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Feeling overfaced by your horse is no fun. Many of us have been in situations at some point in our riding lives where we wondered if the horse we owned or were riding was really a good match. Especially for those riders just starting out, having the right horse can be a critical part of making learning to ride both enjoyable and successful.

Deciding if it may be time to part ways with your horse is a tough decision to consider so today I share three questions to ask yourself to help make this important decision a bit easier.

Hit play to watch the video below then leave a comment with your own thoughts – have you been through a situation like this before? Have any advice for others who may be asking themselves these questions?

If fear and anxiety are a contributing factor in your decision whether or not to sell your horse I advise you to visit my Calm and Confident Rider Free Resource for defining and overcoming these emotions.

See you in the comments, Callie.


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33 Responses

  1. Dear Callie, Thank you for this great discussion that sort of gives permission to really examine how you feel about your horse. It was a great help. I will continue to watch it as I look for the horse that makes me feel happy every time I see her head hanging over the stall door. Sincerely, Janet

  2. This post came at the perfect time for me. I had been leasing a horse for a while and pouring a lot of time and money into him, yet things just weren’t working out. I couldn’t figure out why, until I talked to his previous trainer. Through our conversation, I learned that the owner had materially misrepresented the horse’s experience to me. If I had known the truth about his background, I would have never entered into the lease agreement. It breaks my heart because I love this horse, and we get along great when we’re just goofing around in the pasture or arena…unfortunately, he is dangerous under saddle. A huge part of me wants to “save” him, but I don’t have the expertise or time it takes to do that. It is very hard to walk away, but your post helped to remind me that I’m doing the right thing.

    Thanks for posting this sad, reluctant truth a lot of horse people don’t want to admit. Just curious, what inspired you to make the video? Do you deal with this often as a trainer?

    1. Hi Gwen, thanks for your comment! Unfortunately, this situation is one that, as a trainer, I see many people go through and I know how hard of a decision it can be. I also had several horses when I was younger that, in hindsight, were not the best match for me at the time, so I understand what it feels like to be over faced but dread parting with an equine friend.
      You really touched on an important point when you mentioned the desire to “save” a horse – I feel a lot of people feel this way with the absolute best of intentions, but can end up in very dangerous situations trying to rescue a horse that has behaviors they are unable to work through and retrain.

  3. Callie, I’m glad that you have presented this topic because it is so important to think of these things BEFORE getting a horse or for some of us falling in love with a horse. I recently spoke to a woman at my barn who generously shared her story of her first horse. She purchased an off-track Thoroughbred who at first seemed just what she was looking for. Unfortunately, after a few weeks she found out that the horse was too much for her to handle and she sustained some serious injuries as a result. It was then they parted ways and she now has a horse that is just right for her and that she can ride with more confidence. No doubt the process was painful for her physically and emotionally. I was touched by her story and it meshes with the thoughts you shared in the video. It is certainly easy to become attached to a horse before purchasing it and only using that as the guide for the purchase (along with a vet check!). But in realistically evaluating our skills as a rider and what we can reasonably do with/for the horse, this is where honest answers to the questions you posed will help make the decision that is the best one for the rider AND the horse.

    1. Hi Maureen, so true that it is important to give ones riding confidence, skills, and goals much consideration before purchasing a horse. Being honest with yourself on what you really want and need can save a lot of heartache down the road.

  4. Thank you for writing about this and confirmng what in ‘my gut’ I felt. I have been learning to ride at several different stables with different types of horses and saddles. Because it was impressed on me that riding different horses would help me learn different skills, I stayed on horses that were too much for me . It’s definitely easier to learn on a horse you feel you can trust and that you look forward to riding.

