PDA

View Full Version : Need advice on a once-in-a-lifetime horse :(



confusedTB
Oct. 27, 2009, 03:01 PM
Hi everyone,
Im long time lurker coming out of the dark to ask for some advice. Its a bit of a long story, but I really need to just get it all out to a group of people who hopefully understand more than my non-horsey friends.

I've been riding since I was 4 years old. My family is not horsey at all, but they have supported my habit in every way possible. I had my first pony when I was 10, who I sold a few years later when I outgrew her height and ability. I searched for about 3 years (yes! Im that picky!) for my next horse. This horse was the one who (in my teenaged dreams) would carry me to NAJYRC and have my first big wins on. Needless to say, I picked out a slightly unruly and hot black TB mare. She was ridden to the training level as a 5/6 year old and then bred for 3 years in an attempt to "take the edge off." I tried her with her latest baby on the ground running next to me and immediately fell in love.

Ever since that day, we have had a very up and down history. She was diagnosed with EPM a month after I bought her, and the vets thought she really wouldnt compete again. She surprised everyone and made a full recovery. But, I soon learned she definitely had a fighter attitude and did not make every ride easy. The first year of serious competing, I was eliminated at about 4 or 5 novice and training events. She has always had a funny water/ditch issue...one where she was never really afraid of the water or ditch, but simply decided it was a fun time to be a real b*tch and slam on the brakes 10 strides out. I was maybe 15 at this time and took all those eliminations very hard. I finally got some serious professional help, and we managed to work through the issues. The next two years were filled with multiple wins at the training and prelim level. This horse was amazing. Always top 3 after dressage (but usually with a warm-up consisting of several bucks and rears), double clean on some very difficult XC, and no more than a rail in SJ. We ended up fulfilling my dream of NAJYRC and had a fantastic time.

After that summer, I went away to college and the riding was put on the backburner for the winter. Eventually I got back into it and we started up late spring with a solid prelim run and then moved up to intermediate. That was again an up and down season. We had a couple E's and R's and then slowly smoothed out to just a stupid accuracy run-out (I have a thing for skinny brushes)

This past year was our 2nd year at Intermediate. I started working with a new trainer who has really helped. We started with a solid run at prelim, then put in a clear XC run at intermediate at a big and technical course. Things were really starting to click at this level.

I went XC schooling with a couple of girls from my barn to try our luck at a very difficult Int course. Everything started out fine, but we soon ran into problems. We had a sliding stop into the first element of a very intimidating water. Then everything fell apart. She started stopping at a bunch of stuff. Eventually starting from the bottom, I was able to get her jumping confidently again and even jumped through the water a few times without any problems. I still left the course feeling a bit down.

Two weekends later we had a HT at our "home base." Ive schooled there a million times and we have done a number of HT at various levels. All was going well until the water. She skidded to a stop at the first element. Ill admit it was partially my fault because I still had that schooling stuck in the back of my head, but it was also a little nerve wracking because there was no reason for her to stop at such a simple element. I circled around and suddenly it was a flash back to that first year of competing. She put the breaks on, reared up, and backed up about 10 yards. Knowing that once she does this, its a losing battle, I retired. Totally bummed since we were having a kick-ass round.

I went back the following weekend and schooled the water from the ground up. Started with walking through, then trotting through, then cantering, then cantering to a jump, then jumping in, then banking in from every bank possible, then the training combination, then prelim, then finally pieced together the Intermediate. Not a single problem. She jumped through like a champ without a single hesitation.

