When you buy a horse, the first and foremost consideration must be your safety. Forget about the breeding, the colour, the amount of ribbons and trophies that the horse has won –all these things are pointless if the horse isn’t safe for you to ride.
Many people own horses that are dangerous and unsuitable for them. Time and time again I’m asked how to overcome problems that people are having with their horse. Often, it’s very obvious that the rider isn’t suitable for the horse. And very often, the situation is dangerous for the rider.
Years ago, a client sent me a seven-year-old mare that he’d bought for his wife to ride. Unfortunately, the mare had been very badly treated. Under pressure, she’d panic and rear or run backwards. I know this wasn’t the mare’s fault, her behaviour was simply the result of seven years of very bad handling.
Although I was able to improve her, I told the client in no uncertain terms that the mare was completely unsuitable for his wife.
“But she’s such a pretty mare and Julie loves her. She really wants to give her a go,” he said. I disagreed strongly but the client wouldn’t listen.
A few weeks later he called me up. “You were right. I should have listened to you,” he said. “Julie’s in hospital with a broken hip. The mare reared up and came over on top of her.”
It gave me no pleasure to be right. I’m sure these people didn’t realise the risks involved and just how dangerous horses can be.
If you don’t have the skill and experience, don’t try to ride or re-train “problem horses”. Rearing, bolting, bucking and other extreme behaviours are dangerous enough when you’re experienced. If you’re inexperienced, these behaviours are a recipe for disaster.
A lot of people seem oblivious to the danger they’re in when they ride or handle a “problem horse”. People may ride such a horse for months or even years, without serious incident. However, every day is a day closer to catastrophe. And if you have to ask how to deal with problems like rearing, bolting or bucking, you probably shouldn’t be riding the horse.
If you’re an inexperienced rider, you must find an old, quiet horse to begin with. It doesn’t matter what breed the horse is or what he or she looks like. All that matters is that the horse is quiet, reliable and safe for you to ride and handle.
Over the years, I’ve had hundreds of “problem horses” sent to me for training. I’ve been bucked off, kicked, trodden on, dragged, run over and just about everything else you can think of. You name it, I’ve had it happen. Believe me, it’s difficult enough to deal with such horses when you have the necessary skill and experience. But it’s a ticking time bomb when you don’t.
Neil Davies began training horses full-time in 1977. Over the next 15 years, he started more than a thousand horses under saddle and trained thousands of so-called ‘problem’ horses. [read more]
He is the author of Fear-free Horse Training – every step of the way.
Visit Neil’s website at www.fearfreehorsetraining.com.