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Have you ever considered giving up horses?

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  • Have you ever considered giving up horses?

    After five emotionally and financially exhausting horsey months, I have to admit that a tiny part of me is thinking about giving up horses. I grew up with horses on a horse ranch with two horse trainer parents. Most pictures of me as a kid is of me on a horse or hugging a horse. Horses are in my blood. As a young adult, they have been a joy and a passion. I love riding because it gives me financial and physical goals, partnership with a beloved animal, friendship with barn mates, a chance to get outside every day, a nice workout, and a sense of accomplishment among other things.

    However, since tragically losing my horse and having a really rough time finding a new horse, I find myself tired and discouraged. I'm tired of dirty sellers, broken-down, half starved, mostly lame horses being advertised as something other than what they are, ignorant and intentionally blind horse owners, online scams, and barn politics. I'm tired of worrying about why my horse is off or seems to have this or that symptom, tired of paying astronomical vet bills, tired of stress and anxiety and lameness, tired of ever changing saddle fit and buying new tack, of the endless concerns of horse ownership. What used to be a source of joy and positivity in my life now just feels like disappointment, heartache, and stress.

    I have a non-horsey friend who loves to come to the barn with me and I realize that half the time I'm describing a horse to her I'm saying, "Oh, well he has cancerous lesions on his face, so they're trying to give him away" or "The owner is nine months behind board on that one but she can't give him away due to his health problems so he's being put down" or "That one used to be an amazing jumper but tore such and such ligament and now isn't sound" etc. You get the gist. I board at a beautiful facility with premium care, yet I feel like I see the vet and chiro out working on horses more often than I see horses out being happily hacked.

    Julia Child once said, "Find something you're passionate about and keep tremendously interested in it." I am ashamed to even admit having thoughts of wanting to give up horses, because I believe in the aforementioned statement. One minute I feel crazy for wanting to give it up, but when I add up the cumulative stress and expense of my hobby I feel crazy for wanting to keep it. Has anyone else felt this way or gone through something similar? Any words of wisdom, advice, or stories to share?

  • #2
    Sorry to hear you're feeling this way. I don't have any advice at the moment, but you aren't alone, I was having some similar moments this weekend. Hugs.

    You never know what kind of obsessive compulsive crazy person you are until another person imitates your behaviour at a three-day. --Gry2Yng


    • #3
      Maybe a little down time to recoup from your horse's loss and the expense of the vet bills will be enough to bring the joy back. Maybe change your goals and outlook on riding. Try something different, try to just have fun. As an older rider, I decided to just have fun. I dabble in lots of different disciplines(former hunter rider). I have an awesome TB mare that I have owned since she was a yearling(19 this year). She lives on pasture board so I can keep costs down. Surprisingly she has thrived living out all the time. I joined an all discipline riding club to meet new people and possibly find out about a wider variety of riding activities. Since belonging to this club I have tried low level dressage and Combined Tests, Musical Freestyle, team penning, Trec, Actha, parading, camping,swimming, Hunter Paces, Foxhunting. Fun! Good luck!


      • #4
        Down time, be it a month or longer. Everyone gets burned out, especially when faced with your recent challenges. Step back hang out with non-horse friend for a while. You will probably get the itch very soon and have a more rested, positive attitude. Take care of yourself so you can enjoy your passion.
        "Never do anything that you have to explain twice to the paramedics."
        Courtesy my cousin Tim


        • #5
          Alright, this isn't info I really want out there, so welcome to my alter.

          Yes, I very seriously considered giving up horses. I had a proverbial "come to jesus" moment perhaps a year and a half ago now where I took a good hard look at my life and made some choices. I had a retired mare that I rarely saw--absentee owner sort of situation--and I was really on the brink of no longer having horses in my life. I'd essentially lived horseless, minus the monthly visit to the barn to pay board and pet my horse, for a few years. But I'd come to the point where I knew that I needed *something* more in my life. As I drove across the country, alone, I thought long and hard about where I was going and what I needed, and if horses would be in my future at all.

          As it turns out, I decided I needed to get back into horses, which I have done full force. I've bought two since that fateful drive and am out at the barn close to daily. Am I happy with my choice? Yes, I think so. Some days more than others. But the horses have filled a space in my life that was lacking.

