Overwhelmed with a New Horse? You’re Not Alone

Photo © Evelyn Szczepanek / ES Equine Photography


Whether you’ve been around horses your whole life or have just entered the world of horse ownership, it’s okay to feel overwhelmed with a new horse. Many people worry about doing something wrong, or if they made the right decision in buying a horse while others find the horse they purchased was not what they expected. Although this feeling is normal, it’s not something you have to just take.

All change takes time. This feeling will not last

Change—whether negative or positive—is naturally stressful for most people. Despite preparation, the reality of owning a horse is often different than what had been imagined. Horse care requires a lot of time and effort. You may be feeling the loss of your free time heavily.

But these feelings don’t make you ungrateful.

The sudden change to your regular routine is bound to affect you at first—especially paired with the stress you may be feeling from making sure your horse is well cared for, getting to know them, and the process of purchasing them and ensuring they were the right fit for you. An important factor here is to have empathy for yourself.

Yes, an incredible new chapter has opened up in your life. Yes, it is something to celebrate. Yes, you may have worked hard for it. And yes, it is okay to still feel stressed about it. Many people bringing home babies struggle with the responsibility and amount of care that they need, but this does not mean they don’t appreciate their children. Can it be hard when they wake you up for the fourth time in a single night? Yes. Does this mean you are any less deserving of them? No. It means you are human, and you feel, and that is a wonderful part of you. It is nothing to be embarrassed about.

The good news is this feeling will not last. Think about starting at a new job or school, and how you feel out of place at first. But after only a month or so, know your way around things easily. So give yourself, and your horse, time. You may be struggling to trust your horse, as you don’t know them, and they may be feeling the same. This is a new relationship, and you don’t need to rush it. Spend as much time as you like doing simple activities – grooming, hanging out in the pasture, hand walking, gentle rides, groundwork – and you will start to see parts of your horse’s personality appear for the first time that you are going to love about them.

Photo © Evelyn Szczepanek / ES Equine Photography

Have a support system in place

Having a support system that includes people you trust, like your instructor, or experienced horse people, can make a remarkable difference to how you feel about your horse.

If you’re worried that you’re doing something wrong—not feeding the right thing, not grooming the right way—talk to them about it. Good instructors should be more than happy to reassure you about this, and will likely have been when you are once. Be sure that, if not asking your instructor, you are asking someone whose information you trust, as some well-meaning people can give out misinformation without intending to. Having a support system will also help you when it comes to if the horse is acting differently from when you viewed them, or if they need action taken on them.

What if the horse is different from when I first met them?

If a horse is acting differently from how you expected when you bought them—maybe they seem like a completely different personality altogether—this does not necessarily mean the horse was mis-sold to you, or was drugged for the viewing, though it can definitely be scary. Remember that change is not easy for horses either, especially as they don’t understand what’s happening, and cannot have the situation explained to them. From your horse’s point of view, they have just left the home and horses they know behind, and they do not know if the place they are now in is safe. Fear and insecurity can have a great influence on how horses behave. To help your horse feel safer, consider sticking to a routine for them so that their days will feel more predictable. You can contact their previous owner and ask what their routine was before if you like. This usually includes things like feeding, turning out, and grooming at a certain time each day. Horses may also develop behavioral vices if their needs are not being met – consider if your horse is getting enough pasture time, and if they are getting access to other horses, even if just over a fence.

Photo © Evelyn Szczepanek / ES Equine Photography

Action or training may be needed for your horse. Can you take that action?

It is possible that your horse was indeed mis-sold to you, or the horse simply requires more training than you thought it did or thought you were able to do. This is not an end-of-the-line situation. Your horse may need action taken on it, meaning training, and what you need to consider is whether you can take that action. This normally means committing time and effort to your horse, as well as a significant amount of patience, and knowledge of horse behavior. 

If you are up to this, great. If not, that’s still okay. It’s nothing to be ashamed of. If you don’t feel you are experienced enough for your horse, you can consider having training done under the guidance of your instructor, or done completely by your instructor or another horse trainer. Whilst this often means a financial commitment, remember that you are not only paying for your horse to be trained, but you are also paying for yourself and your horse to be safer and less stressed by the situation you find yourself in.

Key Takeaways

Give it time: right now, everything might feel like a bit of a shock to your system, causing anything your horse does to feel huge and unmanageable. After around a month, you and your horse are both likely to have settled more into your new routine.

Have a support system: this is important to give yourself reassurance that everything is okay with both your horse and yourself when you might be prone to worrying more than usual and also to get guidance from someone experienced when you need help.

Have empathy for yourself: no matter how much you may have wanted it, horse ownership is a big thing to take on. You do not need to be embarrassed for finding it hard. 

Consider if action is needed: if time has passed and you still feel like your horse is unmanageable and that you’ve made a mistake in buying them, think about whether you are able to supply them with the training that they need. Your support system should greatly help with this.

Photo © Evelyn Szczepanek / ES Equine Photography

Last of all, well done.

You managed to make your horsey dream come true. That is something to be incredibly proud of! If you are worried that you bought an unsuitable horse, do not be too hard on yourself. Sellers can be dishonest and buyers can be blinded by falling in love with horses that aren’t quite right for them. It happens, and it does not make you irresponsible. Follow the steps above and you will still be a great owner to your horse.

Alex Bowyer is an Equestrian writer with a lifelong love for horses and learning from them. Her drive to expand her knowledge on animals and help both them and their humans led to her achieving a Distinction * Animal Care Level-3 Extended Diploma, and a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) in English Literature and Creative Writing. Her writing aims to make learning about horses feel more like diving into a good book than trying to read an unknown language. Reach her at: https://alexbowyerwriter.wixsite.com/alex-bowyer

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