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The first time you find these thoughts in your mind can be gut-wrenching. 

“Is this ever going to work?” Maybe I should find her another home? Maybe I should sell her?”

You think of all the hopes you had, all the visions of galloping together across open fields, of long trail rides, of fulfilling those childhood dreams… 

But then it doesn’t go as planned. 

Your horse turns out to be more sensitive or reactive than you have the skills to handle. Perhaps they have a soundness issue that you realize may never be resolved. Or they just don’t have the physical ability to excel in the activities you love. 

The doubts come on strong – “Does this mean I am a failure? Am I giving up too soon?”

There has to be something else to try, something else I can do… some way to make it work… 

In a recent workshop I participated in for facilitating Equine Assisted Learning, I heard a speaker, Kris Gonzalez, talk honestly about when relationships don’t go as planned and it made me think of when our relationship with our horse does not turn out as we had hoped. 

There was a specific quote I wrote down that ended up being my biggest takeaway from the workshop. The quote went like this: “Mourn the relationship you wanted so that you can be fully present in the relationship you have.” 

We can acknowledge we had wanted, had expected, something different with our horse. Something that didn’t happen, and that coming up short can be painful. 

Perhaps you had dreamed of long trail rides through the mountains or fields by your home, or of finally jumping in the 1.00 meter class, or of just being able to ride every day without first needing to jog your horse to see if he is sound.  

But that does not mean there is not value and beauty in what we have and in what we can still create. Every moment presents a new opportunity, but if we are still dwelling in what could have been, we will be unable to recognize that moment, and it’s potential will be lost. 

When we can accept the loss of what we had been expecting, we can appreciate our horse for who they are, and open ourselves to what comes next. 

This may be a decision to find your horse a new home, and that decision could well be what is best for both of you. 

The truth is that regardless of whether you choose to part ways with your horse or work in a different direction, hanging on to old expectations can poison that transition. Instead, letting go, accepting what could have been but wasn’t, and fully embracing the challenge and opportunity in front of us allows us to take full advantage of what is possible. 

In some cases, this may mean going out each day accepting of the horse in front of you – knowing that some days you will be able to work on a lot and other days you may be able to do very little.

It may mean realizing an opportunity to work more on relationship than performance, or to recognize something new you need to learn, a different skill you need to build.

If finding your horse a new home is the decision you make, take heart in that not every relationship with a horse turns out as we would like, focus on what you learned with this horse and how you can set them up for a good fit in their next home. 

Ask questions of the potential buyers, finding out where and how they plan to care for your horse and what their goals and expectations are to be sure the new home and new owners will be a good match. 

In an article I posted last week, I talked about how awareness is so important for safety, and part of awareness is accepting the risk we are taking on.

I believe that one reason riding and working with horses is so challenging is because of the inherent physical risk that is present when climbing on the back of a large being with thoughts and emotions all its own.

What is often left out of discussions of safety is that we each have different perceptions of and tolerance for risk. Some people thrive being outside their comfort zone and others prefer to be well inside, just brushing up against the edges. 

These two topics are connected, because we each have a different threshold for the risk we are willing to take, and how much we are willing to work at something. I think we should strive to better know ourselves, rather than looking around at what others are doing. 

Regardless of what the next step is for you and your horse, mourn what you had wanted, and had expected, and then be present in what is. 

Have goals and expectations, but perhaps allow your plans to be changed, there is a fine line between going after what we want and becoming so focused on what we think should be that we lose all the possibility around us.


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60 Responses

  1. Not sure why this made me tear up, but truth often resonates that way, doesn’t it?
    I will ponder on it.

  2. Great post. I was hoping to learn to jump, but my lease horse can’t jump, so I thought about switching to a different horse. I listed all his good qualities and thought, ok, so I don’t jump. Then I took him out in a field and we galloped for the first time (actually, my very first time galloping on purpose) and realized that gave me the same feeling of stretching our limits together as jumping does. Sometimes, when we acknowledge what we want and come to terms with not having it, an alternative comes up.

