Tell about the time you wanted to hang it up

Totally different personal experience on this topic but, as so many others have said, so grateful to read everyone’s stories.

I burned out for the first time when I was 12. Had a lot of stuff going on at home. The barn I was at at the time was the situation we needed financially, for me to keep riding and to progress, but not the situation I needed to be in mentally. I was crying in the car, going home every night. I was scared sh*tless of the fancy free lease my trainer found (an ammy before my time). Felt guilty and ungrateful but I quit. That lasted a month.

The second time I quit, I was in college. I went into school thinking I was going to do “this” professionally and my degree was a backup plan. Things went to #@%* at my barn and it lost a lot of clients. I was simultaneously going through some freshman year growing pains, maturity-wise, and also starting to have some differences of opinion with my trainer concerning horse.

I packed up horse, moved to a pleasure barn for what was supposed to be a brief intermission. And also where, for the first time ever, I wasn’t in a program or under a pro’s supervision. On the upside, I learned to trust my own judgement more and realized that I could function independently.

The third time I quit was after horse and I faded into retirement. My (non-horsey) career hadn’t gone the way it was supposed to (big dramatic air quotes). I was in over my head financially with a pasture puff I couldn’t afford. A trusted connection was willing to take the puff, whom I had at that point come to terms with putting down. Which is a whole other story and a whole other regret – the upshot of which is, was, I thought I was done. Done, done, done. For a few years, I couldn’t even look at a horse. I certainly didn’t think I deserved to ride again or be around them because I felt like I let my retiree down.

It took a decade, maybe, before that old craving started up again. It took another few years before I felt like I was in a place to lesson. Now I’m in a good place financially and I can dare to map out a future, ideally with a project down the road, that I would do a lot of things differently by.

I lucked out. Found a fabulous barn with a trainer who’s not just a great horseperson but a great teacher as well. Took me - I don’t know - how long to learn that a good trainer isn’t necessarily a good teacher (and realize that what I thought were my own failings as a kid, maybe weren’t all mine … I’m still learning to cut myself some slack and untangling what are healthy and unhealthy environments and situations - though 30+ years on is a thick filter to look back through).

The good trainer is a relief I wish on all of you. In my case because the strangeness of being a re-rider is enough of a weird trip on its own. More often than not, I remember to be happy I’m here. And that’s enough. Some days I’m just amused and bemused by the disconnect between what I know and what I seem to be physically capable of doing

Other days I could cry because feel like I don’t know myself in the tack.

On the best days, I feel like I was meant my whole life for this, to be an adult ammy.

I was never the bravest to begin with and know, as an adult, there are some things I don’t have the mental or physical energy for: unsafe situations, which includes unsafe people. That’s why it took another couple years, after deciding I did want to do this again, to pull the trigger and schedule a lesson. I must’ve cyber-stalked every barn within an hour’s drive during that time, trying to suss out if they were “safe.” Look, many of you struggle with the “Big A program or what?” dilemma. Where I’m at, “crazy or not?”

And while, again, my story isn’t all that relevant to your situation, my heart absolutely breaks for all the people whose love and appetite for this world is undermined, eroded or flat out ruined by trainers putting them in a tough spot with a horse that isn’t a good match. As a kid, I watched more than one totally happy and comfortable ammy sell their rockstar packer and trade up for something “fancier” that was too green or too nuts. Listen to your heart on that @#$&.


Just jumping back in here to show my love and appreciation for all the support and brave souls that came forward to commiserate, share a similar story, offer advice, or just offer a hug. It’s been an emotional week (for this reason and another unexpected situation) and I really needed each and every one of you and your kind words. Keep the stories coming, as I think it’s cathartic for all of us that are struggling with choices and feel alone. :two_hearts:


You’re never alone. We’re here.


I would second this, or an absolute packer who knows his job. My trainer found one to lease who was 19 years old, but had done the big eq his whole career and every one who sat on him said they felt like they could go to the Olympics. He was an absolute confidence-builder. And exactly the type you need next.

Are you still in between trainers? Maybe look for a smaller, more personalized program with a trainer who focuses more on Ammys than Juniors, you need someone who understands your career/family demands and can work with your schedule as well as past-baggage (no offense, we all have it!)


