Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Do We Love Them Too Much?

I have a possibly touchy subject in mind today.

It goes hand in hoof with the decisions I've been wrestling with about my own horses.

I have too many. I can't afford them all. I don't have time to ride them all. I am uncomfortable carrying the responsibility of this many horses on my shoulders.

My extra horse is highly rideable, healthy, a good age (12) and sound. She is a national champion with a solid amount of earnings on her.

She also is emotionally fragile, sometimes anxious and prone to falling apart in the show pen. I take responsibility for her problems because I was her owner when they developed.

My gut reaction is to keep her forever. I am afraid for her. Anybody who rides her will want to show her. I can't reliably say what she would do or how she would behave.

I am afraid she will end up at a sale.

It was pointed out by an astute reader of this blog that I am stopping someone from getting a wonderful horse at a good price because I think I'm the only one who can possibly understand her.

So I have been thinking, when does our ego interfere with the reality of horse ownership?

Why are we so sure we're the only answer for our beloved companions?

Do we really understand the bond we form with a horse?

How much of our own needs do we put on our horses?

I worked an awful lot of horses during my years as a trainer. There were times when they became such a blur I stalled them according to the bit they were in. I couldn't remember their names or color. I couldn't describe them to my assistants.

So I quit thinking about it. I tied a rag to the stall door for every bit change. Then I just felt around on the horse until something clicked and I remembered where we were on our last ride.

It worked fine unless an owner called to chat about their horse's progress after 8 p.m. Then I was stuck.

I have noticed something. Every time I run into a horse I started or trained, even if it was years ago, the horse remembers me and gives me a friendly greeting.

They don't whinny and come running. But they give me a bright look, extend their nose and sniff as I pass. Invariably I stop and the horse's name, training and how things went come rushing to me. I love the feeling.

I also loved the day when a horse accepted me. I often had horses who came in either angry or afraid. I made them angrier or more afraid with each passing day until about the 30 to 45 day mark.

Then one day I would walk into the barn and be greeted by a friendly horse and a look of "What's up today boss?"

I always got a huge rush when this happened. It meant the horse was finally getting the idea and my job was about to become much easier. It also meant the horse liked me. It might be unprofessional, but this was really important to me.

When do we start confusing friendship for undying love?

I was extremely close to my first horse, Mort. When I went away to school he would be quiet for a day or two. When I came home there was a wild bucking display as I got out of the car. Here was a horse who actually came trotting up with a nicker and a snort.

The thing is he was just fine in between my visits home.

My daughter has a horse who is wild about her. When she comes to see him he comes running. If a month goes by in between rides he is still as wildly excited to see her as when she rides him for 2 weeks straight.

When she's not around he is fine.

I have seen a horse mourn. My old mare Annie went into a deep depression when she was first separated from her companion of many years, a ditzy mare named Trixie.

She stood at the corner of her pen and looked up the road in the direction of our old ranch. She went off her feed and was down enough we called the vet. He gave her a vitamin B shot and told us to keep an eye on her. Eventually she cheered up and was fine.

Years later she met with Trixie again. Annie whinnied and hollered and about drug my daughter to see her old pasture mate. Trixie seemed unaware of who she was. Annie got so mad she kicked her.

I know horses recognize old friends, both equine and human, they also remember old enemies.

Does this mean they love us so much we're hurting them by selling them?

Horses are herd animals. They are genetically programmed to form tight bonds in order to keep the herd strong.

Horses are also prey animals. They are eaten.

In the wild, newborn foals are immediate targets. So are the old and sick.

What stronger bond can there be than the bond between old friends and mother and off-spring?

Yet when a horse dies the herd continues on. The horses eat, drink, run. A mare may call for a day or two, but eventually she goes back to grazing.

If horses weren't able to accept the loss of a herd leader, a foal or a long time friend they wouldn't survive as a species. I really think they are hard wired to accept sudden, often traumatic loss and continue on mentally undamaged.

If they weren't as adaptable and accepting as they are we wouldn't be able to ride them. They would never be able to leave their dams.

Humans, on the other hand develop strong fierce bonds. We horsaii develop the same bonds with our horses. We can't imagine life without them. We can imagine all kinds of horror that could happen to them. The sadness we would feel at their loss becomes, in our minds, the horse's sadness.

An old hand once told me, "A horse's best friend is whoever shows up with a hay bale."

I don't know if I can go quite that far, but I think he was wiser than emotional me.

When I have the opportunity to ride a horse for several years there is a level of communication that develops that I do think is irreplaceable. I know if I ride the same horse years later we will fall in sync within a couple of rides.

It doesn't mean the same horse doesn't have an entirely different, but equally satisfying relationship with the person who currently rides them.

It's what makes them so wonderful.

It's what makes them so hard to part with.

But I don't think it matters that much to the horse. When we're not with them I think they accept it. When we come back it's a welcome surprise, but in between I think we're kidding ourselves if we think our horses are dwelling on where we might be.

Food, water, sun, companionship. It's all they want.

So I guess I have to decide what my needs are in this relationship. I have to decide what's the best deal for us both.

I wish I could talk Crystal into another horse.


  1. I hear you. But I'm lucky to be broke enough to only have one.

    I can't sell her, because I promised her she'd be with me for the rest of her life. She's almost 16. She was abused as a baby, and I was the first person she ever trusted.

    It's incredibly hard to be stretched thin financially. I can't offer advice, because it's such a personal decision, and I haven't made one similar.

    I know you'll do the right thing...for you, and for the horse.

  2. Promise- Your case is exactly what I'm talking about.
    As far as your horse is concerned, she wouldn't assume the next person to care for her would abuse her. She doesn't know what you promised.
    I'm not doubting the honesty of your feelings, but why do you think you're the only person who could care for her properly?
    Please don't take this as a judgment or attack, this is simply the question I'm chewing on.
    If I had kept every abused horse which came under my care I wouldn't have been able to fix the countless others who followed them.
    I'm not telling you to sell your horse, believe me, I'm just using you guys as a sounding board.

  3. “I take responsibility for her problems because I was her owner when they developed.”

