I have seen several articles circulating around on social media about over horsing. This has made me really step back and think about this problem which is very common. Buying a horse that is too much for your child or yourself is an easy equestrian sin to commit.
Over horsing happens when you get a horse that dominates the rider. Think of it like giving a child who just learned to ride a bike the keys to a brand new sports car. While the car would be great for them to have eventually, the child would need to learn the basics with a trustworthy car with a little less fancy features and power.
Let’s say you are looking for your very first horse to buy. You want to compete eventually at Rolex, I mean who doesn’t. Your trainer helps you find 3 great horses and tells you to choose. The three horses are:
A.) The school master that has gone up through training. It places pretty well and has brought several people through the levels but they have all gone on to get other horses. This would be perfect for a couple years, but wouldn’t take you to your dreams.
B.) A talented upper-level horse. This horse has been up through 3* and is ready to take on Rolex with full force. It has been brought up through the levels by a professional that says its ready for its next upper-level rider. The horse is fairly young, so you don’t have to worry about age.
C.) A young horse full of potential. It has enough scope and flashy movements for at least 2 other horses. Your trainer can get it ready for you in just a matter of weeks. While there is some work to do, this horse is way cheaper than the others. Some may call this the diamond in the rough in a way.
What do you choose?
Did you go with B or C? For some, that’s a good choice but not many, especially not a beginner. There are several reasons why school masters are the best thing that could ever happen to a beginner. I know because I was once over horsed.
While the talented upper-level horse may be a great choice down the road, it may actually hinder your growth as a rider. I knew a person who was just getting back into riding who bought a very talented and scopey horse who was ready for Prelim. This horse was very good but very energetic. She spent years working up the courage to ride this horse on her own. Horses with too much power can scare a beginner rider easily. This may “stun” a riders learning or make them lose confidence in themselves.
Now to my experience. My family and I were fortunate to find a fantastic young horse that became my first horse. He was the cutest little paint with gorgeous blue eyes. His name was Skid but you all know him as Spartan. While he didn’t have the skills yet, we were ensured that with a couple months of training he would be the perfect horse. The training didn’t exactly do what we were told it did, but it made him into a pretty good dressage horse. It wasn’t until I decided to start jumping that the error of our choice started to show.
Skid was still so green that his jumping was spotty at best. He either jumped perfectly or almost flipped himself over trying to get out of it. This absolutely shot my confidence. I thought I had broken my horse in a way because he was a jumper before we got him. The real problem was that I wasn’t experienced enough to jump him. I was learning at the same time he was. While we had come so far from where we started, we hadn’t learned enough jumping.
I ended up riding my new trainer’s point and shoot horse and a light went off in my head. This was what I needed. Skid was a great horse and he gave me some valuable lessons but he wasn’t what I needed at the time. In order to learn how to jump, I need a horse that could teach me. I was given a horse I was not entirely ready for. In a way, I was over horsed.
This is why school masters are so important. They can teach you so many things and give you so much confidence. The partnership may not last forever but that’s horses. If you want to get somewhere you need to learn to let go. Eventually, you can get to the point where option B and C would work but you got to have the skills to handle those horses. Know your skills and what you want. Sometimes you need several horses to get you from point A to point B. Over horsing is a very easy thing to do just be aware of the horse you are riding. You are the rider and you have to be comfortable with your teammate.