I understand where you’re coming from. When my dressage horse lease ended (not on good terms), and I struggled to find a barn where I could be in a program and lease versus own a horse, a number of my friends didn’t understand why I couldn’t just start over at a hunter/jumper barn and do group lessons and crossrails. I tried, but it just wasn’t my thing. So I can understand wanting a very specific, but seemingly reasonable thing but not quite finding it.

I would take a week (or two) off from the barn, make a list of the options you do have (rather than the ones you wish you had) and think about them. Write them down, see what emotions they stir up, and try to envision your future with each.

I mean, I love dressage, but it doesn’t sound like taking a month off to focus on flatwork excites you (to take away the risk/fear of jumping). I also agree on selling the unsuitable horse ASAP, though, given that the faster you can sell him in a hot market (before he gets untuned from lack of use) the better.


Love this turn in the conversation. There’s a very difficult, contradictory, Catch-22 thing going on here that I totally get and am realizing is maybe more common that I first thought.

I’m a chicken. My confidence has taken a beating more than once so it stands to reason the logical question is “why don’t you switch disciplines?”

I have all the respect for dressage, get how crucial it is to all of our flatwork (remembering the snippet of the Lilly Keenan quote about dressage I just read). I did time with a dressage trainer as a kid.

I’m maybe saddle seat-curious, no desire to do Western. My heart’s just full on in the hunter ring.

Because man, oh man. No matter how much of a coward, when that perfect fence happens, let alone eight, no matter how tiny they are, it feels so good, so very good and you (or some of us) just want to keep chasing after it.

I’m watching the livestreams with a terrible yearning while begging my trainer not to put that one up and loving the exercises with ground poles. I figure this is like a couple patches I went through when I was younger. Go at your own pace, let the rails go up when they’re ready and stop where you’re comfortable.

But yeah, having the right equine partner is the most important thing.


Just wanted to share my story/vent and take advantage of this moment of collective catharsis :laughing:

I was so lucky to have a “born broke” packer through his twilight years, learned more than I realized, and was packed around much more than I appreciated.

When I lost him, I ended up acquiring a new horse through some connections of my trainer’s. Come to find out after the fact, the horse had originally been offered to my trainer as a resell project, but she felt the asking price was too high. So basically she got me to buy her project, and when things started going sideways with him—which they did, right away—she offered to take him off my hands … for half what I paid for him.

I go back and forth on whether I should have just cut my losses and sold him to her. Instead I tried a different trainer. That was a huge comedy of errors. I went down a long and exhausting parelli rabbit hole. Lots of money spent to chase the horse around a round pen. The trainer more or less wrote a Dickensian saga over months of texts explaining to me why she couldn’t ride him, why he was apparently getting worse, why that was my fault, and why trying literally any other training approach would be abusive. Getting out of that barn felt like getting out of a cult.

And now here I am, no trainer for my horse, horse hasn’t been ridden properly in nearly a year (I hop on from time to time just to bop around walk/trot)… I found a rental situation where I can have him at home and do all his care. So that at least removes some of the financial pressure, and has introduced me to other, non-riding ways to enjoy horse ownership. But this is not how I wanted things to go :frowning:.

What stands out to me the most is just how much you open yourself up to be taken advantage of when you have a horse that needs more than you alone can offer. When I had a packer, I got along with everyone. I didn’t need much help. I didn’t have to trust anyone. It was so easy to just live and let live. I miss that, because now I feel distrustful and skeptical of anyone offering the type of help I know I need if I’m ever going to get anywhere with my horse. It does kind of suck the joy out of everything—especially after my last two experiences, and extra especially after the “cult” barn. I’m wary of throwing my and my horse’s lot in with a new trainer!


Ohhh I hear you there. Breaking up with trainers needs its own thread because it’s literally worse than a divorce that involves multiple properties, businesses, and children. You have to pick sides, you have to steel yourself to prepare for the glares at horse shows, and you have to understand that sometimes your new trainers will force you to be nice to the older ones that totally steamrolled you or treated you like something that stinks and is stuck to the bottom of your shoe.