    I don’t think this is wrong. I think an owner of *any* special needs animal needs to take those issues into consideration. This isn’t your average trail horse or even a slightly advanced beginner or novice-moving-up horse. Your mare is fragile by your own words. This makes her a special needs horse and she is flippin’ big enough to really hurt someone if they don’t believe or understand it. The question should be “can/will she overcome it without a highly skilled rider/handler?” If the answer is no, then it IS your responsibility to either keep her or place her very very carefully.

    “So I have been thinking, when does our ego interfere with the reality of horse ownership?”

    Are you sure it’s ego? I have a little dog at my house, everyone who knows me has been told point blank: anything happens to me, euth him. He is fine with me, he’s fine with the environment he’s in now, with the people he is with. Put him into an ordinary home, someone will be injured…I am *certain* enough of this that I would see him dead before he got passed on. This is not ego, it’s reality. If you have a horse that needs special care that she is not put in a situation that she cannot handle (the show pen)….that is not ego, it’s reality. You have a responsibility not just to the mare, but also who rides her. Just as I’m responsible for Dash and the people he comes in contact with, YOU are for your mare and who rides her.

    “It was pointed out by an astute reader of this blog that I am stopping someone from getting a wonderful horse at a good price because I think I'm the only one who can possibly understand her.”

    Maybe and probably not. This kind of horse needs a special type of handler. Don’t you think that most of the handlers who would do well with her, who can handle a mare who has a real potential of a come-apart in a ring already have their quota of these types? In the dog world, these dogs are called gray area dogs. They are not suited for a home in the ‘burbs, they are often not suitable for a professional venue either. At the same time, these animals need a far more experienced handler than your average Joe Q Public. If you passed this mare on, what are the chances she’d go on again when the handler finds she really isn’t suited for the ring? Pretty good I’d say, which means that sooner or later she’s going to end up a wreck or hurt someone or go to a sale. By the way, finding out that she really is a wreck in the ring after perhaps thinking that a different handler and “fix” her problems, THAT is where ego comes in….I can ride or fix anything or she’ll be fine for me or my advanced student Johnny will be fine on her or (fill in the blank)

    Just sayin’ might be she needs to stay where she is safe and so are the people who might ride her.

  4. See, this is why I put this out there.
    By my own definition - Fragile.
    True, but needing a pro to ride her? Not even. Dead broke, kid broke, ranch broke.

    See the dilemma?

  5. then the question is still....ego or trust?

    I don't have a lot of trust that people will do as they say.

    based, of course on myself not doing what I thought I would.

    but it still doesn't qualify as ego, you have already admitted a kid can ride her (but not in the ring)

  6. I don't know if it is I won't sell my horse to anyone because I don't think anyone else can take care of him like I do - I know they can - but will they? What I do know is that I OWE it to him to continue to ensure that he has the same level of care. It is about ME and MY feelings, not his. He has taken care of me and when the time comes it will be my turn. He is not a special needs horse, he just is a horse. When he is ready for retirement I have a planned place for him. I don't feel this way about all my horses.

    mugs - I truely believe that someone is going to come into your life and they will be a perfect match for your mare. Whether you chose to lease or sell, someone is out there that will care for her and understand her as well as you do, maybe even better. Don't take this the wrong way, but their is always someone out there who is more understanding, better, smarter, faster, more compassionate, etc than we are. She has someone out there for her, you have to be open to finding them - if that is what you decide to do. It isn't about ego, it is being a good owner. Knowing what is right for the horse and having the ability to let them go when you find it. jezzz... sounds so gushy... ack.

  7. kel- I think you see what I mean. The right person showed up for Sonita.....

  8. You always have the right to refuse to sell to someone if it "feels wrong." You aren't required to accept the first offer :-)

    It never hurts to list a horse and see what kind of response that brings. Just get a taste of what the market is like for your mare. Allow for the opportunity of finding the right person knowing that you can always hang onto her until you find a great match.

  9. When I worked at a small animal hospital, it would make me angy when someone would come in and want their pet (dog or cat) put to sleep only because they couldn't keep it - "it loves me too much, it couldn't be with anyone else". I'd think, well did you TRY? I think they'd prefer to try a new home to death. Now that's ego. I sold my 16 yo gelding who went on to teach many kids to ride and he's still around, healthy even riden at 30 they love him still. So many would have kept him saying how wonderful he "was" and put him in the pasture to remember his prime. I was ready to move on to a new challenge and could only afford 1 horse. I guess I just hate to see nice horses not getting used, while the dinks keep getting passed around often causing people to seek other pastimes which don't include horses. Only you know how "fragile" she is and if she could be enjoyed and herself enjoy being the apple of someone else's eye - look at sonita, a happy (not ending) but continued journey for her.

  10. holly, I didn't mean in a case such as yours where injury to someone could happen, or the dog/cat is very old that euthinasia is not a better answer. That is being responsible, but when its otherwise a normal animal and the people are letting their ego cloud their vision I took issue.

  11. Mugs,

    If you are feeling too financially stressed, is Loki the only one who can qualify as "extra" or is there another you could choose to sell/rehome? Easing some of the money stress, and not worrying about the mare being shown or mishandled?

    As for later replies re:PTS or finding a home with someone, I think it really depends on whether you KNOW a good person to give the animal... a friend, you know will stay in contact.

    My friend's 13ish year old at the time dog, deaf and maybe a smidge blind, was taken in by a mutual friend when a move to school and a new town made keeping the dog very difficult. We debated if moving after so many years would stress her; if it would be better to put her to sleep as she was having arthritis issues as well, and a recent bout with vestibular problems that sorely affected her mobility.

    Her eyes were still bright, still interested. I offered to watch and care for her, honestly thinking she would pass away or need euthanasia in a few weeks.

    Three years later and she is a happy dog, still getting around well and enjoying life. She can roam as much as she likes, has canine buddies and a human or three home almost 24/7. She doesn't miss the 'burbs AT ALL. We laugh that she already thinks she has died and gone to heaven, and so might live forever. She says "hi" to her old owners when they visit, but doesn't spend more than 20 or 30 seconds and she does her own thing. And she certainly liked them when she lived with them...

