You’ve finally found the perfect horse. Your trainer approves, your vet has given her okay, and even your best friend thinks this is “the one.” Maybe this is your first expensive horse, maybe your first purpose-bred horse. It could be that it’s your first horse you’ve owned as an adult, bought with your own money.

Whatever the case, you have hopes and aspirations for your new horse. This is the horse who will be able to do the work, stay sound, and live into a long satisfying retirement. This is your dream horse.

So what happens after you make the purchase?

Sometimes it’s a lot like coming home after the honeymoon is over. It seems like once the search is over, the fun is over, too.

Here you are with your new horse and the truth is…he is a perfect stranger to you. He has quirks and opinions. Or maybe he has none of them at all and seems as dull as the pony outside of Walmart but with no hope of a quarter reviving him.

No matter what the problem is, there almost always is a problem.

Sometimes there are many. The horse who was mild mannered and cooperative when you tried him is a pawing weaving maniac in the crossties now. He won’t stand still to be mounted, he spooks at things only he can see. Or the horse who was forward and willing to try is slamming on brakes and balking at an eighteen inch cross rail. Leg yielding has taken on drama that should be reserved for passage and piaffe in FEI competition.

You think you may have made a terrible mistake. The horse must have been drugged, or longed to death before you tried him. He was misrepresented, he was brainwashed, maybe there was a ringer delivered instead of the nice horse you bought.

Oddly enough no one is surprised…not your trainer, not your vet, not your barn manager. Well, maybe your best friend is but she has had the exact same thing happen to her!

Why? Why aren’t they surprised? Because they have not lost sight of something that you have—an essential fact, actually—that this was all your idea. It was your idea to remove your horse from his home, his horse friends, people he knew and trusted. The only one who was happy and excited, of the two of you involved, was you.

It’s a tough reality to face but if you want to get through to the other side you will have to change your point of view to that of the horse.

He doesn’t know anyone at his new barn. As good as your intentions are, you don’t do things in the way he is accustomed to, and horses inherently dislike change. The food may have changed, turnout is different, he probably even has new blankets and halters, not to mention his tack. It’s overwhelming for him and you need to try to be sympathetic to his point of view.

It is equally important that you accept responsibility for being clear with him as to what your expectations of his behavior are or he may begin to feel even more insecure and fearful, which can quickly lead to even worse behavior.

So now you can see why I called this essay “You Can’t Hurry Love.” Because you can’t.

Finally finding the right horse feels like the ending of something—the end of a long search. But more importantly it is the beginning of something else. In my observations of countless riders and horses coming together, it takes months, even years, for the partnership that everyone dreams of having to come true.

Please don’t think you’ve made a mistake and bought the wrong horse. Sure it happens, but it’s more likely that you have simply started off on the wrong hoof. It is never too late to begin again.

Take some time and rediscover why you bought this particular horse in the first place. Schedule some time to hand graze instead of working on lead changes. Spend the evening just grooming and find out where his itchy spots are. Have a look at his diet and make sure it hasn’t changed in ways that might make him have too much energy or not enough. Be sure he is getting enough turnout to have time relax and just be a horse.

Remember that you went through all you went through to get your new horse so you could begin a relationship.

For now, try to suspend your ambitions. Put aside whatever ideas you had about how things would be and learn to experience what is really happening. Once you can do that then you can begin to learn how to get along with your new horse and build the partnership you have been dreaming of. Anything worth having is worth waiting for.

One of the truest values of horsemanship is that you must learn patience, humility and kindness—not only to your horses but to yourself.

Best wishes to you and your new friend!

About the Author

Gayle Dauverd is a life-time horsewoman who trains, teaches, and trims.