Updated: Aug 23
Developing a deep affection for a four-legged companion can be a truly enchanting journey. Yet, there are moments when it becomes clear that the equine partner you've connected with might not be the most suitable one. This realization, though challenging, carries significance. It's crucial to recognize it and gracefully part ways, considering the best interests of both yourself and the horse.
As I pen down these words, I find myself reminiscing about an episode from almost four decades past, back when we embarked on our venture into horse ownership. Naturally, our initiation had its share of learning curves, and while any oversights were well-intentioned, they were also instructive.
We went to look at Ricky (not the horse in the image) a stunning 4 year old grey gelding from Ireland. we remember being filled with excitement and anticipation. To be fair to the dealer, he did warn us that the horse was very green and would need a lot of work however, this beautiful animal captured our hearts with its gentle temperament and stunning appearance. But, as we soon found out, there was a side to this horse that we didn't anticipate.
Looking back, it is clear that we should have been more cautious before buying this horse. A 4-year-old horse with very little training was not the right choice for our inexperience. However, we were so enamoured with the horse's beauty and sweet temperament that we didn't fully consider the challenges that lay ahead.
Whenever we took Ricky out of his familiar environment, he quickly became a bag of nerves. Despite his usually calm demeanour, he would become anxious and nervous, easily spooking at every sound and movement. This was made even worse by our lack of experience as riders. We were green and didn't know how to properly handle the horse in these situations.
We then persevered for 3 long years without making much progress. Sharon entered the odd dressage test but it was never a pleasure for her.
I should at this point mention that someone had suggested I take him hunting. I had never been hunting before and what a mistake that was. We had been out for about half an hour during which time Ricky, spooked and flinched at just about everything in sight. Then came our first hunt jump, for him and for me. I rode up to it trying to be confident, Ricky slammed on the brakes and I went straight over his head and landed on the other side with a broken arm.
We sent Ricky for training:
Thankfully, not long after, in fact my arm was still in plaster, we encountered an elderly gentleman who was a follower of the Spanish Riding School's teachings. He kindly offered to train our horse, free of charge, relishing the challenge presented. Over a 4-month period, the man worked with our horse, and under his methods, and Ricky underwent a remarkable transformation.
The sight of Ricky flawlessly performing piaffe and passage in an open field was nothing short of stunning. We quickly realized that we would never be able to continue this level of training, and at that point, we made the difficult decision to let the horse go.
After reaching the decision to part with Ricky, we put him up for sale. Although it is a painful subject, it's important to note that the person who purchased Ricky also faced similar challenges. Unfortunately, the horse was resold once again, and we were never made aware of the final outcome.
It's worth noting that being a custodian of a horse demands substantial commitment, along with thoughtful evaluation and adequate groundwork. Despite being captivated by the horse's allure and charm, it's vital to weigh our competence and available provisions for furnishing the essential nurturing and coaching. In certain instances, opting for separation could emerge as the optimal choice, ensuring the welfare of both the horse and its caretaker.
So, when to let go:
Embracing the Journey: The initial stride in releasing is acknowledging that the horse you hold affection for might not be the optimal choice for your journey. This juncture can be emotionally demanding, yet it's a requisite step for propelling ahead.
Professional Guidance: It's worth contemplating the prospect of consulting a reliable trainer or an expert in equine matters. Their insights can offer a fresh outlook, enabling you to evaluate if your equine companion aligns genuinely with your needs and aspirations.
Prioritizing Equine Welfare: When opting to part ways with your horse, it's paramount to contemplate their well-being. Should the horse encounter difficulties within its current setting or if it's not harmonious with your riding approach or background, it might be advantageous to identify a novel abode where they can flourish.
Finding a new home: Once the resolution to release your horse has been settled, the task at hand is to identify a new haven that resonates well with their temperament. It's prudent to establish connections with trusted trainers or reputable organizations to locate a prospective custodian who will foster a nurturing and encouraging environment.
Saying Goodbye: Bidding farewell to a cherished equine companion is a process laden with emotions. While never devoid of challenges, it can also be a step towards healing. Devote quality moments to your equine friend and treasure the moments that have been shared.
Releasing an equine companion dear to your heart is a journey fraught with complexities, yet it's crucial to acknowledge when the partnership isn't ideal and to prioritize the well-being of both yourself and the horse. Seeking guidance from experts and proceeding meticulously can facilitate a smooth transition towards a fresh chapter.
The Confident Rider website was created to help nervous horse riders overcome their anxiety and fear through the use of Self-Hypnosis. See the range HERE
In addition to the Self-Hypnosis audio sessions, we also try to offer advice and resources about all aspects of owning or riding horses and ponies through this Blog. We welcome suggestions for topics that you would like us to cover.
Sharon Shinwell a co-author of the popular book "Ride With Confidence," which was forwarded by Kelly Marks, the well-known Horse Whisperer.
"This article represents the personal views and opinions of the author and should not be taken as representative of the official policy or position of any organization, professional, expert, or individual."