I have owned ridden and competed horses my entire life (I’m now middle aged). I was born into a very unhorsy middle class family that supported my “habit”. Over the past five years, I have dedicated my life to Eventing. Moved across country to a popular Eventing city, bought a little farm, training relentlessly, started riding a little professionally. I fully support myself with my “real” 9-5 job to make ends meet. My goal is to get to the upper levels-I have the heart, but not the money. I just lost my prelim horse 6 months ago-when I lost him, I lost all hopes and dreams. Finding another one has been let’s say, discouraging especially in this sellers market. I’m starting to think-should I just give up? I’m a go getter and will not be happy just plodding around the low levels, while watching others, w much less heart, who can’t ride, continue to move to the top because they have money. Has anyone ever felt this way? Any advice to keep going or am I torturing myself and should just give up? I told myself I would give it 6 more months and see where I am at and make a decision then!
I’m sorry you lost your Prelim horse and I’m sorry you’re going through this.
I find the toughest thing is social media, get off of it. Everything is rainbows and butterflies when you’re on social media. No one shares the bad with the good.
I have many times been jealous or envious of how much easier it is for that young rider to move up the levels or that adult amateur that has all the money in the world to buy the easiest horse and afford lessons and training rides weekly.
I do not have that luxury, I’ve had to accept that I am not perfect, I have passion and drive, but I will never be the best as I have limitations. Drive is huge, now I don’t aspire to be an Olympic rider, my dreams are much smaller than yours, but I’ve sadly accepted I am just that, an amateur rider wanting to have fun and keep growing.
If you can, keep on pushing! That diamond in the rough is out there. Sounds like you have the determination and drive, just financial lacking, but really, do you NEED all the big monies to find that horse you can bring along. You might not be able to buy the already going Prelim horse, but there is that little novice horse out there with the same big dreams as you to ride the big tracks.
I think the timing of the year and with COVID, its very easy to fall into a slump and become bummed, Keep on kicking on. Maybe read some new inspiring books, or go watch some lessons (if you can). Be a horse trying wh*re lol. You’ll find your gem.
Start looking for 2. Your problem is that you lost your prelim horse and did not have one to replace immediately.
You need 2. One that is trained to enjoy. One to train. By the time the one you are taining is trained enough to enjoy, the joy one is now old enough to retire. You now ride the younger one to enjoy and get another one to train.
Of course you need a third for when those 2 are lame!
And a fourth one when that one hurts himself as well.
I understand where you’re coming from. Adult ammy life is hard. Between all the things I do (real job, side gigs, routine horse care that I can’t afford to outsource because rough board/hay/grain/farrier/vet eat up all of the ‘real job’ money, and trying to keep my life together generally) I feel like a hamster in a wheel just making the time to actually ride. When everything is going well it’s okay, but then the horse goes lame and maybe it’s not just an abscess and oh by the way I’m still trying to crawl out from the last batch of vet bills for having horse’s conjunctival tumor removed at State in the fall and I wonder why I bothered trying so hard in the first place.
If you’re on social media, I think the poster who mentioned distancing from that is spot on. I think we’re in the same area, based on your prior post about the horse you lost, and it is hard to shop on a budget - you’re really limited to fresh off-the-track since anything youngish going BN/N here with a glimmer of upper level potential is going to be $25K easily, more if it’s fancy. Plus if you’re following the pros here who seem to get a new lovely young imported thing to resell every other week - or the adult ammys who are either independently wealthy or just have astonishing amounts of free time and spare cash to devote to this sport - it is kind of soul-crushing and hard not to be bitter.
But I find that I move in and out of this place cyclically - I could never “give up” on horses for good. My advice is to quit watching others, unless they’re really your friends, then find it in your heart to be happy that things are going well for them. Since you’re currently horseless, maybe take a designated break (4-6 months?) from horses to save money and focus on other personal goals and then go back to shopping for your next partner with a fresh outlook?
