Dealing With the Ups and Downs of Your Horse

by Lizzie Lengling December 07, 2021 5 min read

8 Comments

Dark Bay Horse with Mountain Background
 

 

Let me start with, I love my horse! Mira may be quirky at times and make me want to pull my hair out... But we’ve been together for seven years, and through the good and the bad, we’re stuck with each other now! The journey of horse ownership is much like a roller coaster. There are highs, lows, and "what the heck" moments. These experiences are what makes us #horsegirls and the low moments make the high moments all that more important.


Before I get ahead of myself, let me back up and give some history. I bought Mira as an unbroke three year old… okay that’s putting it nicely… she was basically a feral three year old. You couldn’t catch, halter, lead, brush, or even really touch her, and in hindsight, was probably not the best option for me. But she was in my budget and I had high aspirations for our future. 


After I retired Roo (my Hanoverian gelding), I wanted another fancy hunter project that could eventually take me to the big shows (I recently just rediscovered my list of what I was looking for in a horse at that time…  and Mira ticked none of those boxes LOL). Fast forward seven years, a lot of memories, learning moments, and tears later- I accomplished none of those aspirations. I have yet to make it into the show ring with Mira and came to the realization long ago that she will never be that hunter I once pined for.

But I’ve also realized I wouldn’t change her for anything and couldn't ask for a better partner!

Dark bay quarter horse jumps, trail rides, and stands on bridges

 

She may not be the fanciest little thing, but she has a heart of gold (most days… she is a mare after all) and is a pretty great all arounder. But like everyone, we have had some aggravating setbacks. The most recent being this summer when Mira finally starting calling me out on my less than stellar riding moments.


I’ll be the first to admit that when it comes to jumping I am a total ammy and kinda a hot mess. I get all up in my head and obsess about finding a distance instead of just breathing and calmly riding the rhythm. This of course leads me to get in Mira’s way and I end up dropping her at the base of the jumps a little more often than I should (I mean I do love chocolate chip cookies). But Mira, being the good little girl she is, would bail me out and jump from almost any spot no matter what.

So we dive into this summer, and Mira and I are on a hot streak. We’re starting to progress after a difficult winter and I’ve started putting the jumps up a bit for us (don’t get too excited, when I say bigger, I mean more like 2’6-2’9). Mira is doing great and loves jumping the “bigger” stuff, but then there’s me and surprise surprise, I drop her right at the base of an oxer and she finally says “Haha Mom very funny, but I am NOT jumping from here, you be crazy, that is a big jump”! 

Bay horse refusing jump

 

So low and behold, Mira started refusing when I would put her in a bad spot. It was 100% my doing and I wasn’t mad at her in the slightest for developing the habit. I was just so frustrated with myself for not being a better rider and leading her to the point where she was like “I am done saving you Mom”. We immediately dropped the fences down and went back to basics, but the damage was done and Mira didn’t feel confident jumping much anything out of a bad stride anymore. Every time she would stop I would get so upset and angry with myself. We had been doing so well but I over faced her too soon and was now reaping the consequences. I felt like we were a failure at the end of every ride and never thought we were going to get to where we were before.


But I’m here to tell you… It’s okay to have bad rides and setbacks because you WILL get back to where you were! It just takes some time. After a bad ride or decision, just remember that these things happen to the best of riders, and horseback riding is a journey full of both ups and downs. Keep thinking positive and take it slow. I went back to itty bitty baby steps with Mira and worked on not blaming myself after every ride. I thought back to where we had been 7 years ago and the HUGE amount of progress that we had accomplished. Gone were the days of teaching her how to pick up her feet without kicking me and what the heck steering was. When I started thinking of things in those terms, our current problems didn’t seem as bad. And little by little, Mira and I both started to gain our confidence back and the stopping became less and less. Not to mention it forced me to get out of Mira’s way and just allow the distance to come up!


Nowadays, the jumps are slowly moving back up for us (but height is not an important factor to me) and Mira is back to her confident jumping machine. I of course still have some cringy riding moments (I am the hot mess express after all) and if Mira is feeling gracious, she will save my butt, and sometimes she calls me out and tells me I can do better than that. It’s a partnership and we try our best to help each other out.

I’ve also learned to accept her for what she is and not try to force her into the horse I wish she could have been. While she may not be that big hunter I originally hoped for, she is a cool little jumper who also trail rides, fox-hunts, events, and secretly wants to be a cow pony. I’m sure as our journey continues we will have more highs and even more lows, but that’s what makes equestrians resilient and helps us grow to become better riders.

 

January 2022 Update: One year later and there have been so many new ups! Mira went to her first (schooling) show in November and we are even hoping to go to TIEC next month for one of their indoor shows. We have continued to participate in many shenanigans including trail rides, hunter paces, and cross country schooling. Plus making strides forward in our flatwork and over fences skills! Our stopping issue has become much less common… As long as I support with my hand and leg (and don’t gun to the jump for no reason), Mira is pretty happy to help me over the jumps. If I make a real bad decision then she’ll call me out on it and that continues to help me become a better rider. We still have our struggle bus days, but that just comes with the territory and I’m so thankful to have this spicy little mare in my life!

Let me know some of your difficult horsey memories in the comments!

8 Responses

Lori Marran
Lori Marran

February 08, 2021

Loved your story Lizzie and reading about your beloved Mira. Reminds me of my boy Lucky – the horse I dreamed of but sometimes a nightmare too, lol. Your story has given me alot of confidence. All the best to you and Mira.

Lizzie Lengling
Lizzie Lengling

February 01, 2021

Thank you Cheryl! The journeys can be tasking, but the results are worth it. Dixie sounds like a great partner. :)

Cheryl Adams
Cheryl Adams

February 01, 2021

Thank you for your story Lizzie. Reading about your journey with Mira made me smile. My story with my Dixie girl was similar. From barn/ buddy sour to a confident trail horse, western pleasure and hunter pace partner, Dixie has come a long way. LOL. It’s only taken four years.

Lizzie Lengling
Lizzie Lengling

January 18, 2021

Thank you Diane and Kevin!
I love when the horse community can come together by a common thread and support each other. So often now in the time of social media, we only see the highlights of journeys, and sometimes get discouraged thinking we are the only ones having problems. But I promise, everyone is having tough rides and I think we need to start showing the whole process, good and bad. :)

Kevin
Kevin

January 18, 2021

Lizzie you are an inspiration and a true horsewoman. Always helpful to hear similar stories and say “Hey, It’s just not me” tomorrow is another day!! Thanks!

DIANE T
DIANE T

January 18, 2021

I keep a journal after all my rides so I can see our improvements or (failures). It also lets me think about other things I can do to help with training issues. It is a great feeling to see where my lovely gelding partner has started and where we are today after only 1.5 years together and going strong. He’s 14 and I’m 65!

Lizzie Lengling
Lizzie Lengling

January 15, 2021

Hi Bianca! I’m so glad my story could give you a little support! I truly understand what you are going through and just remember that we have all been in your shoes at one point or another. Take the little victories and remember how far you’ve come. :)

Bianca H
Bianca H

January 15, 2021

Thank you so much for this story! I really needed to read this today. I have been having some setbacks lately and this story helped me see the light at the end of the tunnel. Your horse is super cute btw!

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