We took a bit of time off from competing and had a few jump lessons, took a couple trips to a near-by creek, worked on our dressage. A bit later I decided to give it another go. We had a fantastic dressage test, one of our best at this level (despite a rider error!). And then things fell apart. We pulled 5 rails in stadium. This was a very difficult SJ and rails were falling left and right, but this is *very* unusual for this mare. She jumped clear at our last 2 Int attempts. I knew right then and there that this wasnt right. But I decided to at least give XC a go as the water jump looked quite inviting for us. Everything started off great and she was eating up the course. We rounded the corner to the water, she slammed on the breaks and reared. I whacked her a few times and did my best to get some forward motion, but it just resulted in the typical put-it-in-reverse for 10 yards. Its so frustrating because when she does this, there is no stopping it. Its a losing battle, so I retired and walked off the course.

I went home and tried to re-group. I made a couple phone calls and got some opinions, but unfortunately lack of finances make some training options very difficult. I gave her a week off and just did some hacking and such. We continued to work on the dressage and I entered a local schooling HT that I knew had a water jump. Since she only does this in competition, I figured we need a place where they wouldnt ask us to leave after 3 stops and I could get my point across.

To make things more frustrating, XC at the HT was fantastic. Not a single problem. I mean it was an unrecognized training, so I would hope we wouldnt have any serious problems, but I never know with this horse. She jumped right into the water (a water she has never seen) and we schooled every bank there was. No problems. I walked off feeling like maybe it was just a fluke and we are back on track.

Entered a prelim HT a few weeks later. We had a fantastic dressage and pulled one stupid rail in SJ. She broke from the start box feeling great. Definitely galloping into my hand and ready to run. She was perfectly ride-able but very willing over the first 5 or 6. Round the turn to the first big question--the half coffin, and she slams on the breaks. Im royally pissed off at this point and give her a few strong whacks behind the saddle and dig my spurs in. She responds by rearing and backing into a bush. After a minute or two of struggle, I retire yet again. Totally at a loss. The girl who was helping me groom said she heard over the walkie-talkies that the fence judge didnt even know how to count the fence. And Ill be honest, I really didnt even feel like I presented her the fence. We just rounded the corner and I gave a couple set-up half halts and raised my shoulders and she stopped. They actually have me marked as a RF.

Son now finally getting to the point of the whole story...
I really dont know what to do about this horse. She is everything I want and more and I *know* she has soooo much potential to blow away a competitive field of horses. I know she still loves to do this based on that feeling I had over the first few fences of that last event, but what do I do? She will be 15 next year. I cant keep dumping $$ into fixing this when it seems to just keep re-appearing. Or should I? Am I just giving up too soon? I know to fix the problem we either need to go see my old trainer ($$) or have a pro sit on her in competition (also $$)...but will that really fix the problem? I dont want to put thousands more into a horse who is going to be 15 and the problem might arise again next year.

My barn owner and very good friend thinks that maybe I over-faced her at this level, considering she breezed around that training HT. But I feel like over-facing would result in her being scared or not even willing to jump the first few fences. She would be sour from the box? But I can tell she still loves to run and jump.

I am a junior in college, getting ready to go into the "real-world" -- the BO thinks I should just retire her and breed her. She does throw amazing babies, and that way in 4 years--once Im a bit more "secure" in a job (whatever that means!) I will have a nice prospect to develop. But honestly, I dont know if I can even afford the costs of breeding, vet, and then eventually board on 2 horses. Im stuggling to pay board and expenses on one horse!

My dressage instructor has also encouraged me to take her to some dressage shows to try my luck. She loves her and thinks she could do very, very well as a strickly dressage horse. And, although that would eliminate our problems and I do think she would be very successful, dressage is like another world to me. My first true love is eventing. And I want to stick with it.

So then do I sell her as a super nice N/T packer? She is sound and ready to go, so I could get a descent amount. Then I could put that $$ towards buying a nice 3 or 4 year old to bring along. But then that brings me to the fact that she *is* my dream horse. I dont think any horse will ever fill her shoes and what she has taught me and done for me. Despite all these problems, she has done almost everything I have asked and then some.
And also, if I sell her and start looking for another young horse, the market sucks right now. I really dont want to spend 2 years (like I said, Im picky!) finding my next horse. But I do want to continue in this sport, so maybe this is the right time to sell and start over with something that will take me to the next level? Or would it be selfish of me to take the $$ I get from her to put into another horse when there are so many other things I need right now? (like a new car that doesnt die everyday!) But I know I will be miserable without a horse...

