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New barn issue or unsuitable mount? Need feedback

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  • New barn issue or unsuitable mount? Need feedback


    I am trying to figure out what to do with my 7 yr old gelding. I am 48 and started riding at age 35 so still an ammy. I am a decent, intermediate rider, but definitely not super brave and willing to get on anything. I ride casually for pleasure and a few shows, but do try to be the best rider I can. I take lessons and work with a lady near me; she rides him once a week too. I also have a 17 yr old gelding who is a solid citizen.

    I purchased the 7 yr old almost 2 yrs ago. It’s been quite the headache (literally) since. His background is I was owner #6 by the time he was 5. He is super sweet, quiet and easy to handle, shows well, has a lot talent and a great work ethic. BUT he is sensitive, quirky, and can be very spooky and reactive. I have fallen from him A LOT. More than I care to admit. Some falls are due to him spooking and exploding, and some are my fault from balance issues. I am not a very strong rider and I do have some balance issues. Horse can get worried about things if it’s not being done correctly.

    I thought with training rides and working him more we had gotten most of that out of him over the past year or so. He and I had been doing really well. I took him to a big show last summer and he did not move one muscle out of place. It was cool one day and windy, blowing silent auction papers around- but he never once spooked. We made it through fall and winter doing weekly lessons and I finally started cantering him. I thought we were over the worst of it.

    Then I moved barns March 1 and since then, he has become Mr. Anxiety all over again. Barn is very nice, small, well- kept with good owners attentive to everything. However, horse thinks the indoor arena is there to kill him. It turned out we had racoons in the indoor who got between the wall. The BO has fixed that. But horse already had PTSD about the indoor, as did I. I took a couple of falls on him in the indoor since we moved and my confidence has been shot. I took him off most grain and he gets about 1lb of Kalm and EZ and 2 lb of Essential K. He also gets plenty of hay and has finally filled out to look like a mature horse. Currently no pastures as this is a new barn yet but he gets hand grazed. He also gets Smart Calm Ultra and a SP joint supplement with MSM. He is on a dry lot with one other horse but there is plenty of room to move around, run and play and hay to last all day.

    Now that it’s finally nice outside and we have an outdoor, I am using it. We are near a sport club. Guns can be going off, the owner mowing, turkeys or deer in the field next to the ring, but he is a good boy and doesn’t react. This horse did not whoa or stop when I got him, and now I can stop to chat while on his back and I can walk him on a loose rein. The other day, the owner was burning something in a small fire pit near the outdoor and it was windy. I kept horse working and focused. He seemed a little up but not bad at all and definitely manageable. We were just about done when out of the blue he spooked hard and made his way across the arena. I fell pretty hard. I have an eventing vest but did not have it on of course, as we had “been doing so well” or so I thought. I did have a helmet on though.
    I am trying to figure out what is going on with this horse and if he is just too much for me. I don’t want to keep falling and getting hurt. Thank God I have walked away every time so far. I have fallen 5 times since moving him in March. That is too much for my comfort level.

    I am not sure if this increased spookiness has to do with being a new barn yet, or from not having a big group of geldings to play with, or what. I thought maybe it was MSM in his supplement so I am stopping that. I do work with a lady for lessons and she does a ride a week on him but this hasn’t gotten me too far. She was gone the past 3 weeks so I was riding him myself.

    At this point, I contacted my old trainer about 2 hours away and am bringing horse up there at the end of the month. They’ve known me for 10 yrs and know how I am as a rider. They will evaluate him and work with him 5 days a week for a few weeks to let me know if they think he needs additional saddle time and exposure, or if he’s just not a good fit for me and needs a stronger rider. Of course, that is a sad thought and no one likes to entertain that possibility, but I cannot keep falling either. I feel like every time I make a bit of progress with him, I have the door slammed in my face again and we are back to square 1. Obviously, this situation is creating trust issues for both of us and I am not sure we can get passed it.

    My lesson instructor down near me suggested also having him checked for any source of pain. I will do that as I have noticed he has fallen out behind lately. Feels like weak stifles but no overt lameness.
    So, I am posting because I am looking for feedback on my situations, suggestions of things to try or look into, or even opinions on whether it is time I cut bait from this guy before something bad happens. Bring it on as I am open to listening and something needs to change.