  12. thanks Anon, I would not have thought you were applying that particular brush to me where Dash is concerned.

  13. I think the problem lies in what you've (or at least I) have seen happen to horses in various other people's care. There are just so many idoits out there who either intentionally or unintentionally do harm it's daunting. Personally it's not so much the new home, but the prospect of the home after that that worries me. (Not to cause more worries for you) Yes, you can always put a buy back clause in a contract, but they aren't really enforceable.

  14. Having been a long distance horse owner for almost 2 decades, I can tell you that everything you say here is true. They get on with life when we're not around.

    I' selfish. I couldn't sell Champ even though he would have done so much better with a person who had time for him. I adored him... and I was convinced that most other owners would have beaten the hell out of his frustrating little red hide. Maybe I was wrong. Maybe I deprived him of a brilliant show career.

    Doesn't matter anymore.

    He lived like a king, so what did he care? Two acres of grass, hay all winter, and another horse to boss around.

    And yes, to answer your question: I do love them too much. There's no doubt about that.

  15. I hear you loudly and clearly.

    I've placed several "special needs" animals in good homes, and never had to take one back...but I've had to hold onto animals far longer than I originally intended until the RIGHT homes came along.

    Mugs, maybe that's what you're doing, only you don't know it yet: waiting for the right home. It can happen, and if you start looking around, you'll find the right home eventually.

    Good luck. It's hard work.

  16. "She also is emotionally fragile, sometimes anxious and prone to falling apart in the show pen. I take responsibility for her problems because I was her owner when they developed."

    The first thing that I thought of when reading this is how stressed you have described yourself as being at competitions. If this mare is as sensitive as you say, then it is not surprising that she internalized and found a way to express her reaction to your stress in a competitive environment.

    I am not sure that I agree with you that anyone who rides her will want to compete on her. Especially if you are offering her at a price of a nice broke horse as opposed to a money winner.

    As Aarene said, maybe you are just waiting for the right person. That person would be one who is very unstressed in general, and certainly not a bundle of nerves at competitions if you were to try her out in a competitive home.

    Also you can lease her out, that way you still have all of the power. She is unlikely to disappear off to a sale when you still own her. You won't get that nice wad of cash, but leasing may give you some peace of mind.

    I feel for you and your dilemma, just offering another point of view. If I was out of school and had a job I would make you an offer just to have another nice broke horse. If w she would make a nice trail horse that is.

    Quick question. Did she teach you to relax a bit in the show pen out of necessity? In an attempt to try and make her feel ok? Just wondering...

  17. Off topic, but I wanted to say to anyone else looking for a good book to read, I just finished "choosen by a horse" yesterday and it had me crying like a baby. Very touching story. beautifully told.

  18. Why don't you offer her as a lease? that way, if it doesn't work out, then you can reverse the situation. also, if the owner is (for instance) a teenager who grows up and goes away to university, or someone whose situation goes pear shaped for any reason, you know she could come back to you.

  19. Slightly an aside to your topic, but I'd be interested in what you have to say about working with angry horses as opposed to working with ones that are afraid. Mine seems pretty angry a lot of the time- I've never met a horse nearly as aggressive as him and we work around it alright but it can be quite a challenge and as most horses tend to be afraid ( although I'm sure some of his behaviour derives from insecurity ) that is where most training is oriented. Would you work differently with a horse you perceived in that way?

  20. Now that you're open to the possibility that someone else can handle and enjoy your mare, you need to wait for the right person.

    I faced this dilemma with my last horse. He was very talented physically, but was unpredictably volatile--the unpredictability was the problem. He'd go from happily working to a meltdown for no reason that I could ever find. He'd handle 10 scary situations, then freak for no reason. My trainer said he had "irrational fears" and saw no way to deal with them except to survive the situation and move on. The meltdowns became more infrequent, but never quit. He seldom got me off, but I managed to get hurt staying on thru the explosions (sideways leaps with multiple bucks, usually)--which did a job on my (aging) hips. I was seeing a chiropractor regularly, riding in supportive braces, would start to heal up and--wham!--something would set him off and off we'd go sideways, and my hips would be hurting again.

    I loved this horse. We had come such a very long distance together, and he trusted me to keep him safe 95% of the time. I couldn't in good conscience sell him; I feared for both the rider's safety and his fate if someone got seriously hurt during a blow-up. (And he could have been sold: his explosions were infrequent enough that very few people even knew what was going on because I rarely discussed it, except to my chiropractor.) I already owned my keep-forever-retired horse, and could not afford to keep another that I couldn't ride. I knew that this horse could well be the one who made me quit riding forever; the physical damage was bad enough, but the fear of getting hurt was growing too strong. Riding was no longer fun.

    Then...I spotted the right person. She was an excellent rider. She had experience with problem horses. She had the space, funds, and personality to give them as much time as needed, and many connections to search for the right owner. She also was someone who would not sell to the wrong person. I knew it was the perfect situation for my horse. I tried to salvage some of my investment at first, and offered to trade her for one of her current projects--but the horse I was offering was much better than anything she had to offer in trade. So...I just gave him to her. Cried buckets, but knew it was the right thing to do for both of us. (She was pretty perplexed at this relative stranger handing over a lovely horse while crying the whole time....)

    About a year later, she sent me a copy of a thank-you letter she'd received from his current owner. She'd found a perfect situation for him, and the new owner loved him, "quirks" and all.

    I still miss him, and only sometimes wonder if I did the right thing...but then realize that I did.

    Such a long tale to say-- Trust your gut. You'll know. If it feels like you're forcing a decision, wait.

  21. I think its completely dependent upon the horse and who you sell them to. I mean, you sold Sonita, a mare who, in the wrong hands, probably could have killed someone. Yet, from your last post about her, she's happy, sane and loves Crystal. Is she reaching her potential in the show ring? Definitely not, but the mare's happy.