    1. Hi Mary, that is so awesome! Great example of adjusting your expectations 🙂

      -Julia Burdy, CRK Training Community Manager

  3. Callie, thank you for these video lessons. Right now, you are reading me. After 10 years, it may be time to let go of my rescue pony. My trainer for these years has told me he is over reactive, and always will be. He’s too afraid of everything in his environment. She took 5 months to break him to saddle, natural horsemanship. I’ve been riding since, mostly in the round pen, sometimes in the big ring, and only a couple of times out back (a 5 minute ride up a hill into the woods) and only 1 real trailride one year ago for 3 hours, during which he never calmed his mind. He is always on high alert. He tries hard, he is very responsive to aids, he jumps, yields, backs, turns on fore and haunches. For the first 8 years I rode only with a bareback pad. Now I’m using an English saddle. He imagines danger and bolts and spins. No buck or rear. My trainer just told me on our last lesson, during which she wouldn’t even let me mount, it was just ground work because she could not get him to focus and calm down, that she doesn’t want me to ride in the big ring again until someone else does a few times. I’ve been riding there. she wants me to stay in the round pen. She does NOTHING to help my confidence. Recently he bolted at nothing, spun and galloped, in the big ring. I lost my right stirrup and got thrown back and left, but used reins to get back into the saddle and bring him to a walk. I’ve been riding for 52 years. This is not my first rodeo. I think she’s afraid I will get hurt since I’m 68 now, but she shouldn’t be treating me like a 5 year old. She saw me sit him when he took off. She’s been there for all the times he’s injured me over 10 years. Anyway, thank you for your lesson. I’ve never been a quitter. Others are telling me he would do better with another home. I don’t know what I should be doing, but I live by “if in doubt, don’t.” and “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”.

    1. Debbie,
      I understand and sympathize with your situation and have been in a similar situation myself. I’m about your age (a couple years older) and have a lifetime of riding experience, starting colts etc. Maybe you’ve already been down this road–please forgive me if you have–but . . . Have you tried calming supplements? It’s been my experience that some over-reactive horses respond very, very well to calming supplements and some have a deficiency in magnesium and/or B vitamins, and sometimes their behavioral changes are like night and day on supplements. AND I think sometimes a better and hardest choice for all is to part with the horse. (But I sure wouldn’t subject ANY horse to the horrors of a “meat truck” and the slaughter house.) Good luck —

    2. Debbie, I hope you don’t mind my responding but I feel your concern and wanted to send you an encouraging note. You are about my mom’s age, and something I recently told her has been a hard point to address. My mom is the entire REASON that I know I love horses. Growing up, whenever I was with her (my parents divorced when I was young and I lived with my dad), I was always on a horse and watching her train. I adored her knowledge and even found that part of my horse dream was her and I doing it together. So imagine me, my first horse (17YO rescue), and my mom.
      about 6 months into this new partnership, and my bubble was popped. My mom that I used to watch work with horses and do amazing things, was not able to control our boy, and was also giving up, she was terrified of him, and he knew how to find her weeknesses. Now that she is older it has been hard to see her work with him. He is fast, and he needs someone that would be able to really move with him, ground work and all. There were moments when we first got him that she was not able to control him and be what he needed, physically. Even now when working on excercises, she struggles. I immediately and instinctively knew that I had to step and learn as much as possible if I was going to keep him.(The good news, I have learned WAY more about horsemanship than I ever knew existed!) We had a trainer come work with us last year, and he flat out said that this is why he was here and why he had a job. Because at some point in some of these horses lives, they did not learn proper behavior. Our guy had a dominant attitude that he had been getting away with for way too long. He is so smart that he learned how to control us. And when you are dealing with such a large animal, sometimes, we are just not equipped physically to be the ones to teach them those very necessary and basic principles. (It took nearly 2 hours of the two of them going around and around the arena on foot doing side passing to get Scout to finally say ok, lower his head and stop fighting every step). There was no beating, no yelling, just physical and mental strain for both of them to stick with it. I followed every step and watched…I asked to take the lead, and thankfully, he said no. There are moments when they need a DADDY, and this was a breaking point for my boy. It was time for him to learn how to be a man! And sometimes, mommy just can’t cut it! In two days, my horse world changed completely. I’m still learning, still growing, but I will tell you, not once since that weekend, has my boy tested me the way he tested us that weekend! (I will share his info with you in a PM if you would like, he is out of florida.) But the point that I made to my mom is that it is ok for her to not be able to do all that she once could. She needs to find a horse that is right for her that could meet her where she is now too! There is nothing wrong with saying that a horse is too much horse for you right now at this point. There are plenty out there that don’t have those issues too, that are much calmer and trusting. I do feel that with the proper support and guidance from a trainer, there is still hope, but it depends on how much time you want to invest in starting at the VERY basics, and then growing all over together. My mom doesn’t have that in her anymore, and she has to find other ways to channel her knowledge and feel useful, whether it is through teaching others, or by being on a horse that is not quite such a handful so that she can fix little things that don’t take a lot of physical or mental strain. Some trainers only focus on the human, and not the horse. Some are all about the horse and don’t teach us how…it is a real blessing to find those, like Callie, that consider the pair! My email is [email protected] if you would like to have my trainer’s info. =) Best wishes moving forward.

