because they are cheap. These horses often are found at rescues, go through all breed type horse sales, etc
Also, an experienced hrose person might accept having a horse that is difficult to ride, for the trade off that he is very talented
 

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When I was young I liked having a horse that was more of a challenge to ride. Now that I'm old I want one that isn't a dead head but isn't going to do anything that makes me hit the ground, which doesn't seem to take much these days.
 

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I have always liked a challenge in sorting out a difficult horse. Started when I was a child and continued until I retired.

99% of the time it is from mishandling. The horse learning it can frighten off thenrider/handler and continuing from there. It takes an understanding of the Equine nature to work out whether this behaviour is from the animal being misunderstood, a pain issue or just being rebellious though with the latter it can often stem from the first.

Having an understanding set me on the right track to solving the issues and in all my working life I only had one horse that was put down because of the danger issue. I will add that he was taken away from me after he was lame, he then went to the race trainer where he tried to kill more than one person.
 

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I think that a part of it is that more often than not, difficult horses are reactive. Coming off a school horse, usually very slow and pokey, people feel like a reactive horse is easier to ride than a slow, pokey one. And it is, if you know what you are doing. The art is finding a reactive horse which doesn't flip out.

The reason I'm saying this is that it was my personal experience. I really prefer forward horses even though I'm an untalented nervous older novice. I had enough sense to stay away from TBs, even though my favourite horse in the world is a TB and she was up for sale. She kicked someone the other day and broke their jaw o_O.

I somehow lucked out and bought a forward but safe horse. I love it. But if you get it wrong, like most novice people will, you're in for a bunch of trouble.
 

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None of the horses that I have are extremely difficult nor are they dead heads and bombproof. For the most part, they are good but they will do things sometimes. Right now my mare Laela is just being put back into work after not really riding her for three years. The other day she decided that she wanted to show her butt and act out. Can I handle her? Yes. Can a virtual beginner? I wouldn't even try it right now. Star has never acted out with a rider but she has on the ground. My niece rides her and she would be considered a beginner and she has no problems. But then, my niece is a bold person by nature and she sees how I handle her ground issues so is not afraid.

My B/O just got a 6 year old, just gelded, orphaned, virtually unhandled boy who is pretty bad. He will march right up to you to say hi and then try to take a bite out of you and when you send him away, he gets mad and tries to kick you on his way out. I wouldn't let him near me because I don't want to deal with him. He's not my horse so I'm not willing to take the risk of getting hurt for him. Right now, he is at a pretty good and reputable trainer for at least two months (at the tune of 900. a month). He is a difficult boy and gets mad if you ask him to do anything. Thankfully for him, he is on the road to being a good horse and good choices are being made for him. He is a beautiful horse but totally meaningless if he can't be handled.
 
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When I was doing a lot of dealing with imported Irish horses I had a dealer sending them over to me. Mostly I was dealing to other dealers.

One young man took two horses, he called me the next day to say he was bringing the brown gelding back as it was a nutter.

This horse was not for the faint hearted and would rear and flip over.

"Ah ha!" Says another Irish dealer, "We'll soon sort this beggar out."

We took him across the field to the river bank. Had his butt right to the edge of the river which was in fast flow, I was legged up onto him and he flipped over straight into the water.

Unfortunately as I threw myself clear so I slipped and also got a ducking but I gained the bank and was helped out. The horse had to go about half a mile before he could get out at a cattle drinking spot. He was mounted as soon as he was on dry land and immediately flipped again.

I advertised him as a bad horse, and we had more replies for him than any other!

A man bought him for a tad more than meat money, I lost a bit on him but not a lot. It was about three months later that I saw the man copmpeting show jumping on the same horse.

When I say this horse was bad I mean he was baaaaaaad! He was turned around and looked well and happy with his new owner.
 

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I've always liked the challenging horses. Not so much 'difficult' or 'dangerous', but just challenging. I don't want to be bored, & be on a horse that doesn't challenge me. That's just me though.