    I think there *could* be a home out there for the mare you've got right now. Haven't you said before that she could do some low level stuff with someone like me? I mostly do trails and play around at the occasional local show. I'll probably never have the money or desire to get much beyond local stuff. My boy is talented enough to get fairly far in the dressage ring, but as long as I have him he'll never reach that potential. Instead he'll get to live like a real horse with his buddies as long as he puts up with my completely ADD riding. So far he seems to like it because he gets to do a variety of things (trails, we're going to do endurance this summer, some dressage, probably some hunting, and maybe a little polo if I can convince him to cooperate for that). I enjoy taking lessons and learning various disciplines as thoroughly as I can, but I'd much rather ride with friends in a non-show setting than chase ribbons.

    If your girl is kid broke, lease her out to 4-H kids if she could do low-level stuff.

    This question is EXACTLY why I've trained my current horse the way I have. I want him to be able to survive without me. I plan to keep him until the day he dies, but that's potentially 20-30 years from now. A lot can happen in that time. If I can't keep him for whatever reason, I want him to be able to go pretty much anywhere and make someone else a good mount.

    My last horse was one I probably would have put down rather than sold. If it had come to having to get rid of him. He reared and had a lot of issues from being abused. He was not a particularly safe horse to ride and really, who wants a horse in its late teens that rears and isn't kid broke? I loved him and could/would work around his issues, but there aren't many that would have.

  22. This is one of the hardest things about having show horses for me. Emotionally, I am like you in that I know I take the best care of my animals and I don't want them to ever suffer. I've been fortunate enough to have been able to retire a few of my former show horses when they were done and let them live out their days on the farm. But more often than not, I had to realize that it was time to let them go. They weren't getting enough attention or riding, they were bored, and had no purpose. In each case I found the animal a wonderful home with as much assurance that I could get that if the horse needed to be sold I would be willing to buy them back. In each case the horse went on to enjoy his life with someone else who grew to love and cherish him as much as I once did. Rough choices and I don't envy you. But I believe that things work out as they should and if she's meant to be rehomed you'll know it.

  23. This is one of the hardest things to separate out for me as well. What is best for the horse and what is just an emotional need of my own.
    I agree with you that horses bond with humans but do not feel the same pain for the same duration that humans do following separation. They have great memories as we all know but I don't think they hold on to emotions the way we do.
    For me I am trying to decide what would be worse for my horse Bodhi. A trailer ride from Florida to Canada, or being sold to someone else. We all know wich is worse for me.
    As far as the question you are asking of "why do you think you're the only person who could care for her properly?"
    I don't think I do... I am afraid of the unknown when selling a horse. I am afraid of loosing control over where the horse is and how it is being treated. I can't protect it anymore and that is a hard thing to cope with. So it is not so much I don't think someone can do the job I am doing I am afraid they will choose not to do the job I am doing or give him to another home that won't.

    Maybe that is how you feel too?

  24. I agree with Golden. It isn't the horse's or even my emotional stability I'm worried about. It's loosing control.

    My boy has his share of issues. But I know with the right person he would do just fine, and most likely even better than he's doing with me. He wouldn't have my chicken self holding him back anyway.

    However, I do love him too much. I'm terrified of loosing control over his well being and where he goes from here. Because of that I will probably never sell him. Unless the heavens opened up and the perfect person dropped out of the sky, which isn't outside the realm of possibility. If I'm not so blinded by my insecurities to see it.

    Anyway, I agree Mugs. A hard decision indeed.

  25. I do understand where you are coming from however I am not in the same boat as I (like Promise) and too broke to afford more than one. Even then it's sometimes a stretch... He does get everything that is required though and then a little extra. :)

    I have no interest or reason to sell him right now. That being said, everything I do with him or teach him to do, I always think, "Is this something that would be beneficial for a future owner or will this hinder him somehow?" I am always trying to plan for his future whether we are together or not.

    If something happens to me, I don't want to leave him hanging.

    I agree with the, "Wait and see" approach. I think that the right person will come along whether you advertise or not. It will be someone who is competent and just wants a horse that they can have fun with but not necessarily show. Who knows...that person may be able to get her to the show pen and she'll have a good time there too.

  26. Interesting post for sure. I hear people talk about this and how thier animal would never do o.k. in the care of someone else and I keep my mouth shut, but I wonder - why wouldn't they?

    Not in all instances - I know there are circumstances that do make animals one person critters - but many times I wonder.

    No doubt there is risk with anyone you would find... but there are SO many good homes and good, good people out there as well.

    I'm not looking for another horse cuz I can only handle the 3 I have financially.

    However, when my 30+ guy goes to the big pasture in the sky I'd LOVE to have a kid broke, dead broke horse for my husband to dink around on.

    I have my mare to show and my young gelding and that is all I can handle ... when people find out I have horses, they always want to come out and ride.

    I wouldn't put the non-horse people on my mare or young gelding, they'd have a hey day with 'em. And my old guy is too old and sore to pack anyone around.

    So I don't know that saying whomever you found would surely show your mare. I'd love a horse like that... for my husband and to have a calmer trail horse to help my younger horses deal ... and a horse that would be patient with friends and or friend's children who want to sit on a horse for a little while so we could ride out in our pasture together.

    My sister just had a kid and she wants me to give her lessons as the baby grows... I don't have a horse I could do this on... so yeah.. I think you could find the right home.

    There's got to be someone else out there like me who wants a fun, broke horse and doesn't need to ever show her.

    I think ultimately the unknown is so scary to us. Bad things can and do happen .. it's sort of like the more you know, the scarier the "what ifs" can be.

    But at the same time there are a lot of truly decent people in this world. It's just the bad apples have spoiled it for the good ones and I'm not sure how to get past that?

  27. I know what you mean. It's a tough question all around.

    I don't think I assume I am the only one who could care for her. Think, being the key word. :)

    I feel like I had a hand in making her the horse she is today...and in fact, I know I did. I was the 2nd person on her back. I did most of her training myself. Not to mention gaining her trust in the beginning.

    But, I also think I am more concerned about where she would end up if after six months she decided she didn't like the new person anymore and did something ridiculously stupid that she knows better than to do. I think I worry more that she would hurt someone.

