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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jul. 14, 2006
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    1,818

    Default The unrideable horse and early retirement ... anyone been here? (long)

    Pixie and I moved ~8 hours and 3 states last summer, due to a graduation & a new job for me (new job being the primary reason I've been MIA from COTH lately). I found a barn I LOVE and the first 5 months or so, things were grand. I was riding about twice a week on average (sometimes more, sometimes less) and paid the barn's trainer to do 2 schooling rides a week. At first, we were having some of the best rides ever (I've owned the horse since birth). Then right around mid November, things fell apart.....AGAIN, for those COTHers familiar with Pixie's long saga of injuries and setbacks.

    It started with some general fussiness and balkiness that I initially attributed to the changing weather, since she always loses her little brain the first few cold weeks and then adjusts. Over the course of 2-3 weeks, things escalated to random, violent, unpredictable spinning-in-circles & try to bolt spooking, the kind where the horse's brain is disconnected from its body and every leg seems to be going in a different direction. Different bits, saddles etc made no difference, and there had been no recent changes in diet/stabling arrangement/turnout, no obvious lameness. Urging her forward didn't help, nor did pulling her in circles so she wasn't going anyplace with the bolting. Sometimes after the initial acting up, she'd calm down and get past it and we could have an OK ride but something was just NQR.

    Things came to a head when within 2 days, both the trainer and I got dumped. In my case, she was doing her thing and I think her feet slipped out from under her. In the trainer's case, spinning in circles turned into a rear, and THEN she slipped. Luckily, neither one of use were hurt beyond some bruises. Both times, people on the ground said it never appeared to be a deliberate eff you behavior but more of a panic/fear response. As soon as the rider was off, she'd stop and almost seem a little lost or confused, like WTH just happened?

    By this point, I strongly suspected a physical cause, since she is 12 years old and has NEVER done anything like this. She was never an easy horse to ride (quirky, opinionated chestnut mare) but never unsafe either. I had the vet out to do a full physical & lameness eval. Feet/legs/back/SI joints/neuro exam all checked out fine, but when he put even light pressure over her wolf teeth, Pixie hit the roof, literally went straight up in the air. Again, not something she's ever done before.

    The weird thing is her wolf teeth had never erupted before in the previous 12 years. In fact, more than one vet told me that they couldn't even really palpate them under the gum while doing her yearly floating, and that they either weren't there or were so small and located so deep as to be not worth removing, especially since we had no problems with bit issues previously. Well, for whatever reason, they came in now, and seemed to be the root of the behavior issue. Oddly enough, just wearing the bridle while being lunged or led was not ever an issue. Even loose side reins were OK.

    So I had the teeth removed right around Christmas time, as much as anything because I don't want her to be in pain and because I was concerned about mouth pain potentially leading to weight loss right as we're going into winter.

    The issue is where to go from here. The trainer flat out told me she's not willing to try rehabbing this problem (can't say I blame her), and I'm afraid to even try getting on. I'm not 18 anymore. I have a career that is just starting after close to a decade of graduate school, and it just doesn't seem worth the risk (and I've worked in the ICU, so I know all the ways things can end badly). I already said thanks but no thanks to a couple of fearless, experienced college girls at the barn who offered to give it a go. The liability seemed too much, aside from the fact that I couldn't live with myself if my horse killed or permanently injured someone. I considered asking around for who's the local "problem horse" go-to-person, and then asked myself to what end? What if she's either still expecting pain and reacts pre-emptively, or worse, has taken away from the whole experience that rearing = end of work, even if only for a minute? Can I find someone that could retrain her in a humane way, without scaring her worse and compounding things? And would it be worth the time/money, if in the end maybe she's still not totally trustworthy? I know my horse: she has a long memory and a high sense of self-preservation if she feels threatened.

