Sweating palms? Racing heart? 7 signs you have over-horsed yourself

  • After years of fearlessly riding other people's 'project' horses, Victoria Brant was finally in a position to buy her own horse. But after opting for a four-year-old warmblood, she quickly realised she had made a mistake...

    Growing up in rural Lincolnshire and riding anything I could get my grubby, child-size mitts on, I soon developed a taste for bringing on ‘lost causes’. You know the types that no one wants to ride? Those were my ‘projects’. Fearlessly, I collected a decent amount of rides and competed at a respectable level before turning 23 and being in a position to buy my own horse for the first time.

    The combination of coming from a non-horsey family and a mountain of student debt, meant that I didn’t have enough disposable income to purchase a ‘safe’ option — no big deal, I though! This is where my steep learning curve really began.

    So I took myself off on a two-hour trip to purchase a four-year-old, Polish warmblood.

    Alarm bell 1 – Unpredictable occurrences/fate?

    Buying a young well bred horse with a very brief description and taking a trailer on the first trip seemed very exciting at the time. Four hours later, reality hit. The big grey lump that waddled onto the trailer soon decided he wanted to be anywhere but and flipped upside down. Parked up on the side of a cleared motorway with a set of bolt cutters wasn’t how I had predicted this day going.

    Alarm bell 2 — The ‘long haul’ realisation

    Home and dry, all my money and time was spent on rehabilitation and getting some sort of trust established. With the woods and trees all merged into one, I couldn’t distance myself enough to overcome the problems we were facing. All the riding I had done for other people had not prepared me for ownership when you can’t turn your back and walk away.

    Alarm Bell 3 — Doubting yourself

    I began doubting whether I had the capabilities to help him develop and progress. Doubting yourself when working with horses, especially young horses that need defined instruction, is only ever going to end in confusion, which will result in a less than idea outcome.

    Alarm Bell 4 — ‘Ding – Dong’… Confusion

    Rearing was his way of telling me he was confused. I was in WAY too deep now and every inch of confidence was draining from my trembling body. Eight months passed, I wasn’t sure I knew what I was doing any more and I sought the help of professionals.

    Alarm Bell 5 — Outside influencers

    The imaginary pressure from people around me wasn’t helping and I felt required to take him cross-country schooling to prove I still had ‘it’. The biggest bell of all — the pressure of external influencers; you do stupid things to prove you’re not a giant sack of rotting fruit. No surprises, we parted company. Shattered, beaten and terrified — I waved the white flag.

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    Alarm Bell 6 — Wishing you had a hairy, half dead horse to love

    So I advertised and sold my ‘too much’ horse. It was a quick process and ohhh… the relief. Six years on, I have gathered up the remaining shreds of my dignity, borrowed some hypothetical balls and re-built myself with a more sensible option.

    Alarm Bell 7 — Sweating palms? Racing heart? Making excuses not to ride?

    If I have learnt one thing from this experience, it’s that perseverance isn’t always the right path to tread — know when enough is enough, you’ll be thankful in the end. And be honest with yourself about what type of horse would suit the time and expertise you have to invest in order to avoid living through the heartache that I have.

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