Thursday, November 10, 2016

Existential Crisis x2

I have a standing Tuesday lesson. Theoretically. Last week, it got interrupted by a much-needed conversation with friends, which I was fine with because Courage did not show up to play and I figured it was good for him to at least have to stand there and have someone sit on him even if it wasn't what he really wanted.

Then there was this past Tuesday. I prepped--I had a decent-but-quiet ride Sunday and then went for a nice toodle Monday. No pressure. No pushing. At no point did I even pick up the reins. Just 25 minutes of hacking on the buckle, then eat cookies. 

I showed up for my Tuesday lesson. I had enlisted Alyssa to gather media. My mind was clear and calm. I caught my horse out of the field. I tacked up. 

And I got on tense horse who did not show up to play. 
and then trainer was like "uh get off and lunge before you die"

At all.
yup again. except because trotting. at home. in a straight line.

At. All. 

I've been struggling with this relationship (again) lately. I'm putting everything I can into it. I've changed trainers. Barns. Disciplines. I've backed off, started over, consulted pros, read and researched. I'm doing the absolute best I can. 

I've put almost two years into this horse in his present discipline. I've done over three years in total. We quit jumping, because he didn't like it. We left good trainers, because he didn't like them. We quit going to shows, because he wasn't coping. 

And three years later, it feels like he's less reliable than he was straight off the track. 

Now, I know Dr. Chiweenie and his cohorts Dr. Google and Dr. Internet are sitting over there screaming HE HAS ULCERS AND KISSING SPINES AND BAD CHI AND AND AND AND because trust me, not only do they comment here, but they also feel obliged to email me personally about how they are eminently qualified to diagnose actual medical conditions via computer. (They're the Dr. Phil AND Judge Judy, but of vet med.) But ok. 

Let's say I have 3-5k just sitting around to dump into this horse via various vet methods. 

Why the hell would I do it. 

Honestly, at this point, it sure seems like it would make more sense to buy a 3-5k horse that could, you know, be ridden regularly. Go to shows and not completely lose his shit. Actually try for me occasionally. 

It's not like I'm trying to get to the world championships of something. Hell, I don't care if I go to the regional championships. 

But I don't think it's unreasonable to want to go to a goddamn local schooling show and have a horse I can actually ride. I don't think it's nuts to expect that a horse living in it's ideal situation plus part time pro training to w/t/c around an arena a few days a week. I really don't. I think 99% of horses ought to be able to do that most of the time. 


I don't know why mine can't. I'm seriously questioning why he's mine in the first place. My trainer never, ever gives up on anyone and that's a great feature about her, but this is her livelihood. It's my hobby. That I do for fun. And maybe, if I stick it out and I don't know, spend the winter attending natural horsemanship clinics, I'll not only be able to ride my horse occasionally, but I'll also be the next freaking Tom Dorrance.
you can call me the wild stallion tamer
Or maybe I'm trying to force a situation that's never going to work. Maybe I'm putting years I'll never get back into a horse that isn't going to come around. Maybe it isn't meant to be. Maybe the reason I feel like I dump my heart and soul into this and get nothing back is because I'm missing the really obvious clues that this is never going to be a thing and maybe we'd all be better served if I moved on.

I don't have any answers right now. 

I know I don't believe in making decisions in the heat of the moment. I know that the fail photos I have plastered all over the internet would definitely be an impediment to selling. Come to think of it, this blog probably wouldn't help either. 
uh so if the whole thing disappears overnight, you know why
I'm at a loss, guys. It's not one bad ride or one missed lesson. It's not one bad show or one more stupid bolt. It's consistent. He's reliably unreliable for me. 

And frankly, I'm not sure why I'm here right now. It isn't fun. It isn't working. I'm learning a lot about how to manage a thousand pound diva that doesn't want to play, but I'm really not advancing my individual skill set in terms of moving up any level in any discipline and we're rapidly reaching the end of my willingness to put this much in to a situation and get nothing back. 
unless you counting lost shit. we have that in spades.
Maybe he needs to go to shows and do nothing but hand walk for the next five years. Maybe he just needs a change of scenery and a new person to thrive. Maybe if I stick it out another six months, I'll have a second level horse schooling third. 

Or maybe someone else will. And maybe they'll show up with him and beat me and my stupid new project horse I got off a feedlot somewhere at the third level championships.

But I'll go home and know that I have a partner who shows up to work. 

Honestly, that's all I want. The ability to work towards a goal with a reasonable expectation that we can achieve it. 

