don't Let Fear Ruin Your Equine Relationship

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We often see riders struggling with horses that are unsuitable for them, and we find it frustrating, because an equine relationship doesn't have to be that way. Sometimes the horse really does have a serious issue or problem, but often there really isn?t anything wrong with the horse?other than the fact that He's unsuited for the rider?s abilities or goals.

Most often, the ?problem? revolves around some kind of fear. Perhaps this horse once acted in a way that unnerved or even injured the rider?he spooked or spun or bucked, or he does all those regularly whenever a certain stimulus sets him off (like wind, a loud noise, an object beside the ring, or other horses in the ring). Or, worse, the horse threw and injured someone. Many times, the horse they're currently riding didn't do this deed. Instead, it was a previous horse that did it, and, ever since, the rider has expected every horse to act the same way.

We've found that riders buy unsuitable horses and then become afraid of them mostly because of two primary reasons: Either the horse was too inexpensive to pass up, or they thought the horse was beautiful or cute and simply had to have him, even though nothing about his temperament, size or experience suggested he?d be a suitable mount. A third reason is that they haven't accepted that they aren?t the same rider they were when they were 15 or 21, and so they've bought a horse they could have ridden then but can't ride any longer. Usually the horse is just too high-octane for their abilities or level of confidence, and the relationship becomes quickly dysfunctional. So the rider starts to ride with increasing tension, which makes the horse more anxious and even more likely to repeat the action that caused the rider?s anxiety.

This situation is like a computer ?do-loop,? an escalating cycle that can only be broken by getting the person to stop riding the horse. Sometimes a trainer can ?restart? the computer by putting the rider on another horse or riding the horse themselves for a period, then putting the pair back together when each has separately gotten past the causative problem. But sometimes the only solution is to separate them?sell the horse to a more suitable rider and find a more suitable horse for the rider.

All too often, though, people vehemently resist or refuse to sell (or give away) an unsuitable horse so they can find a new one. I'm not at all suggesting that every time you fall off or have a problem you should discard your horse like a plastic cup you're done with. But if you and the horse simply aren?t a suitable pair, sell or give your horse away to a more suitable situation and move on to a new relationship. Why keep trying to ride a horse if it isn?t enjoyable'? I'd bet that your horse isn?t enjoying this dysfunctional relationship either.

Confidence is one of the most important ingredients in your partnership with your horse or horses. Do you fit together physically and mentally' As a result, do you trust each other and believe in each other' Would you jump anything on him, or go down any trail with him, or just be certain that he won?t do anything to endanger you'

We all get along with different types of horses better than others. it's like finding your perfect dance partner. And sometimes, sadly, you have to move on to the next dance partner, before the song is finished.

?John Strassburger, Performance Editor