ID MyHorse

When to Hold and When to Fold Part Two

Last week, I blogged about Finn, a half-Arabian, half-Quarter horse/Thoroughbred that I have owned for 2 years. I described how I have struggled for that entire time to convert a horse bred to be a show pony into a confident, comfortable trail mount. My awesome gray Arabian, Kadeen, was a show horse when I bought him. I have put all of the trail miles on him. He’s an incredibly confident, sure-footed mount. But sometimes, you have to read the writing on the wall and admit defeat.

As I write this, Finn has been under the watchful eye of a show barn trainer for over a week. He’s doing great!  He hasn’t pulled back while tied once. He hasn’t bucked or carried on under saddle at all. Furthermore, he’s calm and relaxed and compliant. That is not the horse I saw when I asked him to venture into the great outdoors… It is quite clear to me that I was asking him to do something he was not comfortable doing.

A Horse is a Horse, Of Course, Of Course?

I was astounded at the number of responses I received that suggested I put him down for his bad behavior. Certainly, the behaviors I described in last week’s blog were awful, dangerous behaviors. Finn erupted in the trailer and gave me a concussion! But just because he behaved so terribly, it doesn’t mean he has a screw loose. Granted, he’s not the most flexible, easy-going equine on the planet. He does like to test his owner/rider to gauge his options. But a frightened, unhappy horse has limited ways of expressing his discomfort. Refusal and rearing and tantrums are part of the repertoire of a stressed horse. Would I like him to be more courageous? Yes, of course! Would I have preferred that we could have developed the trust and connection that would have overcome his fear? Of course! But he has to bring the right brain to that equation.

I have an incredible relationship with Kadeen, my gray gelding. However, it took nearly 3 years for it to solidify. Part of that journey involved me recognizing the strengths and weaknesses of my horse, and working within those parameters. He is a confident, assertive horse. He doesn’t like following on the trail.  However, he will do it if I ask (now!) But that’s not what he wants. It is not a pleasant experience for me to take him to an organized ride with over a hundred horses. Rather than try and make him be something he isn’t, why not appreciate his amazing qualities and work with his less desirable traits? Conversely, if I choose to participate in a large organized ride, I shouldn’t be angry with my horse if he behaves in a predictable way.

It would be different if I was describing a horse that was dangerous in a variety of settings. A horse that strikes out or bites or exhibits aggressive behavior without provocation is truly dangerous! The conscientious horse owner would rule out any medical reasons for unpredictable, dangerous behavior. Finn’s level of compliance at the trainer’s barn is just fine. He is back in an environment where he feels safe and comfortable. I need to find him a nice hunt seat show home. I truly believe he will be fine in that discipline.

Once the decision was made to find a different horse, the hunt was on! I have ridden a horse or two over my lifetime and purchased a few too. I scoured the ads and posted on Facebook and considered quite a few prospects. Alan and I drove to Texas last week and checked out the most suitable candidate. We really liked her, and she now is hanging out with Kadeen. Her name is Sadie, and I will talk more about her in future blogs. Suffice it to say, we went trail riding today and it was the best trail ride I have had in 2 years. She was absolutely awesome. Stay tuned for more on Miss Sadie…

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