Spinoff: How many mature horses abound with little/no training to ride or even handle?

And then there’s the backyard “breeder/hoarder” I go by every day. LE has been called on them, suddenly hay will show up in the field. They stand out there 24/7/365 with no shelter. Old momma had a foal last year, how she managed that without it killing her I do not know. One winter, I kept watching the younger ones (they had a foal crop about 3 years ago) get skinnier and skinnier. Even thru the winter woolies I could see the backbone sticking up. That one disappeared. The field they live in is nothing but noxious weeds. The water is some kind of runoff or seasonal pond, on occasion I see a trough filled.
I did talk with their neighbor (horse gal) who said they’ve tried and tried…

And as others have said, the drought and hay prices and pandemic buying and the lack of where to even put them all…plus the slaughter being shut down. My boarding barn recently went up for sale and some of us are still trying to figure out where to go. Barns are closed, full with long waiting lists, border on animal abuse types, those are today’s options. My saddle fitter told me of a 60-stall barn (full) near her who recently sold - to a developer. Where are they all going to go???

Local rescue has the same laments as listed in above posts. I’m not sure there is an answer. Or at least not one that people would ever get on board with. :frowning_face:


My husband was given two foundation appaloosas, one 8 and the other 12, neither one broke or handled with any regularity. No one could catch the older one when he went to look but they had a halter on him when we returned with the trailer. The younger one was still a stallion and we told them the only way we’d take him was if he was gelded. He had been halter broke but that was all. When we returned, the younger was healed up enough from his brain surgery but loading him was another story. We finally had to keep making his pen smaller and smaller until he had to go into the trailer.

After getting them settled in, husband, who isn’t a trainer decided to take it on and started ground driving them every day. The older one was an apt pupil and was one of those “born broke” types and within about 40-50 days, he was riding him and we still have him, he’s 22. Such a nice solid trail horse. Not fancy broke by any stretch but safe and sane. The other one caught on pretty quickly too, he was a little small for my husband so I started riding him and he turned out quite well. We ended up selling him when he was about 12 to a really good home and their niece has decided he’s hers so has a young girl spoiling him and he’s loving it.

These two were the last of a breeder’s stock. This woman’s husband, who bred foundation apps, had died so she wanted to divest herself of the remaining horses. Turned out well for us.


I am about 25 miles from a humane society horse rescue. They take everything ( seizures, rescues, backyard relinquishes) and the majority of the many horses they get are not broke.

They work with them some but when you are approved to take a horse home you have to further the training. It is in the contract but I don’t see how they can enforce it. They have a lot of horses coming in and going out all year long.

On our local CL most of the horses advertised are broke to ride but I have seen some interesting ads for sure. The people in my area that I am aware of, their horses are ridable/ trained but not ridden regularly much ( if) at all.

I personally have started several older horses with little prior handling and they ended up being solid citizens under saddle. So I would never write one off due to age.


Land is still abundant and relatively cheap here with mild weather so it is viable to keep horses on just grass 9+ months a year. You see lots of benignly neglected herds that are shiny and glossy with dreadlocked mane and feet looking like they get done 4 times a year.

However, because of their low purchase price when one that is under the age of 10 pops up there may be 30-60+ comments on the facebook posts if the horse is under $3k give or take. I have even seen upward of 100 comments on an unstated 4 year old loud appy clearly listed as needing an experienced handler. Color, being an intact stud, or having “papers” gets a lot of attention.

I think most bounce regularly and rarely end up gaining marketable skills. Our local groups often have the same horses popping back up with owners saying “not enough time” or “got in over my head”. So I think that between age 5-10 they move pretty quickly but become increasingly at risk with age.

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The world needs a few thousand more horse people just like you. :slight_smile:

One of any rescue’s biggest challenges is imparting skills to adopters and potential adopters. And one of the other biggest challenges is the pressures on people’s horse time. Often new owners and adopters have great intentions, but when it comes down to it, these lightly-trained horses need vast amounts more time than they get, to become a nice reliable riding horse.

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I hate to say it, but I even see this at riding schools. Especially if there’s enough pasture area and a lean-to. The barn acquires a horse or pony that might be fine with solid, consistent training but hasn’t been ridden in some time, or needs a bit of work, and the horse gets one or two weeks of work, then other things come up, or the barn can’t really find an advanced enough rider to safely ride the horse, and the horse just kind of lies fallow.

There is kind of a grey area where a horse might not be neglected, exactly, but if an animal is still young enough to live a fair amount of years but is not actively worked, conditioned, or handled, the end situation isn’t likely going to be good if the horse needs to be sold again.

