Need COTH Wisdom - When You've Had One Special Long-Term Equine Partner
So I'm curious if this kind of situation is common. I'm a "one horse" horse person. I've had my very special once-in-a-lifetime horse as my equine partner for the last 10 years.
He's having some age related limitations, and its time to look for a younger horse to do the activities I love. He will always be my cherished best friend.
The problem is, everytime I go to look at a younger horse, I just can't stomach the idea of actually having a different horse. I can think I want a younger horse, but when I actually go look at one, I get completely turned off by the idea of having anything to do with a new/strange horse.
I wonder if I have over idealized my older guy to the point that no other horse interests me? When I go to look at other horses I just end up getting upset.
I'm an olde pharte who's equestrian history has been owning one horse for a long time. I've done it, oh, about 4 times in my life now, along with a few shorter-term "relationships". I know where you're coming from, and I think it's a pretty natural reaction.
It took about two-plus ownerships before I realized that, while they are all individuals and have traits that you will never experience again, there are also some things that you really value in your horse relationships that come from *you* and those things you will see in your next horse, and the one after that, and so on. It doesn't happen overnight, but you will build parts of yourself, of your own individual horsemanship, into the next long-term equine relationship.
It sounds a bit like this belittles the relationship that you have now, makes it sound common, but that's not what I mean at all. It's meant more to reassure you that what you are feeling is reasonable, but that starting anew is nothing to be afraid of.
"One person's cowboy is another person's blooming idiot" -- katarine
You can't replace the old one, but you can find a new one you ultimately wind up enjoying in a different way.
I bought a colt to replace my old guy. It took a good three years before I felt the same way about him as I did my old guy. Now I wouldnt trade him for anything in the world. The old guy taught me so much the I've used with my current horse.
You're keeping your original horse, right? If so, don't think of it as having a new horse, think of it as having a second horse - because you still have your buddy. It's like having multiple cats or dogs - you love them all, but enjoy them for their individual quirks.
I have had a hard time with this also. I realize I expect my new guy to be like the old guy, and he's not. The old guy was great after many many lessons and miles. All I had to do was think what I wanted and he did it, you know the feeling...I know rationally it's not fair to the new guy and he is GREAT,uncomplicated, so much easier than the old guy was...which I appreciate all the time....
I've gone through this with my cats. We had to euthanize my best beloved kitty Simon this past January. I got a new kitten the next month but was 100% SURE I would never, ever love him the way I loved Simon. And that was fine, because loving an animal that intensly leads to a lot of pain when you have to send them over the bridge.
Damn. This weekend I finally acknowledged to myself that I had fallen just as hard for the "new" baby as I had for Simon. And it's all good. Different personalities, for sure.
Can't imagine another horse in my life but Mondy. I so hope we'll be together til one of us crosses the bridge, and that it won't be for a long time. I'm 54 and he's 8, so if he lives out a full life I'll be too old for another horse.
It will work out for you, I'm sure of it.
Armando del Fuego, Best Boy Ever (almost always)
Member of the Not Too Klassy For Boxed Wine Clique
Proud owner of The Roadkill Cafe
I had my BuddyRoo for a little over 25 years. I got my now mare when she was born to a mare we had 23 years ago in June. Even when I had the two of them plus a much more sporty fancy mare, each horse had their own "thing" that I loved but I felt a responsibility to my old guy.
See my post on the Menagerie about old dog/young dog! I'm all about being fair and such.
So I FEEL you.
But the thing is, we have to appreciate our old critters for what they are. Just because you get a younger horse doesn't mean you stop loving or even riding your old one. You just treat them a little bit more like different kinds of kitchen knives. My paring knife cannot, will not EVER be good for dicing onions. And I need to dice onions periodically to keep me happy. My paring knife is so very good at paring. But not dicing.
A tool for all things. A thing for all tools.
As long as you don't turn your back on your older horse and keep doing right by him/her, there's no harm in having a young one to enjoy "chopping onions" with!
Variety is the spice of life.
A good horseman doesn't have to tell anyone...the horse already knows.