          But there is NOTHING wrong with doing something different. At all. And I would be shocked if most people who are into horses haven't had moments in their lives where they've either really taken a break or left horses completely, or at least have considered the possibility. Because sometimes the heartbreak and the work and the expense just gets to be too damned much and we've got to go off and do something that's a little less unknown. And if you chose to leave horses for a little bit, that doesn't mean that you can't come back when you're ready.

          It also doesn't need to be an all or nothing proposition. You can take a lesson once a week. You could find a horse to just groom once in a while. You could get serious for a couple months with lessons and then back off when your life gets a little nuts.

          But no, there's nothing wrong with taking some time off, doing other things and coming back to it...if you want, when you want. This is supposed to be fun, and if it's not fun, then it's time to go do something else until (if) you get to the point where you WANT and NEED horses in your life again.
          Last edited by Hello My Name Is ___; Apr. 22, 2013, 02:16 AM.


          • #6
            Originally posted by blame_the_champagne View Post
            I board at a beautiful facility with premium care, yet I feel like I see the vet and chiro out working on horses more often than I see horses out being happily hacked.
            I don't know anything about your current facility but maybe look at it with new eyes - is it really premium from the perspective of the horse?


            • #7
              When it comes to horses you need to have an enormous heart. Then when it inevitably gets broken time and time again, there is a big enough piece of your heart still intact to keep on going with horses.

              Anyone here who have spent enough years in horses will have several heartbreaking stories. I know I have more than my fair share and expect to get more.

              For me the highs still outweigh the lows when it comes to horses.

              So to answer your question, yeah I've considered it, (especially after sinking a lot of nursing and money into a home bred mare and then having to euthanize her) but the immediate answer was No. I'm not done with horses. It's a terminal illness for me.


              • #8
                But no, there's nothing wrong with taking some time off, doing other things and coming back to it...if you want, when you want. This is supposed to be fun, and if it's not fun, then it's time to go do something else until (if) you get to the point where you WANT and NEED horses in your life again.

                I grew up with multiple horses and I never thought I would be horseless but I have taken a hiatus from horses twice-one of just over 7 years and another more recently of about 2 years. All I can say was that in each of those cases taking a step back and making a clean break was the right choice for ~me~ at that time. However, I keep coming back.

                One thing I have learned is not to sell off all my tack and supplies when taking those breaks because it gets expensive having to repurchase everything


                • #9
                  I'm on hiatus right now since death of last horse. Not sure if I'll be back or not. If I ever do get another horse, it will be some nice old retiree who needs a soft landing just so I have a horse to snuggle. I've always done the hunters but my sport has been ruined by drugging and cheats, and I have zero confidence in the Federation's ability to solve the problem. I've lost the will to even try to compete. The mere thought that the majority of my competitors in the hunter ring think it's perfectly OK to drug a horse so hard it goes down in the warmup ring demonstrating agonal crapping makes me throw up in my mouth a little. I want my sport back but I don't think that's going to happen.
                  "The standard you walk by is the standard you accept."--Lt. Gen. David Morrison, Austalian Army Chief


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Hello My Name Is ___ View Post

                    It also doesn't need to be an all or nothing proposition. You can take a lesson once a week. You could find a horse to just groom once in a while. You could get serious for a couple months with lessons and then back off when your life gets a little nuts.

                    But no, there's nothing wrong with taking some time off, doing other things and coming back to it...if you want, when you want. This is supposed to be fun, and if it's not fun, then it's time to go do something else until (if) you get to the point where you WANT and NEED horses in your life again.

                    Agree 100% with both of these statements. Don't buy another at the moment so you are not tied down (I know in another thread you are looking at a lease to buy option...keep leasing for now!). I was burned out and frustrated, with a mare who could behave perfectly during hot summer months in Virginia, but could.not.handle the cold of PA when I was at school. Literally she went from being a nice horse to being a nightmare. Anyway, long story short, she found a new home (in Virginia, lol) and I took a much needed break for the better part of 5 years.