    For example, I leased her for a while several years ago. They got along great and I thought I had found a perfect solution to helping pay for her while I finished high school and went on to college. A couple months went by and the lessee loved her almost as much as I do...doted on her probably even more than I do. Then, one day, Promise reared when she was trying to get on, and almost flipped over. There was no provocation, no warning, and she was fine for me the next day, when I went to examine her and ride. She wasn't sore. She had no cuts, bruises, dings, etc. There was no logical or physical explanation for what she did. The lessee ended the lease a few days later.

    I couldn't live with the thought that she'd repeat that performance, after all these years of being a sane and grown-up horse citizen with me, and end up going to auction.

    And, whether she understood my promise or is important to me to know where she is and to make the decisions on how she lives her life.

    But, let's be honest, I am absolutely too attached to sell, lol.

  28. Oh, and I echo what Holly said about "special needs" horses. I have one. I have a responsibility to protect her, from herself and from a person who might think otherwise.

  29. My 28 year old is very attached to me. She honestly gets pissy if I leave her behind and ride one of my young mares. Especially if that horse happens to be her daughter. She also will stand at the gate and look at me, then gaze longingly down the road, then look at me again, as if she is asking to go out. And heaven forbid I take someone else away in the trailer, she has a fit and wont speak to me for days.

  30. If you take the financial stress out of the picture and just think about the benefits that the horse would or might have with another home, does it change the way you feel about letting her go?

    The difference between a horse with huge behavioral issues that could easily kill a person verses one that has known issues that can be dealt with by the right rider is like night and day. The killer type horse I would have put down...I could never even give that horse away knowing someone could be seriously hurt or killed. But with the known issues horse, the right home is out there.

    A dear friend of mine bought a horse for drill team and trail riding. The horse was perfect for her on the day she test rode him. After she brought him home, it was all downhill from there. He'd spook and she'd come off. She worked with a trainer for at least 4 years with that horse and finally said enough was enough and put him up for sale. The family that ended up taking him think he's the neatest thing since peanut butter. Their little kids ride him and he's NEVER done any of the stuff he did to my friend (and my friend is a pretty fair rider too).

    Horses survive in whatever situation they are put into. Look at the mustangs that are taken off the range. Their families are torn apart, and they are put through about as much stress as you'll ever see a horse go through...and they survive. They settle in and make the best of what's been given them.

    None of us want to see our beloved horses end up starving or mistreated. We can only do our very best to screen the potential homes they go to...and have a little faith in mankind.

  31. If people like us didn't love them this way, they would still be livestock and not companion animals. Don't beat yourself up about this. And, I need to affirm that if your horse has even the TINIEST of "issues", you are increasing her chances triple-fold of ending up at auction least, the way the market is now. Keep her, love her, and eat more mac and'll sleep better at night. Just my two cents.

  32. This is great. It is also leading me to my next line of thought , how and why we train them.But I'm under a wicked deadline today so it may take me a few days to put it together. For me it was a huge breakthrough.You guys might just go "duh Mugs."

    Anyway,leasing is an option for Loki. After I bring her in and ride for a while I'll have a much better idea what's going on.

    Bif- Loki is the only "extra" at this time. I have gotten down to my final few horses. She is one I never thought I'd let go. So even toying with this is freaking me out(ya think?).

    Whywudya - By the time I was showing Loki I was a pretty calm cucumber.
    I am famous (in my tiny little equine circle) for how calm my horses are.
    The Big K had to be careful which horses I rode for him, especially if I was warming them up to show.
    The hot horses would come down about three notches (good), but the easy ones would be asleep (bad).
    Sonita taught me how to be calm. She taught me to show the horse I had.
    The Big K taught me to channel my nerves into positive energy. He often wished he could teach me to externalize my anger. My horses rarely saw it.
    K also made me show about 50,000 times, most of the time way over my head. I was cannon fodder for the Open classes for years.
    It makes you pretty immune.
    Loki's nerves came from a lot of places, but not me. My daughter showed her to win. I showed her to school.

    Glenatron- Good, good subject. I'll try for next week.

    Candy's Girl - I did not sell a dangerous horse. Sonita was a lot of horse. She never kicked, bit, slammed, reared, bucked off, nothing. Ever.
    She doesn't crowd, push, lean, step on toes or threaten.
    I'm not saying she wouldn't if given the chance, but Crystal is a hand.So are lot's of people.
    I do think she has a screw loose.
    Dangerous? Not even.
    If I had to name a vice, it would be her spook. There was lots of spook. But in my world this is not always a bad thing.
    I was learning to train a cowhorse the same time I was learning how to compete in cowhorse the same time I was learning how to cope with all the horse I had. She didn't kill me or lose heart.

  33. lopinon4- If this was about eating mac'n'cheese I wouldn't be having this conversation.

  34. I just skimmed the responses so forgive me if I am repeating....

    If Loki's *only* problem is the ring, if that is the only thing holding you back think on this... There is a great home out there for her. I know there is absolutly no way that I am the ONLY horse person in the world that is NOT going to show. I have absolutly no interest in it. That said, I would give a lot to have a horse that is as well trained as Loki. Every thing she has been taught developed from a need originating outside of the show ring.

    So many times trainers don't (or won't) put the effort into helping people not interested in showing. I have to learn to train my horses from reading because no trainer in my area will spend the time to give me lessons or train my horse to the level of a horse like Loki... because I will not show. sucks!

    Ya want a good home for her, where the winters are warm and the grass plentiful? send her to me... I can GUARENTEE you that she would never set foot inside of a ring.... but she'd better like trail riding in the woods!

  35. I know it's not about the mac and cheese, Mugs...I just feel that you're putting yourself through too much stress on this one. Your gut tells you not to pass her down the line, so you shouldn't do it. Go with your gut. It's not just your heart talking; you have legitimate and justified concern for the mare that you have put so much work into. I don't think it's ego for you to think you can provide her a safe and happy home. You know you can, and that's fact. If you sell/lease/donate, you will no longer have control of her welfare. The fact that you care deeply about her is a separate issue from the rest.