    Somewhere along the line, it dawned on me that this is just.not.fun, for me OR the poor horse. For the 3-4 weeks that this whole drama unfolded, Pixie went from greeting me at the gate to being hard to catch, antsy about saddling and just generally unsettled about everything leading up to being ridden. After a few weeks of just chillin' while we waited for her mouth to heal (and for the midwest to emerge from the next Ice Age), she's back to her normal self. She's totally happy to spend her days eating, visiting with her BFFs in turnout and getting treats & grooming from me. I'm happier just hanging out without worrying about what each ride will bring. But call me selfish, I'd like to ride and enjoy myself without worrying about when I'm going to hit the ground next.

    After much thought, I am strongly leaning (as in 90% sure) to letting Pixie just being a pet (call it early retirement) and looking for a second horse (either buy or lease) that I could actually RIDE....and by ride, I don't mean anything fancy, just w/t/c hacking a few times a week, with the very occasional clinic or schooling show once or twice a year. I'm lucky in that I can afford to keep Ms Pixie AND have a second horse, assuming it was a low maintenance easy keeper OK with pasture board (I crunched the numbers, and it works). I just never looked for another pony before since I only have the TIME to ride one.

    Now Pixie is the horse that I nursed through rehab for THREE separate injuries, each one requiring close to a year recovery, then spent mucho dinero having restarted when it became apparent that three years largely doing nothing resulted in a horse that acted like a barely greenbroke 2 year old under saddle. After all the injuries, she was serviceablely sound but still would be periodically off if we did too much, so I scaled back my goals to be light consistent work. After 5+ years (less than 18 months of which I could ride consistently) we were just getting somewhere, so I'm not making this decision lightly. The fact that Pixie is the daughter of my dearly beloved, now deceased heart horse Missy, bred specifically to step into Missy's horseshoes, makes it doubly painful.

    So if you're still with me, has anyone else prematurely retired a horse for mental and/or physical issues?

    And yes, the few non-horse friends I've confided in and even attempted to explain the situation to think that I am completely out of my mind!
    BES
    Proudly owned by 2 chestnut mares
    Crayola Posse: sea green
    Mighty Rehabbers Clique


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  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jul. 31, 2007
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    15,135

    Default

    So.... what's the question?

    1. "Should I ride this one again?"

    2. "Is it so wrong if I feed her for 20 years as a pasture pet?"

    3. "Is there something else I should do before retiring her?"

    4. "What does it feel like to feed one for 20 years, check after check? If you have that experience, do you dig it?"

    Which one are you asking, exactly? Or something else?
    The armchair saddler
    Politically Pro-Cat


    2 members found this post helpful.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jul. 1, 2011
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    2,064

    Default

    If the pain has been removed, you could be able to get on here and have no issues. Or it could be something that would take a rehab. I would at least lunge her in side reins (starting off loose, then tightening up, trying them in multiple positions on the surcingle so try to bring out the response she had before). If no response is given I would want to at least have somebody (even if you have to hire a cowboy for a ride or 2) and see if you get a response. If you removed the pain your horse could be the horse you used to have just like that. If not I would hire a cowboy (or a trainer willing to take it on) and see if a month of riding would totally fix it and go from there. 20 years of paying for a useless animal is a lot more money than paying for a trainer for a month to see if the problem is gone or easily fixed once the horse realizes the pain isn't there.
    Obviously those teeth were extremely painful and he had full right to react to it in distress (they can't tell us it hurts like hell, they can only show us).

    However, if her other injuries are holding her back from doing what you want to do with riding, and you have the money to spend to pasture board this horse, then do it. I would still want to see if the issue is solved or not. You never know what the future holds. And after a few years off, maybe soundness issues will resolve completely and leave you with a horse fit enough to do what you want.