Is that so unreasonable?
PS I was obviously very emotional when I wrote this. I debated not posting it because it's quite raw, but what the hell. I specialize in being honest and this is/was honestly how I feel right now. So. Either that makes me a whiny bitch or I guess it's relateable that we all struggle sometimes. 

50 comments:

  1. All I can says is "I'm there, too". If you weren't halfway across the country from me we could commiserate over booze and dessert. I'm spending every last dime on a horse that does not want to play. Except mine is great for trainer. It's just me he hates...

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  2. I've admired you for quite some time. You are a huge part of the reason I finally decided to sell my own Hell-Mare and find something that I loved riding. As a hobby, this sport is too time consuming, dangerous and expensive to not be having fun.

    That being said, I admire how dedicated and determined you have been with Courage. Only you can know when it's time to move onto a new partner and since you've been in the position of having the awful, no fun horse as well as the amazing, confidence building partner I think you will know when (or if) it's time.

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  3. I went through the same issues with my heart horse. He "settled" finally at 16, but still could be an absolute dingus when he wanted. I don't have any advice or answers for you because it was a lot of tears and stubborn-ness that got me through 5 years of spooks/bucks/dirty stops, and each case is different.

    I commend you for sticking with him. I think you'll do right by him and that's all that matters in the end.

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  4. I don't think posting this makes you a whiny bitch at all. It's painfully honest without sugar coating anything. We all struggle. I think all of us AAs have times where it's not fun, not even a little bit, so why are we doing it? I know I've felt that way. I wish I had answers or words of wisdom or some way to help, but I don't. Only you can decide if this is a relationship you're willing to keep going with. No matter what you decide, you have friends that will support you.

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  5. I think we've all felt this way at one point or another. Only you can decide what the right path forward is, and I know you'll give it the utmost thought, care, and consideration, like you always do. Eating your feelings also sometimes helps.

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  6. I like to go the route of buying cheap horses and dumping tons and tons of money into solving their various myriad medical problems. It is super fun! JK

    I admire your honesty, your commitment to your horse and your willingness to share both the best of times and the worst of times with an audience that is sometimes unfairly critical to you, without knowing the whole picture.

    Whatever you decide, I support you.

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  7. Hey, thats OTTBs for ya. Wonderful one minute, absolute shitheads the next.

    Also FWIW, it IS getting colder. Most the horses here, including mine, get extra batty around this time of year. Good luck

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  8. It's not unreasonable. It's hard as an outsider to weigh in since I know I don't have the whole picture but agreed something isn't working. That doesn't make him a bad horse or you a bad rider/owner/person. Sucks you're in this place again and you're correct never make decisions out of desperation but from this blog it looks more hard than enjoyable for both for both of you, you both deserve to be happier however that works out. I'm so sorry you're feeling like this again, been there, it's exhausting!

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  9. So true that we all struggle and no, your expectations are not unreasonable. I do think it's wise to not make any decision in the heat of the moment....emotion are such fickle things!

    Hang in there! We've all be somewhat in your shoes before...it sucks!

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  10. This is a really tough one. I currently own a 26 year old mare version of Courage. I have had her since she was 5 and now she is retired, in great health, running around tearing up my fields. Endlessly frustrating and the greatest inspiration for learning to be a better rider and trainer and think outside the box. My truly biggest regret with her is that I can't have her again at 5 knowing what I know now. None of this really helps you make any kind of decision but you have my sympathy because it is such a hard situation to be in.

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  11. Challenging horses will just keep bringing us here again and again. We dive in and learn like hell to be better for them and sometimes it feels like we've got this and other times it just feels like it's all for nothing. There is no right thing to do. You deserve a moment to feel like this and you have the right to change your mind. We all know you are doing your best for this horse and whatever happens, I believe you are making good choices. Take care!

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  12. I'm really sorry that you're feeling like this right now. It sounds like you get more than enough unsolicited advice so I won't offer any myself. Just know that we're pulling for you.

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  13. I like a horse that shows up for work most days. Sure, there are shenanigans from time to time, and everyone has an off day now and again. Plus there's that whole "needs mileage" thing for lots of horses. But IMO life is too short and horses are too expensive to have one you don't really get along with, for whatever reason (and I don't mean "you" specifically, I mean in general. Before I started blogging, I had three other horses that we ended up selling because they weren't good matches). Someone else might get along with that same horse perfectly. Horses are kind of like spouses, you know? You need to be on the same page most of the time to have a working relationship. And sometimes, if you've given it a go for years and tried therapy and everything else, it still might not be the right relationship. And that's OK.

