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Help me think through this and do what is right for my horse. (Long - sorry!).

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  • Help me think through this and do what is right for my horse. (Long - sorry!).

    Okay, I need help thinking through this.

    I have had my horse Fisher for about 7 years now. He just turned 14 yesterday (happy birthday, beastie!). He has been a wonderful, if somewhat exasperating teacher. When I got him, he had done some successful unsanctioned eventing and while he was a little more sensitive than I really needed, we made it work. After many stops and starts (falls, a few health issues for both of us, trainer leaving, etc), we started to get things together. We came to realize that he was a lot greener than anyone thought (especially to showing). He got some good experience and qualified with my trainer for the AEC’s last fall, at which point he broke himself (lateral collateral ligament pull) and developed anhydrosis (which we think accounted for several of his issues previously). He has come back well this summer (although the anhydrosis limits when he can work). He is sound WTC and back to jumping small stuff.

    The problem. Fisher has always been just a hair too much for me. He is a good boy and generally very manageable and quiet. He LOVES cross country though and can be fairly athletic when he wants to be. My confidence isn’t always up to the task of dealing with his exuberance and he is not always the patient sort when he doesn’t get to do what he wants when out and about (I think a confident kid or adult would have a blast on him – he is forward, can win the dressage at the low levels, and doesn’t have a stop in him). When he was going consistently, we did well together, but getting him back to work has been challenging. The rehab in the past year was not easy on our relationship. He was bored and cranky. I was cranky. The start back to under saddle work was fraught with perils due to Fisher’s enthusiasm and attempts to entertain himself during 2 minute trot sets. Now that he is feeling better (probably than he has in years), I am finding myself less and less willing to play his games. We went out for his first experience cross country the other day and when he wasn’t allowed to have as much fun as he wanted, he threw a temper tantrum (which I didn’t enjoy).

    The context. When we weren’t sure that Fisher would be back to work at all after the ligament injury, my trainer and I began looking for a second horse for me, with the idea that Fisher would do what he was capable of doing and I would have a new horse to continue to learn on. Found said horse about a month ago and he is wonderful. Young and green, but quiet, kind, and willing. I am having a blast with him. I have to say, I never really anticipated Fisher being totally BACK. And now he is.

    The possibilities:

    1) Keep on keeping on. There are a few people at the barn who have been riding Fisher off and on since he has been back to work. The BO wants him to do some lessons. I can get on him in the interim. None of this has been (or is likely to be) consistent and I think he needs that right now. He would have attention (although probably not as much as Sir Diva would like) and be maintained in the style to which he is accustomed. And I think he would definitely be lacking in purpose.

    2) A free lease. I had been thinking that come fall when the season starts back up again, there might be some market for a BN/N-capable horse who is a pretty straightforward ride for someone who wants to have fun. I will admit to being very leery of a lease as I know he requires some maintenance and I don’t want him to be ridden into the ground. The only comfort I would have in this is that he would get to do something fun and I would have control of his future (which I worry about with a 14 year old horse with some physical issues) and care (managing the anhydrosis, joint supplements, etc). Of course, the minute I say the word lease people bring up all sorts of horror stories and I would need to figure out how to make the lease situation a “good” situation.

    3) Sale. I swore that I would never sell this guy, but I have come to wonder if it really is in his best interest to stay with me, given the context of option 1 above. I hate that he isn’t going to get to go and do as much and I know he enjoys it and can be successful for a rider. Further, I don’t want to end up resenting him. I would have no problem getting him campaigned with my trainer or someone in Aiken so that people could see he is up the task. He has a solid record and is inherently rideable. But then I think about the prospect of selling a 14 year old with a history of some physical issues. I know thinking about the what-ifs can be self-defeating, but I really do worry about “down the road” for this guy. I work a lot in rescue and can easily see a world where someone wouldn’t be willing to keep up with maintenance, or not rehab an injury. And he isn’t getting any younger. I don’t want to think about him winding up on a truck to Canada. And there would be the associated emotional trauma of letting him go.

    So, what to do? I really want to do what is right for Fisher, but I am lost as to where to start. Sigh.
    When life gives you lemons. . .say &%^# you lemons! And throw those lemons back in life's face so that it will be afraid of you and won't try that crap again!