  36. I'm supporting two - one who's 26 and had been a pleasure show horse and done really well. He's now arthritic and recently been diagnosed with Cushings. I don't ride him much except bareback at the walk - it's not like they make a saddle that would fit that back anyway - but free-lunged he still has a buck and fart in him, and he appears happy.

    He did his job for a lot of years and until either I can't afford to keep him anymore or he tells me he's ready to cross the bridge, I'll be supporting him. Whatever happens, he'll be put to sleep, not moved along, obviously.

    My other one is younger and rideable, but due to his having crooked front legs needs a good farrier, frequent trims, and will break down if pushed too hard. He shouldn't be jumped and though he obviously got a lot of the training (he's got pretty good cowhorse blood), spins and stops are not something his legs should be put through, either.

    He's also cute as a button and has a look-at-me personality, so is a big favorite. Since my work schedule is so nutty (gotta support 2 horses and my husband's been out of work for over a year) he's started being used once a week in lessons, and they love him. But he's starting to seem a little gimpy when I do get to ride on the weekends so I'm not sure if it's such a good idea.

    This is a long way of saying that in a way I feel your pain, though my horse's psyche is just fine thank you: I have a horse with physical issues that I worry would be ignored if I moved him along. Truth be told I like the little bugger, despite them. Other people seem to too, though if they had my farrier and supplement bills they might not be so enamored.

    So I would probably think seriously about putting him to sleep if I couldn't keep him any more and couldn't find a potential new owner who I knew REALLY well, and knew that they were responsible horse owners and would do what he needed to have done to keep him healthy.

    Is that selfish? Probably. But this horse went through 5 owners before he was 4 according to the AQHA records. He's been to auction at least once, and he's a lot older now, with arthritic changes. I can't take the chance.

  37. I'm with you Scamp.

    I would put Promise to sleep before rehoming her if for some reason I could not longer afford her. Sure it's selfish. But at least I could go on living with myself be 100% sure of where she ended up.

    My mom sold a horse years and years ago. He had severe asthma, and she could no longer afford the huge doses of human meds he required every day.

    Her gut says he ended up at auction. And she's probably right. She still feels guilty to this day...especially after finding out that the barn we'd been at then had "watered" the arena with motor oil daily for years, which probably caused his breathing problems in the first place. 24/7 turnout, according to the vets, would have most likely fixed everything within a few months.

    Hind sight is 20-20, but I know I don't want to feel that guilt anymore than she does.

  38. Mugs,

    I think you misunderstood what I meant. I think you found a great place for Sonita. It sounds like she's loved and well cared for. I just meant that if you had sold her to the first guy who showed up with cash, you don't think she could have become a dangerous horse? Even the spooking or just being 'a lot of horse' could be dangerous for the wrong person.

    All I meant was that Sonita wasn't the kind of horse 'just anyone' would get along with and that you managed to find what sounds like the perfect home for her.

    I think there could be a 'perfect' home for Loki, but it would probably take some searching.

  39. Sometimes we can be wrong in how we read our horses. My problem horse has spent the last 3 months at a trainer. He dumped me. He spooked. He ran over me on the ground when frightened (by something only he could percieve). It was like a bad marriage, and I just wanted a pro to figure it out. Was it me, or was it him?
    Yep. Me. She rode him in a parade! (something that clenches my gut to think about).She is using him as a lesson horse for children (children you like? was my internal question). So soon I will have to get up there, and decide, what do I do with this cute odd-duck of a horse? My point is, maybe Loki has or will change. This guy is older and more settled, but his youth has left me rather shaken. And maybe she would be happier with a different rider, at different shows. A novice teen? A kid? An old lady like me who just likes to dink about on horseback? Your thinking is boxular, in the box, determined not to see a way out of it. Why?
    How can you love someone too much if you are emotionally healthy? And yes, other mammals are someones to some of us. Sorry for long post.

  40. Very thoughtful post, mugwump, I am feeling similar feelings, too, but am in an entirely different place.

    On one hand, I do have a close bond with my mare. We've been through a lot together, both good and very very bad. I'm familiar with her and know the worst that she will do. That should make me feel safer, but it doesn't.
    I know she can hurt me and I know she can be unpredictable and spooky. And I know how much she demands a leader because of how stubborn, independant and an alpha mare she is.

    I don't think I can be that alpha mare, even though she has taught me a lot. I've only owned her for 2 1/2 years and she is my first horse. She is a challenge and one I don't think I'm cut out for. I don't think I can ever fully trust her a trail again.

    Is she the horse I need right now in my life? I think she was the horse I needed in many ways in the beginning.

    But sadly, she has caused me way to much sadness, frustration and pain, and has taken much of the joy of riding away from the way I had dreamt it would be.

    She is my heart horse and I love her so much it hurts to the bottom of my core and I've cried oceans of tears over the thought of giving her up.

    We've come full circle together. I loved her in the beginning, and then after the injuries caused by her, I wanted my mare gone and could barely stand the sight of her.
    And finally we have re-built that bond and affection for one another again.

    Which only makes it harder saying goodbye.

    But maybe that's the way it supposed to be.

    I'm coming to the realization that I'm not the only person who can provide a good home for my horse. And I know it is selfish for me to think that only I can provide the best home for her. Keeping her because I love her, and don't want to give her up may not be in her best interests.

    She requires a confidant, strong alpha to ride her and I don't know if I can ever be that kind of rider for her. It hurts to admit that, but the truth often does.....

    Thanks for this post. It got me thinking.


  41. I only have one horse, but take care of oh, 7 to 11 others. Kazam is not mine. I love him (and so does his half brother Jose), but if I can't get him rideable, the owner will get rid of him. I worry terribly about what will happen to him if he's sold or given away. Maybe the perfect person would end up with him... but what happens to him if the wrong person ends up with him? It makes me ache thinking about it.
    - The Equestrian Vagabond

  42. There are many good reasons to hold onto a horse and only one good reason to sell one.

    Because they will bring joy and be given joy.