    3 members found this post helpful.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Apr. 21, 2008
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    Somewhere in Texas YEEHAW!
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    Default

    You found the cause of her pain, removed it, she's back to normal in other ways.....so why would you consider her "unrideable" when you haven't even given her a chance? There shouldn't really be any reason for her to totally freak out again, she might be a little fussy for awhile, but I certainly wouldn't give up on her and your dreams because of this. Try her in a hackamore or bitless bridle, lunge her, ground drive her. If she doesn't show any signs of problems with that then she shouldn't have issues being ridden. If your trainer doesn't want to do it, find somebody else, be upright with her history, and let them try it. I'd be willing to be she'll be just fine.
    OTTB CONNECT
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    15 members found this post helpful.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Dec. 13, 2005
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    New England
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    Default

    I can completely understand being wary of getting back on her. You like having your limbs intact.
    I guess in a nutshell, if this was my horse, I would do one of the following;

    If I could afford to retire her and let her live out her life, that would be option one. Then get another, easier horse to ride, one who is fun again.

    Option two (one I probably would do for my own peace of mind) Get back on her and ride her. You did say you were having good rides on her, right? Imagine how you would feel with insanely painful teeth and pressure put on them. You'd probably erupt too.

    Option three: Hire someone to get on her a few times to make sure she won't lose it.

    Not every horse is easy to ride. Sometimes it seems like I do nothing but work when I get on them, instead of tossing the reins on the neck and ambling along. But, the tough ones are more rewarding too.

    Good luck. I hope it goes well for you, whatever you decide.


    3 members found this post helpful.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jan. 28, 2013
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    Southeastern US
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    Default

    What concerns me is that the trainer is not willing to get back on. Is there something else your trainer sees about the mare that bothers them? I would have suggested you try leasing her out but if the trainer refuses to get back on the mare...I don't know. You could be setting yourself up for a liability if the mare has a bad reputation.

    I'm glad you are in a position to afford two horses. I see nothing wrong with a companion horse to keep your riding horse company. There are so many good horses needing a home right now. Good luck looking for a better match!


    2 members found this post helpful.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jan. 4, 2007
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    TX
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by BansheeBreeze View Post
    You found the cause of her pain, removed it, she's back to normal in other ways.....so why would you consider her "unrideable" when you haven't even given her a chance? There shouldn't really be any reason for her to totally freak out again, she might be a little fussy for awhile, but I certainly wouldn't give up on her and your dreams because of this. Try her in a hackamore or bitless bridle, lunge her, ground drive her. If she doesn't show any signs of problems with that then she shouldn't have issues being ridden. If your trainer doesn't want to do it, find somebody else, be upright with her history, and let them try it. I'd be willing to be she'll be just fine.
    One reason to consider her unrideable is her past history, adding to being sensible and not wanting to get hurt, once you know what she does.

    Maybe her resisting so violently is not just the teeth, she may also have some other injuries you don't know, back or such, which would not be surprising with her history of quirky behavior and previous injuries.

    When a horse tells you who they are, believe them.
    There should be a time to say enough is enough and maybe this is the time the OP decided it was enough.

    Now, the questions seems where to go from here, with the picture she paints.

    That is going to be a tough one to walk thru, where "the horse comes first" is taken to the extreme "if it kills you".

    We were in a different situation than you are.
    When we had a ranch horse that in the early teens had some serious problems, like ringbone, we just kept him as it always had been kept, just not ridden any more.

    With you paying board on one horse and wanting a horse to ride, without unlimited resources for your riding, you will have some difficult decisions to make.


    2 members found this post helpful.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jun. 14, 2006
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    VA
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    11,372

    Default

    If you're set on "retiring" her and it's not going to bankrupt you, then it really doesn't matter what anyone else thinks. You have the means to do it and she's your horse. There are worse things for horses than getting to be pasture puffs.

    That said, I think that were I in your shoes, while I was shopping around for a horse to lease or buy, I'd start putting her on the longe and then bit her up with a surcingle and side reins and see how she goes. If you're just wanting to do some light hacking, she may be perfectly good for it now that the issue is resolved.

    I can understand people not wanting to get back onto horses that have dumped them. BUT, this wasn't just a behavioral issue from what you're saying. You found a source of pain. You removed that source. So unless she's one of those totally averse to work princess mares who blows up when you ask for the smallest increase in effort and wants to flip herself over in protest, I think I'd try getting back on and/or half leasing her if she goes well with a surcingle and side reins.

