When to admit you're over-horsed?

For those of you who’ve ever had to admit you were over-horsed (or maybe just mismatched with a horse), what finally made you decide to move on?

There is so much guilt and shame tied up in this decision!!


I’d say when it’s not fun.

When you dread putting a leg over.

When you’re constantly riding defensively trying to self-preserve.


This has only happened to me once so far, and it was wrenching. In my case, I hadn’t gotten hurt yet but was already having misgivings when my dressage coach gave me a hard talk. She has decades of experience in dressage, eventing, HJ, TB racing, and STB racing and has succeeded with many tough horses over the years. I needed to hear from someone like her that my concerns were justified, and this wasn’t just a rough patch to work through. She followed up our in-person talk with a text message that said, “I’m sorry to be so negative about the horse, but I love you and I’m really worried he is going to hurt you.” (I’ve been riding with her for over 20 years and we’re like family.) I already knew that I didn’t want to/shouldn’t continue, but I guess I needed someone with experience to validate that so I didn’t feel like I was giving up.

So sorry you are going through that! It’s awful but you’re wise to think about where to draw the line before you get seriously hurt (which hopefully you haven’t).


This ^^^. Life is too short and horses are too expensive (and potentially dangerous) to keep a prospect you’re not enjoying. There is NO guilt and shame unless YOU allow that to enter into your decision. If you just moved to a new state with the horse with no local friends, would that make your choice simpler? It sounds like you know your current horse isn’t the right one for you - for whatever reason. Act on it and move on. For your sanity, safety and spirit, you’ll be relieved you did it. Good luck to you!


When you are not having fun. This is way too expensive as a hobby for us to not have fun doing it. I’m not saying every day has to be sunshine and rainbows. There will be challenges.

But “I couldn’t get a good haunches in today” is enough of a challenge for me, personally. I can sit and laugh off a little spook if something startles the horse. They are prey animals, it’s going to happen.

Each of us has their own limit of what we consider fun. And it may change over time (as we age!) Decide what yours is. Would you lay guilt or shame on a friend on this situation? Then don’t do it to yourself.


I agree with the others and I do understand not just the guilt but the pressure to continue. It’s been many years ago; but, I bought a 2 year old holsteiner gelding after doing much research and listening to many from the peanut gallery. He was everybody’s dream horse including mine. Unfortunately he had what one trainer termed a prickly personality. He was beautiful and talented but did NOT want to work. After ruling out all possible medical/health issues to his ‘open’ opinions to most requests, I realized the dread I had whenever I contemplated doing almost anything with him. Two things occurred back-to-back that made my decision despite all of my ‘friends’ insisting I give it more time (when I sold him I had owned him for 2 years). The first was his picking up my farrier by the shoulder who made the mistake of turning his back on him when he was stalled and my farrier was simply getting ready to start to shoe another horse of mine. The horse literally lunged over the top of his stall and bit my farrier, picking him up off the ground as he did so. The second happened in the same week. My 3 year old (human) was walking down the path from the house to the barn, I was following. I watched as this gelding snaked and lunged through the fence at my child. Despite the fact that this horse had never bit me and had been reasonable to back/start, I realized that this was not the type of personality/disposition I wanted to keep on my property no matter how beautiful or talented. I called a close friend the next day, also a trainer who lived several states away to come get him. She had no trouble selling him and I was more than a little bit relieved. Life is too short as the others have said and I found a perfect match not too long after that who turned out to be one of those once in a lifetime horses. The person who bought the holsteiner gelding was also very happy with the purchase so obviously a better match. I still have absolutely no regrets in my decision.


In my early 70’s, just had serious surgery and was ready to go at it again.
Trainer friend found this one really, really nice older campaigner, just right for me, had been shown by juniors, supposed to be very gentle.

Here comes this really nice horse, all that was promised, except a bit thin and out of shape and not very friendly to humans, would prefer to be left alone, no wonder this later in life he still doesn’t really has a permanent home.
After a few days he is improving very fast and getting all around a bit fresh, hmmm.
He was still at the friend’s stable, all very happy with horse, horse still acting nice other than getting a little bit “on the muscle”, showing to be more horse than a quiet deadbeat.

I drive the 1 1/2 hour to get there and fall in love with him anyway, he really is what I like.
I start riding him and I have a big smile, he really is smooth and very well trained, a joy to ride.
Then, he is a bit more forward than I may need to be riding now and he is feeling so good, I well know that feeling, like riding a dynamite stick.