I’m honestly so happy that I had the guts to write this initial post. I realize that many posts have been written about similar circumstances in the past, but I needed to really get it all out there in a somewhat anonymous way and see if I was the crazypants or if others were also struggling.

Lots of hard decisions are being made this week and having this thread still going is giving me hope for better days to come. Maybe I’ll cross paths with some of you and we can share a glass of wine, or a hug, or a good cry session… or maybe all of it.


This is timely. My situation is a bit different than some of these but still definitely related. I feel like I’m done right now and it’s really weird because in all these years I’ve never felt quite like this. Even seeing a horse in a commercial sours me at the moment. I’m struggling to understand myself. I don’t get it.

This last year I had the opportunity to really prove myself and work with a troubled horse many others had failed with. To everyone’s surprise, it worked out well. I was truly proud of myself which doesn’t happen often. It was awesome. However, recently the BO has become unhinged and the environment has become toxic. After a long day at work, dealing with family and life I simply want to show up and ride. That is my break. I don’t want to show up to the barn to be treated like crap and to see other people being treated like crap. I’m not sure you could pay me to put up with that. So I left. I’ve been trying to force myself to find a new situation because I’m afraid I’ll regret it later, but the desire is not there. Instead I feel like I want to stay far away. How/why did my feelings change so fast? I had been putting in more time and effort into riding than I ever had before and was wearing myself out. Maybe that has something to do with it. I just kind of went from a big high to a big low.

I guess from the stories shared here, maybe taking a break rather than forcing myself to keep going is an okay option? I just don’t know.


Ugh I’m in the throes of this myself. Was leasing an ultra green horse (that I admittedly didn’t like very much, but a ride’s a ride) at a barn for a month before the gal sold her (honestly for the best, but still). New lady wanted to keep leasing her but hike up the price, so I bowed out in hopes of finding a lesson program that could have me riding just as much.

The closer barns either 1) had no lesson horses or 2) had months long waiting lists for lessons so I decided to try my hand at dressage while I was in-between horses/barns and scheduling lessons has been an absolute nightmare. I’ve had a single lesson since February when I first reached out to this trainer, but had lessons cancelled last minute probably 5-6 times due to illness, horse shows, thrown shoes and who knows what else. She’s the only one for an hour that has lesson horses (whose barn isn’t an absolute shit-show, anyways), but is still 30-40 minutes away and is still $$$. All I want to do is ride and learn, but it feels like until I have F-U levels of money to blow, I’m stuck riding hours away and/or can’t get a trainer to give me the time of day.


I do a REALLY good impression of a former trainer basically grabbing their partner by the ear and dragging them away after the partner said ‘hi’ to me at a show. The relationship between that trainer and the one I was with at the time was Fraught. Capital ‘F.’ :laughing:


Take it from me.
You’ve got to trust your owner inner timetable, too. It is so much better when you trust your instincts about when to stop, when to start, when the fences can go up, when you need to back off.
And it’s so much easier when you’re an adult. As a junior it can be hard because you’ve got that external timetable pushing you and lord, can it p*ss off your trainer. The great thing about being an adult ammy, though, is that it’s easier to pump the brakes. Really, it’s your foot and only your foot on the pedal.

I’ve been where you’re at. That was my situation leading up to my middle break, from a program, from showing, during college. Toward the end, I stopped lessoning. I was going out of my way to ride when no one else was around. A friend used to tease me about having one eye on the driveway and how fast I could get tacked up and get up to the arena if I saw particular cars coming. And how I’d be back and untacking by the time that car was parked in the lot (it was a longass driveway, lol). I feel you. Big hug,


Siiiigh, but here’s the problem with that idea… getting older sneaks up on you. I was ok taking time off for career and such here and there and hopping on a friend’s AO jumper to kick it around for years. Then suddenly, nothing clicked anymore… and when I wanted to get back into it, it took WORK. I wasn’t out of shape… heck, I was distance running… so probably in the best shape of my life, but I just wasn’t accurate anymore and it showed in my ability, which then took a hard blow at my confidence. I was able to pick it up again and keep going and I was fine, but these last few years… they’ve really shown the ebbs and flows in my saddle time over the past 12-15 years. What seemed seamless in 2010 is now something that I have to make a conscious effort to get out of my head about and just do it. So I do support taking a pause if necessary… heck make it a few month sabbatical… but I’d be careful of making it more of a long term thing or a chronic thing, because looking at it from the other side, I wished that I had devoted more time to staying consistent.