    No matter what though, she's your horse and it's your choice. Good luck! And congratulations on your new job!
    A good horseman doesn't have to tell anyone...the horse already knows.

    Might be a reason, never an excuse...


    2 members found this post helpful.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    May. 5, 2006
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    I can understand why, at this point, it is attractive to look at total retirement for your mare. You were dealing with some severe behaviors that were dangerous.

    However...if you do go the retirement for her and second horse for you route, make sure you only do a lease with the second horse. Because I could see a situation where your mare continues to show her normal behavior, in the absence of pain, and six months later you have enough distance from the emotional roller coaster of the behavior and subsequent medical intervention to get back on her. And then you'll find yourself with two riding horses and only time for one.

    So lease a second horse, let your mare continue to relax and adjust to a pain free life and then reevaluate in a few months.

    For what it is worth, there are trainers out there that will get on her with full knowledge of what she might do. You might want to consider having a cowboy with a gentle touch put 30 days on her in the spring as part of your reevaluation process.
    Sheilah


    6 members found this post helpful.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jul. 30, 2008
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    Sioux Falls, SD
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    Default

    Oh.... wolf teeth! I know there's a big movement right now to not pull them, but wow, I've seen some horses react just like that when those teeth erupt! My 3 year old went absolutely BONKERS on the lungeline this fall. Granted, he's had his sanity issues being unhandled, starved, and feral until he was 2, but for months he'd been an angel on the lunge. He likes work, and we were even under saddle at that point. But one day, asked for a canter transition on the lunge, he tripped a bit and BOOM, explosion. Took off bucking and galloping down the arena, crashed into the wall, two mirrors fell off the wall and crashed on top of him and he proceeded to buck another full lap around the arena - hitting another wall! Absolutely nuts. We at first chalked it up to just Aries being Aries, having a moment (there's a reason he's my horse and not adopted out through our rescue) but then we noticed he was bracing on the reins and refusing to bend to the right at all, very strange for him. So I got his teeth checked, and yep, his right wolf tooth had just erupted and it was 2-3x the size of a normal wolf tooth. The vet said it's likely the whole side of his mouth was inflammed from that, and the bit probably hit it when he tripped and the pain made him absolutely nuts. Removed the teeth, gave him 10 days or so to recover, and had my normal happy horse back both on the lunge and under saddle.

    Another horse, my steady-eddy give me his heart mustang who would do anything I asked, started balking and mini-rearing under saddle when I'd ask for turn on the haunches. Initially my instructor told me to push him through it and discipline him - the behavior was so out of the ordinary. It had been three years since his teeth were done (checked every six months) so I called out the vet. She floated him, said they really weren't bad, could have gone another 6 months to a year, but with his behavior went ahead and floated him. Again ... had my normal horse back the next ride. This is a horse who usually has a massive pain tolerance - but those teeth, just the tiniest bit of pain, turned him into a bit of a jerk.

    So, what I'm saying is ... I'd give the horse a chance. Bluey says "if a horse tells you who they are, believe them" ... and I agree, but I'd look at the fact the horse never did anything like this for 12 years and then the teeth came in and you had some issues? To me, it would be worth giving another chance. That doesn't mean you have to get on and immediately go into work and put your horse on the bit. It means you can get on, walk around on a loose rein, take it slow, until your confidence is back and the horse shows you that she's over the pain. You also said you had her thoroughly checked for other pain/neurological issues and she was fine.

    Only you can decide if it's worth it to you to get back on. Yes, I've retired a younger horse (the mustang I mentioned above - he was 13) but he was nearly blind, neurological, and had just gone through cancer treatment for squamous cell carcinoma. I took him out of show training and brought him home to be my friend in the back yard. I would have kept him on pasture board at the boarding barn if I didn't have the home option, because I already had a second horse, but I am lucky enough to have horses at home as well. I'm glad I did, ultimately, because he was my heart horse and I lost him suddenly this fall at 15. If that's not an option, well, you have choices to make. Personally, having seen how extreme horses can react to mouth pain and how much better they are immediately once it's fixed, I'd give her a chance.

