Letting Go of the Horse Dream


Life has a way of surprising you. That saying “the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry” rings true for us – especially over these past few months.

Just under a year ago, my son and I were spending most of our free time at a Vermont barn sharing our love of horses. But following a particularly heart breaking experience with that trainer, rekindling our equestrian joy has been a struggle. Despite our best efforts.

After moving to a new barn in late 2019, we started riding a fun little mare named Josie and the flame started to burn a little more brightly. But then COVID-19 hit after only a few months of riding her. Lessons were canceled, the barn became open only for boarders, and we haven’t ridden since.

If we had our own horse, we would have found a way to keep getting time in the saddle. But, to add insult to injury, the one time we did go see a horse in New Hampshire, the seller was so dishonest we have yet to get that bad taste out of our mouths.

I had been so diligent when inquiring about this horse – Did it like children? How tall was it? Any medical issues? etc etc. Of course the seller told me everything I wanted to hear and sent amazing videos. My son got his hopes up and we piled into the car with our trainer. Then, after a 3 hour drive we discovered the mare was 14.1 hands (not 15.1 as advertised), had club feet and a terrible attitude. She bit my son twice in under 5 minutes. We didn’t even bother riding her.

I know this is part of the game when looking for a good horse. No one wants to sell an honest horse, so one should expect horse shopping to take a good long while.

But this is not the beginning of our horse journey. This is 3+ years into our pursuit of the equestrian dream. And we are tired. Plus, with a global pandemic in full swing, traveling around to see horses is not really an option.

Horses Carry the Sins of People

A couple weeks ago, I ran into a gentleman I know who trains horses here in Vermont. He asked if we had ever found a horse for my son, and after telling him what we’d been through he said: “Yes, that’s too often the way of it in the horse world. Horses carry the sins of people.”

“That sounds like poetry,” I replied.

“It is,” he said. “Horses are poetry!” Then he sauntered off, cowboy hat in one hand and a beautiful black Friesian he was about to ride in the other.

His words ring true. All of the horses that have been in our lives have been honest about who they are. Not once has a horse tried to deceive. It’s the people who stand to make money off them, either by selling the horse itself or by selling their training services, who have sullied the horses with their own end game. I think my son and I would agree that we have appreciated each horse for what it was. We don’t have any ill feelings toward any horse. But we are tired of dealing with horse people.

Our current trainer is an exception. I have known her for years and we should have been at her barn all along. But with COVID-19 in the equation and without a horse of our own, I don’t see us riding anytime soon. And to be honest, we may have lost the heart for it.

“I think my horse days are done,” my son told me earlier this week.

“Really? Why?” I asked him. “Don’t you love riding horses?” For his sake, I had been willing to pick things back up, starting with his lessons and even horse shopping again once it is safe.

“Yes,” he answered. “I do love horses. But all the horse people lie and I always get my heart broken. I think it’s time to move on from horses.”

Those were some of the saddest words I’ve ever heard, especially coming from a 10-year-old.

And I can’t help feeling guilty for not choosing the people who were involved in our horse journey more wisely. But the truth is, I did my best given the information I had at the time. I really tried my best. And that is all any of us can ever do.

I’m sorry buddy, that your equestrian journey is over.

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  1. My daughter showed from age 7 to age 9. Her last show she won happy rider and a blue ribbon! As she dismounted Paisley that afternoon she said “I no longer want to ride in shows. The trainer is only after the ribbons, Mom.” Saddest day of our horse dream. Fast forward 6 years. She is 15. She has found a new barn. She told me this was her dream barn. She has decided to ride and show again. Her love and passion for the horse never left her. Again, it was the human that destroyed the experience!

    1. Thank you Laura for sharing such a kind comment. I hope that my son will give horses another try someday.

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