  • #2
    I read your post twice trying to see what your long term goal is.... and cannot see this horse fitting in. I am not suggesting that he is evil but may have a few screws loose.

    The one known factor Being dumped repeatedly will eventually end badly. Personally I would find another horse.

    Some relationships just do not work


    • #3
      If you decide to keep him there is something that could help your sense of security.

      Rider Grip ( There are rubbery circles that self-glue onto your saddle, flaps and seat if you so desire.

      They do look odd on my saddle, but I feel so much more secure riding with them. I do not shift around in the saddle like I used to, and I just have one on each flap. Now it is a lot easier for me to stay centered in the saddle.
      RiderGrip Ltd. - Santa Barbara, CA. Because...Grip Happens.. Sports & Fitness


      • #4
        Sounds like he’s not a good fit for you, even if his recent behavior flare up is due to the barn switch, less turnout, whatever. The good news is, if he shows well and has talent, he should be quite marketable to somebody with stronger balance and overall better stick-on-ingness (and maybe a touch more rubberiness and bravado) as it doesn’t sound like he’s doing this kind of thing with the deliberate intent of dumping the rider.

        BTW, I’ve taken to wearing my body protector every ride, as I have very limited rubberiness as I approach 50. Even though (until recently), I have not had any falls in the year and a half I had my horse. Glad I did last month, we were just walking around and he spooked hard to the right, leaving me hanging in the air like a Wile E. Coyote cartoon (and I can’t emphasize enough how unusual spooking at all, much less spooking in that way, is for this horse). I think the vest made a big difference in my ability to get back up, laugh, and get back on, rather than laying there moaning and hobbling. The vest also helps my posture a lot, and the bouncing issue without using a Super Cincher 2000 kind of bra. I also had a fall where he jumped me out of the tack (over an 18 in vertical, real Grand Prix candidates, us), again, I’m thinking I wouldn’t have been able to get up and get back on right away after that without the vest.


        • #5
          Short answer. Sell this horse before you Get too injured to ride an appropriate horse.


          • #6
            5 falls since March? Whatever the reason, time for the two of you to find new partners before you get seriously hurt.

            Send him off, get him tuned up, sell him and buy yourself something safe and sensible that you can have fun on and learn.


            • #7
              I agree, I would never persist with a horse that I was falling off repeatedly.

              I just cannot stand the kind of horse that starts having meltdowns over trivia in the arena. I do think it is often pain related but I just find it totally annoying and hard to resolve.

              I actually returned to riding with an OK seat for big spooks, and now (after 12 years back) I can ride a horse proactively between hand and leg if they are getting spooky. I can survivev it but I don't like it. And if you don't have the seat to stick this horse after 13 years riding its not likely you will.develop it in the next couple of months.

              The problem predates this barn. Move the horse along, and if the old trainer is in the loop that's ideal.

              By comparison, I have fallen off 3 times in the past 12 years. Once an old lesson horse tripped in deep.footing and I went over her head. Once early on my current horse bucked at the halt, popped me up.on her neck and I chose to silde off. And once she bucked me off at the halt and took me by surprise. Tint bucks.

              As a teen I never fell off. I made some crazy emergency dismount off bolting horsed but never fell off, and learned to sit a spook. I didn't jump seriously though which increases the fall ratio for most riders.

              So no, coming off alot is not normal or pleasant IMHO. And certainly not as a middle aged adult.

              It messes with your confidence too so your riding gets more protective less balanced and more likely to come off again.


              • #8
                Per your original post, it seems to me that spooking is one thing, but spooking and exploding is another. Also, the fact that he changed hands so many times in his first six years may very well indicate that previous owners just were not up to his shenanigans.

                Does he have spooky and reactive days on the ground as well as when he is being ridden?

                I think your plan to have your trusted former trainer assess the horse as to suitability for you is a good one.

                P.S. Toblersmom I resemble this remark "had a fall where he jumped me out of the tack (over an 18 in vertical, real Grand Prix candidates, us)". #gprider solidarity - not everyone needs to know that the gp stands for ground poles and not Grand Prix.