Have you considered mapping out what makes you feel successful? Could buying OTTBs with the goal of developing them into really rock solid BN/N types be rewarding? That could give you a pipeline for identifying a UL partner while having shorter term rewards of creating solid partners for riders with UL aspirations. Does the journey keep you engaged enough that you’d be willing to take the risk on a really serious behavior case that would only get passed along by word of mouth but has the scope for UL? Would you rather not ride and only teach for a few years to save up enough to buy exactly what you want?
There are many paths to happiness. I completely get what it feels like to feel like you’ve hit a roadblock. At this stage only you can figure out whether you want to explore another path or pack it in and head home.
I think you need to take time to figure out WHY you ride. At the moment it sounds more ego driven than anything. Why else would you compare yourself to other riders?
We all lose horses, and it sucks. And when we lose one that is as much a part of us we don’t know where we and and they begin is gutting. But, in my life, I learned to honor every horse that died in my arms by being better to the next horse. My current buddy has a lot of ghosts on his back along with me.
Back to your dilemma. Most of my life in horses was that about MY ego. No fence was big enough, no horse tough enough. Me and my brothers were always in competition in the ring. I feel sorry for some of of my horses back then. I wasn’t riding to be a good horseman.
Today when we all are now in our late 50s/early 60s we sit for hours and talk about how much we LOVE what we do. We aren’t out to prove things anymore. We ride and train because we want to be good riders and we LOVE THE PROCESS, not the end goal. We love taking the time to build a confident jumper from nothing, a true partner.
I wanted to get back to Advanced and now that I am having so much fun building a partner, I really don’t care anymore. Yes, I still love big fences, but I’d rather have my buddy by my side rather than trashing him just for my ego.
Now, spending an hour training with my brother, talking horses, techniques, whiskey, rides, is worth more than any ribbon. We both still love jumping big, but it only comes from when we ride so well the horse does it without effort or cajoling. They want it as much as we do. And the joy happens as much at home as at any competition. Finishing my life jumping big with a great horse, spent in the company of family is worth more than any ribbon.
It’s time for you to honestly and deeply reflect as to why you are doing this sport. The answer will give you the vision and freedom you ask.
Thank you all for the responses-some wise words spoken here (except for the person who told me to get 4 horses?! Haha-I can barely afford 1! No but it was funny-in a dream world that would make sense). Funny thing I deleted my social a few days ago-that has been good-I did that when my horse first died and slowly creeped back on and now I see the effects. I do love the process-it’s what continues to drag me out to my trainers barn everyday to ride others horses after a long day of work. I do need to let go of my ego-its hard to figure out the difference between drive and ego-But I want to be able to do that. Finally I guess one of the things holding me back from getting another one is I’m so damn scared of losing that one-I’m excited to give another horse a good life, but I just can’t right now. I am hoping that will change with time-I’m just surprised this loss seemed ok at the beginning and has gotten worse with time-I’m looking forward to healing-thank you all.
Grief is a very personal journey and you not only lost a horse but hopes and dreams too. Grief takes time. If you actually enjoy horses and miss them, how about supporting some of your local eventing friends by exercising and grooming at shows? A good way to keep your ear to the ground whilst observing and learning too. Or why not try something different? Give yourself a break from eventing and have some fun elsewhere. Any local foxhunts? That will certainly help build xc skills whilst waiting for the next horse to come into your life. Ride on the track, which will educate you about riding at speed which is also v useful going xc. Perhaps plan to go on some overseas riding vacations, post covid, using the money you’re not spending on training and competing. Try something totally out of your box, such as one of the Western disciplines. You might even find your new eventer tucked away in a different discipline. Your own specialist skills won’t dissipate like morning mist. Just be kind to yourself whilst you grieve.
I’m sorry you lost Prelim horse.
Are you looking for an “already going” horse or a young one?