For me the horse is a massively important part of getting your groove back.

I feed leased a not-so-brave horse while mine was rehabbing and reached the point where I was pretty timid. Because who wants to ride forward to a stop? Things got better with him once I started to do a bit on my horse who is brave and confident. Things got massively better once I was doing more with mine–we’ve been working on tricky gymnastics and other exercises. Unfortunately mine is a bit of a commute from my house so I can’t get out there as much as would be ideal.

To give you an idea of a timeline, I had last jumped my horse 3’ in Feb 2020 (after struggling for a year to get back there) and had been bopping around 2’6" or lower until about three months ago. Now doing up to a meter or more.


Hah! If getting older is only sneaking up then you aren’t so old. My ‘seamless’ action in 2022 is being able to mount a horse without some serious forward planning LOL.

Over my many decades of riding I have taken multiple breaks. Time, money, location, health and, way back as a late teenager, a total lack of confidence after a period when I was consistently - foolishly - over-horsed. What I have discovered is that:
Once back into consistent riding, the muscles do come back (given a basic level of fitness as one’s starting point) but what one remembers as should be happening won’t be happening for some time, and it does take longer after each break as memory seems to last far longer than muscle;
That one’s objectives and expectations change. I’m now fascinated by the process of riding a horse to make it go better rather than thinking that hooning around the countryside is the best fun possible;
And finally, a bit like driving a vehicle, experience comes into play and saves a lot of accidents and other grief as I now ride smarter.

I am what I am - and that most certainly isn’t a 5* event rider but, rather, a slightly creaky, sadly podgy, happily-still-riding woman who now owns a whisker of a young horse that might, in a few more years, go round Badminton with his 5* professional rider.


Honestly, ALL of what ALL of you are saying. Which probably reduces this down to a huge case of YMMV.

To Tini_Sea_Soldier1’s point, from a physical standpoint, OMG, my years-plus break has been the worst. Yes, I was shocked, shocked I tell you at how my body was “betraying” me on the regular. Hacking even a little intermittently over the years would’ve mitigated some of that but, I had a lot mentally and financially to sort. So I take the struggle as the cost. But that’s me and what works for me and it does take rethinking and reframing my relationship with riding and my goals. Back to “YMMV” :slight_smile:

To Willesdon’s point, I was also a little shocked at what I still could do and what my muscles did remember after a break in which I could’ve had a child and it could’ve started driving [cars] before I made it back to the saddle. I don’t want to jinx myself - and knock wood - but I still seemed to have the reflexes to sit a mild spook or little hop and ride through it before my head caught up to what was going on :joy: My problem, in addition to strength and stamina, has been the fine motor skill things, the coordination things. I find myself saying “look, I can keep going forward or do these other things but not both… right now. Anyway.” It’s hard to swallow at times. A lot. But I’m doing that rethinking/reframing thing.

The repeat breaks have been good for me mentally, though. I’ve come back/wound up in a better head-place every time. Which brings me Peggy’s point about the horse. Ohmygod yes. The horse. And the right trainer and/or barn situation.

Scattering of random thoughts:
I think overall, my point is we don’t trust our own instincts or advocate for ourselves often enough. As an adult, I am all about embracing that. And communication with trainers often sucks. Sometimes the cross purposes is accidental, sometimes its not.

On the whole, I feel like if I had pushed through during those two, earlier burnout times, I would’ve quit for good and never have come back. I’d say I don’t know what kind of loss permanently quitting would’ve been on the whole but, I remember how felt on my way home from my first lesson, first ride in XX years. Buoyant. Just buoyant.


I rode as a junior, through college, had the opportunity to jump some big classes with my jumpers, and always thought of myself as a pretty confident rider-- the kind that really enjoyed trying horses and jumping them over big fences.

And then I took a 9 year break.

Came back to riding, leased a lovely horse, and promptly got bucked off after a fence, resulting in a spinal fracture, a broken heel, and seriously damaged confidence. I found myself nervous to canter at times, which I was mortified about.

