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Have you ever felt like quitting horses?

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  • Have you ever felt like quitting horses?

    The details aren't important, but basically due to a combination of life events and health issues with my horse, I have been struggling for the last couple of years to feel the passion I once felt for riding. I feel like I have never met any of my goals, and they're pretty modest given I'm just a working stiff AA. At this point, for me to ever grow as a rider, I would have to get a new horse and start over due to my horse's health issues. And that seems exhausting to me. I don't want to do it. I don't want to invest the money and experience the heartbreak all over again. Probably 50% of the time I leave the barn depressed or even crying. It used to be my happy place but it isn't anymore.

    I waver back and forth between walking away and buckling down and trying to push through it, raise the money for a new horse, dive back in. Because I have worked hard to get where I am, even if it's no place special, and I feel like even if I quit for a year I would lose some fitness and skills and be even more in the hole. I have been deeply involved with horses for over 20 years. It's the only thing I'm any good at. It's such a huge part of my identity, I'm just not sure who I am without it. When my horse friends tell me about their triumphs or their struggles, I mostly feel angry. Like I WISH my problem was that I had to figure out a new bit that works for Mr. Fussyface. Instead I get to deal with career-ending health issues and it's not even my FIRST horse to go through that.

    Have you ever struggled with this? What did you do? I wish I were one of those people who had multiple horses so it wasn't such a big deal if one was lame or had some training issues, but that's not in the cards for me. I just wish I could feel happy around horses again but it seems like it's been ages.

  • #2
    I’m in the same place albeit my reasons are different. If I sell I can use the money for lessons after bills and stuffing my retirement fund. It’s a hard place to be. If you are leaving the barn crying I would sell. That doesn’t mean you have to stop riding. It just means you don’t own a horse.

    Comment


    • #3
      Nothing like what you are dealing with as my aspirations were more humble. I only wanted to fox hunt. But at one point, I had two old horses and a sick horse. I'd paid my subscription to hunt and couldn't hunt. All I did was treat sick horse and endlessly care for the old horses. What was the point?

      For me there was a two-fold solution: 1) I retired from my job of 41 years (now I had more time to care for the old horses) and 2) I bought a young, healthy horse. I also picked up a second horse-hobby: mounted archery --now my horse world has doubled --twice as many friends and since one is summer and one is winter --year round things to look forward to.

      Now-a-days I don't mind caring for the elderly horses ---I have time to do it. My sick horse eventually got better, but he's older now (21) and my young horse gives me joy in life! He's so healthy and enthusiastic about everything.

      But your situation is different than mine. I will tell you that in my darkest hours, I decided that if it came to "never riding again," or putting the old horses down (free up time/money), I would put them down. It's a horrible decision to have to make, but I love to ride ---I love horses, true, but riding is what makes it pure joy. Unless I could no longer ride myself, I would put an infirm horse into a greener pasture in the sky before I gave up riding. I think. I don't know exactly what I would do if the situation really did come about.

      Comment


      • #4
        Oh, CiegoStar, have I ever been in your shoes.

        When you said, "I've been deeply involved with horses for over 20 years. It's the only thing I'm good at. It's such a huge part of my identity, I'm just not sure who I am without it." Those exact words have come out of my own pie-hole. And you know what I did? Walked away. More than once I've done it. Sold the horse, leased the horse, retired the horse, whatever....and flat walked away. And you know what? I was actually still a person. I focused on my family, I developed other interests, and saved a sh*t ton of money. I never felt guilty or sad. I felt relieved, and suspect that you would too.

        Then, a couple years later, out of the blue, life brought me back to the barn. Made new friends, found a new horse, set different goals, and got on with it. Now it's been 7 years back in the saddle, and I'm having a swell time.

        So, my advice.....take a step back. Take time off. Don't set a timeline or anything. Just walk away and discover other interests. Horses will reenter your life if and when they should. I truly, truly believe that I'm walking proof of that.

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        • #5
          Oh, and feel free to PM me if you just want to vent. I remember how terribly difficult the decision was.

          Comment


          • #6
            Been there. Done that. Felt like the one thing I love the most was causing me pain the most. I have a long, woeful history of fantastically unpredictable bad luck with horses and my current one - bought as a foal to be The One - is on his third major rehab in his 7 short years of life. Prelim eventing? Hah - can't stay sound doing training level dressage.

