Wrong Horse For The Job

When I purchased Houston I didn’t have intentions of eventing. I thought I would buy a jack of all trades that I could dabble around in the Hunters with. Circumstances pushed me to eventing and with some blood sweat and tears I even managed to complete a couple events. Would I go back and do it again? No, probably not.img_0437.jpg

Buying Annie was a shot in the dark hoping for a horse that would be suitable for the jumpers. I got very lucky all things considered! She can be a bit difficult but she has more athleticism than I will likely ever need. It is very reassuring to know she can get us out of a bind.  Annie’s diagnosis created a lot of uncertainty though and only time will tell if she will be good to continue her job as super eventing dragon.LCP_4420

In the meantime I have been putting more rides on Huey. The thought even briefly crossed my mind that maybe I could try to do an event again. When the opportunity to go for some no pressure schooling with a barn bud came up I jumped all over it. Much to my disappointment this adventure just further cemented why I stopped eventing Houston.

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not the norm

Once you have run cross country on a horse like Annie  it’s harder to stomach the idea of jumping solid obstacles on a horse like Houston. He has many good qualities but his carefulness or even athleticism over fences is not one of them. I love him dearly but he doesn’t instill confidence and I know that I am perpetually just one bad experience away from losing the nerve to event.

I am writing this as a reminder to myself. There is no reason to try to force a square into a circle. I want to be able to look back and remember how I felt Saturday. Jumping XC on Houston leaves a pit in my stomach that Annie never does. I might be afraid sometimes because I am a chicken but never in a “I hope we don’t flip” kind of way. That is something Houston’s inconsistency over fences inspires.

img_4364.jpgAs eventers we partake in an already dangerous sport. There is no reason to stack the odds against myself by riding a horse that isn’t willing and at least somewhat inclined to jump solid obstacles with his legs up. Grid’s might help him and I might even try that again but eventing will not come back on the table. I am not saying that everyone needs to have a freak of a jumper. I am however saying that life is way too short for me to try to make Houston into something he is not. Especially when it’s really not that hard to find a safe jumper.

There are right horses for a job and wrong horses for a job. Sometimes it is easy to determine and other times there is more of a gray area. It takes a self aware rider to acknowledge and accept that.

Where do you stand on this topic? Are you of the camp that most horses can do all things at a low level? Interested to hear other peoples thoughts.

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18 Comments

  1. I 100% know what you’re talking about. I have similar issues with my Batthorse over fences (different issues, but similar in the unwilling and just overall unsafe due to a variety of reasons–in our case he’s a stopper and my trainer believes that even if he were to be in full training, he’s never going to improve. He’ll get better, memorize fences, then the course will change and we’ll start back at 0.) On top of all of it, when I push the issue, I lose my happy and willing horse who loves to gallop across fields, who can cart anyone around on the flat, teach anyone to trot (or canter), bombproof, etc. Since I cut out real jumping, he’s 100% will to handle easy jumps like crossrails and airy no fill vertical. So that’s what we do. He’s happy and he’s safe to ride.

    Just because a horse CAN do something at the low levels (physically Batts can jump a 2’6″ course with NICE form), doesn’t mean that they necessarily should. I’ll take a happy horse willing horse over the alternative.

  2. Been there done that. In Connor’s case, he’s both too careful and too slow of a thinker over fences for XC – has to stop and assess the situation before taking off. And he, like Hue I’m sure, is athletic enough to always make it over, but something was going to happen someday. He’s so much happier just doing Dressage, it’s amazing.

  3. I think most horses can do most things at a low level, but not all of them will be competitive at all those things or be enjoyable at those things. And that’s okay. I think you can say the same about people, too. I’m capable of riding western pleasure as a human being with legs and arms and a head (lol, questionable some days), but it wouldn’t be enjoyable and I wouldn’t be good at it! Kudos for you for trying again with Hue, but also for being willing to say “eh, not his thing and that’s okay!” 🙂

  4. I got into endurance with Ozzy because that’s the horse I had at the time. I knew nothing and we did a-ok. Now that I ride actual, sure-footed endurance horses with a sense of self-preservation, I am amazed we didn’t die and horrified that I ever trotted Ozzy down hill. It’s amazing what riding a horse who *is* suited for the job will do for your perspective.