What helped the most in restoring my confidence was time. My goals had to change-- I don’t ride like I did when I was 21, I have a lot more on my plate in terms of career, family, etc. But i was able to focus on having confident rounds in whatever division I was showing in (we started off in the 80cm my first show back) and having that be the measure of success instead of ribbons. And as I got more confident, I found myself wanting to do more, jump bigger, go faster. But what it really took was time, and taking the pressure off of me.

@Tini_Sea_Soldier1, find a trainer that has other adult amateur clients, and who teaches in a way that builds you up instead of tearing you down. Having someone else believe in you is really important. And if the horse you have now doesn’t bring you joy and make you feel good when you ride him (for whatever reason!), then send him off to a new good home and get something that feels right for you in this moment. Life’s short, and riding is supposed to be fun.


I feel you. I am going through the same feelings. Two years ago I had to euthanize my heart-horse, he was only 8. I bought him after my Mom died unexpectedly and he helped heal my heart, I’d had him since we was 4 and having to euthanize him was horrible. I spent 6 months getting a 3rd and 4th opinion (it was neuro). I waited and bought a made, very expensive horse about 5 months later. She has had one problem after another, cellulitis, a bone chip surgery, a torn hamstring, and I’ve spent abut $40k in vet bills, had her for a year and a half and jumper her maybe 6 weeks in that whole time. I am having a really hard time being optimistic that she well ever be okay. She’s no longer with the high-fives I paid for her and I’m not in a financial position to buy a horse without selling one. I really haven’t ridden with any consistnecy for 2 years and am so far behind where I was and rusty its hard not to feel like maybe the universe is just telling me to let this passion go, at least for a while (I’m 51 though).

I think my best advice is try to think why you really love riding, what is it that brings you happiness. Is it just being in the saddle and feeling safe and like you have a connection, is it showing on the A circuit, is it winning, is it jumping higher? Whatever it is let that guide you. And if that can’t happen right now, but can in 6 months or a year make a plan for it. Once you reset your expecations it will help.

I finally got to the place where I decided so long as I could show with my daughter her senior year (she’s a sophomore now) that I would be happy. That might mean selling my horse and saving money for a year and then leasing something at shows, or maybe my horse will be sound and get there. But once I decided that it was the time with my daughter and the horses, being “behind” where I want to be or not jumping higher or showing took a backseat and I feel much less let down about the last two years and where I am now.

It sucks sometimes. Embrace the suck today and make a plan that will bring you joy going forward.


This is GREAT advice


This is such a great, classic COTH Thread! See, we’re so many of us in the same boat!

Like everyone else, I could ride like the wind. I did everything, and if not brilliantly, I was competent. Then life happened and a shadow of fear crept into my heart… and not just about riding. I found once I had a child, my sense of self-preservation really kicked up a few notches!

And then I bought a 60 horse boarding stable, and that has SO humbled me. We have a variety of folks here, but I have finally realized how elitist I was about horses, tack, riding, training… all of it. We have a lot of baby boomer boarders, and I have finally seen that no matter what they do with their horses, it’s… perfect.

Whether they ride and show often (some do) or take lessons and talk about showing (some do) or trail ride and spend lots of time longeing (some do) or just enjoy brushing their horses, turning them out, and hanging out at the barn… it’s all perfect.

And the ones that haven’t accepted that they are not going to the Olympics, or not going to win big prizes, or not going to be doing cross rails on their too-strong horse, or that won’t give up on their chronically lame-forever horse… they are perfect too.

Because they are all at least trying… They are looking for a fit in the horse world for their heart to say “I’m home, I belong here, this is good for me.” And while I wish I could convince some of them to try a different horse to find a more rewarding fit sooner rather than later… I admire them all for being here.

My trajectory was similar. I had ambitions, I bought and sold a lot of perfectly good horses that didn’t fit my right-then self. And finally it worked out, I got the right horses and the right help at the right time, and all the fun came back. I have a funny little horse that has one magical quality: I turn 11 years old again every time I get on him… and I go back to safe, fun, free, riding for joy.

Wishing you all the same!