            I live in an area where competing AAs have scads of $ and horses and trainers. I can only afford one. And I can't even give him away.

            I'm not ready to give up. But I need a break too! If I get the job I've recently been interviewing for, the broken horse is going away to a rehab place so I don't have to feel sad every day and I'm going to lease or take lessons on nice horses for a while.

            When my horse friends tell me about their triumphs or their struggles, I mostly feel angry. Like I WISH my problem was that I had to figure out a new bit that works for Mr. Fussyface. Instead I get to deal with career-ending health issues and it's not even my FIRST horse to go through that.
            Yep! Amen to that! I stand at the barn every night listening to them wax lyrical about their showing plans and their lovely trail rides and I just want to go cry in the stall.

            I tried another sport, and I saw the people who did it felt about that sport the way I feel about riding. I didn't. Horses it is. I am just going to have to try a different way to get the fix!

            Comment


            • #7
              Ciego Star, I feel your pain. I am horseless for the first time in 50 years, not through my own doing, but from an accident when someone was turning my horse out that resulted in an injury that eventually cost him his life. It was an accident, but it was an accident with such a terrible cost to me both financially and emotionally that it has taken me many months to get over it and I'm still not there.

              After my horse's death, I had to take a break - emotionally to recover from such a nightmare and financially to pay down my credit card after incredible vet bills. I'm now looking for a real steady-eddy to love for the rest of my life because even though there was some time when I thought, "I just can't go through this again," and considered getting out of horses altogether, I can't deny the passion I have for these amazing animals.

              I am very sorry that you're dealing with career-ending health issues with your horse. It is hard to put your goals on the shelf, but I hope that the connection you feel with your horse can help fill that void. I would give up ever riding again just to have my beloved horse back. Perhaps you can find a horse to lease or a friend who needs some extra help with a horse in the discipline you love, if competing is your passion. I really hope things work out for you and your horse.

              Comment


              • #8
                I guess technically I quit for 6 years, because after I retired my injured horse, I didn't get another one or ride the last 6 years. I just bought a new horse and am so excited about it. The time away may have been what I needed. I do sometimes think about what if I'd been riding the whole time, but no point in going there.

                Maybe take a break. It doesn't have to be forever. See how you feel and if you miss it. At some point you'll either realize you've found other things to fill your life, or you'll be itching to get back in.

                Comment

                • Original Poster

                  #9
                  Originally posted by chai View Post
                  Ciego Star, I feel your pain. I am horseless for the first time in 50 years, not through my own doing, but from an accident when someone was turning my horse out that resulted in an injury that eventually cost him his life. It was an accident, but it was an accident with such a terrible cost to me both financially and emotionally that it has taken me many months to get over it and I'm still not there.

                  After my horse's death, I had to take a break - emotionally to recover from such a nightmare and financially to pay down my credit card after incredible vet bills. I'm now looking for a real steady-eddy to love for the rest of my life because even though there was some time when I thought, "I just can't go through this again," and considered getting out of horses altogether, I can't deny the passion I have for these amazing animals.

                  I am very sorry that you're dealing with career-ending health issues with your horse. It is hard to put your goals on the shelf, but I hope that the connection you feel with your horse can help fill that void. I would give up ever riding again just to have my beloved horse back. Perhaps you can find a horse to lease or a friend who needs some extra help with a horse in the discipline you love, if competing is your passion. I really hope things work out for you and your horse.
                  Hugs to you, chai. Thanks for sharing your story.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    I'm in the same place OP. After struggling to keep my horse sound, i found a solution for him that works (for now). He is not competition or heck even arena sound 100% but he is sound enough to be loved and ridden by a casual trail rider. For now, i don't have to be involved so i stay away. I also need another horse to do the kind of riding i want to do. It is heartbreaking.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Ciego Star, I'm also in the situation where reading your post brought back very acute feelings of deja vu.