                • Original Poster

                  I think I know all of this deep down. Was trying to make it work but we just don't. He's very fun to ride but it's not worth continued risk to me. I'm glad I have some connections to try and get him sold or maybe trade him for a quieter mount. I guess until he leaves for the trainer's on the 26th I will stick to lunging him and have the instructor by me continue to put a few rides on him.

                  It almost feels like a relief to say "no, I'm not riding him" rather than worry and wonder all day how our ride that night will go. I felt like i almost needed a Xananx just to go to the barn to ride. I don't want to feel like that. I am a casual, fun rider and don't need to prove anything to anyone at this point in my life.


                  • #10
                    You want perspective? I have been doing nothing but breeding and starting young horses since 2004. I bred 3 (backed and started all of them myself) and bought three as youngsters and backed them as well. I have fallen off exactly THREE times in the 15 years since - and two of those three falls were due to the horse tripping and falling/slipping on ice.

                    So, five falls in 3 months? Off a trained 7-yr old horse? I'd say you have a death wish (no offense). No way i'd take risks with my life with that kind of history. It is not remotely normal. Even with the behaviour minimized to the point where it's only once or twice a year - it still sounds like he has a bad, blind spook that comes out of nowhere. He's never going to be reliable for you unless you drug him every time you get on (obviously not an option).

                    Get him tuned up, sell him with full disclosure. Get yourself something sane and fun. There are lots out there. I am a not-especially-talented amateur, and if I can breed and back my babies over and over and have zero safety concerns with them, I promise you - you don't have to get hurt to enjoy riding. Really.


                    • Original Poster

                      I am sure this behavior is part of the reason he has had so many owners. It's sad. Who knows how it started or if it's just his nature? I am having a hard time thinking of letting him go and not being his forever home. Poor little dude.
                      This is now #2 who did not work out for me, so I guess the 3rd time is the charm, right?!


                      • #12
                        The important parts of your post are these two statements:

                        Originally posted by TWH Girl View Post

                        I am a decent, intermediate rider, but definitely not super brave and willing to get on anything.

                        I have fallen from him A LOT. More than I care to admit. Some falls are due to him spooking and exploding, and some are my fault from balance issues. I am not a very strong rider and I do have some balance issues. Horse can get worried about things if it’s not being done correctly.
                        Full stop right here. The rest of your post isn't really relevant. This is not the horse for you. It doesn't matter why he is the way he is. It doesn't matter how much potential he might have. It doesn't matter how much you like him. He is not the horse you need to be riding at this time in your life. You need a horse that can instill confidence, not shatter it.

                        And, while you are not old, you aren't a "bounce when you hit the ground" teen, either. As you get older, you can be seriously injured in a fall that would have left you with nothing more than a few bruises when you were younger. I learned this the hard way - just ask my physician.
                        "Facts are meaningless. You can use facts to prove anything
                        that's even remotely true."

                        Homer Simpson


                        • Original Poster

                          Originally posted by NoSuchPerson View Post
                          The important parts of your post are these two statements:

                          Full stop right here. The rest of your post isn't really relevant. This is not the horse for you. It doesn't matter why he is the way he is. It doesn't matter how much potential he might have. It doesn't matter how much you like him. He is not the horse you need to be riding at this time in your life. You need a horse that can instill confidence, not shatter it.

                          And, while you are not old, you aren't a "bounce when you hit the ground" teen, either. As you get older, you can be seriously injured in a fall that would have left you with nothing more than a few bruises when you were younger. I learned this the hard way - just ask my physician.
                          You are absolutely correct. It doesn't matter why. I am not the one who can correct it or ride through it.


                          • #14
                            A 7-year-old child that had as many homes as your guy would likely have some problems too. You want and need a 'bomb proof' horse. This little guy isn't it. At least not now he isn't. What he needs is an experienced rider that teaches him consistently. If you have the $$ - you can buy him that. Then you can decide if you want to keep him or sell him. The evaluation sounds sensible. You do want to be sure the person doing the evaluating isn't going to bs you about progress or potential. What you can't buy is a new back, hip, etc. You also want to enjoy the times you ride. NoSuchPerson is right. You aren't old and I'm older than you. The only time I bounce now is when I walk fast. Good luck!


