When I moved away to go to college, I sold my horse knowing that I wouldn’t have the funds or focus to keep up with a very rigorous academic schedule and the type of riding schedule that particular horse needed. Now, 7 years later, I still don’t have another horse to call my own! A couple of years ago I did get a new horse, but I quickly realized I had made some mistakes thinking I could pick right back up where I’d left off. Even though I only had the new horse for a short time, I learned a lot about my confidence, riding ability and what I really should be looking for in a horse.
Challenge #1: You’re not the same rider you used to be.
This may be disheartening and even discouraging. But just like you could get back on a bike and ride after time away, you’ll be able to do the same with riding a horse. It may just take more time and a little bit of patience.
Solution #1: Try a lot of different horses.
You’re going to be a different rider, but that’s OK! Trying a lot of different horses is going to give you a good idea of what you’re currently comfortable with and what you should be looking to purchase. I’ve even found that some bad riding habits I used to have are improved after time away. Trying a lot of horses is going to help you realize your new strengths and weaknesses and what kind of horse will be the best fit for where you’re at right now.
Challenge #2: You may need a horse to accommodate more than just you.
Often when we take time away from riding, our life circumstances change. In my case, I now have a husband and soon to be two kids. For now, I will be the primary rider, but I want a horse that is going to be safe and fun for my family to ride occasionally as well.
Solution #2: Look for horses with qualities that will meet everyone’s most important need.
While it would be very difficult to find one horse that was the perfect fit for everyone in your family, it’s not difficult to find a horse that will meet the most important needs of your family. In my case, this means a horse that is calm and safe, but willing to go out for a good ride. Look at the big picture of what your horse will be used for and shop accordingly.
Challenge #3: You might have to learn how to care for a horse differently than you used too.
I always boarded horses when I was younger, but now I have my own land and barn where I will keep my horse. This wasn’t a huge transition for me because I have ample experience caring for horses, but if you’ve only ever paid board and want to start keeping your horse at home, you will need to learn how to do that properly. On that same note, boarding a horse can be a challenge if you’re used to keeping them yourself and doing things your own way.
Solution #3: Find a horse that is going to be happy with the living situation you provide.
Taking a horse that has always lived in a pasture and keeping him stabled (or vice-versa) can be a tough adjustment. A horse who has been in a herd may never get used to living alone. As you get back into riding, make things easy for yourself and shop for a horse who has been kept the way you plan to keep him. Or be adaptable and ready to provide a stall for a weather-phobic horse or a buddy for a social creature, if you have the means.
For all of these challenges—and the others you’ll encounter in your horse-owning adventures—Having a good mentor to guide you through issues you may need help with is very beneficial as well.