                      My very best equine partner came down with an injury I was told by vets that we may never be able to rehabilitate to the point of being pasture sound.. I ended up deciding to give it a try, and after nearly nine months, we were seeing light at the end of the tunnel - if nothing else, I knew I would be able to get him to a place where he could live out in a field comfortably. Unfortunately, shortly thereafter he colicked and while he made it through surgery, had a bad drug reaction the day after and began seizing. He was euthanized as a result.

                      I spent the better part of a year trying to rehab a horse that I wasn't sure I could.. From a time and financial standpoint, it was a drain on my resources but emotionally, as devastating as it was, I felt like I had to try. Going from the low of that depression to almost hopeful, to losing him, was absolutely devastating. I have still not really come back from that emotional place, though I do a better job of navigating it when I can't avoid it.

                      After his death, I quit horses. I was hand walking him two hours a day for six months (and then a combination of hand walking & carefully introducing tack walking/trotting for several weeks beyond that). For ten years, he had been my life - and since his injury, he absolutely commanded every resource I had (financially, emotionally, physically). Losing him was like my world got blown up. Riding was my identity, horses were "my thing" and the barn was "my place"..but without him, I had no heart or passion for it and I stepped away.

                      It is thanks to a handful of very special people (and very dear friends) that I did not lose horses entirely. As much as the idea hurt me, I still loved them (even at my lowest). One friend (my instructor) contrived a number of excuses why she was too busy to ride her horse and could I just hack him out for her? Another routinely invited me out to their property just to spend time with horses in a place that didn't have so many emotional memories.

                      As much as his injury/rehab was a struggle to get through, and as challenging as navigating his loss was, once I had healed a little the truth was pretty evident. I love horses. Regardless of what my goals are with them (do I want to show? what level do I want to show to?) and how well I succeed in reaching those goals, the basic fact is that being around horses makes me happy. Even when it is hard, and even when there is less reward, and even though it hurts sometimes, they bring joy to my life that I've never found elsewhere..and while I do not ever want to experience a similar situation again, I realized that avoiding horses entirely (to avoid that possibility) meant that I would be sacrificing that much more happiness.

                      I am sorry that you are struggling. I wish that the things we love only ever brought joy.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Yes, I definitely have, at least twice more than a decade apart. Both were caused by horse injuries with poor prognosis and extended rehab (one horse recovered beyond all expectations and went on to be a GP dressage horse; one went downhill and had to be euthanized). The second time was exacerbated by the trials and stresses of home horsekeeping. I also strongly identify with this statement of yours: "I've been deeply involved with horses for over 20 years. It's the only thing I'm good at. It's such a huge part of my identity, I'm just not sure who I am without it."

                        I have never actually taken a break, though I've gotten close. It would have been pretty possible the first time as I only owned one horse and I boarded. Now I have multiple horses, including a retiree, and keep them at home so the logistics of a break are pretty complex. I still think I miiiiiight take a break sometime but I recently bought a new horse that I'm excited about and I have an easy herd at the moment, which helps keep the stress levels low. I have tried a little bit to develop other interests (kayaking, golf) but so far, nothing compares to horses.

                        One way I rationalize it is that nothing that brings you worthwhile highs comes without significant lows. That is just life.

                        However, if I were in your position (single-horse owner, boarder, sad and worn out), I would strongly consider an open-ended break. Like gertie06 said, let yourself find your way back on your own timeline, or not.

                        Hugs!
                        Building and Managing the Small Horse Farm: http://thesmallhorsefarm.blogspot.com

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by CiegoStar View Post
                          The details aren't important, but basically due to a combination of life events and health issues with my horse, I have been struggling for the last couple of years to feel the passion I once felt for riding. I feel like I have never met any of my goals, and they're pretty modest given I'm just a working stiff AA. At this point, for me to ever grow as a rider, I would have to get a new horse and start over due to my horse's health issues. And that seems exhausting to me. I don't want to do it. I don't want to invest the money and experience the heartbreak all over again. Probably 50% of the time I leave the barn depressed or even crying. It used to be my happy place but it isn't anymore.