  • #2
    I would tend toward the lease option unless/until the right buyer comes along.

    I was lucky enough to have a chance to buy the horse who was a bit too much for his owner who had him for the previous 4 years. She had never sold a horse before. But we just fit. I'm not some GREAT rider or anything - we just clicked. And after this long, you two clearly don't. (But congratulations on the fact you DO click with the young horse! I hope we get to hear about progress!) Several other people had looked at my horse to buy, but they weren't fits the owner was happy with, and she had no problem keeping him if he didn't find the right match.

    I know of another horse who is 14 or 15 and off with a young rider who he just clicked with. He had never gone above N, but the two of them clicked and I believe she's going prelim with him soon. He was WAY too much horse for his owner, and she let the YR lease him. That owner ended up giving the horse to my trainer who could use him for lessons, but the YR is off in a working position with the horse now.

    Really, if you want to know what's happening with his future, keeping him around and letting people know he's available whether for lease or sale will let you really pick and choose his future more than sending him off to campaign. At least around here, from what I've seen the right match seems to come along for good horses.
    If Kim Kardashian wants to set up a gofundme to purchase the Wu Tang album from Martin Shkreli, guess what people you DON'T HAVE TO DONATE.


    • #3
      In making a decision, remember that horses don't care about a "purpose", nor about "living up to their potential".

      chief feeder and mucker for Music, Spy, Belle and Tiara. Someone else is now feeding and mucking for Chief and Brain (both foxhunting now).


      • #4
        These are my beliefs, and they aren't a specific analysis of the situation for you and for Fisher. If we are open to it, there is a sort of a hand of destiny at work for all of us, the horses, too. Whatever you want to call it, whatever one believes to be the source. A good place is available to each rider and horse if they are open to the opportunities - but they can miss it if they close the door or ignore the pointers. Sometimes ideas such as loyalty, perseverance or a goal can be a support and a lifeline - but sometimes they can be a block to a better alternative for both rider and horse.

        One idea that can be a major block is "who else would put up with this quirky horse?" You might be surprised who would love to have and keep him. In our own minds we make some issues larger than they are to other riders. Sometimes we characterize and rationalize certain traits or issues, and think that unless the next rider/owner sees it the same, the new partnership won't work. But another rider may have a different thought, and it's just as valid and works well with the horse. It's a matter of allowing a new path to success to happen.

        You've obviously put a great deal of effort into understanding this horse. Be careful not to get lost in the thought process, or put too much importance on the next owner/rider thinking the just the same to be able to give Fisher a good, happy home. Of course you want to be careful who he goes to next. But keep an open mind that it can be someone who comes to a different understanding than you have and still be equally as successful with him - who knows, maybe even more so. And they may take him to different disciplines or lifestyles, and still have a secure, satisfied horse in Fisher.

        I think you already have your answer - as you've outlined, very probably you and Fisher both need to move on to a better match and a more satisfying future. It's just the mental process of letting go, and having confidence that he will go on to a home that is just as good as the one you have given him. Have confidence in him and in his future, that you will find a good next owner ... and that he's the kind of good horse that will have good things come his way.

        And if nothing else ... it isn't necessarily a good thing to be the horse that is holding your owner/rider back. That's not a future Fisher wants, if he could think that way and tell you. He'll be in a happier place with someone who doesn't want any more from their horse experience than he has to give.


        • #5
          Originally posted by Janet View Post
          In making a decision, remember that horses don't care about a "purpose", nor about "living up to their potential".
          this is truth number 1. : )
          so your first option would work well!

          honestly, I'm a tough cookie and if I have a horse as you have described I would just give him away and then start with my youngster.

          Horses cost too much and I can not afford to keep one that is not in my full time use.

          If you don't care about that then option #1 sounds great. It's a win win.
          Horses are amazing athletes and make no mistake -- they are the stars of the show!


          • #6
            I'm with NetG - look around a bit for the right leasor, who might turn into the right owner some day. I scored an amazing horse when he and his owner just weren't right for each other and she moved on to another horse. He taught me to love XC, love eventing, develop patience and tact and a sense of humor... and continues to teach 12-year-old girls some of the same things, years later. And it all started with a casual "would you ride him while I"m out of town next week?"!


