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Looking for some advice

I will try to keep this thread as short as possible, but I feel like I have so much to share! My sister and I are looking for some advice as we are feeling very torn.

A little under a year ago, we purchased a horse after a 5 - 10 year hiatus from horses. I felt a yearning for another companion to love, and my sister enjoyed riding so we thought it would be a great escape for us from our two jobs.

My sister fell in love with a mare, and we took the plunge. At her past home, she appeared relaxed and at ease in her environment. The past owners even had photos of a small child riding her, and while we knew she had some energy under saddle, she seemed much more at ease when we tried her out. Her past owners took great care of her and definitely cherished her.

Initially, she was nervous in her environment but we figured it may take a few months for her to settle in. Other horses definitely bothered her / caused her anxiety. We had to switch her first stall to an end stall since she kept kicking the stall wall. :frowning: We were concerned for her safety. To help ease her anxiety under saddle and around the stable, we did the following:

  1. Switching stall to end of stable to prevent kicking
  2. Switching feed to ration balancer to help her lose weight per vet’s advice, but now slowly changing back to a 12% pelleted feed supplemented with alfalfa to prevent more weight loss
  3. Internal examination of reproductive system
  4. Mare Magic for several months, then switching to Quiessence for several months, and finally now giving SmartPak SmartCalm Ultra Pellets
  5. Two saddle-fitters, nearly 10 saddles, and now two flocking adjustments to her saddle
  6. Riding lessons several times per month

She just seems nervous even though she has been in this environment nearly a year now. I’m afraid my sister is only comfortable riding her in the indoor arena or a round pen since she is so distracted / anxious.

My sister and I are worried that perhaps there are too many horses and/or stimuli for her. And to make matters worse, I feel burned out and anxious too! My sister has other hobbies that I would like her to pursue, and I don’t want either of us to feel held back from them. I was hoping the barn would be a relaxing and enjoyable escape from work. I am having regrets now. We are both beating ourselves up right now. My sister is especially afraid of feeling like a failure if she contacts the mare’s past owners. When we were teenagers, we had a family pony that we rehomed due to busy school schedules and personal anxiety. I thought I was ready for horse ownership - and dreamed about it for years - but now I feel like the passion is not there. :frowning:

I apologize for the very long thread! Thank you for bearing with me!

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Sounds like both of you are over-horsed?

You have tried to make this work, but the mare is more horse than the quiet, well trained and sweet starter type horse you both need.

May be time to consider getting a trainer involved to let her go and find a more suitable horse to love and enjoy.
Life is too short to fret as you describe you both are doing over this horse you have already tried so hard and long to make fit, when she is not quite and may never be that for you.

Horse needs a different kind of owner to advance over her nervousness, you need a different kind of horse for what you want of a horse.

Of course you both love her, so think about if you may do better for her best interest letting someone else also love her that fits her better?


How much turnout does the horse get? In what setting? How many days a week do you visit? What do you do with the horse over the course of a week?

A horse can be happy living in a large pasture with a small herd, and no riding. If they need to blow off steam they run around.

A horse kept in a boarding barn, a stall and at most a small paddock turnout, needs to get out and move every single day. That could be a ride, a longe, a free longe buck and run in a big arena, or a long handwalk ( at least half an hour) on the trails. Etc. Or focused groundwork or on hand.

What effort have you put into building a relationship with this horse?

Otherwise the horse will get increasingly nervous and unhappy and bored.

Do you have a good trainer on hand to help troubleshoot? It sounds like both of you have lost interest out of fear and have no help moving forward.

Why would you contact the previous owners? Did you have an explicit agreement they would take horse back at any time? Most sellers don’t do this. So if you want to sell the horse, you need to fix the problems you created first or else no one will buy.

Get a trainer and invest some genuine emotional effort in the horse, or find a trainer to give her away to.


@Scribbler asks some valid questions. However, I wonder if your statement about “I thought I was ready for horse ownership” leads me to a different conclusion – perhaps you are not.

I have very quiet geldings. To the outsider, they may appear “bomb proof, dead broke.” I assure you they may look that way, and act that way, but only because I work (stress on the word WORK) with them 5 - 7 days a week. Do you have 14 hours a week to spend with a horse (maybe you 7, sis 7?). I think that’s what it takes to maintain a horse at any kind of level (yes, someone is going to post that they turn their horse out on 100 acres and ride him once a year and he’s great --good --but I see a whole bunch of people who buy a horse, don’t ride it, work with it, who can’t understand why the horse is difficult).

Of course it doesn’t have to be YOU --some people hire riders and trainers to keep the horse at a useable level. I’ve done that --when I worked I had an exercise rider who alternated with me on which horses we were working with. When I had both my knees replaced (at the same time --not something I’d recommend) --I sent the horses to a training barn where they were worked while I was unable to ride. That way, when I could ride, I didn’t have fire-breathing dragons.

How much time do you have to be a horse owner . . .enough?


Bluey and Scribbler both offer good advice from different perspectives. Like Scribbler, I wondered what your mare’s current environment is like and whether she got enough turnout, and how did this current lifestyle compare with the lifestyle she was used to. Obviously you’ve tried hard to make her comfortable, but I don’t think the problem will ever be solved with new saddles or supplements. Bluey is right that this may not be the right horse for you, and that your mare may need a different kind of owner. From your description, it sounds like everyone is dissatisfied–you, your sister, and your horse. It takes time and commitment to really build a relationship with a horse. It’s much more than just throwing on a saddle and riding; it’s spending time hands on caring for its needs, and groundwork to build trust and respect, and just hanging out without asking anything. If you’re committed to making it work with this mare, find someone to mentor you in good horsemanship skills. That doesn’t mean send the horse to a trainer to fix its problems, although some training sessions may be needed. It means learning everything you can about building trust with your horse, and that can’t be farmed out. You have to earn it.

