Topic for Tuesday….Moving Up or On?

This is a hot topic at my stable right now, as we have lots of our junior girls who are getting ready to make a move up in the showing world.  I’m not talking 2 foot to 2’6”, but rather children’s hunters to the larger junior hunters and beyond.  


So the topic is: When you have reached that point in your riding whether it be a height of jump, degree of competition, distance ridden, test difficulty etc. when your horse isn’t able to continue moving with up you….what do you do?  Do you choose to sell and move on with a new horse?  Or do you continue to stay at your horse’s level of comfort/practice?


I’m not sure how common it is in other equestrian sports, but in hunter/jumper circles horses tend to be rotated around.  There are those few that never change, as their owners keep them forever, but it is common to see horses sold so that the rider can continue moving up.  


In my particular training/boarding situation, I love that while people can and do sell their horses, my trainer is extremely choosy and only allows great horses to come in that she thinks she can preferably find new owners within the stable.  We have one schoolmaster type gelding in particular who has been with several owners (now leasers), but he never has to change homes or trainers.

I originally bought O hoping someday she’d pan out as my adult hunter pony, maybe an ammy owner class or two thrown in (3’3”).  Personally I don’t know if I want to go higher than that anymore, and we think O should have plenty of the scope for that height.  So I’m luck in that I hope that we have a long and happy career together, and then maybe she can semi-retire and poke around with cute kids on her (she LOVES kids).

But who knows what is next!  What would you do?  Move up and sell?  Keeping going at the pace?   


26 thoughts on “Topic for Tuesday….Moving Up or On?

  1. If Fiction ever tops out (and I do hope he doesn’t – everyone seems to feel he has the potential to go all the way) then I intend to retire him/pass him on to my children and purchase another horse. I have made up my mind that I will never sell him if I don’t have to. I will do what I can to make ends meet to support him as well as another horse. However, if it came down to it, I do have a few friends that would love to have him. I would probably just pass him over to them for free if I couldn’t afford two horses. Better free to a home I trust than sold to a home I know little about 🙂

    • That is a great point! Letting them go to a person you are close to would be an excellent option! Then you still get to be a part of their lives, even if you aren’t owning them anymore. 🙂

  2. I am usually in the “sell” boat. If the horse doesn’t live up to the expectation I have, I’d rather sell it to a home where it’s better suited than a) be bored/unhappy or b) try to make the horse into something it isn’t. If I simply outgrew the horse’s ability, same thing… I’d rather sell it to the next home and move on than keep doing the same thing over and over. I don’t believe in pushing horses (be it physically or mentally) to do a job they aren’t capable of doing, but I also ride to learn and improve so I’m not happy unless I’m doing that. Although really almost all of my horses have been resale projects from the beginning, so I am used to a lot of buying and selling anyway.

    • I HATE seeing horses being overfaced in the ring, and find myself agreeing with the fact that you cannot make them into something they aren’t! It makes more sense for health of the horse and rider to be safe and find an alternative in those cases!

  3. What a great topic; thanks for posting. When I was younger I had an insane mare but I loved her anyway. She and I did D3 in Pony Club together, and learned to jump together. I sold her (to a good home) and bought a Thoroughbred event horse. We did not bond, and I hardly ever rode him. I wish I had stuck with my less talented mare instead! Lesson learned: if you love them, keep them. I am so glad that O has enough scope for your goals! That is great!

  4. I think it really depends. Right now, I am not on track to “tap out” Simon. However if he couldn’t physically jump or perform hunter/jumper at some level, I would most likely lease him out and then lease a show horse. I think with him I made a commitment to own him for his lifetime, but every situation is different.

  5. Carlos topped out at 3’9″ and we did that and 3’6″ for a bit, then when he came down I came down too, because my trainer reiterated that though the height bothered him he still had a lot to teach me, I had planned on moving over to the 3′ Jumpers except his navicular squelched all that. I plan on selling Ramone and his potential remains untapped, I am a-ok with the moving on and finding a horse more suitable to the rider’s desire and I don’t think people should be afraid of that.

  6. I am in the “sell” camp. When I was a youngster, I went through several horses- usually not because they topped out, but because they weren’t suitable for what I wanted to do (which was eventing). Several of them were not very safe (e.g. prone to getting way, way out of control on XC), so we found them good homes.

    When I bought Gina a few years ago, my plan was to event her. I didn’t know she had so many mental issues with jumping, or I wouldn’t have bought her at all. As it is, I wish I had sold her upon discovering that her issues weren’t due to a physical problem or fear. She just dislikes jumping. Now, after three unsuccessful years, I am hesitant to sell her because I’m not sure what kind of home a 17 year old TB mare who does middling First Level dressage will go to.

    • Yes, I do feel like safety plays in big with these types of decisions! Sometimes it’s just not going to work. Glad that you were able to find your earlier horses such great homes! The situation with Gina sounds tricky! No great advice here, but you never know, the perfect situation may come along someday for you two!

