The dilemma every horse rescuer faces eventually

The reason I’ve been so quiet here is that I’m saving up on my VLC stories for my Horse Illustrated column. He’s going to be prominently featured later this year in a column so you’ll get to read the update there! For those of you who can’t wait, he is doing great. We have had numerous delays in getting to our first show for various reasons but this month for sure.

I do have an update about another of my rescues. You may recall previous posts about Lucy, the black Thoroughbred mare from the July 2008 Enumclaw auction. Lucy came back to me because of a job loss this past fall (she had been adopted out to someone very experienced, but he got deployed to Iraq and then his dad lost his job), and I really had that dilemma all rescuers face eventually. Here was a mare with a fairly serious fear bucking issue. I’d ridden her once and she didn’t buck but she felt to me like she thought she had a cougar sitting on her back – she was waiting for the axe to fall. I didn’t feel comfortable giving her another try, and I didn’t know of anyone else who wanted to take that on. Was it time to give up and put her to sleep? Or was that person out there who could get through to her? I don’t have an easier time making these decisions than any of you — I procrastinated, rationalizing that she wasn’t costing me much because she was on pasture board, and, well, I’d think about making a decision on her next month.

I’m glad I waited. I’ve had a young trainer offer to give Lucy a try, and she’s really clicking with the mare. They had a successful first ride yesterday and now I’m hopeful that things will continue to progress. We’ll see. I don’t have a moral issue about putting down a horse that is unsafe to ride. There aren’t enough homes for horses that ARE safe to ride. Conversely, I’ve seen the right person turn a horse into a rideable horse enough times that I don’t feel right about not giving a horse plenty of chances with different people. Look at Whiskey, that SAFE horse – once pronounced unrideable, she is now a terrific trail horse for her current owner. All she needed was some hard work and a job to do. So this is another chance for Lucy, and we will see how it goes!

Who else has been faced with this dilemma? Did you find Mr. or Ms. Right for a difficult horse, or did someone just get hurt and then you regretted it? Mugwump has blogged a lot about an unpredictable horse she had like this – I think his name was Captain. She thought she had him sorted out, and then he put someone in the hospital. It’s just the worst “rock and a hard place” situation to be in, isn’t it? But the fact is, they’re not kittens…most people don’t want to feed them if they can’t do a job, so sometimes you wind up right where I am – asking myself how many chances to give, how much risk to take, and how much risk to let others take.

Your thoughts?

Published in: on February 1, 2010 at 5:58 pm  Comments (23)  

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23 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I'm very excited to see you and the VLC in HI! There have been some waste-of-ink articles in there I'm looking forward to a good feature! Can just anyone submit articles for possible publication? I've often wondered (while reading some of the pointless ones) if they would take something that I'd write. Or do you have to already have a foot in the door?

  2. I have a regular column with them but you can find them on Facebook and ask questions to your heart's content!

  3. I didn't notice the first article mentioned Fuglyblog at the bottom! Your articles are NOT the crappy ones I mentioned. Those are the articles I read. It's actually more Horse & Rider that's been printing poo lately. Half a page to show that it looks better to wear your hair in a bun when showing? Seriously.

  4. Yay! Thanks for the pic and post!

  5. SillyPony, LOL, I didn't think you meant me! But if you have ideas for articles, I know they'd love to hear them. They want to know what you're interested in!

  6. I haven't considered subscribing to Horse Illustrated (or any magazine!) in years, and here I am considering it. They were smart to hire you! You're leaving us rabid for a real VLC update on purpose, aren't you? 🙂

  7. What if you don't live in the states? 😦 I want to hear about the VLC, I think it's interesting hearing about western trained horses, there aren't too many here!

  8. I love the black tips on his ears!!

  9. Ezme, I'm pretty sure you can get HI anywhere. Their web site is so I bet you can find a subscription link there, or there's one on the Fugly blog but that is through Amazon and I'm not sure if it has geographic restrictions.Zanthia…I kiss those little black tips all the time. They are the CUTEST!

