Another horse buying fail, and guilt

I’ll keep this short. A good friend, a lifelong horsewoman, has had several years of health problems leaving her on blood thinners and with shaky confidence. She reached out to me last fall about wanting to buy a solid, experienced trail horse. I had met a cowboy up in the nearby canyon who was living up there all summer and fall, wrangling free ranging cattle. I saw him again and asked if he knew of any horses for sale. He was on a beautiful grey gelding and said he’d sell him for the right price, to the right home.

This is a horse he rode 12 hours a day, every other day, over every type of terrain, and the horse was unflappable in that setting. He sent me videos of his little nieces on the horse, on the trail, no problem.

I told my friend, she drove up with me and tried him out, liked him, had him vetted (clean bill of health), and the deal was done. Winter hit, and he sat.

I just talked to her again, and turned out she is terrified of the horse. Took him to a clinic and had a bad experience where he was “high as a kite”. She took him on a trail ride, with people she didn’t know beforehand, and was scared and stiff and had a “panic attack”.

I feel guilty for recommending the horse. I feel awful that she’s had such a bad experience. I know I didn’t make her buy the horse, but he honestly is one I would have loved to ride. It didn’t help that she paid more for him than she’d ever paid for a horse, over the objections of her husband.

Because she had owned horses her whole life I didn’t think to give her the advice on how I get to know a new horse: only ride with a small group (2 or 3) of riders on horses that are steady eddy types, lunge them first, set them up for success. A clinic with lots of riders and energy is not a calm environment, in my experience. Especially if the rider is nervous.

Since talking to her I’ve actually considered offering to buy the horse, but I just paid my taxes and have zero extra money. Do I offer to help her sell him? Or just stay out of it and wish her well? Or file this under “no good deed goes unpunished”?

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This sounds like a good horse with the wrong person. Friend may not be in the headspace for riding at all or may need to start slow with an instructor and and a super chill pony. Does the friend have good coaching available?

Honestly my advice would be for her to market the horse for sale now before the behavior gets worse. She may not get full price she paid. You could help by putting some rides on the horse to see what’s going on and settle him for prospective buyers. I would also reach out to the cowboy and see if he wants to buy back, what kind of offer he would make, or if he knows of a ranch buyer.

I expect this was a horse used to long days work in the outback, suddenly kept cooped up and taken to new stressful situations by a very anxious rider. She is likely driving him nuts with contradictory cues.

She should sell him and take some riding lessons to get her confidence back.

It sounds like she is not making entirely smart choices on her own and needs a coach to guide her.


Agree 100% with Scribbler. Nervous, anxious riders need horses that can tune them out a bit. This sounds like a well-trained, responsive horse that was working for a living, then sat (no routine) and was thrown into high-tension experiences with a very confusing rider. Not a good match, and likely never will be.

I always advise students to look for horses that are doing the job they want, on a schedule that they can keep. This horse was being ridden long hours by a professional. It is logical to expect that he will not be the same horse being ridden sporadically by a nervous amateur. Not the horse’s fault- he wasn’t trained for this new job! Her best bet would likely be to sell the horse (perhaps back to the cowboy, or through a reputable professional) and to find something that has already been proven to take care of nervous riders.


Agree with all of the above. I see this series of events often at the hunt club. Older riders Steady Eddie becomes unsuitable for hunting. Member buys a quiet horse, plops it into the hunt stable, and thinks a once a week ride with the hounds is enough work. It rarely is. I have two solid hunt horses. They are exercised 4 to 5 days a week under saddle or on the pony line. They are very quiet. But if I let them sit (like I do when I am on vacation) I need to expect small fireworks when I start them back.


A friend of mine suggested and connected me to a seller with this type of horse. She is a very good, brave rider. The horse was similar, very quiet and well trained, the owner could take him anywhere.

But at that point, I had not learned that the brakes are not in the reins, and the test ride was a disaster as I annoyed the poor thing and he started tossing his head and jigging. Totally my fault! But still not the right horse for me. At that point I needed one that plodded around and would stop at the slightest provocation.

Not your fault, just a mismatch of expectations here. I would reach out to the seller and explain the situation. No pressure, just and ask some open ended questions and see where it goes. He may be totally willing to take the horse back (not for the purchase price of course) and your friend can try again, or perhaps half lease at a lesson barn.