            • #7
              Originally posted by OverandOnward View Post
              I think you already have your answer - as you've outlined, very probably you and Fisher both need to move on to a better match and a more satisfying future. It's just the mental process of letting go, and having confidence that he will go on to a home that is just as good as the one you have given him.
              This thought really touched me, because I've struggled with the relationship we have with horses. I got into this via a rescue. I was Called to help her and from there I was shown a path (and a world) that I have fallen in love with. She's taken me up to a level, but her age and injuries precluded us going further. I could never imagine selling her, I needed another horse to grow, so I wound up buying a farm to allow me to keep her, own another for companionship and also have my eventing horse.

              Now I have three and its hard to imagine ever parting with them, but this thread ponders how one deals with the "we don't click" issue. Do we stay committed, but feel held back and maybe even a little resentful? Horses are not pets, yet they really are not work animals either. We talk in terms of how "this one won't take me further, I need another", or "I need a packer" or "I want that ULH to carry me to Rolex" like it has "features", but for me horses have spirits, they don't have features, but characteristics....like humans.

              From what you wrote I feel I've come to see that while horses are not are pets, not our 'workers", what they are are our partners. We buy and sell (for that's the model established), but it is our heart that chooses. Its a relationship and one built on trust and love. What the OP struggles with, and what your say so well is that parting with our horse (for many?) is akin to a divorce. I may be flamed for saying that, but that's how it seems to me. Your advice was almost word for word from a friend regarding my old marriage. In taking that advice I had a more positive "letting go" then trying to "make it work" where both are dissatisfied in the end. I pray I never have to do that with Sterling. I believe he and I will grow and continue to positively challenge each other. My Mercedes will always be with me till the day she passes on or I am unable to care for her, but I feel that is also our path. Her "job" was to get me started, she done that well, though now and then she reminds me that she can still dance so I get the "lets go dancing Mister" look and nudge. I feel for the OP for now I understand the true nature of the struggle for many in this moment.

              "Parting is such sweet sorrow"..true words for any relationship. My 2cents, let the barn use him for school to keep him active, open up for lease and when the right person comes along, Fisher will let you know, because you will feel it and see it if you're open to listening to him. Don't ride him for purpose, ride him for enjoying the moment. listen to what he wants till the time when you guys find different paths. I wish the best for both.


              • #8
                Originally posted by purplnurpl View Post
                this is truth number 1. : )
                so your first option would work well!

                honestly, I'm a tough cookie and if I have a horse as you have described I would just give him away and then start with my youngster.

                Horses cost too much and I can not afford to keep one that is not in my full time use.

                If you don't care about that then option #1 sounds great. It's a win win.
                I am with Purp. I re-homed a horse this spring that I was not having any fun at all with and my trainer had ridden more than I had in the last 6 months. I bought a younger, calmer horse and am SO very much happier. Re-homed horse is doing AWESOME in his new line of work and my confidence is slowly returning.


                • #9
                  Many a good lease situation is to be found through Pony Club. Often, the good ones are having people lining up to be the next one to get to enjoy them.
                  It is also a way they can be moved down the levels as they get older.
                  Lots of pony clubs in SC.


                  • #10
                    I had a horse with "issues" that I thought I could sell relatively easily. And while I couldn't sell her easily, she did sell to exactly the right person. I ended up free-leasing her out. At one point the leasee stopped riding her for a couple months, when she wanted lease her again, I told her she had to buy her. Mind you it was for a discounted cost and she was able to make payments.

                    Now the girl that owns her will never use her to her potential, but I don't care, the horse doesn't care and in the end she will probably stay sounder that way! Win-win all the way around!


                    • Original Poster

                      Thank you all for your thoughtful responses. I clearly have much to think about. At this point, I am going to leave it out there to the universe and hope that the right situation comes along - and be open to it when it does.

                      Fisher really is a good boy and I want only the best for him.
                      When life gives you lemons. . .say &%^# you lemons! And throw those lemons back in life's face so that it will be afraid of you and won't try that crap again!