If you’re looking for an already going horse, I FEEL THIS as I have a client looking for one and there seems to be NOTHING to look at. Where are all the Training+ horses under $35k?? The ones that aren’t super fancy or have rails or need some maintenance, please appear to me.
If you’re looking for a green horse, I recommend not going out looking for your “next great upper level horse” but instead going out to look for a sensible nice enough horse that might go upper level but also might end up being a fun horse to ride for a year and then resell as a BN/N packer. Look for one you like riding and maybe as the potential to go up, but expect to just ride it up the levels as much you can and then possibly resell when you feel like the horse is ready.
My two cents.
If you aren’t ready to get The One, then I recommend doing up a couple ottbs as investment projects.
Get a nice moving one for $3-5k, work with your trainer for a year to turn it into a $20k horse. Wash rinse repeat.
You’ll learn a ton, make a little money (or at least get most of your board and training bills back in a lump sum), and when one comes along that you really don’t want to sell, voila, there is The One.
I agree with all points with @Willesdon! You are grieving not only the loss of your horse, but the loss of your plans for the future with him. That’s really hard, and grief isn’t linear - it will subside and then crop back up when you least expect it.
The ‘take a break and try new disciplines’ is a cliche because it works! I finished a lease on a horse this fall and was very, very sad about it. I also realized I couldn’t afford to move up with my current trainer and had to figure out a new plan. I went and rode with some new trainers, I rode babies, I took a western lesson, I went foxhunting. It was really refreshing and gave me great perspective on my riding and why I do this - because I love the horses and I love the process.
I did that while also telling everyone I knew the totally insane thing I was looking for - a horse to move up on for dirt cheap, essentially. And it took months, but I found a free lease on a fabulous older schoolmaster who will hopefully pack me around this summer.
Take all the time you need. Maybe getting a baby or leasing something would be fun in the meantime. The right horse will come along when you need it.
I think it’s an uphill climb honestly without the syndicates & sponsorships. Doable but definitely more challenges. I think if you feel ready to look for another horse, I would personally go for an OTTB or find a nice WB cross as you can sometimes find them for really good prices. I bought an OTTB & found that she made a really eventing prospect! We went through basic laterals, flying changes, intro to xc including going down banks, & more. They learn really fast, have great work ethic, & are wonderfully athletic. Before WBs were as popular, the TBs were the big sporthorses!
I have been around long enough to have outlived all but two of my eventing and hunting horses. The grieving process for each one goes on forever. I still miss all of them.
Now that my wife and I can no longer ride, we found that we really enjoy being owners and we sponsor a middle age rider. Someone like you, with skills and desire, but limited financial means. People like us are out there, use your local network and look around.
My condolences on the loss of your horse.
I know you have your heart set on being an UL rider.
But maybe you could shift your focus for a bit.
Is there a TB rescue or a sale barn in your area ?
If you have the skills to bring along a young horse to BN/N level then you may have found yourself a niche.
I know from your post that you work full time , and you arent looking for a job retraining TBs but maybe working for a rescue , legitimate of course that rehomes OTTBs , you might find your diamond in the rough.
Good luck .
OP, I’m not an Eventer but I do understand losing a horse. I’m so sorry for your loss.
I agree with others about my maybe shifting your focus for a bit. I’m not saying to give up or lose sight of your goals, just shift to something else for a bit.
I’m Dressage rider and I recently started taking jumping lessons to switch things up a bit. I’m still taking Dressage lessons as that’s still my focus. but I’m finding that riding a little bit in a different discipline is really keeping things light and fun. Because trying to find a Dressage horse prospect in this market without a huge budget is tough. Easily frustrating but I am working to just enjoy things for now.
Best of luck to you!
Hey OP, I’m in a similar place, but I think 6 months is a good timeframe to test that feeling. What I’ve found is that competitive aspirations aren’t a great reason to ride, and that the key to feeling the love again is to ride something with no expectations. Stomping through cornfields with friends on a borrowed mule was the first step for me.