A fine-tuned professional horse. This horse is too good to waste/worth his weight in gold! Except most folks who need a horse like this train their own. Doubt your friend will be able to sell him for the money she paid out. Actually i think she would be lucky if she could sell him to a ranch for very much at all. But she might be able to find an energetic, confident young rider who would ride every day. A daily ride under a good rider would probably turn him back around. I agree with everyone above, i’d advise friend to sell and get another horse.

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Yes, obviously a huge miss-match. Don’t beat yourself up too much, but offer to assist with the exit strategy. She needs a school horse.

Start with contacting the man who sold the horse. Explain the situation, and while he may not buy him back, he may agree to sell him for your friend. I would suggest placing the horse in Training with original owner for several months to get him going again in a familiar setting, then sell. He will probably do this for less $ than a trainer/broker.
Give the cowboy a timeframe: sold in three months, and he gets a good commission. Not sold in Three months, and your friend places the horse with a sales outfit and he loses the commission. That way he has a motivator to get the horse sold, and if he doesn’t sell the horse, your friend has a tuned-up horse to send to a sales barn.


I agree. But beware that I’ve seen the same thing happen when someone buys a school horse. A horse doing 2-3 lessons a day 6 days/week may have the same issue when the workload drops to a few random rides. As someone said earlier, she needs to buy a horse that is doing the job she wants it to do, in roughly the same workload and turnout situation. It also needs to have the personality to not react to her nerves. Not an easy animal to find.


I guess I should’ve been more specific… I really meant a schooled horse that fits her needs.

And I agree that taking a horse out of a school program and plopping them in someone’s backyard for occasional riding is not a good plan either!

She needs to find a horse that is specifically doing the things and living the life it would lead with her… Already. Successfully.


Agree with this ^^^ and what others have said.

I live in Arizona cattle country and hard working ranch horses are awesome at their jobs. But those particular skills don’t necessarily translate into arena riding or trail rides among a group of low-energy horses. I’ve known several adults who have moved out here and bought nice working horses off cattle ranches to use for recreational riding. It rarely works out well. The ranch horses are broke to death for their line of work, but these ammy adults think they’re buying a slow-legged, “fancy trained” western pleasure horse. Ah, nope. Two different jobs.

There’s a definite market for solid ranch horses, especially those with experience working cattle. Start with the cowboy and see if you can re-home the horse back into the world he knows. There’s a horse for your friend. Just not this one.


sounds like your friend needs to be with a trainer who has schoolies rather than a horse owner. “there he sat” tells me she is not that much in to riding or keeping a horse. This sounds like a management issue rather than a mismatch. I agree that finding a young rider who can get the horse working and in condition, then sell might be a plan, as is contacting the cowboy.

moving forward she may be better off in a situation where she can half lease in a trainers barn where oversight and management is a little tighter.

I would feel no guilt in this situation. Unless there is missing information, sounds like you misread the room and the owner was not completely honest with herself or those helping her.

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Yeah, I’m a little sad (for the horse) that the owner didn’t do a bit more due diligence in ensuring the horse was being sold on to a better situation, after he’d put so much work into him. (I’m not “blaming” the former owner, before everyone jumps on me, but it’s still unfortunate from the horse’s perspective, since clearly this wasn’t the “right” home for the gelding he said he was looking for.)

I think many of us on this board can relate to being middle-aged and having (expensive) health issues that shake our confidence. But getting a new, fit horse used to working right before winter, and then letting him sit sounds like your friend’s health might be her priority, not horses, and perhaps taking lessons or part-leasing a very chill horse might be the best option. I know some people don’t/can’t ride over the winter, but then it might not be the best time to get a new horse that’s an unknown quantity to you, even ridden regularly. But it ultimately wasn’t your decision to let him sit, or to search for a horse, but hers.


Thanks for the thoughtful and useful replies. I’ve calmed down a bit and I’m going to talk to her and see what she wants to do. And she may not even know what that is right now. It’s hard to get older and lose your confidence. But if she’s scared of him, it’s not fair to keep him. He is, as I said, a very nice horse.


I’m at a self board barn with a number of part time coaches but no program. I consider it the “low end of quality horses.” Everyone has an eye for a nice horse and often a few ambitions. But everyone is on a budget too. So many people end up with a project including OTTB and OTSB as well as under educated or fallen through the cracks nicer adult horses. We are mostly returning riders, adult beginners, and juniors, with some lifelong AA.