                            • #15
                              It sounds as though your confidence is shot, and that you'd be better off with another equine partner. But on the plus side, it also sounds like you've put enough effort and training into him that it might be possible he'll find another owner who might click with him.
                              Good luck.
                              "The formula 'Two and two make five' is not without its attractions." --Dostoevsky


                              • #16
                                I think the kindest thing you can do for him is to put him with a trainer who is good, fair, and empathetic to the horse. One who will try to get to the root of his issues. Have them set him up for the best possible future home. Horses don't really explode out of nowhere, even though it does often seem like they do! The poor thing sounds like he has some holes in his training that are impacting his confidence and ability to let go of stress along the way, up until he overflows and you wind up in the dirt.

                                This is not your fault, but the longer you two continue down this path, the harder it will be for him to come back from it and have any sort of future. Same goes for your and your confidence. Props to you for recognizing that; I feel for you!

                                If you do decide to keep him, you should still have him restarted with a good trainer, and then progress to riding with a lot of instruction so you get that help from the ground and you both gain confidence. I know that feeling you mention -- the relief when you know you aren't riding today. It's not fun. Hope you can find a better match and continue to enjoy your rides in the future!


                                • #17
                                  Here's the thing if you are having more bad rides than good, if you're on alert most of the time vs being able to wander around on a loose rein - it's not the right fit. You've given it your all and time to part ways. It's great that you're sending him to your former trainer but what happens if they get the quirks knocked out? Is it a permanent or a temporary fix? Will he be great and then revert back to his quirky unpredictable self after a few months? More falls.

                                  I think maybe the thing to do is have your former trainer work with him get him to a point where you can sell him and take whatever price you can for him. He'll be 2 hours away so you can start detaching yourself from him. I had a horse that I bought- lovely horse but looking back I was an idiot to buy him, totally inappropriate for me but he was a fancy horse at a good price that I could never dream of having. He suffered a career ending injury and for too long I kept him as a pasture ornament. I was at the peak of my A/A career and now here I am with a lawn ornament. I couldn't afford 2 horses so there I was paying board and not riding. My trainer is a softie too, so rather than taking him for a work-up and potentially a harsh diagnosis, I let him stay in the pasture. I lost a little over 2 years of riding. The point of this is sometimes you just have to know when to say when to say when and move on. On the plus side for me, I found a great horse.


                                  • #18
                                    Send him to your trainer to tune and sell. Don't bother to get on him again. He's not your horse.


                                    • #19
                                      Just to focus on one positive--from your original post, it sounds like you have a good relationship with your older gelding. Even though he's getting on, remember that just because one horse isn't the horse for you doesn't make you a bad rider.

                                      If you're constantly worried about the weather so you don't have to ride in the indoor and having to act like you're going into battle for a short, fun ride (and worrying about if you can "afford" to get hurt yet again), you have to remind yourself that there are plenty of horses in the world which could give you much less stress and much more enjoyment.

                                      Another vote for selling him.

                                      Just out of curiosity, is the other rider who rides him occasionally having the same issue? Do you know anything about his previous homes?
                                      Check out my latest novel, Pride, Prejudice, and Personal Statements!


                                      • #20
                                        OP, it sounds like your guy could be a nice sort and has several redeeming qualities. At the end of the day though your posts indicate to me that you are not the type of rider who is looking to engage with a spooky or reactive horse. There's no shame in that.

                                        My trainer had a horse who would routinely jump out of his skin at the most inane things. He is 20 and still spooks at the same purple jump fill that he saw first when he was 7. Some horses are just like that. This horse would be a terrible fit for most riders. She, however, is not a type who flinches from spooky or reactive so it works out well for them. She's come off him once in 15odd years. (By comparison, he's unseated or nearly unseated four riders at various points during their first rides on him, testing compatibility to see if they could hack him out while she was out of town. He isn't a bad horse, but he is just not a comfortable fit for many people to ride.)

                                        I think you should get some training on him and move him along. A younger or braver rider with a sticky seat could very well be your guy's best partner with some full disclosure. Meanwhile you can move on to something that won't compromise your own confidence - which ultimately, repeated falls with reserved riders almost always ends up doing. I think you would be acting in everyone's best interests if you did that.
                                        Last edited by Edre; Jun. 10, 2019, 04:11 PM. Reason: Autocorrect