I agree, though, that a 4-5 year old horse doesn’t seem that old to me. It’s when a horse is 12 or 15 but hasn’t been ridden since the horse was 5, or has only had very inconsistent or bad riding every once in a great once in a blue weekend…


One of the houses I rented was on a farm where the wife bred Appaloosas. Nice enough looking horses but she did NOTHING with them. The several years I was there she sent only one horse out to be trained. And he only got 30 days. The stallion was nice enough, the mares okay but none of them had been shown and were unimpressive as far as pedigree went. Yet, she had them all priced at $10k and above. She passed away, the daughter inherited the horses and to this day there they stand - no handling, no training, nothing. But still $10k and over.


I see that too in my area quite a bit. People who pride themselves on not being backyard breeders, because they are breeding horses with decent bloodlines, but don’t make any effort to put the training into the horse to justify the prices they are asking or reach clients with enough money to buy the horses they are producing.


It is not just “backyard” situations, but also some reputable breeders. The situation I am describing was 30 years ago, but I am sure the same thing applies today.

The farm was breeding Thoroughbreds for the race track (where many were successful), and also sold quite a few for sport. (Do you remember JJ Babu? He came from this farm.) The farm was in the business of breeding and selling young stock, not training. So any horses that did not sell as yearlings stayed on the farm to be sold as 2 year olds, and so on. After they didn’t sell as 3 year olds, the mares were turned out in big fields (with supplemental hay and grain put out as needed, and some kind of wormer mixed in with the feed once a year). They were not handled.

The colts (kept entire, because that is what the racing market preferred) were kept in a barn, and turned out daily in individual paddocks. So they were handled, but received no additional training.

Eventually, when he was in his mid 80s, the owner was convinced to stop breeding, and, when he turned 90, the non-breeding stallions were gelded, and they were all put up for sale - 30 or more horses aged 6 and up with little to no handling. The price for each mare was $1000, and the price for each gelding was $2000. (This was backwards - with the mares, even if they were not trainable they still had value as broodmares because of the excellent bloodlines.)

After (I think) 3 months, they had an auction, on the farm, of all the remaining stock. I think that all but one sold for under $1000.

My sister bought one of the mares (during the “each mare for $1000” phase), who was clearly the boss-mare of her herd. We were told that she had been “sold” 3 times before, but each time they could not catch her, and the buyer bought a different one… This time it took them several days for them to catch her and get her into a barn. Our vet could only observe her in the stall, and then watch her after they let her loose, and she took off back to her herd. It took two separate trips to get her loaded into the trailer and bring her home.

The first year was a real battle of wills, but my sister is both stubborn and brave (as well as being a good rider) and they were successfully competing in Prelim Eventing a couple of years later.

But I doubt that most of them had such a positive outcome.

About a year later I got a plaintive call from the young lady who had been helping look after the horses. One of the geldings (who happened to be full brother to my sister’s horse), now 10, had been bought by a local man, who had given him some basic ground work, but when he tried to back him, the horse refused to move. (Also he was lame because he had lost a shoe and “missed” the farrier appointment.) Unless someone bought him before “this weekend” he was going to the Thurmont suction, (unsound and unrideable, there was only one likely outcome).

I went to look at him on Wednesday, decided he had an agreeable temperament, and the lameness did look like just foot-soreness. and brought him home (for $300) on Friday. I had him vetted AFTER I got home, and found some hip arthritis, but it would not have made any difference.

Unlike his sister, he was very anxious to please, and I restarted him with no problem. If he was scared, he would plant his feet and refuse to move. (unlike his sister, who would either bolt or attack). But if he was calm, he was perfectly willing to go forward. I intended to train him and resell him, but that didn’t happen (in part because of the arthritis, but also because there is not much of a market for green teenaged horses). But I was able to lease him out, and he took 2 young girls from “just starting to jump” to competing at Beginner Novice and Novice. (His hip arthritis started bothering him too much above that height). In his older days he was ridden about once a month by a 6 year old girl. He lived to be 36.

Anyway, my point is that even breeding operations that really ARE reputable may produce a lot of mature horse with no training and no, or little, handling.


There’s an old lady not too far from me who had been breeding appaloosas for years and never handled them. The mares and foals were all together in one field and her 2 stallions were in separate pastures. She always complained that she needed to sell some but never did anything to market them. They were pretty well bred but, as I said, unhandled so take that for what it’s worth. I think she finally hired a young lady from her neighborhood who worked with them and got them to where you could reliably catch them and pick up feet. Here’s another one with nice horses but doesn’t do anything to make them into horses people would want to buy.


