Changing Hands, Saying Goodbye is Never Easy

When a horseman (or woman) hears about a fellow equestrian having to “say goodbye” to an equine partner, the thought that immediately comes to mind is an accident, age, colic, or simply realizing it was “time” to let their horse go to the big pasture in the sky.  This isn’t always the case…goodbye’s come in many different packages. Sometimes simply making the decision to find your horse a new home is just as difficult as knowing he has passed over the rainbow bridge.

When Is It Time To Change Hands?

One of my barn-mates is currently struggling with this “other type of goodbye”.  She has fallen on difficult financial times, she has two horses, and she simply doesn’t have the time or resources for both of them.  I have gone through this decision making journey with her in some form or another for over six months – she’s ready to let go one week, and the next she’s figured out a way to hold on.  But is this really fair to the horse?  The answer is undoubtedly “no”, because the horse (who is a beautiful, young mare with a lot of potential) is being wasted as a semi-stall-bound pet.

It’s interesting, psychologically, how we become attached to our horses.  We all know that they are not like dogs or cats; living in the home with us, waking up beside our bed, eyeing us as we eat dinner or watch television, but they are still an insanely important part of our lives.  I’ve had to “let go” of horses in the past.  I can still remember the butterflies in my stomach, the way that my heart leapt into my throat and my eyes welled with tears every time that I thought of that trailer pulling away for good. Yet, I knew deep down that what I was doing was the right thing.

There was a time when I did absolutely everything I could – working my fingers to the bone and my body to the brink of exhaustion – just so that I could keep a second horse that I didn’t really have the time to ride, or even the inclination to.  Looking back, I realize that it was my own attachment and fear of letting go that was causing me so much pain, and I wasn’t thinking about what was best for the horse.

Horse Collectors – Can’t Have Just One

Let’s face it, we all know of people who have horses that probably shouldn’t; not because they mistreat their horses, abuse them, or fail to provide for them, but simply because they don’t really have the time to put into them.  These people are like “collectors”, and the more horses that a person has, the less time they have to focus on each of them.  My barn-mate has a mare who she absolutely loves, and she would probably ride her far more often if she wasn’t worried about the second horse – who she loves, but is just not something that she needs.  She feels guilty even coming to the barn to ride because she doesn’t have time for both horses. So instead she doesn’t come out at all, or simply runs out to check on them and maybe do a quick grooming.

It was the same for me…  I had my reining horse, who I rode, trained, and showed, and this took up the majority of my time, and then I had my second mare who I loved dearly (I had owned her since she was a yearling), but who was not a competition horse and didn’t serve my needs as a rider.  My second mare was amazing under saddle, had the sweetest personality in the world, and I knew that she would be perfect for someone who wanted to hit the trails, have a horse they could trust to put friends or kids on, etc., but that didn’t change my feelings of sadness at the thought of letting her go.

Honestly Consider What is Best

When you think about it, it all comes down to two things…what is best for you, and what is best for your horse?  Answer these questions honestly, and you’ll know what the decision should be without guilt or fear.  This isn’t a “logical” thing, but we must force ourselves to look at it logically.  If holding on to something is not serving you, then it is best to let it go.  If holding on to a horse is not serving the horse, then it is best to let it go.  By holding onto something just because you’re too afraid to let it go, you are creating stress, anxiety and undue burden on yourself, and that’s just as unhealthy as having a horse that you aren’t able to invest time, effort and energy into.

So, even though “goodbye” is difficult, it’s sometimes the best thing for all concerned.  Remember, you’re in control and you can do things the right way.  Find someone you trust to help you with the sale, do a home-check, approve any prospective buyers in any way that makes you comfortable, put a “buy back” clause in the contract and make sure that when you do say goodbye that you can do it knowing that you put your horse into the best home possible for him or her.  Saying goodbye is never easy, but in many cases it’s the best thing that you can do.

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  1. I really enjoyed the Time to Let Go (of your horse) article. I’ve been there and the only thing that made sheer anxiety ok was that I knew these beautiful, athletic Arabians needed a ‘job’ that I could no longer provide at the time. Fast forward five years and my show mare’s new owner found herself in the same position! She had to let go. I bought the horse back and have her again! Her little brother went to a wonderful lady for trail and she is now one of my dearest friends. He’s been in my life until she just found herself in the same position! But, he went to a wonderful lady that loves and cares so well for him and we all keep in touch on Facebook! Now, we’re all sort of friends. Praise God for so many blessings in this saga; so many happy endings!

    1. says: slohorse

      Thank you for appreciating the focus. Yes so many wonderful human connections are made through our horses. So glad the Lord God Made Them All, as James Herriot so aptly named his final series.

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