Blog by Sophie Wyllie
Making the hard decision to sell
Every now and then I have one of those rides where I question whether or not I want to continue with my current horse. I feel terrible thinking it because I adore her, but it’s something some of us might need to consider. How do we look past the fact that we love our horse, and come to the realisation that riding is a hobby, and hobbies should be enjoyable?
I’d be lying if I said every ride should be wonderful, but the truth is that riding should be more often enjoyable than not, and that can be said for both horse and rider. Some horses are not the right fit for their riders, and vice versa. If you’re scared of your horse, you become ineffective rider, and that does more damage than good. Deciding to sell your horse does not make you cold hearted or a quitter, and it can sometimes be the best thing for your horse. There most likely is a rider out there better suited to him than you, which is a hard pill to swallow sometimes.
I have met and coached so many riders (kids and adults) who are so scared of riding their horse that the enjoyment is lost, but they have this need to persevere because there is some redeeming feature they can’t part with (“he’s such a smooch on the ground”, “she’s so talented”, “I paid a small fortune for him”). It takes months, sometimes years for you to realise that maybe it’s best to sell them, and by then your confidence has plummeted, and the horse’s behaviour has gotten worse. So, it’s time to look at the facts and rationalise them:
- Most of the time, I’m nervous when I ride him: This is a no-brainer. The occasional moment where you’re scared is fine, and quite normal for most amateur riders, but if you have to time your ride perfectly with the right weather, when a someone is home to watch over you, or you’re just generally putting it off, you’re not enjoying riding. Find someone who would enjoy training him, they’re out there.
- He’s gorgeous on the ground, and loves cuddles in the paddock: If this is all you need and you’re prepared and can afford to keep him as a pet, then happy days, but if you love riding, find someone who enjoys him on the ground and under-saddle. An affectionate horse will enjoy the company of someone else, and as sad as it may seem, he doesn’t have the cognitive ability to pine after you or miss you. Someone else can make him happy.
- I paid a small fortune for her: This is tough when you’ve reached deep into your pockets to fund the horse of your dreams, only to find out you’re not a good match. You won’t likely get your money back, and may have to accept much less, but remember that you bought the horse to enjoy. Horses are not an investment, and you are in no way guaranteed to make money on them. Consider it like a holiday – you went, you spent, but you’re not seeing that money again. Time to save up for the next.
- I can’t afford anything else: Again, this is tough. Horse riding is an expensive sport, but there are cheap horses out there – quiet OTT thoroughbreds or Standardbreds, older horses, horses with vices such as windsucking or failed vet checked horses (some horses fail as a competitive eventer, but may be fine for low level ARC or happy hacking depending on why they failed).
- I love her: This is the biggest one of all, and common with kids. But what do you love? The idea of her? Or the hope that she may turn out to be the horse you dreamt she would? You will cry when you sell her, but you will love the next horse too. Hopefully, the person you sell her too will love her as much as you did, and that’s quite likely because let’s face it, who doesn’t love their horse? It’s the reason we all started riding in the first place.
Making the decision to sell means that you may need to accept a low sale price. Unfortunately good riders get offered horses fairly often, so the offer would need to be appealing to them. In some cases, you might not make a cent, but in the right home at least you can feel reassured that the horse will be given the best opportunity at a good life ahead. Accepting that you may lose money on this horse is hard, but our horses don’t owe us a thing, try to remember that.
There are those people who can afford to early-retire a horse and keep him as a paddock companion which is the dream really – but for most people the reality of owning horses is – you buy them, you sell them. Finding the right home is what’s important, and there are a million horses out there who were once troubled and now live a great life with the right owner, so keep that in mind if you think your horse is only safe with you. Persevering with riding a tense, agitated or scared horse is not helpful to the horse if you’re not working through the problem that’s causing the behaviour.
The silver lining to all of this? Buying a horse you enjoy – a horse you can burst with excitement over a great ride – a horse you can’t wait to ride each day. Truly, this is the most wonderful thing, when you truly enjoy your hobby. It doesn’t have to be a fancy horse, or a pretty horse, or a horse with major talent, it just has to be a horse with a personality that suits you.
For me, I would need a few more disappointing rides to make the call, but I have considered it once so far. Right now, we’re sailing and I have the support around me to make it work, but as much as I like a challenge and am a capable enough rider, it’s my hobby too and the moment it stops being fun, I know I can make the decision to find someone who will find it fun.