And what I see on the FB pages for my breed of choice is these nicely bred mares in their mid-to-late teens being advertised when someone is “downsizing” or an older breeder dies and the family is dispersing…but the mares are nothing but halter broke. All they can offer is a list of half a dozen babies from their breeding days. I can’t understand how people do such a disservice to these nice broodmares by not giving them a basic foundation and keeping them tuned up. Just not fair.


I was a lot younger then, single and my only responsibilities was my job so I had plenty of time and energy.

Now I struggle to get my 2 exercised 5 days a week and they live here at home. So many things need doing it seems.


We should keep in mind this old advice:



I really try not to be judgy, and I guess part of it is that I’ve never had that “urge to breed,” but when I see people breeding every year, not selling the products of the breeding program or making efforts to putting in the miles on the young horses to get them sold in the future, it’s hard for me not to judge. And yes, I agree, broodmares who have only been used for the purposes of breeding often suffer the worst.

I sometimes think part of the problem is that there are some people with land who just really love the agricultural aspects of breeding and horsekeeping, but not so much the riding, and they’re blind to the fact that most people who are keeping very expensive animals want horses for the purpose of riding. When they can support their hobby it’s great and everyone tries to mind their own business…and then suddenly they can’t support the breeding hobby because of age and finances, and there’s too many horses who sadly could have gone to halfway decent homes if they had been broke and trained.


There’s a lady near me that’s husband was a breeder but he died. Now she’s left with about 20 horses that are all between 8 and 15 but none of them have ever been ridden and she doesn’t have the skills to put any training on them or sell them.


I have to wonder if some horse breeders have the mindset of producing puppies. Where you just put them on the ground but the prospective new owners do all the training and socializing. Think about dog breeders. No one leaves a puppy at the breeder and buys it once it’s 2-3 years old no longer chewing the legs off your chairs, walks nicely on a leash, and is potty trained. I realize dogs and horses require different skill sets to get them on their way to being good citizens. I just wonder if the ones churning out horses don’t see that.


I know I’m being nitpicky but there is no such thing as a green broke or halter broke OTTB.

In order for a TB to be allowed to set foot on a racetrack it has to know how to walk, trot and gallop in company or alone, as well as how to stop and steer. Most young TBs spend at least 6 months at a training center before even going to the track. They know how to lead, load, tie, and stand for the farrier and vet. Your average OTTB will have had more handling in its first five years than many horses have in their lifetimes.


And perhaps that’s why my mare I bought as a 12 year old that hadn’t been ridden since her last work as a two year old, was a non issue to start under saddle. She’s buried at my parents’ farm now rest her soul.


Oh, lots and lots here. Even someone trying to place a fairly nice WB stallion that had belonged to a relative. Never backed, barely halter trained. Fortunately, several people with the appropriate skillset stepped in to help.

There’s a local rescue group that imo means well but just prolongs the inevitable & puts the horses in a far more vulnerable position. Throwing some food at a 30yo laminitic horse whose owner is dying of cancer & can’t even get outside to care for it isn’t really helping anybody. My two cents, anyway.


Good points! Something I’ve noticed locally is that many race horse breeders & trainer/owners don’t seem to have any equestrian involvement otherwise and often don’t know a whole heck of a lot about horses. I was once at a large training facility that’s rented hodge-podge to various racing outfits, taking care of a dog-sitting client who lived in a barn apartment, of all things. The girls, then maybe 7 & 9, were waiting in the car. Suddenly, older daughter burst in hollering that people needed help outside. Some couple had been trying to load up for the track & the horse had decided today was not the day :joy:. They had no clue what to do. Couldn’t catch the horse, thought it might’ve injured itself but didn’t know how to assess, and frankly seemed scared of it. I deployed my patented maneuver: “Don’t mind me, loose horse. I’m just going to stand here and ignore you. Why are you coming up to me, loose horse? I’m trying to mind my own business!” (Usually ends with the horse shoving it’s nose under my arm :wink:) .

Handed them horse. They asked if I could check him for injury. I told them I wasn’t a vet. They looked mildly panicked. Fine. I checked for visible blood & swelling. Explained he seemed unscathed to my totally non-DVM eye but they probably ought to get him checked upon arrival at Charlestown. Off they went. Learned from our conversation that neither had any horse experience outside of suddenly deciding they wanted to own & breed racehorses. Nothing wrong with that if that’s what you want to do, I reckon. But wow could that ever get $$$$ if you literally have no clue what you’re looking at. :no_mouth: