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Another "should this horse stay or go" thread (long, sorry!)

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  • Another "should this horse stay or go" thread (long, sorry!)

    I need some objective opinions.

    Background-- I'm an experienced but timid middle aged rider. I've ridden since I was a kid but had a horrific fall about 5 years ago and broke my back, badly. I gave away the horse I fell from (he was way more green and nervous than I thought when I bought him, and I hadn't had him long). After my back healed I took lessons for a year or so, then took in a retired schoolie. He was a great horse but I lost him to colic a little over a year after I got him. I continued taking lessons and bought a new horse almost 2 years ago.

    Horse was quiet, a lazy type, and he seemed good for me. I did discover after he came home that he didn't know as much as I thought he did, but it wasn't a huge deal. I take lessons once a week (weather permitting) and a pro rides him once a week for me. He is not easy to ride, he's lazy yet sensitive. However, he is quiet 97% of the time. The other 3% of the time he has a WICKED spook in him that comes out of nowhere. Like no warning, whatsoever. The first time it happened we were trotting along, and BAM, he spun and bolted. I came off. The second time was at the end of a lesson, we were walking and he jumped sideways and bolted, I stayed on. Then the other night, almost the same as the first time, trotting along just fine and WHAM, he jumped sideways about 8 feet and bolted. I came off and hit the ground hard. I'm bruised but mostly ok.

    The thing is, I'm wondering if I should sell him and try to find something without this sort of huge spook. I know it's hard to find super quiet horses but I do have the advantage of having my own farm and am willing to deal with some old age/soundness issues as I don't show. I mostly do lower level dressage at home, will pop over a crossrail occasionally but don't really jump anymore.

    Do I try to sell him and hope I can find something quieter or keep him and hope like hell I can stay on when he has the occasional freakout spook? Do I just hang it up completely? I really can't stand the thought of getting massively hurt again and it's taken a while to get my confidence back. I did manage to get back on the other day and make him trot around quietly before getting off and crying in pain, lol. I know that if I ride I will fall off sometimes but I don't know that I want to keep riding a horse that has this sort of spook lurking beneath the surface. What's disconcerting to me is the fact that there is NO warning and he literally acts like something is trying to eat him and forgets I'm on his back. And there is no "trigger" for it that I can see or hear. He's only the second horse I've ever ridden that had this kind of no warning huge spook in him. I'm a good enough rider that I can sit "normal" spooks but I can't seem to stay on when he suddenly disappears out from under me.

    I treated for ulcers, that made no difference. Saddle fits and horse is sound. Horse has spooked a few times with the pro that rides him but not to the extent that he has with me. It really is a random thing, I ride 3-5 days a week except in winter and he's usually fine. So basically out of 100+ rides, he has massively spooked like this 3 times. He does occasionally have a "normal" spook like most horses have, but not very often and I have no trouble riding those out.

    If you were me, what would you do? (and thanks to those who read my whole novel! )

  • #2
    I couldn't take the spook like that. I'm older and I can't afford to get hurt and knowing me if he kept doing it at random intervals I'd start to get tense and anticipate and eventually either trigger the spooking or hate riding.

    It's a horrible position to be in. Have you talked about this with the pro at all? Would an additional ride per week help or hinder or change nothing?
    Courageous Weenie Eventer Wannabe
    Incredible Invisible


    • #3
      I had a horse like that (note the past tense). I have had two cervical fusions, not related to riding, but I cannot afford to get hurt. I had that horse for eight years, and finally gave up. I had many professionals help me, and finally the vet said that she thought it was pain somewhere - something would get tweaked and he'd duck and buck and I'd be off. Life is too short (and we do not want to make it shorter) to be afraid of our horses. Do what is best for you.


      • #4
        I wouldn't keep him. You are always going to worry when then next spook will come and that's not fun for you.


        • #5
          KPF, I'd sell him. Honestly. Yes horses spook, but he strikes me as the type that is HARD to get in front of your leg. That just compounds the spooking issue. And he's probably one of those quick QHs that pull the agile cat moves out of their back pocket when you least expect.

          You've done everything you can and I don't think you will be able to eliminate this sort of spook, and I don't think you will ever trust him 100%. I don't know... there are a lot of horses out there that you would enjoy and feel comfortable on.

          To me, it is all about what sort of ride they are, and what kind of spook they whip out. I like a more forward ride and a predictable spook that is more a scoot or a splat than a spin or a real bolt. Thus, if it were me, I'd probably sell...
          We couldn't all be cowboys, so some of us are clowns.


          • #6
            I'm not normally one to say to sell the horse. I have one that has frustrated me on and off for different reasons, and I keep plugging away. But I don't feel unsafe on him, and I don't have a back injury making me that much more nervous. In your case, going by what you have written, I would say to find him a home with someone capable who knows why you are selling him.

