He was Mr. Star Of The Barn as a 4yo, and the cheap amish special as a 5yo (coming with his own accessory kit of horrible habits and issues), enabling me to afford a nice horse and to finally get my step up mount, having had the same mare from my earliest riding lessons up through my first season showing adult classes.
Bless his heart, he's taught me so much, but he has me pulling my hair out. I would love to retire him and let him chill out and relax and not be so hard on himself, but he just will not cooperate.
A couple years into ownership, he developed a breathing impairment (he has a collapse in his windpipe which makes it hard for him to breathe when he's not in just the right spot in his bridle). Could be fixed surgically, but his brother had the same issue, had surgery, and it ended up killing him- the tube inserted to correct his windpipe collapsed as did the next one they tried. So have opted not to fix and to just work with it as best I can. Right now I'm really struggling with it. I can't seem to get him fit enough to where he can canter comfortably for any "normal" period of time anymore (he came off a bit of a break and he's come back a fair amount, but we've totally hit a plateau.
he's not a horse you can just hop on and go- some days, yes.... but most days he's a horse you have to work at- there's not really any time you can count on him to just give you a nice settled pleasure ride. But he LOVES having a job and the harder the work is that you ask of him, the more he likes himself. Even when he sounds like he's going to choke himself out at the canter, he's going around with bright eyes and ears forward. I'm taking a chance of taking him to a show next weekend- probably his last breed show...... The last show he went to, he was so happy to be at a show that he kind of faked himself out of breathing (I do think that the anxiety of him not breathing well kind of snowballs with him. At home when it's all he's focusing on, he's not good. But he did pretty well at this show when he was so busy going... OMG! A horse show! I'm at a HORSE SHOW!) but I just don't think I'm going to be able to get him back to where he really should be to take him out in public a whole lot.
He's Mr. high Maintenence. He Hates Turnout. He won't get used to it. Back when I had him at the family farm, he had a run out stall, and he thought it was just awesome to stand there and stick his head out and look at the great outdoors, but he never spent more than an hour or so outside. I've tried at a few different barns to get him to accept turnout and he just won't make the transition, both with a small herd, and with solitary turnout. I gave him nearly 6 months and tried to force him to just get used to it. All I got for it was a skinny, stressed out horse who had stood by the gate and cow kicked until he was too sore in his hind end to ride. So I've given up and he's now a stall only horse, with being ridden at least 6 days a week, plus regular hand grazing or the occasional hour out in a paddock that happens to be available. But now we're doing the ulcer dance too as a stall kept horse- thankfully he does well with the pop rocks.
Basically, I have a horse that I have to work like a show horse and maintain like a show horse. But... he's not a show horse anymore.... He should be retired. Or at least part retired and enjoying a life of easy relaxed hacks... He has apparently just plain missed the memo on that one though.....
And then there's the challenge of finding him a barn that will just let him be who he is instead of insisting "oh he just needs some time to acclimate... he'll be happier in the long run". Or... the 7 games is all he needs (wow that turned him into one ANGRY horse).... Just figured out this evening that our "as close to as ideal situation as we can get" is not going to have enough hay to support him at an appropriate level until next summer's hay cutting. So... back to the drawing board, trying to find a place to board that won't drive the both of us up the wall.
I love him to pieces... but there are times I long for the old days with my old mare who was just as low maintenence as they came...
I've just only ever met one horse before him who WOULD. NOT. get okay with turnout. I had to take a few months off from riding when I had back surgery and he was absolutely heinous to deal with. He's a horse who wants and needs a job to be happy.
He's just 15 now. At this point, I'm pretty much at peace with the knowledge that he's a horse I'm going to have to work for as long as he's sound, and when he gets to the point where it's unkind to work him anymore, offer him retirement but be prepared to have him put to sleep. No actually, I;m not at peace with it- just thinking of it makes me upset. But I know that it's what will eventually become necessary.
Right now I'm looking at the purchase of a coming 2 year old so I can have something to work for the showing, but catering to the red horse's mental needs is already a fairly full time job. of course, think I found him a boarding barn that also has a pasture board opening for the filly, so at least I'll be back on the "show up and ride" routine instead of having barn chores too... I ride and show a Friesian mare for a friend- started doing that to get my showing fix when I wasnt' making enough money to do anything more than pay board and expenses on the red horse. But the friesian suffers from a major lack of work ethic unfortunately and I've recently found that I have more fun *booping* her nose and giving her cookies than I ever do riding her. She never offers anything from the kindness of her heart- every moment is work work work and then she has a DIRTY quit to her. I've tried a couple others on the farm, but the breed just isnt a good match for me at all. There's just not a whole lot of "want to" that I've found.... I need somethign with the red horse's work ethic under saddle but that is willing to allow me to take a day off now and again.....
I love him... but... I feel like everything about him is one big test, trying to balance everything well enough to keep him happy and healthy. There are times he's just exhausting, but then there are those times when he's just Mr. Incredible and gives me 110%....
Hey there. I had a saddlebred who was just like the horse you described. Similar age. Retired show horse who was simply not happy unless he was being worked like a show horse.
I did eventually get him to enjoy SOME turnout (but he only wanted a couple hours a day) by forcing him. Hay AND grain in his own paddock in the morning. Chasing him around a bit once in a while - silly guy loved it.
He'd always let me know when his time was up and he had to come in.
To keep his brain occupied I long lined him a couple times a week (which he enjoyed). Drove him occasionally which he LOVED. I rode him regularly as well... but he got bored going round and round the ring and did some trail riding (which he was kind of 'meh' over - afraid of nothing though - he just didn't quite understand why we were doing all that BORING walking) and eventually I started jumping him.
The jumping really made a difference. Twice a week we'd go over a few jumps and he really enjoyed it.
So, that's how I dealt with it. Keep him busy doing different things everyday. Force him to pasture by feeding him outdoors!