My horse has competed at a high level previously. I bought him to improve my confidence, and to teach me the basics. I’ve never had a ‘schooled’ horse before and he was meant to be my treat to myself. However, since I’ve bought him the other liveries at my yard are making horrible comments about the fact that I’m wasting his potential and that I’m riding him at a much lower level than he should be ridden at. This is all starting to really affect my confidence and I feel so bad for him. Should I sell him and get something more of my level or how can I go about moving beyond this?
The first and most important thing to remember is this is your life and your journey, nobody else’s. You need to put yourself first and think about your own goals and what you want to achieve. Everyone is on a slightly different path and at a different point in their life – so there really is no need to compete with anyone else or worry about anyone else’s opinion on your journey. What’s important is your happiness and that of your horse, and you can go about achieving your goals in your own time, whatever they may be. With regards to your point about your horse being unhappy to do low-level work, we would say that no horse ‘needs’ to compete and certainly does not ‘need’ to compete at a high level. Yes, some horses enjoy competing, but no horse comes out of a class saying ‘Fantastic – I won the 1.50s. I now feel like I’ve achieved something’. Horses thrive when they can be happy partners with their human, and the level at which you are competing is irrelevant in this. If this wasn’t the case, and horses could only feel fulfilled if they were in the top levels, there would be an awful lot of unhappy horses in the world. It is also worth noting that new partnerships take time to establish, so you’re absolutely right to be riding at a lower level to begin with. You can learn from and get to know each other without putting yourselves at risk or under great pressure. The most important things are that you are enjoying riding your horse and that the two of you build your relationship at your own pace. It doesn’t matter if you reach the high levels tomorrow, next month or never but instead that you enjoy yourselves and find satisfaction in your partnership. Finally, people who talk about others are usually just jealous. It is likely that there are other people at your yard who wish they had your horse, and just don’t express this in a particularly nice way. If this is a huge issue, and you feel isolated because of these individuals, it is worth looking at another yard where you’ll be happier, as ultimately your horse will be happier too. However, if you are able to ignore these people and get on with enjoying yourself with your new horse, then put these nasty comments behind you and know that you are on the right track for you. The biggest piece of advice we can give you is not to let a few people’s snide remarks lead to you passing up the chance of building something special with this talented horse. It’s an exciting journey you are on – don’t let the nay-sayers tell you otherwise!