            A friend recently sold a horse for a similar issue. He occasionally would do a spook and bolt. The last time he did it she was riding (he was her beginner boyfriend's horse) and there was no cause that we could identify. Someone mentioned that maybe he had a back issue that was giving him a "zinger" of pain somewhere. He'd had chiro work several times, and she just didn't feel safe putting her boyfriend on him any more. He had other small things that weren't scary and that she was willing to work on, but the hard spooking/bolting was a deal breaker. He was a great horse otherwise and it was a tough decision, but she found a calm husband horse for him.

            If you are thinking of giving it up completely, that tells me you don't look forward to riding this horse at all. And he might be ruining your confidence for the next one. Sell him before you get hurt and before you get more attached, and find a horse (or pony) that makes you feel safe and happy.


            • Original Poster

              Originally posted by FlashGordon View Post
              he strikes me as the type that is HARD to get in front of your leg. That just compounds the spooking issue. And he's probably one of those quick QHs that pull the agile cat moves out of their back pocket when you least expect.
              EXACTLY it... he's athletic as sh*t, the little booger.

              Like I said, I can handle "normal" spooks. It's just that in these instances I have no warning and literally am like 6 inches from impact before I even know that it's happened and that I'm getting ready to splat.

              I don't know that additional pro rides would help, since it's such a random thing. I do wonder if there is a pain issue or something but I'm not willing to spend thousands of dollars chasing that down. Horse has had chiro and regular vet exams as well as an extensive PPE so I'm not going down the money dumping road to try to diagnose something that may or may not be there. I love him but he's not my "heart horse", that one is happily retired here.

              I'd hate to sell him but I really am thinking it's what I need to do. Sigh.

              Cloudy18-- I do actually enjoy riding him, he's not easy but he's generally just challenging enough to be fun. I'm just at the point where I was starting to wonder if I'm not being realistic in the hopes of finding something quieter. Both the pro and my instructor say "all horses will spook" and seem dismissive of it, but I truly think this is different. All horses spook, yes, but not this kind of huge sudden spook. Usually you at least have *some* warning.
              Last edited by KPF; Feb. 17, 2013, 09:05 PM. Reason: added info


              • #8
                Whether you sell him or not, I think you need to have a pro get to the bottom of why he is spooking and do something to fix it.

                I was willing to think he was a rogue until you described the big spook while you were walking around after a lesson. I can't think of a time that a horse has done that to me and I was genuinely clueless. That's because a horse does have to gather himself from walking relaxed to levitating. And it's also because a horse done with a training session usually is in a more obedient and relaxed "head space."

                I'd have a pro check this one out because your expectations of the horse who is lazy but sensitive 97% of the time might be missing something. If he's not pronounced an unreadable rogue by the pro, you should know that because you'll spend forever trying to buy the horse that never surprises you. In other words, how much of the surprise is on your end and how much is on the horse's end?

                Also, I think this kind of horse can be fixed a bit (assuming he's not very, very stupid, hurt or traumatized). But you need a pro who can read him, set up the "invitation to do wrong" and to fix it. Then the pro needs to teach you how to manage him so that he doesn't surprise you again.

                I think life is too short to sit on a horse that has me waiting for the next dump. Either fix him, fix you-- and both should be reliable, understandable and feasible to you-- or fix him and sell him. But don't accept what you have now, playing the odds.

                I hope you and horse can find your way, even if the paths part.
                The armchair saddler
                Politically Pro-Cat


                • Original Poster

                  mvp-- the pro rides him once a week for me, and it hasn't happened with her yet. However, I ride him a lot more than she does. There is no "setting it up" because it is so random. Unless I sent him off for six months or a year of training, I doubt there's a way for any pro to figure it out. The vast majority of the time, he's fine, so I really don't think it's anything I'm doing or not doing. He does have "normal" spooks sometimes as well, for both me and the pro.

                  As far as the time it happened while walking at the end of a lesson, he did have to gather steam and I'm sure that's the only reason I stayed on. I actually had a few seconds to get my crap together whereas the other times I was almost hitting the ground before I knew that he spooked. And yes, it's bizarre that he'd do that after a hard workout.

                  If I sell him, it will definitely be with full disclosure. I'm not even opposed to giving him away if that's what it takes to find him a new home-- the money is not that important.


                  • #10
                    Ive been in your spurs I know you want to keep him but your scared of him hurting you. I didnt have a QH but same thing, you never knew what would set him off, I sent him on & will forever kick myself wondering if he could have been fixed. COTH basically told me to send him to someone who would work with him, let them fix him, get something a little bit easier, its been great advise. I will pay it forward, you know deep down you arent going to be relaxed & happy on this horse, so find a cow person & let him use that talant. Good luck.
                    “Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.” Peter Drucker


                    • #11
                      At this point, your back is your issue- i personally would sell him only b/c of the WAY he spooks. I had a spinner, once. i came off more often than any of my other horses bc of the force of the spin. I know the economy is not great, but maybe some other rider will have the confidence to get him thru that. as i have gotten a little older, i have found that my confidence is not as strong as it once was. maybe b/c i used to bounce, and now i break.


