Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Throwing in the Towel

I've decided to sell Winston.  I made the decision Tuesday afternoon.  Last night I felt discouraged and tired, but relieved.  Today I have felt overwhelming relief.  The weight of worrying about Winston largely gone.  When I talked to Sandy about my decision she asked me about my goals.  I don't think what I told her was accurate.

What I wanted ten years ago has changed without me realizing it. Ten years ago I wanted to be a strong competitor in the dressage ring; I wanted to ride every day; I wanted to train, train, train. And ten years ago I did all of that. Well, except for the strong competitor part. I went to a lot of shows and I worked really hard, getting up in the dark to ride before work, my nose dripping in the cold morning air.  And I loved it.

I don't want that anymore. I want to improve and progress but more than anything I want a horse that I can have at home; a horse that I can work with on my own, taking occasional lessons to keep me on track; a horse that I trust. Winston is not that horse.

My new job is very demanding; both in terms of time and energy.  I enjoy it but it doesn't leave me time to ride during the week.  I want a horse that can hang out in the pasture during the week and cruise around the arena or trail on the weekend.

Tuesday, the vet came to the barn and did a thorough evaluation of Winston. I wanted to rule out pain as the cause of his reactive behavior. I wanted to check everything before making a decision. She said that Winston is sore, but not any more sore than would be expected with the work he is doing. Certainly not sore enough to justify throwing himself around. She felt that his behavior is tied to his personality.  It's a great personality for a competition horse -- brave and willing with a strong, but sensitive, rider.

To a large degree, he has my number. He is trying to dominate me; to be the alpha. It doesn't work on the ground. I've always been able to firmly establish my space and my position on the ground. Winston is no trouble at all in that area. But in the saddle its a different story. He's a very talented and fun horse to ride in a lesson but he scares me on my own. There. I've said it. I'm scared of coming off again.  I'm 54 and my joints hurt.  I'm too old to deal with young horse behavior.  Especially with a strong willed horse.

Sandy is pleased with the progress that Winston is making. She calls him the "new" Winston. If I were still focused on shows and advancing and had the drive that consumed me when I was younger, it might be worth making the financial sacrifices to keep him in full training. But I'm not willing to go into debt, and I'm not willing to eat weenies and beans for dinner in order to progress. Winston's training has been blowing through our savings at an alarming rate. It can't continue much longer and I can't safely bring him home. He needs an owner who is where I was ten years ago.

I need to re-evaluate my goals as well. I told Sandy that my goal was to get a bronze medal. I'm not sure, on reflection, that it is my goal anymore. I want a horse who is kind, willing, sensitive and sound. I love dressage and that will always be the discipline I practice but I'm not sure I want to concentrate on competition. I want to enjoy the journey and the relationship.


  1. Your honesty is inspiring. Our goals do change depending on our age and life circumstances and there's nothing wrong with that at all. Sometimes we're slow to realize or admit it to ourselves.

    Winston sounds like he'd be an outstanding competition horse with the right rider - one who could ride him frequently and compete regularly, and I get he'd be pretty happy with that. He might be as frustrated with you as you are with him - you may not meet his needs, either.

    There are many riders who struggle for years with the wrong horse for them, and it's a loss for the person and the horse.

    Good for you for being willing to take a hard look at your situation.

  2. I know this was a very difficult decision. HUGS HUGS B

  3. I am in shock, but this really does make sense and I know it was not a decison made overnight. I know you have been struggling to make it work and admire you for your decision.

  4. I totally get this. I've come to this realization too - I don't want to event any more, I want to have a nice, trustworthy horse I can ride and work on, and if we get to show, that's cool. But there's no pressure (other than what I create) to do anything at all.

    I know Winston will find a great home and you'll find a horse that's just right for you. :)

  5. I don't think you're throwing in the towel.. if you were, you'd give up on horses entirely!

    I think you are just turning to a new chapter, & you've made a very brave & hard decision.

    Good luck on your new horse search!! :)

  6. Riding a horse you are afraid of isn't fun, and at our age, this needs to be about fun.

    As hard as it might be, replacing Winston with a horse you can trust, that will be what you need when you have time to ride, is the right decision.

    Good luck finding a new partner and finding a good home for Winston.

  7. Cheering you on! That sounds awful as I know you love Winston, but I'm sooo relieved and have been hoping you'd come to this decision. Life is short. Find a safe, sound, fun horse and enjoy. Maybe Lori can find you a perfect horse like she found for me :-D.

  8. Sounds like a good idea for both of you. I know what a difficult decision this has been for you, because I've had to make the same decisions, too.
    But it helps knowing that life is all about change and that not every match is perfect or is a relationship that will work out.
    Sometimes we are just stepping stones for animals, and people, to move along and find their true purpose.
    We are not doing them, or us, any favors, by holding on and trying to make it work, even if our intentions are good.


  9. Another horse like Jackson, right? There was definitely a different type to your writing when you were riding him.

  10. I've been following several sites that sell horses (in my budget range). On the more Western oriented sites, almost every advertisement starts with the words "Sound, no buck or rear". Those priorities make a lot of sense to me.
    Your horse should be a pleasure and a partner, not a mountain to be climbed, just because it's there.
    Be at peace with your decision xxx

  11. I could have written your post so easily. I too have changed my goals. It's not that I don't want to ride or show- but mostly I want to ride. And have fun. and be safe. I think you made a great decision for you and Winston. You have given him a great start that he can take anywhere.

    When you start to look for another hose may I suggest looking at a Baroque - Lippizan, Andalusian, etc. I can't begin to describe how keen they are to bond and be part of their human. Of course I am completely and utterly biased....

  12. While reading this post, I felt myself relaxing because it could have been me saying those words, except for the dressage part anyway. :) I've never ridden dressage. But, hearing you speak these words, is exactly how I feel now too. I'm also 54, and my priorities have changed as well. I want what you want. A kind, trustworthy, safe and sound partner to enjoy riding. A horse that I can relax and have fun on, and with. Amen Annette, and bravo to you for speaking truthfully, and from your heart. :)

  13. Ahhhh now I see. Annette, I'm with you all the way... and you are ten years younger! I have only just come to the realization that my goals of ten years ago are not my goals of now.... you are very wise, and Winston will get a good, new owner who will take him forward safely. Way to go!

  14. LOL youre being honest, so i will be honest...

    you should be given an award for sticking it out as long as you have, and trying different methods to make it work - seriously! IMO
    It was like two different art directors trying to sell their version of dressage to each other LOL he will find his way, once realizes that his way isnt always best. and you have found your way, once you realized that not all horses can, want or will understand a riders vision.

    Really, thats what makes the great competitors out there - not just physical fitness, but the communication. I know you already know this, but without it, there is no relationship, period. And i dont mean riders aids, i mean "connection". Once you are connected to animal, as you have already had with Jackson, you know it, and you can move on to working together. Winston really didnt want to connect. Hopefully someday he will...


Thanks so much for commenting! I love the conversation.