    If you open your heart to the possibility, you never know what may walk in. Then again, if the right person doesn't come along, then you can feel good waiting...

    I know one gelding that needs to be the main guy's horse. But because the man got another horse he prefers, he's being used as a guest horse. He hates it.

    He wants to belong to one person. That is his nature. Someday, perhaps, he'll find that person.

  43. Hey Mugs - I hear you on your mare... Is there a young kid/adult that could 1/2 lease her within your area? Could give you some help on the bills, and give a younster a chance to learn alot from a talanted horse.

    I just bought a horse, he came from SC originaly but spent alot of time in a local trainers barn... He had a rough time there. I dont know if his owner knew or cared about what happend to him but Im walking a fine line between getting him used to me and listening to me and not having him regressing. (we know he was beaten on a faily regular basis, hobbled in his stall for days ect.) This month is the first time hes been turned out in a group in atleast 5 years. He needs to learn how to be a horse again. Any ideas on how to make this transition easer? Have him realize that although were going to work Im not going to beat him? I lightly sacked him out yesterday, and after he got over the initial freek out he was ok...

  44. I think the horse would adjust to a new situation fairly quickly, BUT, it also depends on the horse. I honestly can say I had a horse that was completely "emotional"..

    The person who bred her had her till she was 2. I got her as a resale. she literally was DEPRESSED when she was moved to my place. Lost extreme weight, had no life in her eyes, etc. It took SIX MONTHS for her to settle in. I sent her for 30 days training and I had to literally pull her out after two weeks. She went off her feed completely, and did the whole "depression" thing.

    She was turning 4 when I sold her. I told the new owners all about her and how she would probably be depressed when they first got her. I also sent a 5 page letter detailing EVERYTHING about her training, shots, etc etc

    About 2 weeks later, I get a call from a distraught new owner. The mare had dropped so much weight, wouldnt stop pacing and started cribbing! She did eventually settle into her new home, but again, it took her SIX months.

    Now I realize that is an extreme case, and I honestly thing the majority of horses would adjust within a month. I find that when we have got new horses it takes a good 30 days to really see their personalities. Now, Jazz... well, I dont know about ever selling her because I truly do think she would end up somewhere bad, because lets face it, she is not an easy horse to get along with and nobody understands why I stuck with it! lol

  45. I love reading all these responses.

    Mugs if you were serious about this horse being kid/ranch broke wow there is a huge market for these types of horses in california. They also call them "husband horses." This is the kind of horse many people want but is so hard to find.

    There's a large segment of the population that has zero interest in showing. I think it is hard to see that when you show for a long time. You mentally assess each horse for the show ring/pen.

    I used to show but got burned out fast. The trail is still my home. I get horribly bored in an arena. Some horses are probably the same way.

    I think most horses (unless they are nutcases or unsound) have the perfect job out there for them. Individual temperments dictate what they enjoy doing. It sounds like Loki doesn't like the show pen, and that's ok and no ones fault. But she could have a future bringing a young girl much joy, such as you were when you got Mort.

    I sure hope you find that job for her, and am positive it is out there!

    I always thought one of my mares was difficult and hot until one day I put my rank beginner husband on her (in a round pen on a lead) and she morphed into this bombproof babysitter horse. It was like she knew he was clueless. He got to where he could even ride her in our pastures. She never took a mistep with him. With me though, wow, she'd turn back into her hot sassy self. But that is the kind of horse I like to ride.

  46. OH! i second the "how to train an ANGRY horse" would love it if you addressed that. thanks

  47. I have a friend with a wonderful 13 year old QH gelding, 14.3H reiner, nice bloodlines, that she is giving away. He's had a couple of bad tendon sprains (long since healed), and she doesn't want to compete with him anymore because she's afraid of reinjuring them. She also doesn't want him to go to a performance show oriented owner, and that's why she's giving him away. Crazy reasoning, but there you go.

    This is scaring the crap out of me: I read Fugly, and she's already had a "family" from 2 states away show up who are promising a "forever home", and I just don't believe they needed to travel that far to find a free horse.

    This horse is dead broke, nicely put together, the only thing he needs is proper and regular trims to keep him sound forever. He could do dressage, he's naturally collected. If I didn't have two I was supporting, I'd be paying his board too. I'm afraid he'll end up at the auction or sold down the road as a reiner sooner than you can say Ebony (his name - he's solid black. Did I mention he's gorgeous, too?) The "family" apparently couldn't believe how nice he was when they came to see him and ride.

    She thinks she's doing the right thing by him, but she's not about to travel to see the barn he's allegedly going ot move to...

  48. Scamp, I agree that sounds very sketchy. I hope for the horses sake that you/we are just being paranoid.

    Also I think it is very unlikely that we need to worry about a similar deception being pulled on Mugs.

  49. You guys are too cool. Here I was worrying about ditching you and this discussion became better and better.
    Here's where I am on the Loki situation. I'll bring her in, ride her, enjoy her and see how she goes once she adapts to being a broke horse again.
    Then I'll look at leases etc.
    If the right person doen't show I'll put her back on pasture closer in and see what happens.
    I'm glad this got some of you thinking, it sure did me. Thanks.

  50. Mugs,

    I second what Nancy C said --- not everyone wants to show. Personally, I have zero interest in it. I enjoy the occasional gymkhana but as far as showing goes? Eh. I guess I could get into it, if I forced myself to.

    But seriously, why would I want to force myself to take on such an expensive habit? I'd rather just enjoy riding and not have to worry about the whole stress of showing. I can't be the only one out there like that.

    If you did consider selling her, I would definitely recommend either as a husband horse or a woman at least in her 20's. She might be kid-safe but I don't think I'd trust a kid to keep his/her word as far as not showing.

    Now, out of curiosity, is it all shows she gets excited about? Is she calm in the arena otherwise? Would something low-key like ETI (Equestrian Trails) stress her?

    As invested as you seem in this mare, even the perfect home is probably going to worry you a bit. How could it not? Like you said, you never thought you'd let her go.

