When safety has become an issue

It’s likely that you have a strong sense of loyalty to your horse, but this doesn’t make it worth getting hurt. A tendency to bite, rear, buck, kick or strike out will pose a threat to your personal safety and if you can’t control him, somebody else may be able to.

When the 'love' is gone

Your relationship with your horse is like a human partnership – you need to ‘click’ on a number of levels. You also need to enjoy the time you spend together! Perhaps his energy levels are no longer up to your riding style, or maybe he’s too frisky, and relaxed trail rides have become stressful as you constantly try to settle him. Either way, if you’re dreading spending time with your horse, the love is probably gone. Is it fair for you to try and change him? Maybe there’s a rider out there more suited to his demeanor.

When he’s outgrown his abilities

It’s a fact of life that horses, just like you and I, will grow old. While your horse may have been the perfect match in his younger days, your skills have likely evolved and your requirements have, therefore, changed. If you’re starting to feel like your horse is holding you back, you may develop a subconscious resentment. Horses are highly intuitive animals, they will pick up on such feelings and resent you right back. If he’s served you well, pay him back by finding him a more appropriate home where he will be appreciated for who he is.

So what are your options?

Keep him as a companion. If you get another horse that’s more suited to your needs, your old friend will make a great companion to both you and your new horse.

Lease him out. Young riders that don’t have the resources to keep a horse of their own will love the opportunity to learn to ride your horse. If they do have the resources, they can lease him on their own property, in which case you’ll save money on upkeep and still be able to visit him.

Train him. If bad behaviour is the issue, you might want to consider sending him to a professional horse trainer. Consider the cost, and ask yourself whether you’ll be able to maintain the work that the trainer has done. This may or may not be viable.

Sell him. Passing your loyal companion on can be a difficult process, and the best way to feel right about it is to make sure you find him a great home. Conduct interviews with interested buyers and take plenty of time to do this. Don’t sell to anyone you’re not sure about! You can also make it a condition of sale that, should the new owner ever decide to sell your horse onwards, you are offered the first rights to buy him back.

March 10, 2022 — Greg Grant Saddlery