I like the horses with a personality & I like the ones that make you work a bit harder. Redz for example. He's not dangerous, he's just a challenge. Not many people can ride him if they're not advanced riders. Takes a really confident rider to get on him. He doesn't buck, rear, refuse, etc. but he sure has a personality. He's an OTTB and sometimes thinks he's still on the track. :D
Whenever I'm in my lesson, there's only a few of us but the other riders are on horses that well, don't try anything & are 'easier'. Sometimes I'm like UGH, but other times I'm like...I'd be bored if they were me. Lol.

I've ridden horses that were difficult though. Back when I was on Lexi (many years ago), everyone would get bucked off...except me. I could handle her, I guess. Once you've ridden challenging horses you can't get enough.

BUT. That being said, I wasn't like "OMG SHE BUCKS PEOPLE OFF? LET ME GET ON HER!" I was more like, let me give her a chance.

Price definitely has something to do about it. People sell 'difficult' horses for cheaper than ones that are pretty much bulletproof because they just want to get rid of them. Nothing wrong with 'bulletproof' horses though. :) I've ridden a lot of those too...I just prefer the challenges I guess. NOT dangerous ones though, heck no. Just the ones with more personality, who challenge me sometimes. :)
 

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It's also got something to do with the ego and confidence boost of being seen as the only one who can handle said horse. People who are proud that they are they only one capable of riding the horse. Like the rider is special and talented and everyone else is a pleb. That's just bad training.

I'd rather my horses be the kind anyone can jump on and not die. Maybe not ride productivity, but not die. I've got plenty of challenge in my horses without having them want to pile me at every chance. It hard enough pushing all their buttons at the right time, getting them to do the right thing, in the right way.
 

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I, actually, have purposely chosen to work with difficult horses. BUT, it is not something I will ever recommend to 98% of other riders or even trainers.

Why?

Well, I can sometimes recognize great talent in horses who have developed some aberrant behaviors. It all depends on what I see as the root causes for this behavior and my "gut feelings". I use very positive reinforcement training methods (backed up with no nonsense corrections) which often have great results. I often see rude horses as very talented and smart animals who have railed against poor training or boredom. Yes, I go by my gut feeling, and I have rarely been fooled.

The stallion I am riding in my avatar is a prime example. He was a son of the jumping great Abdullah. He had been handled very poorly (or not at all) by the owner who originally had him. When the last owners got him, they wanted to use him to breed nice sport horses, but he had never been put under saddle and he had been horribly handled. He was rude and rank!! He would strike, bite and had to be handled by two people, with him between them.

I had been watching him closely and saw a bored horse who had never been TAUGHT manners. He desperately wanted attention, but didn't know how to get it nicely. One day he was running his fenceline, in a full sweat, and I asked the owners if I could start working with him. They said YES!!!!

I started by leading him with a stud chain on his halter and a dressage whip. One strike/bite/push.....one smack with the dressage whip on the front of his cannon bone. He stops doing the behavior, he gets patted and praised. One rudeness while being lead, one yank on the stud chain....he stops the behavior, he gets praised and patted.

In two weeks he was a totally different horse. He knew if he behaved, he got all the positive attention he craved. In another two weeks he was under saddle being ridden to his total delight. He was so smart and wanting to please. He was difficult to bridle because he kept grabbing for the bit to hurry the tacking process.

If I had not worked with him, he would have ended his life as an unloved and miserable horse. Instead, recognizing that "spark", he became my all time favored partner.

Just one of many examples.

If you don't have the "feel" to recognize the difference between untrained rankness and true evil rankness, STAY AWAY!!
 

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Difficult is indeed subjective, and different people have different wants and needs. Someone might be willing to work with a horse that has some difficult behaviors because the horse is a challenge, or is otherwise extremely talented or well-bred. The higher levels of competition in some equestrian disciplines can demand a horse that is more sensitive and energetic, and those kinds of horses can be the ones that require more expertise in handling to get the best performance from them.