Trainer friend is watching and when I bring that up, she responds, “he has been here a week and not put a foot wrong, he is ok” as he is looking around and about to have a little fresh moment.
I am having serious doubts if I am in shape yet to be riding rockets, then we ride around a corner and yes, his attention to me finally gives in to his newfound athleticism and he spooks, luckily taking me along.
After a couple circles to get his mind back on me, I decide maybe that is not going to work after all, not at my age and lack of fitness.
Trainer friend was also concerned, said we will see, may not be what you need right now.
We guess horse has always been in a professional barn, under very specific management to keep him amateur and junior safe, but is not really that kind of temperament, will get too strong and more difficult to ride without that kind of management.
I like more horse, why I really like him, but with a heavy heart have to admit I am now over horsed if I really want a quiet plodding type horse, less athletic, not to be admired for it’s talent, but for being, as I am now, slow.

Found a better fit for that horse, still very sad all around, he was such a nice horse, but it was not to be any more for me.

Yes, OP, some times, the horse we want to ride may just not be the horse we should be riding.
It may be not enough horse, or as when overhorsed, too much.
Tough decision, do we want to work to make it work, or let that dream horse go and keep looking for a more suitable one, sad right then, but maybe safer and more satisfying if and when we find a better match?


When you dont want to ride the horse AND neither do either your (older) trainer or your younger, braver friends. Though this horse ditched me a number of times, the only damage was from the ground. Spooked, spun, launched himself into a bolt off my left foot. Two broken bones, and a cast for 6 weeks…


Broken ribs.


I’d just say when you don’t want to ride the horse. It’s expensive enough to have one that you can ride.

I had one like that but was able to buy a schoolmaster to ride and put the younger one in full time training. I only rode the younger guy on the weekend. He wasn’t, still isn’t bad or rank, just insecure on top of being wicked fast and agile. I didn’t have the skills or confidence to ride him safely and give him confidence. Fast forward 10+ years, we’re a better match now and our goal is to do a century ride!

Good luck OP finding the right home for the horse and the right horse for you.

BTW: it seems the mismatches are the ones that are always sound!


When you fear for your safety swinging a leg over. I had a young mustang who took off bucking just as I was setting my butt in the saddle. She was fully broke and trained, just an unpredictable streak with me anyway. I fractured my back getting splatted against the arena wall. She then tried to buck off my trainer but he stuck to her like glue and rode the buck out of her. I don’t think I ever got on her again and I was tired of pouring money into her for training rides. We just weren’t a match and never would be. I sold her to two sisters who absolutely love her and they are showing her, taking her on trail rides and she’s the barn favorite.


For me, it was every time I ended up in the ER and they all knew me well. They started greeting me with “sell that horse!” so I did.

I took up driving a couple of years later and did much better, even with a hot Hackney pony.



You dont have to fear for your life or safety to decide that the horse is not for you! If you are not enjoying the horse as you enjoyed others, the match may not be right. Swipe left.

I had a horse that turned out to be spooky. Put me on the ground a number of times. I found him another home with someone who appreciated his athleticism and could ride those spooks.

The other consideration is the horse’s age and the prospects for improvements. If you have a young horse and a good trainer, it might be reasonable to put it in training for a while to see if he settles. If the trainer knows your ambiguous feelings, s/he may find a prospective purchaser. How you feel about it at that point will point you to the decision - either you will have a better trained horse you can enjoy or you will have sold him to a suitable home. (Assuming you can afford the training). I would have less tolerance with an older, presumably trained horse as retraining is more difficult and the personality may be more set.

As I have aged, I have learned more about what I enjoy in an equine partner. I am entitled to my preferences and to move on from a horse that doesnt fit after a reasonable try.

BTW, the only time I judged someone was a spacey woman who had plenty of money. She would buy a pretty horse and then mismanage and drive it crazy. Then she declared she was cheated, sold it cheap and repeated the process. I lost track of her after the third horse she overfed, underexercised, overbitted, and rode poorly.


LOL. I know someone who is practically identical to this space case. A novice woman who would buy horses totally above her skill set and then be afraid to ride it. In one case a confirmed bucker, she brought it along on a horse camping trip and then tried to get others to ride it after she told them it was a bucker.