  10. Fugly, I'm glad to hear about you and the VLC again. And I sympathise with your problem with the mare. I had one horse with a bucking issue and I ended up keeping him and turning him out with my rescue/retired horses. He was a sweet horse in every other way, and, well, I just wanted to keep him. Its never an easy choice.I wanted to ask if you got my email about reviewing my new book, which features a rescue horse, nefarious kill buyers, and a heroic horse blogger. And yes, the fugly blog was an inspiration, among others. "Going, Gone", which comes out in April, centers around the murder of a livestock auctioneer and even has illustrations by mugwump. Anyone with an active horse blog can get a free review copy by emailing my publisher. The info is posted on the equestrianink blogspot or email me at

  11. He's Bullwinkle…only all growed up! Lordy, I can hardly wait!I've got a mare that has Music Mount close up… TOO close up. We haven't had ANY problem with her, but a prospective buyer tried to "cowboy" her. She planted his ass in the dirt before I could even gasp. He told me I could keep my horse, that she was dangerous. I think that she COULD be. She just won't tolerate being bullied and man-handled. Coddle her along and she'll try everything that you ask. She will give plenty of warning if she is feeling "pushed". We just back off and go back to something that is easy for her.As such, I won't sell her. She will either hurt someone, or end up in a very bad place. Besides, we love her. (Sometimes I feel like such a sap!)

  12. I managed to subscribe (and will share with Gryph), but it looks like we'll have missed your first two columns, as the first issue isn't due to arrive til March! 😦 Is there any way you could post them here after the fact or something?-Cyg

  13. Not a resue – I actually bought this pony. During the vetting, she reared and threw the vendor – the vet warned me that this might be an established trait! Well I've had her for two years now. She does tend to be a little on the 'hyper' side, very tense to saddle up, and she has put me in hospital once, doing the rearing trick – it transpired that she needed back treatment. I now constantly watch out for the signs (that I should have recognised before!)and hopefully that will not happen again. I love her dearly, but have left instructions that she should be euthed if I get to Rainbow Bridge before her. I would not like to risk her seriously injuring anyone else.Oh, by the way, we've just started doing a bit of prelim dressage, and it's going quite well.

  14. I can't post my columns here, HI owns them, but you can get back issues, no problem! Let me check with them about exactly how to request those.

  15. Thanks! 😀

  16. Another little update:Lucy trotted under saddle…quiet and relaxed, no issues at all!So far so good.

  17. Hey! Hello! I'm glad I thought to look. Cant't wait to hear about the VLC.

  18. That's a tough one. I ended up with my first horse because of this. He was born in Argentina, brought to the States to play polo and had the snot beat out of him for a number of years. His coping mechanism was, if there was any doubt in his mind at all what you were asking him to do, he'd start throwing out every behavior he could possibly think of. Rapid fire. It resulted in a horse that looked like he was trying to either ditch his rider, or kill them. I really don't think there was any malicious intent, but he'd rear, spin, bolt, etc. while trying to figure out what you were asking him to do. I could stick with him when he did that. Obviously he couldn't be a lesson horse though. He couldn't be trusted with beginners for obvious reasons and there were few people who could safely ride him. And even fewer that actually enjoyed it. So the club had a 16yo TB that wasn't beginner safe and wasn't trained to do much of anything other than play polo. What do you do with him? The club kept him and a couple people rode him every year until the club fell on hard times and couldn't support the 'useless' horses it had (at the time, the club was still supporting several horses that had been donated that weren't actually fit to play polo anymore).I started riding him originally because I wanted to ride every day and funny enough, he was always available. I grew to love him and could handle him just fine so I wound up buying him from the club because his options were extremely limited otherwise. It was pretty much down to either I bought him or he was going to be put down. The club couldn't risk selling him off to someone who wasn't familiar with him. His vet had instructions to put him down if something ever happened to me. I had a special savings account set up just for this purpose.