    Hugs. Horses have the uncanny ability to create the highest highs and the lowest lows.

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  14. As amatures who do this as a hobby, you have a right to having some fun or it least a hope of future fun. Horses are very expensive, and time consuming. And yes, we have the right to expect some cooperation from our equine partner. Even though they dont understand the extreme accommodation we do for them. If you decide that you are not getting the fun return for your money, no one should fault you for moving on and there will always be a market of people who will think they can succeed where you failed . And if they do...good for them, and good for you for moving on. You are the best judge for yourself. Good luck on whatever you decide . Best wishes, carol

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  15. I honestly had a feeling this post was coming - and I don't meant that in a "I told you so" way - I just have seen the repetitive cycle from the last few years with Courage to know that the "high" notes don't last long enough it seems.

    I am really sorry you are having a tough time with him. I admire you for sticking it out, but there is absolutely nothing wrong with what you find reasonable!

    I know you love Courage and you are doing the absolute best for him, but something has really gotta give. =/

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  16. god people email you to tell you shit? why are people such nosy little shits.

    this is tough. but you make a lot of valid points. and if it's not fun its JUST NOT FUN. and he owes you to meet him half way.

    I'm sorry.

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  17. You're not a whiny person, you're at your wits end. You already know my thoughts on the subject, but I'll add this - I'd rather have 10 untalented drones with a good work ethic than 1 olympic superstar who doesn't want to play. Not all riders are like that, but I am.

    Disagree with the "that's OTTBs" comment. I have been around a LOT of OTTBs since I moved to TX. Never have seen a single one of them act like C-rage in terms of flailing and unreliability.

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    1. I disagree with pointing fingers at him being an OTTB, too. Any horse can decide it just cannot horse EVER and refuse to play. I'm so sorry you have to deal with this. But I mean maybe if you treated for Lyme and got his teeth done...?

      LOLZ JK PUNCH THOSE BITCHES OUT.

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    2. @ Lauren, you might want to try the lottery then, you seem to be super lucky with the OTTB thing.

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    3. Carly--HOW COULD I FORGET ABOUT LYME

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    4. Also disagree with the he's an OTTB comment. Horses in general regardless of breed can be drama llamas and divas. Don't get me wrong Annie and I have duked it out with multiple pros, clinics, and literally like 1000 dollars in my vet telling me that I'm a lunatic and she needs her attitude adjusted. There was a solid 2 month time frame where asking her to canter to the right made me want to actually stab myself. But she's a 4yo horse and 98% of the time she tries her heart out for me except during those 2 months.

      I think you have been way more patient than I probably would have. Thag said no answers here. You'll know when it's time to wave the white flag. My only thought would be do it before riding in it's entirety is not fun for you anymore :(

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    5. I'm gonna be another that disagrees with the OTTB comment. Having owned many OTTB's and a few warmbloods, the OTTBs have always been the most consistent and had the best work ethic, if we're making generalizations. Of course, they've also required smart riding in order to get the best work out of them. They are horses that, if anything, tend to always try TOO hard. To me the issues she's having with Courage are a "him" thing, not an OTTB thing. In fact, I've only had one horse like Courage, and he was warmblood with very little TB blood. It's not a fair brushstroke to paint over OTTB's, IMO.

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  18. So sorry. This part of horses sucks. I recently found Warwick Schiller and it seems like lots of folks with ponies like Courage have had success with him. Plus, when I googled him I couldn't find anything negative about him. He's got a monthly video subscription that I've been bingeing on. It's at least a cheaper option to try....I don't want to seem like a Warwick Schiller pusher, but I've been super impressed with the support I've gotten. May be worth checking out....

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  19. You aren't being unreasonable in the tiniest. You're well-founded in your frustration and you've been logical in reasoning through and taking time and hard work to try to resolve things. You'll make the best decision for you and your horse no matter what that decision is. You do you. And if that means a new start for you and Courage? So be it. Way better to keep having fun and enjoying the thing you love then having to fight it.

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  20. My suggestion, having done this particular rodeo in the not too distant past (as you saw), is to go out with your trainer, have a meal, and have a frank talk. Bring a written list of what you WANT and what you NEED. Have her help you check off what you're getting currently from your partner. I think that will help you decide what comes next. And you're getting hugs from the East Coast. Fly out and you can let mi papi frustrate the hell out of you in totally new and different ways.