    3. Debbie, although you might feel frustrated but it sounds like she is just looking out for your safety! She might not want to be responsible for if something would happen to you morally.

      -Julia Burdy, CRK Training Community Manager

  4. omgoodness, you have really hit the nail on the head with this one Callie and I am so glad you did. This is such a personal issue and I adore how it applies to ALL of our relationships, as mothers, wives, and even friends with people! I learned this with my horse and sometimes it takes others pointing it out that after all I do for my horse and me to grow and change, what about the rest of the relationships in my life! What great teachers they can be!
    2 years ago I said that if I couldn’t make it work with my boy Scout, that he would have to be put on a meat truck, because I would never allow him to be another person’s problem. The emotional journey I have been through with him was crushing. He was nothing like I dreamed, and I was so disappointed! I started to get angry and give up, but that meant for me that if I did, horses would NEVER be a part of my life again! And that was my driving point to make it better. Kind like in a marriage, we ask ourselves…if I don’t make it work with this one, will I ever make it work with anyone else, and we can’t put our spouses on a meat truck either! LOL…
    Now, 2 years later, my horse and I are completely different together! We take walks, we go on trail rides, we run, we dance, we hang out…he wants me on his back when I don’t have HUGE expectations…I learned about him, what drives him, what he LIKES, and there is so much more give and take from both of us! We still have an exciting unknown future, but for now, we are exactly what we both need. It doesn’t look like anything expected, it just is!

    1. Nancy, thank you for sharing your experience! I am so glad you and Scout have been able to build a great relationship.

      -Julia Burdy, CRK Training Community Manager

  5. Brilliantly timed! I just realised the horse I bought to share with my child (which was in training) was not suitable for him due to it being uber-sensitive. It forced me to focus on what was really important – and funnily, we seem to have found that in a horse that I would never have looked at on account of being too “small” on paper. I have no hesitation in letting go of the unsuitable horse – who clearly would only be happy with an experienced, quiet, feminine rider.

    1. Thumps, it is funny how we can discount a horse because of something like that – a hard lesson but a good one to learn!

      -Julia Burdy, CRK Training Community Manager

  6. Currently in a similar situation with my daughter’s horse. We brought her because my daughter is a keen show jumper… but it turns out the partnership isn’t working for jumping but is fantastic for dressage/equitation! We now have a difficult decision as my daughter still wants to jump but we love the horse to bits and I certainly can’t face selling her. So difficult to know what to do for the best – for daughter and horse. The only solution I can think of is to buy another one for jumping!!!

    1. Jane, that is a totally okay solution! If she has her heart set on jumping than the best step might be finding a different partner for her!

      -Julia Burdy, CRK Training Community Manager

  7. I had been toying with this – is she the right horse for me? Am I the right rider for her? – with my rescue mare for a while but was unready to “admit defeat”. My coach very wisely asked me to take on the schooling of a young mare as an extra task this summer, as a favour to her while the yard was understaffed, and we fell in love with each other. Once I’d experienced how wonderful it could be to ride a horse you really click with, it was far easier to give up the mare I wasn’t right for. And now my old mare has the opportunity to move off our yard and in with a young family who will love her to bits, which wouldn’t have been an option if I were still riding her, so it’s all worked out for the best!

    1. Sometimes certain situations just make you think it must be meant to be, glad it has worked out for everyone involved 🙂

      -Julia Burdy, CRK Training Community Manager

  8. When I come across a quote that resonates with me, I write it down. About a year ago I saw a video with an Australian clinician named Steve Halfpenny and he said the following:

    “You know as I spend my time helping people with their horses and listening to the things they have to say, one thing that always sticks in the back of my mind is I wonder if they have any idea what is possible with the horse they already own.”

    Sure there are some horses that are unsuited for some riders, but at age 68 I’m still discovering what’s possible with the horses I own.

    1. Steve is amazing, Callie might look into him. I have told Steve about Callie. Her computer course access top his. I told him, he took it well. yea for Steve a gentle man for sure.

  9. That is why I signed up for the Warwick Schiller video series. I am not a horse trainer in the sense that I can take an unhandled horse and turn it into a performer (maybe not even a decent mount), but by now I am able to (a) avoid consistently making mistakes that will create issues with my horse down the road, and (b) find fixes for the small stuff that I would like to work on, and make working on those issues just as rewarding an experience for me as riding along wooded trails and galloping across the fields.