  5. i’m on the “most horses can do most things up to a certain level” boat. that does not, however, mean that every horse is very fun to do everything with, or that they enjoy every activity. if you’re a pro rider, you do it anyway. if you’re an ammy? eh, it’s worthwhile to find a partner that shares your idea of fun while also demonstrating basic abilities haha.

    i’m curious tho – i hadn’t realized annie’s future as a riding horse was so up in the air? she’s not unsound, right? i didn’t remember the vets saying anything about limitations for her riding?

    1. She was never “lame” but the whole discovery process came about because she was uncomfortable doing the job. We will try to bring her back as we have been and I will see what we have. But if she is still uncomfortable going in the frame/contact required for the dressage element of eventing we won’t continue to event. It is possible that she may go back to being happy/ comfortable over fences though and I could still do the jumpers. Right now I am in the discovery phase of bringing her back. I hope we can keep eventing but I will have a pretty good idea of what we have in the next few weeks as we start to test things.

      1. gotcha, that makes total sense. good luck and here’s hoping that the strength building and suppling work that comes with dressage actually help improve Annie’s chances at a comfortable and productive career!

  6. I have experienced this phenomenon myself and I completely agree with you. Just because a horse is physically capable of getting around a discipline doesn’t mean it’s going to be pretty, safe, correct, or pleasant.

  7. This is why I don’t event Hampton. Is he fine at starter and BN? Sure. But he does not have the “fire in the pants” for eventing, and would rather stop and think about the situation than act quickly and catty with his feet. his downhill nature also makes me feel unsafe at times when jumping at speed.

  8. I think its like fircing your kid ti be a dancer. If they dint uave the talent and/ or drive for it, its not fair. When i out Holly up for sale, a lot of eventers asked about her. She had jumped solid jumps well, could do low level moves, but she ismt tight legged and doesnt have that fire i think good event horses have. So i also said not appropriate. Why make horse and human frustrated or worse, injured. Her new owner i think is a lot more like me, poke around at small stuff and just enjoy the horse. Being a good, happy owner i think is finding the right niche for your horse and you.

  9. Like other people have said, I think most healthy horses can do most things at lower levels- but I don’t think that means they necessarily should. That sense of “fit” is really important for both physical and mental reasons, for both the horse and rider. I definitely think about that a lot for Frankie as we consider future plans- just because he is physically capable of doing something doesn’t mean that’s definitely what we should do.
    Some people find the niche that fits their horse, some people find the horse that fits their niche, and I don’t think either is better or worse than the other!

  10. Can you make any horse do any job? Probably. Does it mean they’ll do it even a little bit well? Nope. I think to be most successful you need a horse that wants to do the job YOU want to do. Or you need to be willing to do the job they want. I bought Jamp to be my A/O jumper. In his past life he did some grand prix classes and many 1.5m classes, so the scope was definitely there. I started him in the high adults and we really weren’t all that successful. He was nervous and unpredictable which resulted in run outs and rails. So I stepped him down and did him in the equitation and some hunters for awhile. And he was SO much happier. I think having to think so quickly in the jumper ring was too much for him. He likes to go slow, take his time, think things through. Some horses can excel in more than one discipline or ring, but they seem to be more the exception than the norm.

  11. I absolutely think It is so important to listen to your horse and find a job suitable for them and their abilities. Why fight things you can’t change? If a horse is naturally, brave, has some scope and fire, absolutely let them tear across a cross country field. If they seem unmotivated to jump, luggish over fences, and prefer all 4 feet on the ground, let them try their hooves at dressage. Another horse has balanced, steady gaits, but seems to lack the spirit for speed or large obstacles, and lacks the desire to do high level collected work, they might love the hunter ring. Knowing I wanted to do the hunters, I was thrilled to find a dressage reject that liked jumping, had flat knees, and “easy” flatwork.

  12. I feel you %100 on this. Years ago I had a beautiful horse named Sam. He was a 17h rhinelander and he was fancy fancy fancy. He won dressage by miles and at the lowest levels he won every event. I started schooling him Training level and he left a leg more than once, and smashed through showjumps. I said to my mom at the time – this horse is not an event horse. So I sold him as a dressage horse and we both lived to continue on with our lives. I will never ever event a horse that doesn’t want to or isn’t suitable. So not worth it.