                    I took lessons when I felt like it, went on beach rides when I wanted to, and even dabbled in polo. A local club was offering cheap lessons to university students, so I thought why not? It was a lot of fun! I spent one summer as a wrangler on a guest ranch for 3.5 months - that was my only hardcore horsey time! It was really nice to enjoy horses without the responsibility of owning one or the pressure of riding daily and constantly improving. I also got the opportunity to try other activities. I enjoyed Rugby for a few semesters! I also joined the university Hillwalking club and participated as a club officer for 2 years. I'm really glad I did that because I met some of my best friends through it and got to see so much of Scotland!

                    Now, I still don't have my own, but I'm back into riding 100%. I'm currently at the barn 3-4 times a week all day, and plan to move that up once summer starts. I ride an average of 3 horses a day and take at least 1 lesson a week. I'm improving so much and it feels great!! I can't wait to have a full time job so I can afford my own again, but for now I'm loving the opportunity to learn on some really nice horses I wouldn't be able to afford myself.
                    "Choose to chance the rapids, and dare to dance the tides" - Garth Brooks
                    "With your permission, dear, I'll take my fences one at a time" - Maggie Smith, Downton Abbey


                    • #11
                      Not an eventer, but yes, I just gave up the ghost. I've looked back over the years and it's been since 2000 that I had a sound horse to actually ride. I've bought several horses since then, and have sunk a pile of $$ into trying to put them back together (yes, even with PPEs). I finally thought I had it licked when I bought a suckling, and lost him last summer as a 2 year old to a spiral fracture in the rf leg I still have my 25 year old retired guy, but I can't bring myself to spend the $$ to buy another, let alone think of what might happen to it AFTER I get it home.


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by alto View Post
                        I don't know anything about your current facility but maybe look at it with new eyes - is it really premium from the perspective of the horse?
                        I just feel like this bares repeating. I would be reconsidering how premium the care is if there are so many sick or injured horses....


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by yellowbritches View Post
                          I just feel like this bares repeating. I would be reconsidering how premium the care is if there are so many sick or injured horses....

                          Not necessarily. Premium care indicates to me that the boarders have a lot of disposable income. They seek for answers when their horses are NQR instead of throwing some bute at the situation and hoping for the best.


                          • #14
                            You just hit a REALLY unlucky patch. Come for a weeks visit.....free room meals n all the nice horses you can ride... Make some contacts out here on the East Coast. Bet we can fix you up PDQ....with in you budget.


                            • #15
                              I have been there! I went through a couple OTTBs that had major issues and I spent thousands on, then I bought my heart horse (a gorgeous, perfect little 4 year old Hanoverian mare) and I spent nearly 5 years struggling with strange training issues and a mystery lameness that ended up being neurological (thousands later she was semi-retired and now living with a friend's trainer). I was broke and pretty sure I was cursed.

                              A couple years ago I made the decision to change focus from finding a bigger, fancy TB or WB to ponies! I did a ton of research and found that ponies really ARE more sound and had very rare cases of OCD, neuro disease, soft tissue injuries. I bought a 3 year old Connemara through a friend who was super fun, and finally got me out trail riding, xc schooling, to shows! Unfortunately she didn't get big enough for me, and due to a clubby foot found dressage work hard, so I sold her as a hunter pony and she is doing great.

                              My current one is much bigger bodied with bigger horse gaits, and gulp...a half Arab (Half-Connemara)! I too got her as a 3 year old last year and it's been challenging at times, but she is tough as nails and has talent out the wazoo. I watched an upper level rider LOPE her over a training level XC jump.
                              This is her

                              Both of my ponies were less than $5000, both bred to compete. My current one's sire went prelim, and dams full brother is a GP horse.

                              Are you in California? I have a friend eventing down in SoCal that could help you find your perfect horse, I would trust her with my life, or any of my horse's lives. She just went Intermediate on a horse she started and trained herself. Let me know.
                              On the Internet, nobody knows you're a dog


                              • #16
                                ((hugs)) and someJingles laced with strength and patience ~ time will heal ````

                                ((hugs)) and some time will heal ~

                                Sending Jingles laced with strength and patience ~

                                Horses are in your blood ~

                                You'll ride again Cowgirl ! Be kind to yourself !
                                Zu Zu Bailey " IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE ! "


                                • #17
                                  Two thumbs up for judybigredpony, who always has lovely, droolworthy horses in her barn.