I might be wrong, but could the negative thoughts be coming from somewhere else? Maybe you hate the idea of looking for a new youngster because it confirms that your current one is getting on in age, and that's a depressing thought? I know I've had mixed feelings about getting a new, young horse, because I felt guilty admitting that the current one was no longer fulfilling my needs. That doesn't mean you're just going to dump the current one. Sounds like he's still very ridable, just starting to have to cut back on what he's doing. He's still your heart, still your buddy, but think of him as an older, wiser one to show your new guy the ropes
One thought is to find a younger horse that is very different. If current horse is grey, go chestnut or dark bay. If current horse is gelding, consider a mare. If current horse is big, consider the small end of workable spectrum for you. It may help that you are not "replacing" your current partner, but finding a different, also potentially fun horse to work with. If need be, you can also consider the new horse a "project" with the possibility of selling it after working with it for a while, so your old guy is the only "permanent" horse you have.
I second the idea of looking for a horse that it different from your current horse. I went two years not riding because I couldn't imagine finding a horse as special as my show hunter who I had to retire. I finally found a horse that was COMPLETELY different and I could accept. In fact, at first we switched to a different discipline all together (serious show career to foxhunting!) Now that it has been a few years with the new horse we are finally working with a trainer and thinking of doing some local shows for fun. The point is, when you find another horse, try doing some new things with him that you did not do with your own horse. A new horse will never live up to the old one at first, so try some activities where you will not be comparing them directly. Obviously you don't have to completely switch disciplines, but maybe try something just a bit out of the box until you and your new horse form a bond. Best of luck!
I asked nearly this same question about 3 years ago on this forum. My now 21 year old mare was sending me signals that she needed to do less and I was starting to realize I needed to look for a second horse. I wasn't sure I could open my heart to another horse. She was and is my heart horse.
A friend gave me the gelding I added to the "farm" about 2.5 years ago. It took awhile, but I have learned to love him for his own special personality and skill set. He is not my mare - he never will be - but she will never be him either. The joy I get from the trailrides I have with my mare (her semi-retirement job) I know were made possible by many, many wet saddle pads when she was young. I don't have the drive to put that much work into the gelding (who is 19), but he is such a great dressage professor that he doesn't also need to be a trail horse. I am so glad I have each of them in my life and hope we have many years still to go.
I haven't read the replies, as I wanted to reply and having just lost my "one special long-term equine partner" way too early in September, am already tearing up. Here's what I have found: you can have the one special one, and still have others. You can grow to love them their own way. And it's much, much better to look for a younger horse while you still have your special horse, as you can be more picky and take your time to find some of the same qualities.
Pirate, my boy, for various reasons was retired the fall of his 13th year, and came home to be my best friend and training partner. I had, for quite some time, maintained two horses, so I already had a second to continue riding and showing with. She is special in her own right, but so very different that she just doesn't compare to Pirate, and I never had. She's been my main source of healing after his death this fall (he was only 15, so very unexpected, I thought I'd have years with him)
But ... when I wasn't looking, when I was happy with my mare and Pirate ... this lovely buckskin Morgan showed up in our rescue. All my life, when you asked me about my dream horse, I would have told you a baroque buckskin with intelligence and bravery was my horse. In fact, prior to incorporating and starting a horse rescue, my plan was to breed my mare (lovely, smart, sane well bred quarter horse - able to register and would have before breeding) to an Azteca or full Andalusian, probably a perlino to increase my chances of getting a buckskin. Then ... the Morgan showed up ... feral and terrified. After Pirate, who was gelded at 7 (he was a feral mustang prior), I had added "gelded late" to my list of "dream horse." The Morgan was 2 when we gelded him, but already mistaken by his breeder and many others as a 4-5 year old stallion due to his height, build, muscling, and intelligence. Over time, I found that he is not only my dream horse in color, etc (which really don't matter ultimately) ... but he has enough "Pirate" qualities that I sometimes absentmindedly call him "Pi".
After losing Pirate, my mare was originally the biggest help, because she is so different from him, I could ride her and be around her and not be constantly reminded of him. As time passes (though the grief is still strong) ... Aries (the Morgan) is more comfort now, because it feels like home on his back. Because that's what Pi was to me - home.
If you don't like something, change it. If you can't change it, change your attitude.
~ Maya Angelou
I lost my one and only this past spring, and after 20+ years together, we knew each other better than anything. Even though I didn't ride him in the last few years (sitting on him bareback, yes, but it didn't really rise to the level of riding), he was still my guy, and I knew if I did get on, what kind of shenanigans to expect. When I lost him, I thought that I'd want a younger horse that I could "do stuff with". (I'd planned on finding a youngish one for me to play with and to be a buddy for him.)
