Here are 10 telling signs that it’s time to put up the for sale sign and look for something else.
1. He doesn’t physically fit me
While it’s not always the most obvious sign, being too big or small for your horse can certainly make a difference. Plenty of riders who adore their childhood ponies choose to stay on them forever, no matter how long their legs grow. Even if you’re a light rider, when your leg starts banging into the back of your pony’s leg, it’s time to climb onto something bigger. On the contrary, too much horse is a problem that many riders experience. Riding a horse who is far bigger than what is suitable for you can easily translate into canters that can’t be sat and being jumped out of the saddle. A small rider on a big horse also means that, unless you have abs of steel, you have limited control over the horse. You might be better off settling for something around 15hh.
2. He’s not the right age
While it’s always great to have a young horse who you feel might have endless years left with you, a young horse is hard work and certainly not suitable for a novice or nervous rider. If you are not naturally confident or possibly not the most patient rider, a young horse is not for you! On the opposite end, if your horse is in his senior years, your expectations of going up the grades might need revisiting.
3. He has conformation faults
The number of conformationally perfect horses is few and far between. But even the most oddly put together horses can go on to be top competitors. While this is sometimes the case, the reality of conformational faults means that the horse may be restricted or limited in some way. For example, a cow-hocked horse will unlikely succeed as an endurance horse and a horse with kissing spine will probably struggle to jump up the grades. If you feel like your horse isn’t reaching his full potential, consider his physical restrictions.
4. He’s a problem horse
Now we’re talking in the sense that he’s one of those horses who has a pulled shoe, sore back or lame leg every time you arrive at the yard to ride. While this is much more a physical problem than anything else, if you’re not willing or able to get the symptoms treated, it’s time to pass him on to someone else who will. Alongside that, some horses are higher maintenance than others and it’s not always affordable for every horse owner.
5. He has no respect for me
While it’s not always pleasant to acknowledge, a horse who avoids being caught in the paddock, swings his hindquarters at you in the stable, or won’t let you put on a bridle probably doesn’t have much respect for you. If he’s a school horse being ridden by different people every day then that’s one thing, but a single-owner horse who clearly doesn’t want to be around you isn’t a good sign. Consider bonding exercises out of the saddle before you make any drastic decisions!
6. We don’t get each other
Depending on where you have learnt to ride and who has taught you over the years, you will have adapted an individual riding style. While that particular style might work for some horses, in other cases you might not be able to get the horse to accept the contact or ride even remotely correctly into a jump. If you’re the type of rider who likes a hot and forward horse, then a cold and heavier horse is not for you! If you’re more comfortable on a horse who basically plods along, then a hot breed certainly won’t boost your confidence.
7. He’s spooky
Spookiness is enough to put most people off. While the reality is that no horse is bombproof, as many people would like to believe, some horses can be overly spooky. A spooky horse ultimately needs a confident rider who will be able to help him move past his fear in a calm and kind manner. A novice or inexperienced rider on a skittish horse is bound to end up more nervous than when they began!
8. He doesn’t give me confidence
There is no place for fear in the riding world. Riding demands a certain bravery and confidence of the rider, and this can only develop with the right horse. If you constantly feel scared or nervous on your horse, then this is a big sign that you need to look for something else. It’s important that you always feel comfortable on the horse you ride, not just for your own confidence but for your horse’s too. Horses feed off your energy and your nervousness will only make them more anxious too.
9. He’s not at the right level for me
Not all horses go on to be champions. It’s important to be aware of your personal riding level and future goals when considering your equine partner. Some horses just don’t have the physical capacity to progress from level to level. If you want to reach grand prix levels but your horse is not able to meet those standards, it’s time to look for a horse who can.
10. He doesn’t have heart
Even if your horse has all the talent, technique and scope in the world, it’s all no good without heart. Some horses are genuinely interested in learning from their rider, while others seem to be distracted by other things going on in the arena or simply seem bored. Some horses are zoned in when it’s competition time while others panic and can’t perform. Your horse has to know his job and want to do it for you.