  10. I will look at this. I’m out the door. But I was struck down by this Callie. I will look at this when i get back. Julia knows my Corina saga. Andrea wants me to give it a few more months. 3. 5 years into it. We are now doing the Pure Liberty. Any of you must look into Andrea Wady if you have not. This is a whole new deeply patient practice. And Andrea might say it really is not new. Love and care to you all with horses that need deep care.

  11. This resonated deeply with me. I never had to move a horse on because of incompatibility, but I’ve had to let horses go (when I was a child) because of circumstances beyond my control. I was told basically not to be sad, a horse is “just an animal,” we can’t afford it (as though that’s supposed to help) – and all that stuff that invalidated my feelings. The hardest was when a horse I loved broke her hip and had to be euthanized. I was inconsolable (age about 9) and was generally treated like I was “too soft” and a little stupid. Oddly, the vet was the kindest person in that whole episode. He didn’t make me feel stupid, but tried to help me understand there are things we can’t control, and when that happens, we have to learn how to let go and to manage our feelings so we can just keep going. I’m so thankful to him.

    The video you linked to ( absolutely hit me in all the feels and I ugly-cried all the way through. I had trauma as a child, but was effectively removed from connection with horses by about 9 or 10 – just when it would have done the most good.

    40 years on, I feel a path unfolding in front of me (for about the past 2 years).

    1. Losing a horse that is so important to us to such a traumatic experience, saying goodbye to a trusted friend is never easy!

      -Julia Burdy, CRK Training Community Manager

  12. Callie, thank you for this! This is my reality with my mare. We may have not reached the goals I had envisioned, YET, but we are progressing at our own pace! I have a wonderful trainer who gets this and pushes us when needed. “…be present in what is.”

  13. Hi Callie, Your timing on this topic is impeccable.

    I just had to make the heart wrenching decision of not purchasing a horse that I thought was going to be my forever horse. I’m here in Germany for 5 years. I’ve gone trail riding with a friend a number of times when I was in my 20s but I had no real knowledge, skills etc. I’m now in my mid 40s and took up English lessons in the states last year and have continued on with dressage here in Germany, making my base of schooling a total of 1 year.

    My instructor was helping to broker a deal with German stables for a handsome bay. I thought it was fate but before the deal was done during my trial period I’ve found the horse to be very aggressive with resource guarding of his food. Originally he was in a stall with 6 other horses having the hierarchy of eating but was moved a month ago to an individual stall. I needed to be able to ride him at night after work and I’ve tried a few different approaches before and after feeding him but he’s always obsessed with dinner where he becomes aggressive with pinned ears, swishy tail. The stables only fed him a few times a day and I couldn’t do anything to change that. I couldn’t blame him really except when this last attempt I fed him an early dinner, let him eat for 40 minutes and came back to his stall and he was pinning ears, swishing tail showing teeth, kicking wall, pounding his hoof.

    He had already bitten another student just recently during my trial period with the horse.

    Sorry for long story but it’s breaking my heart. I couldn’t get in his stall let alone ride him and felt it was time for me to get out of this and not complete the sale. The instructor tried to blame me early on saying my body language is insecure. And she’s not completely wrong there. I’m insecure but I’ve been around horses and tacked up and ridden with no fear. Of course the stables refuse to accept he has issues. He was a school horse btw.

    I asked the stables for help with the food issues and some groundwork help and my instructor was super flaky leaving me on my own with the horse. I’m still very sad but feel as good as I can about the decision.

    Thank you for the timing on this. I value your expertise, opinion and I greatly appreciate the training you have provided me via your video blogs and such. Keep up the tremendous work and I will not give up on my dream of owning a horse.

    1. Some of the behaviors might have begun from his time as a lesson horse. How does it go when you are riding him? Do you enjoy him besides those behaviors you mentioned?

      -Julia Burdy, CRK Training Community Manager

      1. Sorry for the late reply. I liked riding him a lot but felt the ground issues made me less confident overall with him. It became very dramatic at the stables. My instructor decided spurs and no stirrups would be a good idea, I cantered unintentionally and fell twice. I’ve taken 20 steps back to really become more educated before buying. I wasn’t ready but will not give up. I’m now with new stables, Icelandic horses and a potentially wonderful instructor and my confidence is almost back to normal. Crk has been an amazing resource for me. Keep up the fantastic work!

