When is it time to reconsider if your horse is the right one for you?


If you are caught in the cycle of do I carry on or don’t I, I have a simple mantra for you – Quit or Commit, but don’t dither in the middle.

I have many clients who have experienced doubts about whether their horse is right for them and whether it is ‘right’ to keep going or to simply give up or sell their horse and get another.

Most of the time these questions come after one of the following has happened:

  • A confidence knock to you or your horse.
  • Following recovery of an injury or another diagnosed condition.
  • Any time within the first year of owning or riding a new horse.

I have not included in this list the 4th reason which is when a horse has reached its full potential for the job you are asking it to do.  This tends to be a more constructive and structured thought process reached over several months with a more positive mindset.

Almost everyone who has owned or loaned a horse has experienced doubts about whether their horse is right for them or indeed they are right for their horse.  This goes for all riders up to top level competition riders, so if you are asking yourself this question right now then you are not alone!

So, when is the time to call it quits?

  • If it has become unsafe. 
  • If the horse’s welfare is being affected.
  • If the horse is physically incapable of or not fit for the job you are asking.

Unsurprisingly, as a horse lover and professional coach keen to see people succeed, I am not one to advocate giving up or changing your horse to solve the problem.  So before throwing in the towel here is a check list for you to follow to help you make a constructive, informed and rationale decision on what is right for you and importantly your sometimes difficult but none the less deserving Neddie:

  1. Go back to the drawing board and take a fresh look at the problems in hand.

We get so caught up in the emotion of the problems we are dealing with we stop seeing the whole picture, take a beat, a breath and look with fresh eyes. Chat it through with someone objective, knowledgeable and who you trust. (P.S. coaching can really help with this.)

  1. Seek help.

Find someone who ‘gets’ you and ‘gets’ your horse.  This can be an instructor, trainer, coach, vet, farrier etc. Someone you trust and is a professional.  It is worth paying for proper support, it will pay off in the long run.  But don’t be afraid to speak to a few people before committing to the right one for you.

  1. Quiet the doubters and advice givers.

Friendly help and advice from lots of well-intentioned but none-the-less uninvited parties, all with differing opinions on what you should do, can leave you in a spin with even less direction than you had before.  Choose 1 person or route to take and close off all other noise.  I promise this will give you a clearer head and you will make better progress.

  1. Recommit to your horse every day.

This WILL have an impact, not only on your horse’s behaviour but also how you approach and respond to every situation. You must decide to commit to whatever you are asking of your horse in that moment. If you have too many doubts, don’t get on or do something that you know both of you can do until you can get support.

  1. Check in with your ambitions vs yours and your horse’s capability.

Maybe the bar is set too high and what you are asking is too much for you and your horse.  If so, you are setting yourself up for failure and this will feed a negative cycle rather than positive progression.  Having ambition is great, but if it is focussed on incorrectly, it can add pressure which is both unhelpful and unnecessary.

  1. Set realistic short-term goals.

Short term goals are an awesome way of making a big problem seem easier to overcome and brings our focus in on more achievable actions that will give us results faster.  Before you know it you can feel positive and motivated and like you making progress.

  1. Make a plan, set a timeframe, see it through.

You have a goal, great! Now make a plan.  How will you achieve your goal?  How often will you ride?  What exercises will you do? What mindset will you approach each day with? Set yourself a realistic timeframe to achieve your goal and then stick with it.  Even on the hard days.  If you need to adjust the plan then do, but make sure you have given it time to work.

  1. Reflect and reward.

As humans we are brilliant at reflecting on negative situations or things that haven’t gone quite as we had hoped, but we are less inclined to reflect on or celebrate our successes.  Please offer yourself and your horse the kindness you deserve and reflect on your progress, find the positives and celebrate your successes, however small they may seem.  This is your hobby and your passion after all, you deserve to enjoy it.

If after you have followed these steps you still feel that continuing with your current equine partnership is not right for you, the final item on the check list is:

  1. Fulfil your responsibility to your horse.

When all is said and done, we are our horse’s custodians, we are their voice and their advocate and our job above anything else is to protect them and ensure their safety and wellbeing. Take the time to honour this privilege we are given and find them the right home for them to flourish in the way you hope to yourself.

Coaching, training plans and support can be offered by EquiVie – Coaching for Equestrians.  For any support and guidance, I am always happy to have a complimentary chat to offer thoughts on which route to take.