Other times, it’s not necessarily that you want a horse with issues, but you see a horse that needs patience and steady work.

My current horse is a rescue from an auction in Ohio. He has been handled roughly, and is definitely much more sensitive than any other horse I have ever owned. Despite his confidence issues and adolescent behavior, he is a beautiful mover, and actually quite friendly and people-oriented as well as intelligent and curious. He genuinely wants to please. I’m not 100% sure he will be with me permanently, but I am taking the opportunity to improve my own training and handling skills as well as seeing if we can make some more progress. Even if he does not wind up being my horse permanently, I’m hoping to leave him better than I found him.
 

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It was the price that made me choose difficult horses, very cheap or free.
I would never recommend this especially for someone who is not experienced with working with horses like this.
It is a lot of work and patience and the outcome is not always a successful one if the problems are really deep seated, I was lucky I always managed to work with my horses and we seemed to get along fine but this is not always the case.
 

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Lots of good points here.

I'm the same as PoptartShop, I just get bored so easily. I like speed. Just before we had our latest incident with Talila, for some time she had been very relaxed and our rides were relatively eventless. That's where my brain went "So this is it? I'm actually a bit bored... Is it silly to miss my horse acting up a little... Spook and bolt free rides forever?". Boy didn't she know how to prove me wrong when the next ride she was again full of beans and the end of the ride was more than eventful.

I guess all of us at some point have the type of challenging that we feel most comfortable with. For me a difficult horse is the kind that wants to dumb me and run to the sunset the first chance they get. I have no interest riding horses like this as long as I'm not paid to do it.

One mare I helped to re-train was at times resistant to work and a bit heavy to ride. A couple came to see her to buy her primarily for the husband to ride, and wow how well she would ride for the guy, who was relatively beginner, than for any of us more experienced women. We actually thought that she tried to run off with him, but no he had asked her to trot and she went eagerly forward with the first ask. Definitely a man's horse that one.

My friend had a difficult mare who would literally explode if someone else than my friend would ride her and even with her she wasn't exactly a picnic. She ended up with this mare because the mare was cheap for her breed at the time and, what she suspects, drugged at the time of the test ride.
 

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When I say difficult, I mean a horse that bolts, rears, bucks, etc. constantly. I understand advanced riders or people that train horses finding interest in it, but I'm asking about the people that still have a lot of learning to do (like me) buying a difficult horse.
Of course, "difficult" will mean different things to different people.

In the context that you are asking, I would also say it depends on the situation. There are horses that do those things because the rider has allowed them to happen, and it can be fixed. And there are those horses who have the problems very engrained and they do not have a good temperment in general.

I myself am a very experienced horse person. I could easily deal with a difficult horse. But do I want to? NOPE. Been there; done that. If a horse has that bad of problems, there are plenty other options out there. There's too many good horses out there that it is not worth my time to deal with the bad ones.

I won't even go look at a horse that's "cold backed" and only acts up a little. Just not worth it to me anymore.

And that, of course, will depend on the person and what's worth it to them. Some like the challenge. More power to you if you are that type of person. But I think no less of anyone who chooses to pass on a "difficult" type of horse, like you describe. Horses are meant for enjoyment. So choose what you enjoy!
 

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Sometimes horses are difficult because people make them that way, and after being in capable hands they settle down.

Me, however, I don't like to take on anything that I don't trust - If it's an older horse especially. All the colts I start for ME are clean slates, never handled except maybe a halter. I don't like anybody screwing them up. Prospects are the same way.

I very very seldom buy an older, already broke to ride horse - And when I do, they are solid, or at least good hearted animals.

I'm just not into riding a bronc, because usually, they don't turn out to be anything I want anyway even if I do fix that problem. And I'm not buying horses strictly to resell unless I'm SURE they have solid market value - And one with a nasty history just doesn't.
 
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