  14. Callie, I appreciate all you are doing for horse and rider. But I wish you would correct your grammar in the introductory example you give above. You talk about one horse, “Your horse turns out to be more reactive, etc.” That’s one horse you’re talking about. Then the next sentence you say something to the effect, “Perhaps they, etc.” That’s two or more horses. If you want to include male and female, why not just use “s/he”? It’s so distracting when I see this kind of grammatical error. Carole

  15. A homerun Callie! In early June, Nova, (my dream first horse, a 9 yo TB mare) spooked at the mounting block before I could attach my air-vest and bolted across the arena. Needless to say, I did not stick the inevitable turn and fell off under the arena fence. As I lay on the ground, I finally accepted reality. She was a bad fit for an older, newer rider like me. Nothing broken but a headache bad enough to send me the ER. And knowledge that after almost 15 falls in less that 3 years including 5 broken ribs and Christmas in the hospital, I could still face a life-challenging injury. I gave her away to a rescue center in a more populated part of the state where she has an excellent chance to be rehomed to a more experienced rider. Neeedless to say, this is the emotion-less version of the story. I LOVED Nova. She was a total sweetheart, just overly reactive. In the 3 months prior to giving her away, I ground-schooled her often working on issues that had I been more experienced, I would have dealt with earlier. I also have a much better understanding on how to get real advise in selecting a horse for a rider like me. So one month after losing Nova and lots of looking, my new trainer and I found a young, very calm QH for me to ride without tension. And better still, I had an opportunity to visit Nova and was delighted that she was both obviously happy to see me and that her volunteer trainer adores her. Horses are great.

    1. I’m so glad to hear everything worked out for you and Nova 🙂

      -Julia Burdy, CRK Training Community Manager

  16. Oh my, you described my mare and I in the very beginning of this article. A trainer told me to “get rid of her.” Another trainer would not get on her when I asked her to show me something. My mare was green and I was green. After a lot of ground work, teaching her to be a good horsey citizen, lots of riding lessons, etc., I did get her to Intro dressage and we did great in schooling shows. We came to a screeching halt after that. I didn’t have the skills or guts to canter a green horse. Then I got an illness that affected my balance. My mare developed some soundness issues. I could go on. BUT, we are still plugging along with lots of ground work, hand walking and riding around the property and lots of turn out. My mare is happy and I’m happy. Yes, I had to let go of my dressage goals, but it never crossed my mind to sell her. To me, horses are living, breathing, feeling animals not a piece of equipment to chuck to the side when they don’t work quite the same way anymore. I’ve had her for 11 years and she will be with me for the rest of her life.

  17. The school pony I love is a seasonal headshaker. It started about four years ago, and now he’s unridable for half of each year. I’ve been researching the condition and trying to help him (financially) with the barn’s consent.
    A couple of months ago they offered to give him to me. Owning a horse had never been one of my goals, and I was suddenly considering a special needs one. I agonized over it for two weeks. A wise friend advised me to make a pro and con list, and put “I love him” on both lists. This was for me the equivalent of Callie’s quote. I wanted him, but I also wanted to be able to ride. So tough, but I had to say “no.”
    The happy piece is his headshaking season has just come to an end and I’m riding him again. In 5 or 6 months I will experiment with different treatments and see if we can’t get him back to full-time someday. Really want to solve the problem if possible so he can continue to earn his keep and stay.

    1. Hi Lisa-
      Since it is seasonal-I suspect the pony has an allergy-or is just super sensitive to the various-or one biting insects. In our “neck of the woods” it is almost always the wee “no see-ums” which aren’t much bigger than a pencil lead-but have a powerful itch to them. We had an old horse that would literally scratch himself bald-despite fly spray and skin dressings…We couldn’t do “clothes” on him as they would get underneath and here he’d come with the blanket/fly mask and leggings in shreds-he’d often cut himself up too-as he’d scratch even harder with “clothes’ on.
      We finally resorted to this: mentholatum (vicks vapo-rub) -yep-works great in ears, under chin and at the tail dock, a really heavy duty fly spray-daily, crisco rubbed liberally into his main and tail dock (those little buggers get a bit snagged up in the grease), and as he got older-we did end up putting him on an oral daily dose of Animed’s “Histall” as well as vet appropriated prednisone-orally on an every other day basis during the bad season. He lived till he was 37. Rideable and sound the entire time-not necessarily pretty in the summer 🙂 The prednisone did end up taking his teeth-so he was on a lot of pelleted food in his old age-but he was a grand old guy-but yeah-I’d hesitate to buy an animal with the same issue as it seems to get worse as they age.
      I’ve seen other horses and mules around here with the same issue-but their ears will literally become these huge infected swollen and crusty messes if people don’t figure it out. Some really benefit from the very VERY small mesh ear covers-but if the stinkers get in under the netting-they can really raise havoc and then you have a horse with a fly mask on that is driving him nuts. If you have a pest that is a nose seeker-that too-will cause them to shake their head incessantly. Again-the mentholatum around the edge of the nostril can really help with that. We also mounted carpet with screws on the edge of all the places he liked to scratch-and got an old brush roller off of a street cleaning machine and mounted it upright for them all to get a good scratch fest on. Good luck…he sounds like a sweetheart.