She used to hang around the trail head parking lot at a local trail system hoping for someone to come along who she could tag along with. I brought a young mare I was training one day and had my two dogs with me, wanting to get out by myself with her but here she is and so I caved. She wanted me to leave my dogs in the truck as her horse isn’t comfortable with them so I told her the dogs were coming with me so like it or lump it. She grumbled but came along, we go around a bend in the trail (more like a road at this point) and a group of riders come galloping up behind and past us. The dogs scatter trying to stay out of the way, my horse kept her head and just stayed to the side, her horse rears and she falls off. Her horse takes off back to the trailers and she’s on the ground moaning. I get her up and walk her back to the trailer while she’s berating my dogs for causing her horse to rear. I said it was the riders galloping up on us. I get her back to the trailer, she’s still moaning how her back hurts, so I untack her horse for her and load it into her trailer. I offer to drive her home but she declines, clearly pissed at me and my dogs. She goes on her way and I have a nice ride by myself.

For years after this, every time I ran into her she would bring up that my dogs caused her horse to rear and for her to fall off. :roll_eyes:


I feel you on this post, OP, and I’m following with interest. I bought a greenie a year ago, thinking it would be such a fun journey (with the help of my trainers, of course). After a year, I’m tired of the seemingly never-ending antics and I’m really doubting my abilities. I don’t even look forward to the barn anymore, which SHOULD be all the answer I need. But like you said…lots of guilt and shame swirling around…and more than a little embarrassment if I’m being honest.


I went through this years ago. Pride made me hang on for three years when I was not having fun for most of it. Horse was wicked fancy, but yet scared the pants off me over and over. I had a pit in my stomach every time I went to ride. I wish I had sold him a lot sooner. It just sucked the joy out of riding for so long…


Last horse I sold, was everything I wanted, I thought, talented, classy, sane, but forward.

Turns out he wasn’t what I wanted at all, no feeling of dread, BTDT, but just wasn’t enjoying all the buttons, and having to be on my top form all the time.

I go with everyone else, if it isn’t fun, if you are making excuses in your head not to ride, time for a change. I might of kept Mr Talented longer, but when Covid hit, and there were no shows, no lessons, no support, and Mr Talented wasn’t at all happy being fussed over, piddling around the arena, being asked to do trails obstacles…he looked like a debutant at a hodown….


Even with my MS I am moderately brave on getting up on horses that my riding teacher asks me to ride.

She got a 6 yr. old OTTB. He was a nice horse–for everyone else. He just could not deal with my problems in the saddle, he found an excuse to moderately blow up (horse charging outside the fence, head on) and sort of shrugged me off his back and 2 of my ribs cracked when I fell (yes, I was wearing a MIPS helmet and a protective vest).

Then I remembered reading in horse books that were written in the later 1800’s, recommending that elderly/middle aged non-professional riders who had never been in the cavalry limit themselves to buying aged horses–over 9 years old. The next time I spoke with my riding teacher I told her I would be willing to get up on this particular horse again when he got to be 9 years old, and that I would like to limit my riding to horses over 9 years old now.

Since I am 70 years old and have MS I have to take care of myself, and one way I take care of myself now is to only get up on horses with mature brains. This does not mean that these horses have to be perfectly trained, just that they have to get past the shenanigans that can come from a younger horse. FWIW I used to ride younger horses, broke three or four 2 to 4 year olds of mine and had some green-broke horses, but I no longer have any business trying to ride a younger horse.

I’m just glad I did ride the young horses when I was younger and could bounce so much better!


Agree with what’s already been said, OP. If you are not happy, then it may be time to declare the match one not made in heaven. I am going through the same thing right now with my mare. I’ve had her since Christmas 2020, and I thought I had done a good job evaluating what I wanted and finding it. Instead, the last year and three months have been an emotional rollercoaster of feeling nervous, doubting my abilities, and ignoring my gut when others told me to just suck it up and grow a pair. I’ve finally given in and am looking to move her. She is a nice horse with potential, but we are not a good match. She needs someone to give her confidence, and I need a horse to restore mine.

Good luck!


I guess I’d recommend sitting with this idea a little while. To me, there’s no guilt or shame – only self preservation!! Sticking with a bad match until you get hurt (or hurt the animal) is a stunningly bad idea. So, really, considering the question for yourself, for that horse, is your smart brain trying to bring you around to a better solution.

Everybody has different ideas and sign posts, which I am sure will be offered. I’m just chiming in to say: good for you! Whatever you decide, good for you for having considered thoughts about the situation, and trying to find the right answer for you and the horse.