                      • #12
                        I would keep him, if it was me, and if I could see either turning a good profit, or making a phenomenal horse out of him - if he had the talent.

                        If you have any fears, injuries, confidence issues, accidents in your background - No. why would you keep him ? You only live once and you're not getting any younger. It's crazy to keep a horse that you need a pro to ride every week, and he's Still not your 100% confidence-giver. Sell him and get yourself a big pony with a kind manner and a good mind.


                        • #13
                          Sell!! Life is too short...and getting shorter...to own, care for, pay expenses for a spookie horse!!! Regardless of the reason...it is a serious behavior issue in any horse. One who spooks and plants his feet is one thing...one that spooks and bolts is totally another!! He is not good for your peace of mind, pleasure, or health. There are soooo many horses in the world that don't spook, buck or misbehave!! Find yourself one and go back to enjoying your riding time.
                          Breeders of Painted Thoroughbreds and Uniquely Painted Irish Sport Horses in Northeast Oklahoma


                          • #14
                            I would probably look for another one. It's hard enough riding a horse that might spook, but one that does it without warning and that violently isn't good for anyone with a back injury. I have a hurt back and might ride a horse that is known for a spook, but she does it in that slick, graceful way that always carries a rider with.

                            Best of luck. Tough situation to be in.
                            Semi Feral


                            • #15
                              Agree with everyone else saying he should go. I'm like you -- rode most of my life, and am now a timid middle aged rider. The horse I have (knock wood) has never spooked and is the most bomb-proof horse I've met. They are out there! You are not being unrealistic. Not every horse spooks like your horse!
                              Follow us on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/peonyvodka/


                              • #16
                                If the spooking bothers you, sell him. I have a 19-yr-old that can be quite spooky - there is no "fixing" it, it is just who she is. She usually give some warning but she will also pull a dirty spook on occasion. Today we were cantering along in a lovely, collected canter and without any warning, we were suddenly doing a cutting horse impression because she spooked at something that was completely invisible to me. Then we went on in our collected canter just fine. For some reason, spooks, even dirty ones, rarely get me unseated. So, while annoying, it isn't a deal breaker for me. But, I don't think you should keep the horse with the idea that this problem will be fixed.

                                Oh, one thing that has worked REALLY well on my younger mare that was a little spooky is SmartCalm pellets. She was not that spooky in the arena (a little but nothing that I couldn't manage) but was VERY spooky on our trail rides after arena work. She would literally spook in place every few steps - took all the fun out of what was supposed to be a relaxing way to cool down after a work session. Since putting her on SmartCalm pellets, she is no longer looking for a reason to spook. She is actually quiet and calm on the trail, even when deer jump out and bound away near us. Today another rider took her on the trail while I rode the aforementioned 19-yr-old. The 19-yr-old spooked multiple times and the 6-yr-old just walked along calm as can be. So, might be worth a try.


                                • #17
                                  Sell. He might be just perfect for someone else but you need something different.


                                  • #18
                                    Just to add, I had a spooker for 17 years and I loved him. I raised him from a weanling and he was a loon at times. He was very easy to start and very quick to learn. He enjoyed being ridden, learned his changes without difficulty etc..

                                    He was bored when not being ridden and absolutely loved to hack out. I rode him knowing that a huge jump sideways could happen at any time. He only unseated me twice (three times if you count the time I asked him to canter and he fell flat on his face) in the 15 years that I rode him. I am not a nervous rider however. If I had been, he would have been unsuitable.

                                    (He never TRIED to unseat me though, and waited each time for me to get back on. If your horse is trying to throw you that's a definite no go). Mine did not spook at home while being ridden though, only when hacking out. I never showed him, he was my "at home, fun horse ".

                                    If your horse does this at home in an indoor or outdoor enclosure I would think he is not suitable for you.


                                    • #19
                                      I feel your pain, I have been lawndarted myself a few times too many in the past 8 months. I have sort of decided he has til the end of the month to get his act together or he is gone. I am beginning to hate him, and he has been awesome but at 54 I am getting too old for that shit.
                                      I say sell.


                                      • #20
                                        A spook is one thing - horse genuinely startles at something, jumps or shies away. All horses are capable of that. The bolting is another thing and a behavior I would not deal with. It's also a behavior that tends to really injure the rider.
                                        Sell, give away and move on to a better, safer ride for you.