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  21. I see it like this. I give horse the best care I can and in return his job is to work for me. If he doesn't want or suit what I want to do then I'll move him on. It's too expensive and too high of an emotional investment to keep plugging into horses that aren't the right fit. And it's ok to want a horse that turns up to play the game. Because most horses will. I learned the hard way sometimes it's better to just move on because it is supposed to be fun and a release from life in general.

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  22. I get it - I felt this way any Gina for a long time. You have my sympathy and support.

    Probably the chi. Have you tried feng shui in the barn? šŸ˜œ

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  23. Got nuthin but hugs for ya. Been there. Beer?

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  24. I am living vicariously through your blog. I'm old now and don't ride much, but in the past had a horse or two like Courage. (I still have one of them, he's 25 in February). You may not be moving up the ranks at shows, but never feel like you aren't getting anywhere. He is getting better and so are you. Anyone who has followed this blog for long can back me up here. Try to hang in there, because I believe in you two. Even if Courage is a prick sometimes and may not deserve you.

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  25. I totally get it. Not unreasonable in the slightest. I'm currently taking a break from Tony and riding a really nice lease horse. He shows up to work. He's not perfect. He's stupid slow off the right leg, but I'm an adult ammy, and I'm having FUN riding for the first time in a while. I don't have to make a decision right now about the pony boy. I love him dearly, but his work ethic is shit. We're taking a trial separation, then we'll see how I feel in the spring.

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  26. What a bugger. I think we've all been there & whatever you decide I hope it works out for you.

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  27. I TRULY commend you for the unbelievable amount of work and patience that you've put into Courage. However, there does come a point where you have to make hard decisions. As amateurs, we put SO much money and time into this sport. At the end of the day, it has to be worth it. Only you can make that choice, but I will say, having a horse that shows up to work is a game changer. Personally, that is the most important quality I want in a horse. Being your partner means they have to pull their weight too.

    PS- Like Lauren, I also disagree with the OTTB thing. In fact, most OTTB's I've worked with are workaholics. They tend to love a job. I don't think the fact that Courage is an OTTB is the main reason he is the way he is.

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  28. What about his horoscope? Have you tried that?Ugh.

    It is not unreasonalbe to think a broke horse could w/t/c around the arena (just about) any time they are asked. You're not asking for hard work yet, just work. You pay his bills and feed him, he does circles around the arena few times a week, that's the deal. I'm sorry you're dealing with this.

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  29. I wish I had some words of wisdom that haven't already been said. We are with you regardless of how things work out. Most of us have been there, or will be if we stick with horses long enough. It just sucks. Maybe try thinking about the situation if it were happening to your BFF. What advice would you give them? I don't know you. You don't know me. Just reading your blog, if you were my friend I would tell you to find him a new home but that comes from a tiny key hole view of your life on a blog. If I blogged about my holy-crap-we-are-all-going-to-die clinic experience this past weekend you might give me the same advice. You have the best seat in the house. whatever you eventually decide you have our support.

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  30. I am sorry to read this and I totally understand. I think you have a difficult decision to make and you have my support ('cause a random person's internet support is critical, I know).

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  31. As someone who tried desperately to make some of my horses work - and eventually, gave up - I can tell you now that I'm glad I did, as much as it sucked and I felt like I was giving up and taking the wuss way out. Everybody loves a good success story, nobody loves when those don't pan out.
    I can also tell you that I am STILL, years later, trying to undue the bad habits those horses gave me as a rider just trying to not die. Defensive position, inability to put my leg on, rounded shoulders... those were all things I used to not die, and while they worked and I did not die, my position suffered for it and so did my confidence. A lot. A LOT.

    And it wasn't worth it to keep going down that path.

    There is not any shame in deciding to throw in the towel somewhere along the way. It's better to get out of an abusive relationship than to stay in one and continue to get pummeled because it's the altruistic thing to do.

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  32. I very deeply respect the amount of time and effort that you have put into Courage. Giving up jumping, for example - to me, that's a huge deal. It speaks volumes about how much you care for him. That being said, I would not fault you in the slightest for choosing to walk away at this point in time. And I wouldn't fault you for sticking to it. It's a heartbreaking choice to have to make, but to me, if your horse's needs are being met and you have gone above and beyond to meet them, and he's still not happy...well, maybe at that point it truly is time to put your happiness first. And your sanity. I'm so sorry that this point has been reached, and I wish you all the best as you move forward from here.

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  33. Sending hugs girl. I just want you to be happy. How you define your happiness is entirely up to you. But the happiness needs to happen somehow someway. Good luck!!