It’s clear that you care about this horse and are trying hard to meet her needs. My advice is to think hard about what Scribbler said, and if you and your sister conclude that you and your mare just aren’t a good match, then Bluey is right to suggest that you may need a different horse and the horse may need a different owner.

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Chestnutpony1, I have one other thought to consider, and that’s to maybe ditch the alfalfa. I have a gelding that is normally an ideal trail horse. A couple of years ago, I started feeding him 3-4 alfalfa cubes, and I suddenly had a horse with so much energy I almost couldn’t ride him. I took him off the alfalfa and sent him to reform school, and I got my sane gelding back. I don’t know if the alfalfa contributed to the problem, but I’ve always wondered. Other COTHers have also mentioned having horses that were sensitive to alfalfa.

Sounds like you might be out-horsed, and ulcers would be at the top of my list.


I think before you decide that you are over horsed there needs to be some discussion about the questions that were asked above.

The general question (that make up all those more detailed questions that were asked) is - how is the set-up this previously quiet horse lives in different than how the horse lived before? Then you have to figure out which of those changes are the cause of the change in personality.

There is nothing wrong with finding a horse you bought is not the right fit for you (and your sister) and selling it along to someone who loves that type of horse and finding something that is a more perfect match.

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OP, you & your sister have given the mare a year & tried a lot to help her become the horse you both want.
Kudos for that.

You mentioned “several times a month” lessons for your sister.
Maybe a weekly lesson commitment would help.
What level rider would you class her as? Novice/Re-Rider? Intermediate?
Rusty Advanced?
What does the trainer say?

I agree that selling this horse might be the best solution for you.
As long as mare has no dangerous habits, some pro rides should make her easier to sell.
And you & sister can back off from trying to make this the Right Horse.
Sometimes they just are not, nor will ever be - for you.
This sport is too pricy to be unhappy.


I am sorry that horse ownership isn’t what you wanted it to be. I have a couple of things that entered my mind as I read your post.

!. as someone else mentioned ditch the alfalfa. While it never happened to me but once, it did make my mare way hotter when we fed an alfalfa mix. I realized it when we moved and I no longer had alfalfa to feed.

  1. How does her current living arraignment differ from her previous home? Feed, shelter , turnout etc…

  2. Some horses do not do well with multiple riders. I know she carried more than one at her previous home but if you and your sister ride drastically different ( seat, hands, legs , cues etc) she may have a lot of anxiety/ confusion trying to figure out what you are asking when you ride?

Most quiet horses are only quiet because their riders and handlers are skilled and confident enough to keep them that way. Plenty of quiet horses become little monsters for their new owners because the new owner does not have the skills of the old owner. If that’s the case, it just means it’s the wrong horse and there’s no shame in that.

How old is the horse you bought? What breed? What has she been trained in? Has she been out and about in the world? How many years has she been in training?
Seeing pics of a child riding her isn’t enough to say that she’s the right horse for you. A true child-suitable horse you’d want to see and be able to trace several years worth of evidence that the horse has been ridden and handled by a child almost by themselves.

Perhaps you’d find more happiness selling the horse and taking regular lessons at a reputable lesson place until your skills are up to a level where you’re ready to buy another horse (with your trainer’s assistance)?

Before you evaluate whether or not the mare is the right fit, I’m a little concerned about the anxiety. As an owner of an anxious horse, some anxiety is ok, but if she’s still not settling after a year (beyond riding but in general), I’d look for a physical explanation. The anxiety plus up and down weight does make me think ulcers. (Not a vet! Reach out to yours!)

My anxious guy is ulcer prone and his diet is very carefully managed. Chat with your vet. I’d encourage scoping, but even a course of nexium couldn’t hurt (I had great success with my senior, less success with my anxious horse). My young guy is on GutX for maintenance and it’s made the world of difference in him. I’ve also found he can have all the alfalfa in the world but give him a feed with too much sugar/starch and he’s a nightmare. For him, he has a soy allergy/intolerance on top of the ulcer issue so feeding isn’t easy!

All of this is me saying, as a new horse owner, get the vet out, explain everything. Explain all the physical issues. Ask questions. It may turn out that she’s not the right horse, but you’ll be better off selling if you first can make sure she’s healthy.

I’m going to add that I work my horses in hand a decent amount, especially if we’re having issues. Sometimes I’m just more confident on the ground. You can do everything you do riding in hand—leading, backing, halting, trotting, walking over poles/small jumps, etc. What I do in hand translates under saddle.


I agree with others about tummy troubles but I have a few questions. How much experience do you and your sister have with horses? Are you 19 year old sisters or 54 year olds? No judgement just trying to get the full picture. What is the mare doing that makes you feel she is nervous? Ready to turn and run at the least little thing? What breed is she? I know people (not you) who are fearful riders and never ride outside of an enclosed arena. Is she in a pasture situation that she feels bullied in? How old is she? Was she out with other horses in her previous home? Was that the only home she had ever known? Or worse yet, are you her 5th or 6th home?