                          I waver back and forth between walking away and buckling down and trying to push through it, raise the money for a new horse, dive back in. Because I have worked hard to get where I am, even if it's no place special, and I feel like even if I quit for a year I would lose some fitness and skills and be even more in the hole. I have been deeply involved with horses for over 20 years. It's the only thing I'm any good at. It's such a huge part of my identity, I'm just not sure who I am without it. When my horse friends tell me about their triumphs or their struggles, I mostly feel angry. Like I WISH my problem was that I had to figure out a new bit that works for Mr. Fussyface. Instead I get to deal with career-ending health issues and it's not even my FIRST horse to go through that.

                          Have you ever struggled with this? What did you do? I wish I were one of those people who had multiple horses so it wasn't such a big deal if one was lame or had some training issues, but that's not in the cards for me. I just wish I could feel happy around horses again but it seems like it's been ages.
                          If you aren't happy with your situation with horses, there are several options.

                          1. Quite horses altogether, find another absorbing hobby that is not reliant on a living partner.
                          2. Change your attitude and aims to fit what your horse is capable of. You may grow in ground work or trick training or some aspect other than your chosen competitive discipline.
                          3. Retire the horse and get a horse that you can ride, whether you buy or lease.

                          As far as riding being a huge part of your identity, IMHO it's never a good thing when an activity feels like it is your identity. Maybe it is time to find out who you are without horses.

                          I gave up horses during my time in college, pony was sound enough but I didn't have time, and wanted to expand my horizons. I ended up putting her on retirement pasture board that made her happy, though I really missed riding for a long time.. I went back to riding in my 40s and totally love it. I would say horses are a big part of my day and of my life now, but I also have many other things I do and have done, and when I eventually have to give up riding for old age, I will miss it deeply again but that isn't the same as losing my identity.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            ^^^ Some of us just cannot give up horses - they are our identity. I come from a horsey family - father had polo ponies and did racing - and it IS my DNA. I had my financial stresses, as a young adult away from home; I do hear you, OP but through lease arrangements, etc. was able to keep going. It is what our family does. That does not mean we are one dimensional - we still have a varied life, but the main thread IS horses. Do what makes you happy if possible.
                            Proud member of People Who Hate to Kill Wildlife clique

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                            • #15
                              I've walked away twice. Neither time did I give up horses completely (not yet, anyway), but I definitely did not ride.

                              The first time was when I started college - I had aged out of the youth division at shows (and didn't really enjoy showing anyway), just purchased a yearling, retired my show mare, and I was done for several years. I got involved in other things in college and realized that I could be happy without riding. I went back to riding after about six years, though; started Fox under saddle, then got Alex and Bodie. Started lessons, got into everything full-tilt (I owned 8 dressage saddles for 3 horses, for crying out loud!), became a working student, and loved every second of it.

                              Until I didn't.

                              I quit riding again nine years ago. There are times when I miss it, but with Bodie gone, Fox retired, and Alex perpetually unsound, and no riding instructor, and no horse support system anymore, I have found other things to do. I started a small business, I work full-time, I write, I have time for my non-horse friends. If you want to know why I quit this time - let's say that I realized quite suddenly that my instructor did not have my interests at heart, and that she would never let me progress beyond Training Level. That coincided with the need for a new truck, and there was no other instructor close by, so I quit. That last year was frustrating, exhausting, beyond cray-cray, and emotionally draining for me. I was done.

                              Alex and Fox are happy being pasture pets. I am slowly selling off my tack and riding clothes. I don't think I will go back to it this time. I can't afford it and I don't have the time. But I do regret that I never got to see how far I could go.

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                Originally posted by CiegoStar View Post
                                I waver back and forth between walking away and buckling down and trying to push through it, raise the money for a new horse, dive back in...

                                Have you ever struggled with this? What did you do? I wish I were one of those people who had multiple horses so it wasn't such a big deal if one was lame or had some training issues, but that's not in the cards for me. I just wish I could feel happy around horses again but it seems like it's been ages.
                                Wavering back and forth between difficult choices is very common. People who don't waver are either in a very sound and confident financial/emotional/psychological position to choose or are fools. You don't mention the horse's health issues but sometimes it is easier to let go when there is someone who can manage those issues better than we can manage them.