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  34. I was in your situation but opposite. After a decade of showing 4H, local, open/breed and H\J shows, I got a big red gelding to show. He schooled and our one show and one hunter pace were beautiful. But I realized I have no desire to show. So for eighteen months I tried to switch him from a full care, lesson weekly, semi pro program, to a 3/4 pasture kept trail pony. He. Hated. Trail. Riding.

    Not spooky or scared or barn sour. just flat didn't like it. grunted groaned and moaned, had to kick him down the trail.

    Ended up selling him to a teen in the same program I left and he is happy as a clam. and I'm horse hunting again.

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  35. BUT HAVE YOU TRIED MAGNESIUM?!

    Kidding, of course.

    I still can't believe people email you to berate you. I'm sure they would do the same to me if they knew my horse had never seen a chiropractor or had a massage or had his future read in tarot cards. Or whatever people are into these days.

    I agree with not making decisions in the heat of the moment.

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  36. That is completely not unreasonable. The horse raced for how many years? Showing up for work is not a new thing for him, you're not asking him anything he hasn't heard before. You have put way more time, effort, money into him than 99% of people would (myself included).

    I can't remember how much bitching online I did about Eliot. A friend's young TB I was riding, and ended up doing the majority of the riding after he intimidated her a little. Beautifully built, great gaits, but he DID NOT want to play. Could ride a training level test one day and refuse to go in the corner the next. Granted I did not invest as much as you in lessons/training, because it was not my horse and I was not spending a fucking dime on him if I didn't have to. Anyways, friend finally sold him and a year later she hears he is some little girl's 2'6" hunter. When I first heard that, I beat myself up a bit that for whatever reason I wasn't the person to get him there, realize his potential, blah blah. But at the end of the day I'm just so freaking glad I never have to get on that horse again, and if I was just a stop on his way to success I'm cool with that. (Side bar-- this horse never raced and wasn't broke til 4ish, and I always wonder what he would have been like if he'd been track trained and had a work ethic installed from an early age. Count me among those who have found OTTBs to generally be very reliable in terms of consistently showing up to work.) I will take my broken pony who shows up to work 110% every day over a young sound physically talented horse who does not. We are amateurs, this is supposed to be fun.

    Also, said friend lives in CO and is casually shopping and I love more or less everything Finger Lakes has posted in the past two months and I think there should be a cross country shopping caravan with a pit stop in Chi town. Just sayin'.

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  37. What everyone else said. I can only add, since I haven't seen it posted yet, try asking Courage what he wants. By using a good animal communicator. It's very woo-woo and I was skeptical as hell myself, but I have experienced some real positive results. If you are truly at your wit's end and have tried everything else....well, there's that.

    I want to be you when I grow up, even though I'm probably 20 years older. You write well, you ride well, and you have SUCH determination. You will make the right decision.

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  38. I ride horses for fun. If it's not fun, then what's the point? I 100% support you selling him if that's what will make you happy. If keeping him and winning this training struggle is what you want to do, then do that. Do whatever makes you happy. And whatever b*tches tell you to try reiki or whatever BS can go F themselves.

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  39. Just want to send you some hugs. Because that's a crappy situation to be in no matter what the outcome ends up being.

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  40. late to the party (Darn work travel!) but i agree with whatever YOU decide 100 percent because it is YOU who has to live with the horse you have. If we could all have crystal balls we could see into the future with how much easier would that be. I follow your blog and love the ups and love your honesty on the downs. I dont have any answers but you have given 110 percent to him and darn it he could give 50-70 percent back and it would be better. Poor you (and Courage too). That is really hard. Listen to your heart and what you want out of life with your horse. Life is too freaking short to deal with that shit every day. UGH really hard post to read because there goes the rest of us at a different time of our life. Horses. Love them and they suck too :) Hugs to you via cyber space.

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  41. I feel that asking my horses to work one hour a day is not unreasonable. They should want to work and enjoy what they do. The green ones are allowed melt downs and tantrums to a point. They should go away with training and maturity. A horse should also have a bottom meaning that you can get them past that behavior and to work. Only you can decide what is best for you but when you say you are no longer having fun then that really says it all. There is a job out there for him and you certainly have tried. Best wishes ❤️

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  42. You know me, I have absolutely no nuggets of wisdom, or helpful advice. All I can say is to do what feels right TO YOU. -hugs-

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  43. Thanks for posting this. Sometimes I feel like I'm the only one who has this struggle...and the struggle is real. This is supposed to be fun and you need to do what's best for YOU.

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