The “Problem Horse”

Anybody who has been around horses has always heard around the barn about that one bad horse. The kicker, the biter, the one that will dump you in the corner quicker than a flick of your crop. The “Problem Horse”. But do many people stop to tell you why these horses are the way they are? Or was the first thing out of their mouth “Watch out this one bites!” or “Don’t get kicked, this one’s extra ornery,”? Most of the time once a horse is labeled as a problem horse, it sticks. Suddenly the things they need a bit more help with become their characteristics. That horse that everyone wanted with such spirit suddenly becomes the horse that is hard to handle. What many people do not realize, is that these are the horses that need our help most.

Most people think a horse’s way of thinking wouldn’t be much more then that of a cow, they are both large livestock that we breed and raise for a purpose of our choosing. For a profit. They believe that in buying the most expensive, well-bred horse they’ve secured their success in the show ring. But are in shock and awe when their $10,000 show pony is spooking at the fences, and no amount of kicking and whipping will get them over one. They are ready to write them off and move on to the next bigger, better, prettier horse to get them that first prize ribbon. But where do those horses go? Their price is reduced with each sale, on  and on to the next handful of trainers and riders who will give them a go until they lose their patience, then its on to the next one until their value is considered that of dirt.


But not all trainers and riders are like that, we are all human. But that is a benefit of the doubt not given to the horse.  People don’t realize that like we are human, they are just horses. Any problems they have on a day to day basis, is a result of an event or occurrence in their past. A result of how they were raised. Remember when you reached up to touch the stove as a child, only to find the painful burn that came along with touching the red hot surface? Years and years have passed and even as an adult you remember never to touch the burner. Well so do horses, they remember.

Over the years of owning my own particular “Problem Horse”, I came upon a particularly disheartening issue one day. I had just gotten back from an eventful weekend at the local state fair and rodeo. I knew Rio had some western training and speed was something he excelled in. Gaming was an obvious choice for us at the time. I walked into the barn feeling inspired and eager to start working with him using a different approach, and had brought my black Dallas cowboy hat along with me that I’d purchased at one of the rodeo’s sponsor’s stands. I figured I’d wear it while riding, just like the real cowboys do!

Without thinking I shoved my feet into my boots and buried my head in the big black hat going for Rio’s halter. And as I reached out and opened the stall door, speaking to him as I usually do, he lifted his head up just enough to see me walk in. In an instant his hind quarters were against that back corner, ears pinned, the whites of his eyes much more visible then before. “Whoa!” I let out, my instant reaction. Rio had always been more of a hot horse, he had gone through a “catch me!” phase to avoid coming in. But this was something  totally different. He has spooked before, but never at me. This was fear.


It was then I realized I had never ridden Rio in a black cowboy hat before. We guessed he may have been roughed up by a cowboy wearing a black hat. But even though it was something we eventually worked through I still continue to wonder… What happened?

There is no way of knowing what a horse has gone through, so there is truly no way of knowing why a horse does what it does. But ask yourself, do you know why you do the things you do? As you age, don’t you learn from your experiences? Then you know first hand that sometimes learning is not always a smooth process. But that does not mean it’s not worth trying. But it helps when you have someone by your side who wont give up on you… They wouldn’t give up on us, we cant give up on them.

A horse will always have that problem until someone feels he’s worthy enough to take the time to try and fix it. However much time it takes. But I’d like to ask you this, aren’t we worthy enough?


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