    2. He may be an idiopathic head shaker which involves the trigeminal nerve. I’ve had good luck with a fly mask that extends over the nose. There are also nets that fasten to the bridle & cover the nose. Don’t give up just yet. Good luck to you. And the pony.

  18. This really resonates with me. I struggle with this on and off a lot. My horse is ‘evergreen’. Every time we ride it is like starting over. Has been for the last ten years. My dream of bringing him on as a jumper prospect are a distant memory. I know he would do better with the right rider in the right barn with the right trainer. My trainer and I almost got him there but then finances dictated that I had to bring him home to live in my backyard. All the consistency he needs fell away when I did that (and had twins), and he went back to where he had started. So I desperately felt he needs another person. My roadblock is I don’t trust myself to find the right someone. What if I don’t? Without a mountain of patience his tendency is to turn ‘bad’. And if I put him somewhere that that happens I will never forgive myself. And so, after watching the Pure Liberty intro videos (how I dream of enrolling!!) I realize I need new skills, a new approach and a new mindset of what our relationship should be. For the first time in a long time I look at him with excitement about our journey, rather than guilt that I haven’t done right by him.

  19. Hi Callie, thank you for bringing to the fore what many of us struggle with… sometimes it works out well for us to continue with training and trying with difficult horse but it can be a long journey and we need to have to right people and instructors around us BUT other times it we may not be a good match for our horse. My experience was 6.5 years ago when a ‘well respected’ local instructor was training my mare, his description of her was that she was rude, dominant, opinionated and borderline intimidating…. and he wasn’t wrong about that. He was training her because I had lost my confidence. One day he told me she had turned her head and bit his foot….. he said he kicked her in the mouth to teach her a lesson!!! Another day he took her for a hack and when they returned she had raised whip marks across her hindquarters, he’d bullied and forced her to go through a water splash. I investigated the water splash later that day and could see where she had completely trashed the surrounding plants and foliage. My mare was so afraid of him that she’d squeal and flinch when he approached her. Needless to say, I soon switched trainers to a lovely lady who I’d seen riding her own ‘tricky’ mare, who she rode with so much love and understanding. Over a couple of months this lady managed to bring my mare’s energy levels right down and I started getting back in the saddle at the end of the lessons, to build my confidence. I should add also that the first instructor told me that my mare would never be the horse I wanted her to be for me…… he was right, all the time he was riding her BUT the lady instructor changed all that and my mare and I are living happily ever after.

    I came to the conclusion that the male instructor was just an egotistical bully, hell-bent on making my mare respect him (through fear) and he only had ‘one string to his bow’….. he could not adapt his methods according to the horse’s emotional state, and had no interest whatsoever in ‘understanding’ my mare’s frame of mind and sensitivity. Whereas, the lady instructor (who remains one of my best friends today) completely understood my mare’s emotional state of mind and right from the first training session (and every session after), she instinctively knew how to work with whatever my mare was willing to give/accept during the training…… and there were times when the lessons were very short because she could ‘read’ my horse so well and knew exactly how far to push without getting too far outside my mare’s comfort zone and this built trust in each other – This was such a beautiful gift she taught me too.

