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  • Writer's pictureLouise Stobbs

New horse problems

Why do so many people seem to have problems with new horses? You get them home and suddenly they are not the horse you tried and everyone scoffs as the seller swears “he’s never done that before!”. Now I am not discounting the fact that many unscrupulous people are out there lying to make a sale and selling horses they know have issues, but that is not always the case.

No matter how seasoned a horse is, no horse is unaffected by changes in their life. We are taking a very social, prey animal away from their equine friends, the humans they know and the environment they likely felt safe in, to a completely strange place with strange horses and strange people. Add in new tack, a different routine, different forage etc. How could that not be incredibly stressful? 🤯

To move a horse like this then expect them to be as relaxed and trainable as they were in their old home without putting any time and effort into building a relationship with them and giving them time to settle in is just asking for trouble. A huge part of the problem is the lack of education around equine behaviour and what it actually means, people cannot seem to read a stressed horse that’s about to lose it. 🐎

Someone I know recently sold a lovely, quiet, 4yo mare backed and riding away. She had lived in the same home for years, the buyers tried her twice and liked her. Off she went to her new home and within a week they sent her back because she had bucked them off as soon as they tried to get on. Upon watching the video you can see the horse is really stressed and unhappy before they even approach the mounting block, but they proceeded anyway because she was fine when they tried her. We have got to learn to read the horse that is right in front of us. So many of these accidents would never happen and we wouldn’t be going around giving horses bad experiences and labelling them as dangerous.

I often go out to people who are having similar issues, horses seemingly having had a personality transplant from when they tried them, and having everyone around them tell them the horse is just taking the mick out of them. On further investigation they’ve often gone from living in a settled herd turned out 24/7 to being stabled and on individual turnout, or from being ridden by professionals 5 times a week to being ridden solely by a nervous/novice rider with no help. And we expect them to behave the same? Another huge factor is stomach ulcers can flare up hugely with stress and travelling to a new home might just be that tipping point.

I will do a separate post on buying a new horse because the amount of clients I go out to who have bought a horse who is showing pretty obvious pain issues, despite passing a 5 stage vetting, is concerning. We are so used to seeing horses in pain that we don’t recognise it. 😕

This post isn’t to shame anyone at all, I just desperately want there to be more education out there about horse behaviour and what horses actually need, not what we want them to be. There is so much misinformation out there it feels impossible at times, especially when we’re being told it by experienced professionals.

Horses are sentient beings, we expect them to cope with so much and we really need to start appreciating how much of a huge stress it is to move to a completely new environment. Give them suitable management, time, patience and have suitable help on the ground from someone who understands behavioural science and isn’t going to set you up to fail. 🐴

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