    Oh - and have you ever had an exposed root or bad erupting tooth? I've had a child, broken bones, had severe asthma attacks where my lungs cramp up so bad I can't breathe ... and they were NOTHING compared to the pain when I had an exposed root in a tooth. I rarely take even aspirin or tylenol and I gladly resorted to oxycontin for that. I can recall sitting downstairs in the family room, listening to my son make normal kid noise in his room upstairs, and the pain making me so mad I literally thought "I want to rip my arm out and beat him to shut him up" (I have NEVER beat a kid or animal or anything, don't get me wrong) ... and that thought was surprisingly calming because mentally I thought I would feel better with the pain of tearing my own arm off. Seriously. Crazy, but that kind of pain is OUT OF THIS WORLD.
    Last edited by Tif_Ann; Jan. 29, 2013 at 10:58 AM.
    If you don't like something, change it. If you can't change it, change your attitude.
    ~ Maya Angelou



  11. #11
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    May. 24, 2006
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    I have one here. He had a horrible pasture accident that damaged both hing stifles. 2 years of rehab/reschooling and then he started rearing, I believe out of pain...It was no longer fun for me or my trainer and I felt he was miserable too. So off he came back home and has now been turned out for three years. He is 10 now, so retired at 7. He is happy and I have complete peace of mind that nothing bad has happened to him or anybody. He is fat, happy, sound in the pasture. He comes in at night in the winter, day in the summer. Everyone is better off I feel.



  12. #12
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    Oct. 9, 2012
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    Washington State
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    I have one that has been retired at 9 and is now 12. He appears sound in his field but does not hold up under regular work. I can afford to keep him as a pet, so I do. I also have my daughter's pony here. She just turned 15 and does not enjoy being ridden anymore so she is a pet too.



  13. #13
    Join Date
    Mar. 31, 2006
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    I have a mare that I retired to my field about 6 years ago.

    She had been an easy ride, but things started to go wrong. She dumped me (again) big time in the hunt field and I said, "enough".

    I never did a full work up on her, just didn't have the money at the time to go exploring. I figured she told me in her own way that she wasn't comfortable. She is now living the life, bossing around my other horses and loves the brushing and loving she gets for not doing anything!

    Every once in a while I think I will maybe start her back again, but I swear she hears my thoughts and will bob-bob her head as she trots merrily across the field.



  14. #14
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    Jun. 24, 2006
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    Well... I had a horse who was so erratic and dangerous (reminds me of your description) that after two accidents (and countless other falls that just didn't result.in me crashing into anything) and maybe a year of trying I eventually did retire him after problem training with a friend (who was very experienced with problem horses) did nothing. Now granted upon further research he was like this his whole life and just got tossed around because of it. But literally if you offered me a million dollars to walk around on that horse I would turn you down. Nothing would make me ride him again but he was a wonderful pet, absolutely lovely.

    I know that situation is different but... that FEELING I felt... well I can understand never getting on her again if you are that freaked out. It has given me real anxiety while riding ever since. It is your choice but I do suggest at least trying to get someone to work through it so if anything ever happened to you etc that it would be easier for her to find a good home. But that rider does not need to be you ever again if you don't want to. Like I said, that almost out of body response is one that leaves a lasting impression.


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  15. #15
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    Jun. 12, 2007
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    If it were me, and this was the horse's first dangerous behavior - I'd have the vet out to evaluate whether any pain remains in the mouth. If not I'd put a hackamore on and start walking.


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  16. #16
    Join Date
    Jun. 23, 2010
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    Connecticut
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    I retired a horse I no longer felt confident riding. It wasn't exactly early, as she was 24, but she was still in serviceable shape for light riding. However, she simply didn't want to be ridden ever again, and made that clear to me in so many ways

    I think BuddyRoo and Bluey have both given very good, if different, advice, you have to decide which path feels most comfortable to you.