And then obviously, my parents still think this is just a "phase" and think this is the perfect opportunity to just cut my losses and get out of the sport for a while..


So basically I just needed to get this all out. This has been weighing on me the past few weeks and I thought sharing the story with a group of unbiased horse-eventer-people might help me find some clarity. Any opinions, stories, suggestions, etc are more than welcome. Be honest :) And thanks for reading!

Edited to add: for those that may know the horse/rider in question (its pretty obvious if you are in my area) please keep this anonymous--or PM me :)

EiRide
Oct. 27, 2009, 03:27 PM
Have you looked for a physical problem? Sometimes the technical questions can reveal lurking physical issues that are not evident on galloping fences. My good older mare gets looky and will pull a fast stop when it is getting close to time to give her Adaquan--she trots up sound, even with flex tests, but suddenly if the distance is not perfect, she slams out of simple gymnastics.

Also, I think that if she felt overfaced at specific types of questions, then those questions would raise the flag for her, not just any fence at that level coming out of the box.

joiedevie99
Oct. 27, 2009, 03:34 PM
Honestly, it sounds like you have spent quite a bit on entry fees. Stop showing her for 6 months and save up enough to put a pro on her. Maybe find someone in your area who will let you work off some of the money on the weekends. Only then will you feel comfortable making the decision to retire her (assuming she doesn't have any medical issues).

mpack
Oct. 27, 2009, 04:11 PM
Sorry to hear of the heartbreak rollercoaster ride you've been on...I have found when horses become complicated--really complex to figure out--there is usually something physical amiss...
best wishes for a happy ending

bornfreenowexpensive
Oct. 27, 2009, 04:22 PM
Hard call. I will admit...it sort of sounds like something physical....but hard to say. Assuming it isn't something physical, I'd say given where you are in life...sell her as either a top N/T packer or a dressage horse.

I know that you think she is your dream horse....but what you realize as you get older is that they all are special...and another special one will come along. You can learn and have fun with them all. It just sounds to me like she has fullfilled her purpose with you and it is time to move on. She doesn't want to do what you want to do...for what ever reason.

I do think that you need to ask what YOU want to do. Do you want to compete...and compete at Prelim on up? If so...move on. If you love this mare...then make it fun again. Stop eventing or just run at training level for a little while...build that trust up again.

AKB
Oct. 27, 2009, 04:35 PM
I think you need to think carefully about your goals and future plans. Where do you want to be in 2 years and in 5 years in terms of your career and your riding? Are these realistic plans? What is your backup plan in case money becomes tight or you have human or equine injuries?

The next part is to make sure you are being fair to your mare. She has given you the best years of her life and has done a lot for you during those years. As a coming 16 year old, I think she should be slowing down a bit. She needs a life plan that includes being taken care of throughout her old age. If you dump her with someone now, realistically, she may face neglect. It doesn't sound like she will be a nice packer for an old lady or small child who can give her a lifetime home. If there is something physical that is bothering her, it needs to be taken care of. Competing is great, but being a responsible owner is far more important.

ThirdCharm
Oct. 27, 2009, 04:46 PM
I also would look into physical issues, at her age, with her history of competition, I would be shocked if she did NOT have hocks, etc. that need some maintenance!!

I would not pin too many hopes on getting decent money for a 15 yo N/T horse with possible issues, either. Especially not in the current economy, and of course as noted there is the concern about what happens a couple years down the road? That would probably be the route I would go (or as a dressage horse) but be realistic about price. Or maybe find her a home with a good/reputable breeder, that might be possible due to her competition record, despite her age.