  20. Callie-another good one! (well-they are all good!) 🙂 I’d ad the “sage” advice that if you are going to look for a horse for a particular sport-and you are ready for that sport at a certain level-then go out and buy the best horse you can afford that is already functioning well in that direction.
    If you are “green”-get a GOOD “been there done that” horse and invest in lessons…but I highly recommend the lessons first-the horse later.
    If you like to train-and have all the basics good and solid-then get what you have a pretty good idea might be able to head the direction you bought it for…It really REALLY helps to have someone around that has a calm and steady horse to ride with as your horse learns.
    I’ve always seemed to have horses “come to me” by some universal influence-but there are three things I will not tolerate-one that pulls back, one that won’t load, and one that is just wired to get irritated and nasty. (The first two are one of the first things we work on if I’m starting from scratch-tying and trailering, the third-is either taught or a dominant soul-and I just pass them by)
    I’ve started three from scratch, and had four others given to me over the years and paid for three more-but not too much! 😉 and learned from every one.
    I always have some eyeball to eyeball connection-that I can’t explain-and there have been a lot that tempt me-but I stick to my guns when it comes to a “trained horse” that pulls back or won’t load. Both are dangerous at the most in-opportune times. One that is ok with biting, kicking, pinning their ears or other signs of nastiness is just not my cup of tea. I’m not in this for the challenge.
    Sometimes it appalls me how dense I am! And other times-I seem to have the answer…which is what makes horses so intriguing…but the relationship? Now THAT is what makes it all worth it. Most of the time-I’ve found if they trust me-and we have a “thing” going-they’ll try just about anything-even if they aren’t going to be blue ribbon winners at it…and that is just fine.
    I’ve had lots of “reactive ones”-which also tend to be very easy to teach and sensitive to aids-which I like…they also seem to like to work! 😉 But they have their downside and the older I get the more I gravitate towards the “been there done that” type-though I’m on the tail end of developing that in my wee mare. She’ll be the last I ever start from scratch FOR SURE! 🙂
    I loved the “Ride the Right Horse” and “Is your Horse a Rock Star” books…which really put together why I am attracted to certain types…friendly, energetic, curious and middle of the road submissive in the herd-GELDINGS! :)…I ended up with a mare that was aloof, energetic, fearfully curious and slightly dominant…It has been an interesting learning curve-and man-is she fun!! Sometimes in not so good a way!
    I listen to every pod cast or U-tube thing that seems to resonate with me-and like some of your other followers-I’ve learned a LOT from Warwick Schiller, Ray Hunt, Buck Branahan, David Lee Archer, John Lyons, Mark Rashid, Anna Twinney, and sigh-even though I’m not thrilled with his relentlessness-Clinton Anderson and I’m not thrilled with the “whole new vocabulary” and relentlessness of Pat Parelli-BUT I can’t possibly do everything they do anyway-and all are really good with results and have a basic path to get there and are AMAZING readers of horses body language…sometimes I watch their video’s with the sound turned off-just to try and catch what they are seeing.
    There is just no way to take it all in-and that is just fine! I love the journey-and am now also excited by your mutual Liberty stuff with that nice British woman-who’s name Ive already forgotten! My bad!
    Enjoy enjoy…horses are pricey, and can last a long time-so we owe it to ourselves and them to obtain or create the “right one”…

  21. I just wrote that quote down, I was in that position a few years ago with my horse. I even took the photos to sell him, he was extremely nervous when ridden in open areas and out of control around stock. these two are the reasons for buying him. But i decided to take him back to very beginning of starting a horse and seeing where his holes were in his training. Then we would step out into the big wide world in very small stages until he was confidant with things. Now we do a lot of stock work and just riding around, but the best thing is that we really know each other.

  22. Callie,
    This hits home in so many ways… and husband relationships haha!
    In regard to horses….I owned my mare 1 year in October. It has been an emotional roller coaster for her and me. She strained her Suspensory within the 1st month of ownership, followed by about 6 months of stall rest. Without all details of dealing with the emotional trauma for a horse on stall rest at a boarding facility OVER WINTER combined with a fairly green horse handler (me 56 years old) I have to say….. find the right support system and TRY! If it had not been for supportive trainers and inspiring horsey friends who had been through similar situations to help me with “tools in my tool box” to deal with her, I would never have experienced the moments of triumph and joy of groundworking, riding and playing with my OWN horse. And the hard times are not over! All relationships are difficult, if we effort and make progress it is so worth it.

    1. Rene, you brought up the super important point of finding the right support system!

      -Julia Burdy, CRK Training Community Manager

  23. As a child I had a pony named Coquette that I rode with a bareback pad everywhere I went (except school). She spooked at everything. I lived in the Arizona desert, so when she dumped me (spooking at who knows what), I always thanked her when she did not dump me on a cactus! …and I loved her anyway.
    There were many years that I didn’t ride, then I started riding again in my 50’s never suspecting that the passion for horse’s I had as a child was still so strong.
    I have been very fortunate with my horse, Wildfire. She was a lesson horse I was matched up with, eventually leased and now own. Truly my “heart horse” and she will be with me for her full life (or mine). She has been very trusting and forgiving as we have learned together. It has been such a wonderful journey to Be a part of. I feel so fortunate as I have seen others at our barn who just don’t “click” with their horse and struggled over the decision whether to rehome them or keep trying.
    Thanks for this one, Callie. (And your grammar is just fine- very understandable .)