  5. Great video Callie. I am struggling with this very issue. My 6 year old cutting bred / trained mare is a bit spooky (she’s been described as “sensitive” – whatever that means) and, altho I am used to how she spooks (hops sideways – no bolt) and don’t worry about falling off, it is disconcerting. I think more ground training would help. I have the financial resources but lack the time – unless I replace rides with ground work. Do you think this would help? Re point 2, the anxiety level, it’s not that bad. She’s a well trained and fun little mare, so I am hoping we can work thru this (and I don’t really care how long it takes as I am not aiming for particular goals with this mare). I have just discovered that she loves barrel racing, so we may do a bit of that. I think she would love jumping, so we may try that for fun – resort to my pony club roots a bit! We love sorting cattle and may try team penning. So no fixed goals or timelines in mind. As for point 3, personality match – I have never met a horse who so clearly reflects my mood back at me. I am fairly high strung, so need to do relaxation tricks before riding her. The other day I was super tired and kind of non-commital about riding, and she was lazy and also non-commital. Really not willing to engage when I wasn’t. When I am crabby, she is crabby. When I am nervous, she is nervous. When I was feeling brave and wanting to try barrels again, she was happy to oblige. I have had many horses in my younger years, but this “mood match” between Rosie and me is uncanny. I own another mare, but am inclined to give Rosie more time and effort because she is a phenomenal horse, but for this goofy, unexpected spooking – sometimes at things she has seen many times. (fyi: she has been treated for ulcers, and is given probiotics. She has chiropractic treatments and accupunture as general maintenance. Her eyesight and teeth are fine. She is not hot on high energy feed or grains – she doesn’t get any. And she is quite mare-ish). Many thanks! Your video has helped me to decide to keep her for a while longer and see what can be done to help. Any assistance would be most appreciated. Leanne.

    1. Hi Leanne, it sounds as though you are a skilled rider and have a lot in common with your mare, I’m glad you are giving her some more time. Spooking can be a very frustrating behavior to deal with, and it’s not usually easy to make a spooky horse calm and placid, however, I have found that the best approach is to expose them to many different things and slowly teach them to speed up their “investigation” of those new things. I’m not referring to sacking out or anything like that, just making a point of taking your horse to new places often, even if it’s just new places around her farm, or placing new and scary things around her environment. I practice investigating lots of new things, and sometimes I will use clicker training to teach them to investigate objects so it becomes more intriguing and less scary for them to do so. Just a few tips, hope these help!

  6. Callie ~ a great topic and one that I think about a lot, considering some day I would like to experience horse ownership, but at this point, I don’t think I am a skilled enough rider and knowledgeable enough to be a good owner. I think a lot about your points when I am at the barn where I ride, because I find that the personality and temperament of the horse make a big difference for me. There is just no way around the fact that sometimes you just don’t mesh with a horse. As I spend more time at the barn, I realize that horses have their personalities and quirks just like us humans. Some you like and mesh with, and others, you don’t connect with. I enjoyed reading Maureen’s post above as well. Thanks for another great post!!

  7. This is a great subject to discuss, as I have had two ponies that were both unsuitable for me. The first pony was too sharp for me and although I put in a lot of hard work I had to realise that it wasnt working and I was not experienced for her and what she needed at that time.
    My second was a retired riding school pony, and all seemed great but as he was used to being ridden a lot and in such a routine and had always been doing everything with other horses and again I put a lot of time money and effort into him and myself, but when he started bucking and spooking quite badly I had to make a descion again to rehome him which I have done and the new owner isnt fazed by him and it works for them which is lovely.
    sometimes you have to do whats right for yourself and your horse even though its a hard descion to come to. I now have a part share with a lovely older pony of 25 who has taught countless children and adults to ride, and we get on great, its enabled me to gain confidence and we have entered our first walk and trot test this year which I thought Id never be able to do.
    Thankyou for this discussion as I think there are a lot of horses and owners who are not a good fit and maybe a better partnership for someone else

  8. What about a situation where the horse was once a suitable match but because the rider hasn’t had time to ride, the horse has now turned into a handful? Would it work to get a trainer in, and how long would that take? What should the rider expect to pay for that service? As usual, this is another good video from CRK. I really enjoy your videos and insight. Thank you.

    1. Hi Karen, great question! This does sound like a good time to work with a trainer to help your horse get back into a riding schedule and understanding what is expected of him again. Many horses can show different behaviors when they have had time off, but if he had a good foundation of training before it shouldn’t take long for that to come back, once a behavior is learned, horses are excellent at remembering it. I wouldn’t really want to comment on cost because that is going to vary a lot depending on where you live and the experience of the trainer you hire. Just as an example, the cost for an hour training session in my area ranges from about $25 to $60.