                                I had a very humble, and I thought practical reachable, goal of finding a trail riding partner and maybe conditioning for limited endurance. Spent two years training a horse with a trainer who liked my money more than her integrity... it was very hard to sell that horse. I cried a lot but he went to someone who could help him further while I couldn't . I've spent the past two years rehabbing the perfect horse who happens to not be sound, and has brought a crapload of shady horse professionals into my life. This time I don't think anyone else would be able to help him more than I can - I know this because I've looked- I won't be able to ride, if all goes well, for at least another 8 months. My choice is to stick it out with him because I don't think someone else will do for him what I do. He has nearly maxed out a high limit credit card and we are in for a few more $$$ before it is over, so even though I think about another horse, one that can be ridden today, I can't do that now. Part of this too, is that I receive a lot of joy from my Ol Man. He is a character and has more heart than many humans I've met around here, who are into their own needs and ends to the exclusion of the animals in their lives. He is intrinsically worthwhile caring for, even if I can't ride. Because it's like this, the choice is made. I've chosen him.
                                Caring for Clifford, my big red dog and assorted monkeys, I mean goats. Protected by a few loyal Anatolian Shepherd Dogs and Kangals.

                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  No , honestly I never have.

                                  I just like riding and I find it is different for those who need a "goal" to work for, achieve and progress beyond to keep riding . Horses aren't really their passion ( an interest yes) but more just a sport they chose to compete in.

                                  Even as just a trail rider I sometimes just don't feel like riding some days, so I don't. Horses have always been my passion and nothing changes that even when life gets in the way ( like raising kids).

                                  We all need a break at times because no matter what you are doing life can get to be too much. For some a complete break from something is what they need.

                                  Comment

                                  • Original Poster

                                    #18
                                    Thanks everyone. You have all mentioned aspects of my thinking. Unfortunately my horse's health issues are serious and he may not even be pasture sound. It is still a work in progress. Sorry to be vague, but I have already spent so many hours trying to understand the problem, and gone to numerous vets for their (conflicting, hooray) advice. I'm exhausted.

                                    This isn't even the first horse I've retired. I think that's really it. I have done this before. I know it's part of horses. When I ask myself, "Do you want to get another horse, knowing this could be the result, again?" the answer is no. I love horses but I hate this. I can't live with going through this again. At least that is how I feel right now. So I feel grief, really.

                                    And then as others have mentioned, there's also the shady characters in the horse business. I guess I feel like I have seen it ALL and it's bad. The pure moments of happiness when it's just you and your horse, doing what you wanted to do together, i feel really far away from them.

                                    Comment


                                    • #19
                                      Originally posted by candyappy View Post

                                      I find it is different for those who need a "goal" to work for, achieve and progress beyond to keep riding . Horses aren't really their passion ( an interest yes) but more just a sport they chose to compete in.
                                      Wow, that’s some pretty harsh judgement.

                                      I have walked away from horses completely twice now. Both times it’s been a combination of losing my horse, financial strain, and changing life circumstances. Both times it was incredibly sad but also a relief. The best part is getting to go back to it when you’re ready, fresh and energized and a little bit wiser than before.
                                      "Sometimes the fear won't go away... so you just have to do it afraid."

                                      Trolls be trollin'! -DH

                                      Comment


                                      • #20
                                        Originally posted by CiegoStar View Post
                                        This isn't even the first horse I've retired. I think that's really it. I have done this before. I know it's part of horses. When I ask myself, "Do you want to get another horse, knowing this could be the result, again?" the answer is no. I love horses but I hate this. I can't live with going through this again. At least that is how I feel right now. So I feel grief, really.

                                        And then as others have mentioned, there's also the shady characters in the horse business. I guess I feel like I have seen it ALL and it's bad. The pure moments of happiness when it's just you and your horse, doing what you wanted to do together, i feel really far away from them.
                                        I understand. Just want to mention that life changes all the time and sometimes its for the better. I get stuck in ruts and think it is all horse poop and its always all horse poop and then a change happens and things look brighter again. Its up and down.... not always down, though it feels like it sometimes. You do your best and when you have to let go, you know you have done your best. That knowing will ease the grief. And, like others, you may be ready to return someday. Best wishes, whatever you decide.
                                        Caring for Clifford, my big red dog and assorted monkeys, I mean goats. Protected by a few loyal Anatolian Shepherd Dogs and Kangals.

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