  24. I just read the email about mourning what could have been vs what is with your sell or not sell. Could have been wrote directly from my life with my horse. I cried!

    I have been through a lot with my horse and even though I had him up for sale for a short time I ended up deciding to keep him. I had to mourning the idea that he will probably never be the horse I wanted him to be in order to realize that even though I don’t compete on him or even ride him for that matter he can still fill all the pieces of the puzzle I was originally looking for…plus some!
    This horse had opened my eyes to so many things. He has led me down so many different paths and one of them is right here, in the pure liberty class.
    So glad I stuck it out, even if he never reached what I see to be his full potential, because he has been a true teacher to not only myself but to many others.

    Thank you for writing that and sharing it with us!

  25. Wow…this article brought out a lot of writing in the comments, which I haven’t had time to read yet. But what a great article. I don’t really have the experience with horses so much but this concept is one I struggle with on a daily basis…letting go of the life I thought I would have so I can live/enjoy/embrace the life I have right now. When I don’t start my day with that thought my day will often depress me. Gratitude and being present with today…both actions that help me learn to love the life I have. I’m always amazed at how much good horse/dog/child training have the same ideas that bring about a contented life.

  26. I really needed to hear that. I have a horse with soundness issues that i love working with but will not be able to go where I had hoped in the show ring. She is still a wonderful buddy to just ride around on and we can still share on that path.

    1. Absolutely Linda! If the horse is a great fit for you you can always adjust your goals!

      -Julia Burdy, CRK Training Community Manager

  27. I loved this article. It truly is my life right now. I have had to sell a couple of horses is the past because I felt like we weren’t a good match due to bucking. The last horse I bought I told myself I couldn’t go through selling again and I would make it work no matter what….he is unfortunately a bucker also. I have had him for two years now and my husband and I have both gotten hurt trying to figure out his issues. He has been to training to help his and my confidence but he still bucks. We have decided that the bucking happens when he is uncomfortable or scared and it always happens in a canter. He is mostly sweet and gentile. I just love him when we aren’t riding. I thought about selling but I just cant do it. I have decided to go the route of working at liberty. He is very responsive to this. I am going to a clinic this weekend and I am very excited about establishing a new relationship through groundwork and trust. I am hoping the riding will come with a new perspective.

    1. Frances, I know this is a bit off topic but have you had the saddle fit evaluated? Poor saddle fit or any physical problems can definitely cause bucking!

      -Julia Burdy, CRK Training Community Manager

    2. I would suggest checking the fit of the saddle and also setting up a chiropractic assessment and treatment of your horse. I have trained problem horses and this route often solves many bucking issues. Best of luck with your horse.

  28. Excellent article Callie. Recently, one of the girls at the barn, who is looking for her next eventing horse, asked me how I knew Maverick was the horse for me. I wish I had had your comments about risk, mourning, and being present with what you have in front of you, to share with her. I told her I didn’t know if Maverick was THE horse for me. You make the best choice you can, in consultation with your trainer, and then you work with what you have in front of you, building a relationship as you go. Your words are right on the mark and thoughtfully stated. By the way, the young lady purchased her new horse 2 weeks ago and he is going to be a lovely mount. They look good together. Thank you Callie for another thought provoking article.

  29. Brilliant and very timely post for me, Callie. I got my horse and then got diagnosed with breast cancer. Then I fell off him and fractured my pelvis. When I finally got back on him 6 months later, my confidence, strength and ability was shot. Then he received a terrible injury which put him out of action. But this was a wonderful time for us to bond from the ground and just spend time getting to know and trust each other each other. We are so solid now, but the change in both our expectations is amazing. Some days he looks after me, some days its the other way around. Some days we just go for a walk, some days we have a good dressage workout. But any thoughts of competiting or even hacking out in new areas are well and truly gone. And we are both ok with that. Each day we are together is a blessing and I look forward to he and me just enjoying the rest of our lives together as healthy and happy as we can both be. That’ll do!!

    1. Jeanette, your story is the perfect example of giving it more time and letting things get better! It is almost like each of you supported the other when the needed it most <3

      -Julia Burdy, CRK Training Community Manager

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