Jennifer

bornfreenowexpensive
Oct. 27, 2009, 04:47 PM
I agree with most of AKB's advice...except the implication that at 16, her competitive life is ending. That is still actually prime time for most horses. She could still have a very competitive life for several years. I know more than one horse actively competiting at the CCI* levels and UP at 18/19....and many more doing noivce and training level into their 20s and dressage longer than that. If she is easy to ride at training level...or good in dressage...there may be a right match for her out there.

But that said....you don't just sell a horse to any one. You sell to someone who you think is a good match and will take good care of them. At the end of the day....people can and do neglect a young horse just as often as an older one.


I think realistically though...you do need to be careful who you sell her too...or even if you can sell her in this market. She may be most marketable as a brood mare.

If she was my horse, I would first put a little more money into it with a good physical exam....then go from there.

NeverTime
Oct. 27, 2009, 05:06 PM
I'm very familiar with having an up-and-down career on a horse you *think* is your once-in-a-lifetime partner (and I second what BFNE said; they all are special in their own way, and if you really think about it, a "dream" horse shouldn't be producing quite so many nightmares as yours seems to!)

Most of the downs in my ups and downs ultimately had a foundation in some physical discomfort my horse was experiencing at the time, so do get her checked carefully, and not just her legs and her back. I had a horrible season while my horse was battling a sinus problem; once we got to the bottom of it, he started going so much better.

If you keep her, what is your goal? Do you want to be successful at intermediate? Move up to advanced? Go to Rolex with her? Figure out what you really want to accomplish and whether it's realistic. Plenty of older horses are going intermediate and advanced and are perfectly happy, but if she's struggling with joint issues or something else that gets worse with age already, that's going to limit her desire and ability to tackle work that is getting progressively more demanding.

And one other thing:



I went XC schooling with a couple of girls from my barn to try our luck at a very difficult Int course. Everything started out fine, but we soon ran into problems. We had a sliding stop into the first element of a very intimidating water. Then everything fell apart. She started stopping at a bunch of stuff. Eventually starting from the bottom, I was able to get her jumping confidently again and even jumped through the water a few times without any problems. I still left the course feeling a bit down.

Others may disagree, but I think trying to school intermediate fences in cold blood is a bad idea that just leads to problems like the one you described. Jumping in a schooling situation -- where you might put 4-5 fences together at a time, then stop and wait for others to go, then pick your canter back up, etc. -- is completely different from jumping in competition, where the horse goes out on course at a smart clip, finds a rhythm and keeps that all the way around. Course designers ALWAYS put several easy fences at the beginning of the course to help horses get into the groove before asking them to jump a big, technical complex. Trying to jump those complexes cold while out schooling is, IMO, unfair to the horse and counterproductive to its training.
Jump the training or prelim water, and recreate the technical or size aspects of whatever other elements were involved with rails and jumps in your show jumping ring at home, where you can build up the problem (and deconstruct if it proves to be too much) so that your horse get educated rather than scared.

confusedTB
Oct. 27, 2009, 05:31 PM
Thanks guys, everyone has helped a lot.

If I were ever to sell this mare, I would make sure she went to an amazing home. Someone who I would trust fully and would allow me to stay in close contact. If I do decide to just take a break from the sport, I think I would end up giving her back to her previous owner. We have stayed very close over the years, and I know she would have a wonderful retierment.

With that said, I think I really need to get a work-up done on her. The vet has been out to do minor adjustments and such, but I think it is time for her to have a good look-over. Reading your responses made me realize that the last time she had her hocks done was right before YRs...3 years ago. She didnt really need them done, more of a team prereq, but she probably really does need them now. And thinking more about that, her hocks could be why she is stopping 10-15 strides out when I try to set up for a combination. Maybe that set up (aka - asking her to collect more on her hind end) is hard for her to do now. The only thing this makes me wonder about, is why did she have this same problem 5 years ago at the N/T level and then was able to get passed it? And she really doesnt show any signs of being unhappy in our dressage work (which over the year has increased in the amount of collection and hind end work)

As far as goals go -- my goal with her was to be successful at the Int level. She just has talent to burn that I know she can win. She has given me so much that I really just wanted people to realize how amazing she is. I wanted one big win for her. And I really do think it is reasonable for her to have one big win. She is more than talented enough, its just getting all the puzzle pieces together at the events. My goal in life is to go advanced, however, I know riding and eventing will always be something I do, so when and if I ever achieve that doesnt really matter at this point. Just as long as Im competing and having fun.