  9. What a great topic for your video, and one I have struggled with. My horse is, according to my trainer, “a lot of horse,” and quite a bit much for me as I recover from knee surgery. However, I have gotten a handle on him from the ground and have a talented equestrian riding him for me so I’m hoping we’ll work well together once I’m back in the saddle again. ☺️

  10. Hi Callie
    I have found your video’s very helpful. I have a six year old and he has tried to put me off a few times.I Keep being positive and being repetitive with each task we are doing. Funny though there is always something he tries to put me off. I do need help with how to lunge him just brought a cavesson. If you have any clips that would help. Thanks again. Debbie

  11. Hi Callie, interesting video. I have just recently been thinking maybe my horse is not the right match for me. I have never been around horses before and foolishly bought one last July. I take weekly lessons and also purchased your riding program. I’ve come a long way but have so much farther to go. I”ve finally ventured out around the neighborhood. Built up my nerve and was feeling pretty good about it. Then all of a sudden, after the 10th time or so, he’s getting spooked again. His head is arched, neck is stiff and my fear and anxiety go back up to a 10. He has never taken off, just spreads all 4 legs in a halt, and turns back around. I’m pushing my way through and turning him back around but it takes all the nerve I’ve got and I’m dreading the next time it happens. I thought we got through that the first few times out but I guess he is noticing things he didn’t notice before. I’m 47 and I don’t want to fall. Lol. Since he’s my first and only horse I’ve ever been on I don’t really know any better. Just wanted a nice trail horse… But just like everyone else, I love my horse..

    1. Hi Linda, In a case like this one, it may be really helpful to have a few other people watch your horse’s behavior and tell you if it looks as bad as it feels. Sometimes our horses do things that feel scarier than they really are. The one thing with trail horses, is that the truly “bombproof” trail horse is very hard to find, and a horse that goes along without spooking with one rider may act differently with another, or may act differently in a group vs. out by themselves. It actually sounds as though your horse has a pretty good way of handling his spooks, so you may want to keep working through this one a bit!

      1. Thanks Callie,
        I appreciate your comments. I think you’re right. He’s never bolted so that’s good. Once my fears go down I’m sure his will too.

  12. Hi Callie,
    I’ve just discovered your blog and I really enjoyed the few videos I watched.
    I have had my mare for 5 years. At one point, after 1 year or so, I did ask myself the question whether we were suited to each other. She had always been spirited, but then she became really difficult to handle, and everytime I came to ride her my stomach tightened, so I considered parting with her.
    But I loved this mare, and it stung my pride also I guess, so I didn’t give up at once: I went back to taking lessons on other horses for two years, I learnt about ground work, and investigated all the possible physical issues that could explain her behaviour.
    Over ime I have improved my skills and understanding, we still have a lot to learn, but now I really know I made the right choice when I bought this mare, and although the way is not “just a hobby”, it really is worth it.
    So I just wanted to add a hopeful comment: sometimes you shouldn’t give up too quickly on your horse, and if you are patient and determined, your partnership may work ut in the end!

    1. Thanks for your comment Anne! Great work with your mare, it sounds as though it has been quite a journey for both of you!

  13. So true in this blog. We had the great opportunity to loan a horse, a great looking pie balled cob cross at 15.2, 6 year old gelding, but we knew this before he came to our field that he had not done much in a year due to owner has been busy.She said she would come round and ride him more as the horse would be closser to home than before.
    We where told he’s bomb proof on hacks out and had done lots , which yes he is, but more than one time he just would not want to go out on some lanes with my daughter and took the Mick out of her! ( inexperienced rider and horse not a great combination) but if he’s on a lead rope he’s as dopey as you get and won’t barge passed or mess about !
    he’s a lovely lad and wish we could bring him on, but sadly my time and knowledge is not good enough for a youngster and the owner had not come round as much to ride so our decision was to let the owner know he’s not the one for us, which brings me on to the he’ll be leaving us today as the owner has sold him on, will be sad to see him go as he’s been with us for a year and he’s a right character.

    Now as sad as that is, a month ago ( and we had been looking for months now) we saw an ex riding school ex RDA, irish sports horse mare, up for sale locally and went to see her on a Friday. ….on Tuesday she was mine in the field.
    This Is the right one for us as she’s so forgiving and no slouch, plodder or I can’t be bothered kind of horse to ride, or even takes the Mick!
    At 16.2 and 15 years she would of seen it all, and just my riding experience the second time I rode her, in canter, I did not for one minute think un safe or fall off ( hadn’t ridden a horse in canter for 16 years)
    Im now watching your videos and concentrate on better seat in sitting trot and other thinks too.
    Im enjoying getting back if my the saddle and my girls are too now.
    p’s thank you for taking the time to do all these videos and the blog 🙂

