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Five Signs You???ve Got Too Much Horse

By Cindy Hale


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Have you heard the expression, “Too much horse”? It doesn’t refer to the size of the animal, like, “You’ve got too much horse for that size 72 blanket” or, “You’ve got too much horse to fit through the pasture gate.” It means you’re outwitted, out-muscled or otherwise out-matched by your carrot-crunching beast. There’s no shame in acknowledging you’ve got too much horse. Often it’s just a temporary problem that’s easily solved with ten minutes on the longe line. If your horse is more conniving than simply high, then riding lessons or some training might be necessary to help the two of you re-connect. Unfortunately, not everyone recognizes when they’ve got too much horse.

For example, last week I got a phone call from a woman I barely know. I gave her and her daughter some riding lessons a couple of years ago before they moved out of state. Both of them were green beginners, and so timid around horses that I doubted they’d continue riding. Yet the family ended up amassing a small herd of various breeds and stabling them in their backyard. The reason behind this unexpected phone call was that the woman had become incredibly frustrated and remembered me as a sympathetic soul. (Note to Self: Get an unlisted phone number!).

She explained that she’d spent a small fortune on the horses she bought, as each one was a well-trained, fashionably bred horse. But one by one they had reverted to feral savages, ganging up against the very hands that fed them. “They like us as long as we’re bringing them food,” she said, “but they don’t want us to ride them.”

I’m serious. She said those exact words.

Apparently each of the horses had systematically expressed this sentiment by dumping both mom and daughter. Now they merely need to flick back an ear or wrinkle their nose upon sight of a halter or bridle and that’s enough to intimidate mom and kid and send them back inside the house. Needless to say, each one of these keen animals is too much horse for this family in unsupervised conditions.

I don’t feel any sense of responsibility for this woman’s choice of unsuitable horses, but I did feel sorry for the animals. Every horse deserves a proper home, so I referred her to some trainers in her area who might help her unravel the mess she’s hobbled with. And then, since I always look for a flake of humor in every hay bale of hurt, I devised a short list of helpful hints.

Five Signs You’ve Got Too Much Horse

  1. Seeking insight from a natural horsemanship guru, you bring your horse to a clinic and ride your best for several hours. At the end of the session your mentor takes you aside and tells you quietly that he has one word of advice concerning your horse: “Exorcism.”

  2. A team of producers from Animal Planet approach you about starring with your horse in a new reality show. They explain the concept, and you listen intently. They describe it as a horse-themed cross between “I Shouldn’t Be Alive” and “Fatal Attractions.”

  3. You’re notified that you’ve been named an honorary member of the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association.

  4. It’s dark, cold and stormy, and Thumper needs to be blanketed. And thus begins the nightly family ritual: A game of Rock, Paper, Scissors to determine who must venture into the abyss of doom.

  5. After another one of your marathon workouts in the arena you unsaddle your horse and head into the tackroom. You’re surprised to find yourself confronted by a gathering of everyone at the stable, including your barn buddies, the resident riding instructor, the girl who mucks the stalls and the guy who drives the tractor. “We all care about you and your safety,” they say in unison, “so this craziness has got to stop. It’s time for an intervention.”

Do you know someone who is saddled with a little too much horse? Hopefully they don’t need an actual intervention, but perhaps you can offer them some help, even if it’s just in the form of some fun, friendly advice. Otherwise, who knows? You might end up getting an unexpected phone call someday!

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Reader Comments

Emily    Grottoes, VA

4/22/2011 8:31:14 AM

love the article i know someone who has to much horse....

B    stratton, ON

4/5/2011 9:34:55 AM

It's the lack of confidence of the human that brings out the worst in some horses. They are stressed if no one is in charge, whether it be a horse higher in the herd heirarchy or a human. Fearful people have difficulty putting up boundaries for themselves and communicating boundaries to others. When they flee or shrink back in the relationship/activities they create a vacuum that draws in the nastiness of some people and animals. Horses, animals, kids, all have a potential to more readily accept and respect someone who is calmly and confidently in charge of themselves and the situation. With horses, we get what we're getting because we're doing what we're doing. I like Chris Irwin's work - "playing horse games by horse rules and coming out the better horse." It works for horses and helps humans be their best selves!


4/3/2011 8:09:25 PM



Becki    Pinellas Park, FL

3/31/2011 6:36:33 AM

I have ventured down the road of too much horse.When I got my mare a little over a year ago I knew she would need some serious help. She was neglected but in good shape. She had become that bitter witch that everyone stayed away from. I thought about selling this "problem" but I decided you can't sell a problem, its just not fair. I called a trainer that I knew was good. I thank God every day for Kim, my trainer, because not only did she help Patty Moon but myself as well. She is a life saver. Now the mare that I thought about selling is one of the family and even my children ride her. Great article. I hope that it will help people realize some times you just need to admit your in over your head. I know I did and I'm better off for it and so is my mare.

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