And if I could take any day back over the past two years, I would take back that schooling day in a heartbeat. I went because I thought it would be good to get her off the farm and do a bit of galloping and to watch a couple of the younger kids at my barn school. I didnt think we would really school anything, but that water jump just looked like so much fun. I wish so much that I could take that back.

tinah
Oct. 27, 2009, 05:52 PM
. . . the last time she had her hocks done was right before YRs...3 years ago. . . And thinking more about that, her hocks could be why she is stopping 10-15 strides out when I try to set up for a combination. Maybe that set up (aka - asking her to collect more on her hind end) is hard for her to do now. The only thing this makes me wonder about, is why did she have this same problem 5 years ago at the N/T level and then was able to get passed it? And she really doesnt show any signs of being unhappy in our dressage work (which over the year has increased in the amount of collection and hind end work)



Have you considered that it might be a strength issue? The problem was there 5 years ago, went away, and now is back. . . could she have a basic conformation "thing" going on that as she muscles up she is able to compensate for?

Come Shine
Oct. 27, 2009, 05:58 PM
I wanted one big win for her.

It sounds like she does have a big win. She has an owner who is committed and dedicated to her well-being and happiness. That's the biggest win there is.

retreadeventer
Oct. 27, 2009, 06:07 PM
I like Bornfree's advice...and I have been thinking, this thread sort of made me take a trip down memory lane. I don't think I have EVER had a difficult horse that I kept. If they slam on the breaks and won't jump, then they don't want to do it, and I never felt right riding a horse like that in competition. I sold them or gave them away or leased them out to do something different than jump. All my horses are once in a lifetime horses. I have had four or five GREAT horses and all the rest very good horses. There will be more and you will have plenty of good ones to ride in your life. She won't be the only one. You sound like you have done a lot with her and have taken her a very long way for a horse that was difficult from long before you got her.

EiRide
Oct. 27, 2009, 06:07 PM
With that said, I think I really need to get a work-up done on her. The vet has been out to do minor adjustments and such, but I think it is time for her to have a good look-over. Reading your responses made me realize that the last time she had her hocks done was right before YRs...3 years ago. She didnt really need them done, more of a team prereq, but she probably really does need them now. And thinking more about that, her hocks could be why she is stopping 10-15 strides out when I try to set up for a combination. Maybe that set up (aka - asking her to collect more on her hind end) is hard for her to do now. The only thing this makes me wonder about, is why did she have this same problem 5 years ago at the N/T level and then was able to get passed it?

Bone pain can change with time and with use. For instance, my dog with ED had surgery on the elbow, came sound for a while, then started limping. We treated with regular mild exercise and pain killers. Six months later I weaned her off the pain killers and she is sound again--she smoothed off the rough bit herself with some time, and was once again comfortable on her own. My big gelding with OCD was lame, did not come sound, went out in a field for a year or so, and came back sound for moderate work and has stayed that way for a decade with no further support. Likely he will start having arthritic changes again in that stifle that will act up sooner or later, though.

So something could have smoothed out a bit, and now is developing more arthritic change.

gold2012
Oct. 27, 2009, 06:46 PM
Okay, so I will admit I didn't go through and read throughly the replies, but I didn't see any that said this:

I wonder if it isn't at least you tensing. Here you come to a water, and wow, in your head you have to be thinking...oh gosh, please let us get through this, please, please, please.