  14. hello Callie, the way you teach is great as am able to remember and apply the skills. I don’t own a horse and take weekly lessons at a riding school. I am an adult novice/learner rider.
    Recently the riding school has said they have an ex polo pony, Billy, who had been injured and is now getting back into being ridden.
    They think he is depressed because he isn’t ridden much at present also as he can’t be used for jumping and asked me if I would be interested in spending time with him, riding him for lessons or on my own. To be a human “mommy”.
    Reminds me of the one comment about trying to “save” a horse
    Rode him for the first time in group lesson this week and he is kind of “all over the place”, not great at stopping. We did some in hand work to gain respect which was good. Per other young riders throws his head up and down when cantering.
    Not sure if they are just trying to “dump” a “problem” horse on me because I am non competitive, non jumper versus the other riders in the school who love jumping.
    At 47 am not into getting hurt by a horse if I can help it.
    Other instructor tried to lunge Billy but as soon as she moves to his shoulder he spins his hindquarters around to face her (did the same with me). Did watch your lungeing video and read your blog so have a better idea how to lunge but how do you deal with him not allowing you to send him around?
    Not sure if I am the right person to work with Billy as I still have heaps to learn how to work with horses that seem to have some issues. Don’t want to do it because I feel sorry for Billy as nobody else really works with him much. Comments are welcome.

  15. Hi Callie
    Thank you
    I bought my horse a year and half ago
    I went away for a week shortly after I got him and when I got back he started bolting.
    I’ve since been to 2 trainers to help me but
    As am having a hard time getting past that.
    I’ll be 51 and been riding since I was 45.
    He comes to the gate for me every time I get him, he is super.
    Such a hard decision
    He’s also 16.3
    Very big warmblood.
    I decided to move him in a few days to a consignment trainer situation
    Really hope I’m doing the right thing for him
    He hasn’t been treated the best in the past in terms of – his tack never got him
    He was in pain the day I got him and now I’m helping him get out of that pain pattern
    I wonder if we would ever become good for each other but deep down I don’t think so

    1. Jennifer, if he is in pain that could definitely explain his behaviors. What type of pain are you observing in him?

      -Julia Burdy, CRK Training Community Manager

  16. Hi Callie,

    Great video! I have been feeling very down about my horse lately and have been wondering if I am the best owner for her. she is an ex racer horse and things haven’t been easy with her since the day I bought her from weight loss to vet bills she is a lovely horse but so stressy and sensitive I just feel like she doesn’t ever listen to me. she always comes to greet me in the field but I just wonder if she would be better with someone else.
    Sincerely Ellie

    1. Elli, do you feel like she is above your comfort level? Do you work with a professional to help you in training her?

      -Julia Burdy, CRK Training Community Manager

  17. Second time around on this video for me. Again, a very thoughtful questions and narrative. But I can also say emphatically now that, yes, PG and I are the ideal match for each other. We’ve had our share of issues, but we are so much alike it’s almost weird. I suppose it was a matter of luck finding each other at the right time for both of us, but I’m grateful.

  18. I just bought an off the track TB mare about 6 months ago. When I got her she had been bounced around a lot and I had a previous (super star) TB mare before. Thinking it would be similar I worked with her, she was pretty scary at first rearing with the chiropractor and not wanting to be touched. She had ulcers and allergies and we have worked through a lot of it and she’s had 2 months of training and she’s a lot better now. We are at a new barn that’s closer to me so I can be out more. I am currently in a grad program, and some days when I go out I get really nervous with her and some days I have a really good time and feel accomplished. But the goal was to get a horse who I can enjoy to relax a bit from school. And she freaks out about the smallest things and can sometimes spook into me. I know she’s got a lot of potential but I don’t think I have the time right now to work with her. I was thinking of pasture with my moms horses and getting another horse until I have developed my skills and have a horse I can really enjoy while I am in school. Is it a good choice to keep the horse and just give them time off and get another to have fun and enjoy. This way she can decompress too due to having a tough past( owners not having enough time, and being dumped at a feed lot). I just don’t want her to end up in a bad situation and would rather keep her and let her be, while I work with a new horse or just keep working with her with a trainer?

    1. Hi Megan, have you worked with a trainer with her previously? It is totally normal to get nervous when you are dealing with behaviors that feel dangerous. Another option that might be a good solution is to work with her with the trainer while you also take lessons with the trainer on a different horse that is more within your comfort level!

      -Julia, CRK Training Community Manager

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