                                  I just retired my perpetually lame mare and went through a very trying year of job misery, and contemplated getting out. Instead, I kept taking lessons and catch riding, and now have a really nice low-drama half lease. There is more than one way to be engaged with horses, and if ownership is beating you up financially and spiritually, there is no shame in backing off for a bit. Be kind to yourself.
                                  I tolerate all kinds of animal idiosyncrasies.
                                  I've found that I don't tolerate people idiosyncrasies as well. - Casey09


                                  • #18
                                    I owned horses from the age of 10, until I was 32 years old. The reason that I had to sell them was because my DH got transferred to New Jersey. We could barely afford to put a down payment on the 105 year old, converted beach cottage in Keyport, NJ. We took the money from the sale of my horses for the downpayment.

                                    Two years later, we transferred to DC and lived in Maryland. I got to ride again, but still could not afford to buy a horse. Three years later, we were transferred to the Cleveland, OH area.

                                    My DH was determined that I have a horse, so we bought a property with 4 acres and a barn. I bought an OTTB mare for $800. I have owned a horse ever since.

                                    During the NJ stay, I was miserable. I worked as an aerobics instructor at New Woman Health Spa. I had no contact with horses. It was not a good time in my life.

                                    My break with horses was more forced, so I did not come from the place where you are in your heart. It sounds like you definitely need to take a break. I agree with the poster who said for you to keep all of your tack. Hopefully, your break will find you longing for a big, hairy neck to hug. If not, then that is OK, too. You may find another passion along the way.

                                    I wish you good luck in your journey to find a happier place.
                                    When in Doubt, let your horse do the Thinking!


                                    • #19
                                      Oh your post made me laugh a bit (WITH you, not AT you), as those conversations sound a bit too familiar (Mr.DL gets to hear them, lucky guy).

                                      For me personally, I couldn't board a horse easily. I have and I hated it. Most of my enjoyment comes from just having them around and the people aspect at a boarding barn ruins that for me (I think I may be headed towards being a recluse, lol). I have re-evaluated goals in my riding as far as competitions, etc.

                                      Having horses at home means I do way more horsework than ride, but I'm mostly ok with that.

                                      I know I would be miserable without my own horses at this point in time. But rethinking number of horses, goals with horses etc has helped me a lot to not lose the enjoyment and pleasure I get from horses. At one point when I was teaching riding and training, I was very, very close to losing that pleasure.

                                      Maybe just take a step back and see what happens.
                                      We're spending our money on horses and bourbon. The rest we're just wasting.


                                      • #20
                                        I think that all of us go through patches like that! I sold my heart horse during college and I did anything that I could to stay riding. I rode horses at a lesson barn just for something to do. I took lessons at a barn where the horses were provided. I rode friends horses. I reached out to anybody who had a horse who just needed to be ridden. I still was involved without the stress of ownership.

                                        I got involved with CANTER Mid Atlantic as a way to continue my habit not long after college. I retrain horses for them and for many years it filled my need to own so many horses. Ha, until recently when I started buying my own resale projects as well as continuing to retrain the CANTER horses.

                                        I have friends that come out and ride my horses for free. It is a way for me to give back to others to allow them the opportunity. I have invited many people out to just come and ride. (I have some nice personal horses in addition to the greenies). I ask them to maybe clean some tack and do some barn stuff here and there but I enjoy the company and the help. They are good riders so it is a win situation for all of us. I know there are people out there like me who would just love to have somebody to exercise horses.

                                        I do have a few personal horses and at times think this sport is so damn depressing. Right now I have two horses that are injured and it can suck the fun right out of it. However, I just take a good hack on something else and I am reminded why I love it. I have given myself permission to be okay with the fact that my goals have changed. I personally just love training young horses. I don't care if I show. I don't care if I have a fancy horse. I just want to enjoy riding and that is something that I can do on any horse.

                                        Lately, I have just bought another horse when my horses go lame. Ha, I know that I am lucky to be able to do that but I have worked hard to buy my own farm and get to where I am at. I buy my resale projects with the intention of enjoying them before they sell. When they sell than I just buy another one. I am not stuck on the concept of a forever horse. I just buy a horse that I think will be fun to ride and that I can resell after I have enjoyed it for a bit. I think it takes the stress out of it because than I am not hung up on having the perfect horse.