Your body tenses....and it might only be a minute amount, but it is still tense, and like you, your horse feels when you are tense. The mare sounds amazingly responsive to the aids...hence nice scores. SOOOO.....have you asked someone you trust to try and take her through the water? Maybe a pro in your area could have a go? Make sure it's not you saying whoa through your seat with being tense.

I tell you this from expierance. I had a lady bring us a horse, it balked every time at ditches....trakahners...the such. She just didn't understand why. We talked it out some, well quite a lot, and I found out she had fallen into a ditch with her previous horse.

My daughter got on, and schooled x/c over some simple jumps and headed out to find some 'scary' ditches, etc. Guess what, all the way through the Prelim (horse was a novice horse) nary a refusal, horse actually had ears pricked and locking on.

We put the rider back on the horse, and the first little ditch, guess what, yup, they refused. We got it fixed in about a month, but the lady had to get over her fears first.

May not have any relation to you, but it's worth thinking about.

deltawave
Oct. 27, 2009, 08:10 PM
The things that popped out at me were, in no particular order: This sounds like a horse that's a nightmare, not the "horse of a lifetime". It sounds like there's a lot of emotional reaction on the part of the rider and anthropomorphizing the mare's behavior. Maybe this is a "youth" thing, though. What kind of veterinary evaluation has the horse had? Maybe the horse is just overfaced at the Intermediate level. She sounds like she wants to be a Training level horse.

Gry2Yng
Oct. 27, 2009, 11:26 PM
Bone pain can change with time and with use. For instance, my dog with ED had surgery on the elbow, came sound for a while, then started limping.

The way I read this the first time, your dog needed viagra. :lol:

EiRide
Oct. 27, 2009, 11:59 PM
The way I read this the first time, your dog needed viagra. :lol:

Whoops! Well, she's a bitch and spayed, so I guess that thought never crossed my mind!

skip916
Oct. 28, 2009, 01:53 AM
get her eyes checked. water/ditches/coffins are all very "contrasty" looking jumps to horses and as they age this sometimes gets to be a bigger and bigger issue for them. before you retire her just make sure its not something physical with a simple fix! good luck!

Jazzy Lady
Oct. 28, 2009, 09:33 AM
And sometimes no amount of talent can make up for it if the horse just doesn't want to do it.

If the vets stuff comes up clean for her age, I would seriously consider the possibility that she either needs a break to relax and chill out, or she just needs to not compete at that level anymore.

I have an ubber talented guy I've won lots on, and have won at intermediate. All of a sudden he started being a pig in dressage and sj at prelim level which is our major comfort zone. So I took a break this summer, let him have a mental holiday and brought him back to play around this fall. We did a CT at prelim on the weekend and he was jumping WAY more confident than he was in the spring with major training under his belt.

I find most horses can only "go go go" in heavy training for a certain period of time before they mentally or physically have just had enough. They tell you too.

Beam Me Up
Oct. 28, 2009, 11:18 AM
I'm not sure how much one horse/rider pair's experiences relate to another's, but I can tell you I have given up on 2 horses in my life, each of whom at one point I thought might be my horse of a lifetime. One wasn't brave enough, the other wasn't sane/rideable/sound enough.

As much as I try to be logical and put my riding goals first, in both cases it was emotionally crushing. It was like a break-up almost--the hopes, dreams, and plans of all those years being squashed, having to start from scratch, knowing I wouldn't be back where I wanted to be for at least a few years.

That said, if I had it to do over (and, probably, at some point I will), my only regret is having dragged it out so long. In my case, my horses were pretty loud and clear that this wasn't what they wanted to do, and for reasons of emotion, finance, and time, I kept trying to get the square peg in the round hole to avoid starting from scratch, and in the end just prolonged it.

Not to say that is the case with your mare. But try untangle your emotions, and listen carefully to her, to figure out if she is asking you for a tweak or if she's telling you she's done.