I didn't. What I needed (and found) was an older, but still useful mare who's been there and done that. She's done all kinds of stuff that my old guy wouldn't have, and though she may not be as beautiful a mover as he was, she's solid, safe, and just easy enough and I can focus on getting myself back into riding shape and having fun. She's exactly what I need - even if I didn't really know that at first.
I guess what I'm trying to say is think about what you really want in the next horse. Are you hoping to "pick up where you left off" with the old guy in terms of competition or activities? Do you honestly want something green and young that you'll need to "begin at the beginning" with? Would you rather have something that's already done "stuff" so that you can just get on and enjoy the ride, rather than work on training? There's nothing wrong with NOT wanting a challenge right now, if the thought of an unknown horse is making you uncomfortable.
You didn't say what you and the old guy do now - but is he capable of still being your one and only, just in a different capacity? Are you willing to change your goals to suit his needs? (No judgment here, just something to consider - maybe he can't jump 3' any longer, but would be perfectly happy as a trail horse?) That may not be feasible in your situation, but it's worth looking at.
Tif_Ann, I completely understand the feeling of "home" on a horse's back. I don't think I'll ever forget the way it felt the first time I rode my new girl at home, when she was really mine - it just felt right, and I felt so tall again (and she's only 14 hands, so it wasn't really the height!) - it was just magic, somehow, like coming home to a place you didn't know you missed that much.
My first horse was a weanling and I was 14. I had him for 21 years and I can tell you no horse will ever replace what we had. I don't think any horse ever will because my circumstances have changed. When I was a teen I had every moment to spend with him. We learned everything together as we grew up. Unlike you, I usually had at least 2 horses of my own all the time and in addition to that I trained horses for other people all through my 20's.
Maybe it would help if you don't think of "replacing" him with another horse because that won't happen. Are you keeping your current horse in addition to looking for a new one? It could be you feel like you are abandoning him and feel guilty.
I think it is more the fact that you haven't found the " right" one yet. Every horse I have owned has wormed their way into my heart for all sorts of reasons, but you have to give them the chance.
I only had my first horse for a couple of months--she was a mare with severe navicular, and was given to me in the hopes that she would be lightly rideable by a small/light rider (me), but it was clear after a short time that she would never be useable, so I gave her to my farrier at the time to be a pasture puff. I cried watching her get on the trailer, but I hadn't formed any super deep attachment to her and since I was new to riding, I wanted a horse that I could actually ride.
Sam, on the other hand, is my forever horse, and I don't know if I'd own another horse after him. Even if he were to become a pasture puff, I would probably just lesson on other horses or lease, due to time and expense. But this horse is special; for better or worse, I got to be the one who was on him for most of his "firsts" under saddle, and he's put up with my ignorance and issues with grace and tolerance. I'll keep him until he's gone, and maybe another horse will come along that sneaks into my heart the same way, but I'm not planning to look for that.
I was a "1 horse person" til my pony foundered and needed time off and a quieter job. I got my second horse and vowed that she would only be my 'mount', and she wouldn't be my 'horse', as the pony filled the role of 'horse'. I wish I had never said that because I never did allow myself to connect to that horse in the way I could have. She was a great teammate, and taght me so much. But in doing what I thought was a favor to the pony, turned out to be a disservice to the second horse, and we've never connected completely.
1&2 are now retired and I am on my third horse, who is the polar opposite of horses 1&2. She's sweet and loving and wants to be cuddled and it warms the cockles of my heart to spend time on the ground with her. The other two never cared for hugs and kisses, they wanted to eat. So now, they eat, while the other gets love and hugs. And everyone is happy and my heart is full.
My point is, my love for one doesn't diminsh my love for the other. It just adds a different layer and an added richness.
I think too many people miss out on a full life because they think that there is only room in their hearts and lives for 'one love'. Every relationship is its own entity, and as long as you bring your honesty and best intentions to each one, there is no reason that one relationship -whether with a human or horse - will suffer because you've made room in your life and heart for another one. That's what a basic generosity of spirit is all about, and each time you make room for another creature in your heart, you grow and enrich your life and theirs.
I have my forever horse and the love of my life in Rico. I also ride a school mare once a week that I just 'click' with and would give her a forever home in a heartbeat if she needs one. I don't feel that my love for Rico or my enjoyment of her in is in any way diminished by the other. I've just made a little more room in my heart for another, different relationship, and my life is enriched for it.
Last edited by Trevelyan96; Dec. 18, 2012 at 09:06 PM.