    Plus it sounds like you're an absolutely fantastic rider, so whoever you do end up finding will probably be beneath you in terms of skill and talent. That doesn't mean they won't be able to provide a good home, but it does mean that your gut feeling that they aren't going to do as good of a job as you in terms of riding/training is probably right. They won't. How could they, when you're in a whole different level of ability than most riders? The question is whether Loki will be able to adapt to their level of expertise. There is more than one home out there that's a good fit for her, it's just a matter of time. If you start marketing her now it doesn't mean that you HAVE to sell her. Provided you can find semi-inexpensive ways of marketing her, I don't see any bad coming from poking around for a home for her. The more time you have to look for a perfect home, the better! I put off selling Jubilee for so long that in the end, I had no other financial choice but to let him go to a home that was not the greatest fit (she was too inexperienced of a rider for my tastes.) I wish I had started the process earlier so I could have had more time to sift through the riffraff.

    Plus, putting her out on the market early would help desensitize you to the idea so that if/when the perfect home does come along you won't be so freaked out about losing her that you let it pass you by.

    Is there anyone you could rely on to give you sound advice/judgment through the final decision process? As in, you do the legwork and scare up a handful of potential buyers/leasers, and then the two of you go over the decisions together? For the sake of the friendship the final decision must always be yours, but it might be nice to have someone objectively far away from the whole heartstrings aspect of the decision.

    Mugs, my heart goes out to you on this one. It really does.

  51. Becky, I agree that the level of riding that this mare is used to is unlikely to be duplicated by a new rider.

    I just got my gelding back after 4 years of a lease situation that all were very happy with including the horse. They did not use him to the level that I did, but they were competent riders with excellent horse care skills as well as $$ for vet, farrier, insurance and so forth.

    My gelding was quite happy working for competent yet much less demanding riders. It was like early retirement for him while he was there. He remembers what he knows, it is just a matter of getting him tuned and back in shape.

    Mugs describes herself as a fair and demanding rider. I bet Loki would be plenty happy with a new person who is a reasonably well educated rider without the frequent fixing, adjusting, and progressing frame of mind of a rider who is also a trainer.

    If the finish on the mare takes a small back slide and then settles into a good working relationship with a new owner, I think that most people would consider that a happy ending. Probably even Mugs.

  52. Hey, mugs, long-time lurker here.
    I'm sure everyone's already told you this, but I'll go ahead and put my bit of experience in. When my first horse turned 18, I was ready to move up to the next level, and he was getting creaky joints and having stiff days. I loved that gelding - more than I could ever express - but it wasn't fair to ask him to keep up with me. I put him up for sale, advertised as a safe schoolmaster, and interested buyers started inquiring. Among all the ones that were asking for the wrong reasons and just didn't fit, there was one that really had her plan together, and knew exactly what she was looking for. She came to try my gelding with many of her different-level riders, and she was running an efficient barn at the age of 26. She took him on a lease until she found a student who wanted to buy him. She let me drop in anytime I wanted, even if she wasn't there, and we kept in close correspondence. Will he always have the care that I saw as perfect? It might not be quite as perfect, but he is still taken-care of and well-loved. He lives out his semi-retirement with a girl to teach the ropes to. He gets turn out with all the other creaky lesson horses, and he gets the right kind of exercise he needs. Plus, he doesn't have me nagging him to actually WORK his old bones. He is quite happy with his new home.

    To make a long story short, you can find someone who has a much better use for your mare than you do. She could be someone's "one and only" as opposed to your "extra". If the situation doesn't work out, there are always long-term lease agreements and first right of refusal contracts. I do understand that she is a fragile mare. Yet, you can work as a team with her new potential home and make sure you're comfortable with it before you make anything permanent. It can't do her any harm to see if you can find her a place she really belongs. Just because she won't be yours doesn't mean you can't ensure peace of mind. Best of luck in your decision with Loki. Whatever it ends up being, I know it will be in her best interest, considering how much thought you've put into it.

  53. This has been a GREAT post and equally GREAT responses.Here's my 2 cents worth....

    I have an 11 yr.old Appendix gelding that I bred,raised and trained. His original purpose was to be my husbands replacement trail horse when his trusty mount (geldings mother)needed to be retired.That time has come but the husband does not click with the son...probably because he is still to EMOTIONALLY attached to his beloved Serenade and no matter how decent Mohawk might be he will never compare to Serenade in the husbands heart and mind and that of course transmits directly down into the saddle. I leased Mohawk to a woman as a possible alternative,it was a very nice home and she seemed to be a capable rider. She however was an arena rider only and very anxious,unsure of herself out on the trails. She wanted to trail ride and took him out but did not trust him to take care of her and got both of them into a couple very bad situations. She then only rode him in endless circles in a very small enclosure and he became very sour ,very quickly. I brought him back home.Here he sits as a pasture pet. He needs way more work then he gets. He would be great as a husband horse or for someone to dink along with on the trails. He jumps,has foxhunted, has had kids on him and been fine.

    I am very reluctant to sell him or even lease him to someone now WHY?
    Because I am to damn EMOTIONALLY attached to him and worry about where he will go and what if I sell him and then he gets resold.The what ifs are killing me and I have absolutely no control about them.Here are my current solutions to my problem....
    1. I get another husband for this horse who will enjoy him and ride him regularly. I think the current husband might have an issue with this and I don't think it's legal in my state of Pa.LOL!!
    2. Those of you mugwump readers in the NE (Pa.,NJ,MD,Del)I have a spare horse that needs some work.Let's get together and ride.

  54. Very good posts, Mugs.

    If I had an ageing horse, a horse with health- or mental problems, I would hesistate.

    But if I understand you right, you have a well educated, safe and sound horse in her best years.
    She would bring so much joy to someone out there!

    I love my horse.
    She comes running to me when out on the pasture, so I guess she doesn't find me too bad either.
    But I know there are so many good horse people out there, and I am not fooling myself that she would be unhappy with another owner should something happen.

    I would try to find a mature, experienced rider to your Loki, someone who would appreciate her for what she's worth. Someone who wants a safe horse, and is in a more stable life situation than a younger person.

    Whatever you do - good luck. Gut feeling is a good strategy.