At first, everything’s great. You’re so in love with your new horse that he can do no wrong in your eyes. So what if you can’t get him to go nicely in an outline, or if he keeps getting away from you when you lead him in and out of the field and prances off to visit his new horsemates? At least he’s demonstrating a rather lovely, flowing working trot!
But a few weeks into horse ownership and buyer’s remorse kicks in. We’ve touched on this in previous blogs – it’s when you wake up in a cold sweat in the dead of night thinking ‘ohgodohgodohgod, what have I done? I’m the owner of a psycho horse! I’ll never be able to ride him properly – but that’s the least of my worries as he’ll probably kill me first! Should I send him back? Or sell him?’
Don’t panic! This is perfectly normal. The good news is that it’s pretty unlikely that you’re the owner of a psycho horse. Many horses do test the boundaries as they settle into a new home and may exhibit some challenging behaviour. With help and support from a good riding instructor and experienced yard mates, nine times out of ten, you’ll be just fine.
Of course, that’s not to say that some people don’t discover they’ve bought the wrong horse. If your horse continually exhibits dangerous behaviour, such as rearing, bolting, broncing, throwing itself on the ground etc, then please do seek expert advice.
But even without the buyer’s remorse, getting to know a new horse is a challenge in itself. To be honest, it can be pretty disheartening at times. You may find yourself doubting your ability to ride and care for your horse, and this can make you a bit, well, paranoid. Like when you’ve listened to the conflicting advice from all your yardmates on the best trainer for you and your horse, and finally picked one, only for them to watch you ride and say, ‘Who taught you before this?’ It’s a perfectly innocent question, but to your self-doubting mind it translates as, ‘Was it one of those people who give rides on seaside donkeys during the summer holidays?’
Riding lessons aren’t cheap, and it can feel like you’re throwing money into a black hole if you still can’t get a consistent outline after weeks of lessons, but your trainer can get Prince going perfectly after sitting on his back for two minutes.
Again, don’t worry. The thing is, you’re heavily invested (emotionally AND financially) in this relationship with your horse working out. It’s a lot of pressure! And very few people perform well under pressure.
So take the pressure off. Stop comparing yourself to your yardmates and feeling like you should be out jumping 1.10 metre tracks every weekend just because they are. Try not to focus on being the next Charlotte Dujardin/Piggy French/Holly Smith and instead, spend time just enjoying your horse. Give him long, leisurely grooming sessions. Find his favourite scratchy spot on his back. If you’re lucky enough to have decent hacking, make the most of exploring the countryside on your trusty steed.
As a wise equestrian once said, it takes a year to get to know a new horse. Really, you’ve got all the time in the world. Relax – and enjoy the ride!