  19. I'm new to the blogging forum and don't know if this is an appropriate request, but is there any chance the trainer working with Lucy might be willing to post about how she's dealing with the fear bucking? I've (foolishly) taken on a 17.1 hand, 7 year old Oldenberg as a "project." He's for sale (has been for years), but no one who comes to look at him wants him because he's incredibly spooky, which includes bolting and bucking under saddle. I originally intended just to work with him on the ground, and though we've only been at it a couple of weeks, the desensitizing/ respect/trust building is going quite well, though we have a LONG way to go. When I ride him, though, which I've done a few times, he spooks at the same phantom object over and over and over again, throwing in a bolt and bucking so he can just get the hell out of there, preferably without me. I'm a decent rider, and a re-rider at 42, but right now his issues are far outstripping my skill. My only accomplishment so far has been to stay on. I don't know his early background, but I do know he spent the past two years with a really talented dressage rider, so he knows a lot about how he *should* be ridden. She's since left the farm and had pretty much given up on him anyway since he pulled this stuff with her, though in a much more controlled form. Since he hasn't actually hurt me yet, I really don't want to give up on this horse, in part because his "issues" are kind of fascinating, and also because I can see him ending up dog food one day if he doesn't get his act together.Middle-aged amateur + messiah complex = utter stupidity

  20. I thought I commented here, I guess it was another one of those pesky acid flashbacks.Captain is still alive and as weird as ever. The Lyons trainer who took him decided to keep him.She doesn't dare sell him.She finally got to riding him, found all the training in there and is using him as a dressage horse.So all is well in Captain world.

  21. I recently gave away my 4 year old paint mare because she was unsafe for me and my son. I have been training horses for a long time and this one handed me my but on a silver platter. she was given to chrissa pratt who by the way, has done wonders with her. she had my number, she scared me, and i had to let her go or risk her hurting me or my son.. i was close to the put to sleep issue, but gave her another chance!

  22. My own horse was "ruined" by someone else before I was given him (watch who you lease to), and I've put in a lot of work for him to be a totally reliable mount now. He needed to actually lose his job. The hardest thing to teach him since he was abused was that it is okay to be wrong- I wouldn't start wailing on him. Any correction I gave at first would cause him to panic. He still gets flustered and frustrated/scared, but simply taking a break and boosting his confidence back up with some easier stuff before giving it a go again keeps him happy.I'll never sell him.

  23. Hey i know this reply is waaaaayyyyy out of date
    but though id add my 2 cents worth.

    I make my living rehoming,retraining, rescuing and breaking in horses that other people have stuffed up. i compete to a very high level in dressage and eventing and have had a lot of success. I know horses and would consider my self a good horsewoman.

    I think all horses to some extent can be saved. But should you? Some i have i retrained, fattened, taught them manners and spent endless hours on them. They are good horses and i competed succesfully on them. But at some stage they will be put under stress again…there behaviour then tells me if i go on with them…or if it better to have them put down. They can be dangerous and they are big animals. Some in a stressful situation (say at a show) will revert back to old behviour, no matter what you do. Some self distruct. not bucking or bolting, but just go in to a stage where they are panicing and u cant reach them.

    i had a ex steeple chase gelding. had heaps of succes eventing him. He was 90% of the time happy nice horse. Every so often something would set him off. He would rear and through him self around with no regards to his surrounding. once at a show another horse bumpd him. he reared and reared, not a thing i did reached him his eyes were popped out of his head.he went over backwards straight into a fence(luckily i slid of back just in time) landed on the ground and lay ther shaking….This was a minor thing to set him off….sometimes at home he would get extemrly tense if sayi gave him a kick or to sharp a pull on the rein when he wasnt expectn it…..He was a terrified horse that had been beaten until he jus gave up n the past..

    i took him home and had him put down 2 weeks later even though he was excellant in al other respects and very talented. I couldnt in good faith sell him or let anyone else have him.what if he killed someine by accident? plus he wasnt young and that panic reaction was never going to leave. although it broke my heart at the time. it made room for me to take on other horses that have gone on to be very succesful for other riders.

    all farmers and people who work with animals know sometimes death is the painful but correct solution…but lots of horses can be saved in the right hands

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