    But perhaps you don't have to decide right away. As you've said, it's winter, and it sounds as though you're not riding a lot right now. And you mentioned leasing. So why not look for a nice horse to lease, give your horse a little more time off, and investigate local trainers to see if there is someone you like & trust who'd be willing to try Pixie out and see if she's any better? If it turns out she still has issues, you can still retire her, if she's "fixed' after the removal of the wolf teeth, you can either ride her or sell/give her to someone else.



  17. #17
    Join Date
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    I really like the idea of leasing another horse for six months to a year and seeing if you feel differently after that time. It gives both of you a chance to put some distance between you and the bad times and you might find you're both in a totally different (maybe better, maybe not) place.

    If you do decide to retire her, what to do with her is a tough decision, and, of course, only one that you can make. I can tell you that I retired my Promise Mare at five due to an injury and boarded her until she died at 26. I never regretted a minute of it and enjoyed her as a pet as much as I would have if I had been riding her. But, that's me. I was able to get a second horse to ride, so that wasn't an issue. Your circumstances are yours alone and you're going to have to come to whatever conclusion is best for you and for Pixie.
    Originally Posted by Alagirl
    We just love to shame poor people...when in reality, we are all just peasants.



  18. #18
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    Jun. 24, 2004
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    "Over the course of 2-3 weeks, things escalated to random, violent, unpredictable spinning-in-circles & try to bolt spooking, the kind where the horse's brain is disconnected from its body and every leg seems to be going in a different direction."

    Personally, I would not consider a horse that spent 3 weeks trying to tell you she was in major pain as "unrideable." As my trainer says, "what happened before whatever happened happened?"
    Ever had a severe toothache yourself? I have and just wanted to be left alone and, well, got a bit cranky myself...
    Yes, she might have some memory of pain, but I would at least give her a chance and try to get on with a bitless of some kind and see what you get.
    A friend told me I was delusional. I almost fell off my unicorn.


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  19. #19
    Join Date
    Apr. 21, 2008
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bluey View Post
    One reason to consider her unrideable is her past history, adding to being sensible and not wanting to get hurt, once you know what she does.

    Maybe her resisting so violently is not just the teeth, she may also have some other injuries you don't know, back or such, which would not be surprising with her history of quirky behavior and previous injuries.

    When a horse tells you who they are, believe them.
    There should be a time to say enough is enough and maybe this is the time the OP decided it was enough.

    Now, the questions seems where to go from here, with the picture she paints.

    That is going to be a tough one to walk thru, where "the horse comes first" is taken to the extreme "if it kills you".

    We were in a different situation than you are.
    When we had a ranch horse that in the early teens had some serious problems, like ringbone, we just kept him as it always had been kept, just not ridden any more.

    With you paying board on one horse and wanting a horse to ride, without unlimited resources for your riding, you will have some difficult decisions to make.
    I just don't consider a horse "unridable" when she says the horse was going perfectly just before this and they were having some of the best rides of their life and she had NEVER done anything like this before. If she had a history of issues, then yes.

    I just think it'd be really sad to give up on her and have to go looking for another horse when there likely isn't anything wrong with this mare and she'd be just fine. I had my own "unrideable" horse that I had to give up on, but she was truly unrideable-nothing wrong with her physically but a slew of mental issues that couldn't be fixed by professionals and she was extremely dangerous.

    I would never suggest anybody put themselves in harms way or try to stick it out with a dangerous horse, I just don't think this situation counts as that and the mare should at least be given a chance considering the circumstances.

    There is plenty that can be done on the ground to see how she is, then find a professional to work with her for awhile. If she starts acting up again, then it wouldn't be bad to not dump the money and effort into continuing with her. But if she's just fine, you've got your horse back :-)
    OTTB CONNECT
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  20. #20
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    Dec. 29, 2006
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    I'd give your horse more credit and give her a chance. It sounds like you -think- she's going to act preemptively because you have a confidence problem. The cause of pain has been removed. . . . no reason to expect her to still act badly. I'd at least give her a chance under a confident rider and see how she goes. She may be happy to return to work.



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