I retired the love of my life two years ago, and getting back to riding and competing has been hard. I spent the 6 months immediately after his retirement convinced I would never ride again. But then I started to miss it, and a little over a year ago I adopted a beautiful OTTB mare with great movement and scope thinking that she had the raw talent to get me to the upper levels. I had her for 8 months and I did my very best with her, but it didn’t work out, and the ending of that story was needlessly tragic. So I mourned another horse with the added stress of wondering if I even deserve horses. That was October. My aspirations are now completely gone. I’m one score away from my bronze medal, and I was so proud of that, but now I am totally indifferent to it.
A friend of mine has loaned me her mule a few times, and I feel the itch to get back into riding coming back, and that excites me, but I don’t think it will ever be the same. My only requirements for my next horse is it has to be kind and fun. I don’t care if its 14h and has 1 eye at this point, as long as we can go for a nice gallop safely when I need it. My next horse has to remind me why I live this crazy life style and made the decision years ago to eat, sleep, and breathe horses. If we make it back to competition, cool! If not, literally no one will care. And that’s fine, because me riding didn’t make anyone happy before, so it won’t disappoint anyone if I only trail ride now or quit all together.
The chapter every competitive horse owner must complete: Embracing the Suck
My story: Grew up with a horse crazy mom, I inherited the crazy myself too. Limited funds for horse endeavors. Bought a cheap OTTB at a young age, competed him throughout high school. Then retired him, purchased a quirky, spooky packer. Sold her to purchase the crème de la crème prospect, spending more than I ever have on a horse (a prospect nonetheless) while funding this in college and nannying full time. Prospect steps on nail a few months into owning her, side lining her indefinitely as she was never 'quite right" again, despite thousands spent on several highly esteemed sports medicine vets. Totally bummed, totally disheartened as I had big dreams and the horse to take me there… ended up retiring her and taking over my mom’s 1K FB project we had purchased sight unseen. He is totally not meant to be an eventer but has a heart of gold. I have had friends pass me up level wise and move onward and upward while I work the kinks out with my current horse at the low, low levels and it sometimes totally sucks… can’t afford more, can’t afford a second horse and definitely can’t afford to show full time. But I love my horse, I enjoy my time in the saddle and I am lucky to have a great trainer that gives really educational lessons in a friendly environment. I love the joy of my time in the saddle.
Social media shows the good and the fortunate but rarely the bad. It’s easy to get yourself down seeing your friend and Dobbin taking their first prelim jumps while you are riding BN for the 3rd year in a row, well in my case LOL!
We all have to embrace that suck sometimes- just remember to find the joy of your time in the saddle.
I think a lot of folks go thru this place.
Some quit, some re-up for the sport.
You will find your way.
Was going to chime in with this but see that Meup has covered it.
It’s a seller’s market right now-- so you can’t afford a going upper-level horse. Neither can I (or can most of us). But what you can do is put miles on a greenie and fill in that $10 - 30k market. Gives you riding time, experience training a green horse, and $ in your bank if you can find a solid resale prospect.
The first sentence and the second sentence are complete opposites. Sentence #1 probably will not work for you, if you really are by truest nature a go-getter. Regarding Sentence #2, if you are indeed this energizer bunny go-getter, be proud of who YOU are, and write down YOUR OWN roadmap with the resources you do have, and stop looking at other people. They are just a distraction.
The other thing is, the reality of the world we live in is that horses die. It is sad, but it is unavoidable as gravity. Do not let something as unavoidable as gravity throw you off your horse-loving path. As others have said, you may find a new niche within the horse world, and love it, if you step off the current merry-go-round and try another ride at the fair.
If it’s the thrill of competition you crave, not necessarily eventing competition, try Hunting for your adrenaline fix, or, try Endurance! One day with an opinionated Arab who is smarter than its human and can outrun the stars but also lives for partnership, as you set off down a completely unknown trail, will set a rider’s perspective straight right away.