I would say almost without exception that every person with a new horse here goes through a steep learning curve that ultimately requires some deep self scrutiny, a steep learning curve, and the ability to problem solve independently and find the right resources and help.

The returning riders who bought dead broke dude string horses have faced this. The ambitious ammie or lo level pro boarding here that sources their dream green WB faces this. The brave junior with an OTTB faces this.

Almost everyone ends up with more horse than they expected. Some people get injured or scared. If you are in the right mental and physical state tstep up your game this is where your horsemanship can grow exponentially.

But it is perfectly fine to move the horse on if it is not a good fit. That is a very personal decision and requires self scrutiny. Blood thinners complicate the picture immensely because of the risk of injury.


he’s a nice horse when he’s working 6 days a week under a competent, confident, chill rider. that is not the horse for an uneasy, unsteady, older rider riding one hour, maybe, 3-4 days a week.

see what she wants to do, but remember- where he was a good boy and where’s he’s being a bit too much were as different as night and day.

horses for courses.


That was me. I’d been riding an Appy cross with a dude string, and he impressed the heck out of me with his behavior during a very dangerous thunderstorm when we got caught quite far from the barn. The barn owner said they were going to sell him, so I impulse bought him. Several visits to the ER later, I sold him for next to nothing to another dude string. Unfortunately, once he figured out he could dump me at will, he was no longer reliable enough to use for paying guests. But the wranglers loved him, and they rode him out with the string. They ended up selling him to a guy who used him to go into the mountains to hunt. I sure hoped the guy knew what he was doing.

I got a smarter about buying horses and took up driving instead of riding, and that went far better, even with a hot Hackney pony. He was a bit nuts, but he never hurt me.



Yeah, this is kind of like taking a working border collie and thinking it can live in an apartment with walks 2x a week. It is still a valuable animal, and needs to be matched up with a more suitable situation. I think talking to the seller is a good first step as it sounds like he liked and valued the horse. Even if he can’t/won’t sell it back, he likely knows others who can use a good working ranch horse and she can recoup at least a good portion of her money.


I knew the punchline as soon as I read “cowboy rode him 12 hours a day” followed by “then my timid ammy friend bought him and he sat all winter.” These situations make me want to give my forehead some keyboard. The horse was set up to fail.

OP, that situation is not your fault, unless you knew that the horse was going to sit around unworked. You say your friend is an experienced horsewoman, but every experienced horseperson knows this situation is a recipe for trouble.


I had a tb that was my work horse. THE quietest tb ever, that we called him Jaaaames.

When my mum lost her horse, I bought him back and gave him to her.

It was a week before she called me for help. She was experienced and did all the right things. He was on hay only and was being worked an hour a day.

She had taken him down the road to work on a grassy area. She had to dismount. She then thought to herself that she has not had to dismount from a horse for 50 years and got back on. She had to dismount again and now she had a 16.2hh tb whirling around her to try and lead home.

I came and hopped on him and he was as high as a kite. I took him out for a long ride. He started with leaping through the air. Which was not fun, when he did it right in front of a road sign, and was going to land at the base of it!

By the time I had been on him a hour he was back to normal.

Mum was riding him 1 hour a day, but at work I had been riding him 5 or 6 hours a day. So the work to feed balance was out of whack. Because he had only gone into the realm of overfed and underworked for a day. He came out of it in a day. When they are in that realm it can take them as long to get out of it as it takes them to get into it.

The horse in your story went from being ridden 12 hours a day to nothing. His balance went way out of whack.

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I was nearly the former owner in this situation. Pony mare, very very forward but no buck, bolt, rear and rarely spooked. Very bold on trails, reasonably educated in dressage. I could take her anywhere. Put her up for sale. She scared the crap out of nearly everyone who rode her. They all said they thought she was going to bolt. She wasn’t, she just had a short, quick pony stride and liked to go. You can leave her for 6 months, get back on and she is exactly the same.

She didn’t sell. She went out on one trial and that only lasted a week. I still take said pony anywhere. She is a great fit for me. Not so for most other people.

I agree, she needs to look for a horse who is currently doing what she wants to do, with a similar workload. I’ve known too many horses who are great when worked 6 days a week, and then there are major fireworks if they have two weeks off.

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