  7. Since I have never shown, I don’t have a lot of opinion, but I do think that anyone who purchases a horse (or any animal) has a responsibility to that horse. For dogs and cats and such like, I firmly believe that the responsibility is for life. For horses, I’m kind of in between as I can totally see when one would need to sell a horse to move on.
    For me, I would love to jump and event and all sorts of crazy things, but Lady will never do it (age, health issues). I could sell her on to a good home… she would be fantastic at competitive trail again, or even as a kid’s horse. But I have made the decision to keep her as long as she lasts, and keep her happy and healthy. 🙂

    • I completely agree, we do owe them our commitment to make sure they find a wonderful, safety home. I know that if I were forced to sell, I would be obsessive about finding the right fit for my horse. And sometimes it’s the relationship that becomes more important. So glad that Lady found such a great home with you 🙂

  8. I don’t believe in the blanket statement of ‘for life.’ If a horse can’t do what you want it to do, move on and find one that does. No sense in square peg in round hole. It will make you happy and the happy. The same theory applies to dogs – I’ve had dogs that just didn’t mesh with the family or pack and for our sanity and his, it moved on to a better home. That said, it IS my responsibility to provide that better home whether horse/dog, etc. And I’m fine with that. I am fortunate that I have acreage to retire a horse onto. I have talked about what to do when my horse can no longer jump (I don’t think I’ll ever jump more then his scope) – would we switch disciplines (dressage) or do I retire him and move on? I do know I’m keeping this particular horse, but in the past, I’ve sold the horse. Life is WAY too short to be be unsatisfied with the animals in your life, when they should be giving you the most joy.

  9. That’s a hard decision! Sometimes you have to get a new horse to move on in your competition goals rather pushing the other too hard. Yet at the same time riding is about bonding with your horse as well. Keep her if you love her! Maybe you could lease her to someone else at your barn, like a just child learning hunters if yo want to continue your competition goals at higher levels. Or if you do sell her, perhaps your trainer knows someone else at your barn who would work great with her? whatever you do, do what makes you happy.

    • I’m really lucky in that we hope O will be continuing to grow and teach me for a long time! But yes, the choice between the bond and your goals definitely comes into play! Touch choices all around.

  10. I definitely don’t think one size fits all, but personally I tend to buy for life. I hope that I can give Miles a wonderful home for the rest of his days and I plan to compete and ride at whatever level he is comfortable with. But I also respect and understand those who choose a different path.

  11. I think it depends. I sold my 2nd level mare for a prix st. george gelding. Although it was fun playing at the upper levels, I really regret selling her. We had such a great relationship that I realized I valued that more than moving up the levels. It was a life changer for me (how I found parelli), but I always will miss her.
    P.S. Pat Parelli wrote a great article on selling horses. Definitely worth a read :).

  12. I also think it depends on both horse and rider. An unambitious ammy just looking for fun has, in my opinion, no business riding something massive, talented, and terrifying if they don’t get along (if they do or are on their way to that point, then by all means!). And as a competitive pro, one should probably be pushing oneself to the upper levels. But it depends on the individual.
    I have sold quite a few horses for differing reasons – not enough talent, talent but a personality I didn’t get along with, etc. But I’ll admit I’ll probably be holding onto the ones I have now. I’m spoiled in that I have both the steady pony who can only do lower levels but generally takes care of me, and the big crazy wonderful ridiculously talented horse who might scare the pants off me now and then but can go all the way to the top. If the horse ends up eating my time and energy then the pony can be my hack or a school pony or pretty much anything else, because she’s got the temperament for it.

  13. I don’t think I’m in any danger of progressing beyond my horse and he’s my first horse, but I think I’m a keeper not a changer. For me the driving force behind getting a horse was to be able to form a bond with a horse. Being able to ride more often and improving as a rider was nice too, but of less importance than the relationship. So I suspect if I ever come to the edge of his ability I’ll be OK with that.

  14. I’m planning on keeping my guy, though I might progress past his tolerance in the dressage world. (He isn’t terribly fond of staying in the little rectangular box and using his behind) His age and advanced arthritis make him a tough sell. Though if I can get my bronze medal on him as an ammy, I can see a promising future for him as a lease for a younger rider or talented amateur just starting out and wanting to learn from an incredibly demanding animal. In the future, I don’t think I’ll have much of a problem moving on from a horse that doesn’t fit into my lifestyle or my goals. It’s not fair on the horse to be pressed into a person’s competitive wishes when they aren’t capable or truly hate what they are doing. Plus, if I want to do upper levels with some sort of competency, it’s going to take a horse with the ability to do it to get me there.

  15. Oh man, I definitely like to keep them and ride to their ability. I didn’t have a horse until I was out of the childrens/juniors range, though. I got my first horse at 17 and after wanting one for 12 years I was pretty smitten. I wasn’t selling him for anything. Like you, I’m hoping Topaki and I will top out at about the 3’3 range. He has the build to do it but we’re not sure about scope yet as we haven’t started over fences work. Here’s to hoping he can at least do that 🙂 If not, well, we’ll find our place.

  16. Luckily, I never had that issue growing up… I had a WONDER HORSE and a half. He seriously could do anything and do it well and could leap the moon. He would have been a great A show horse (but I didn’t have the money) and he honestly could have done the mini prix if I had started jumping him earlier!

    But yeah, that would be a hard decision and one I hope I don’t have to make with wizard but may have to one day… and I’m not sure what the answer is :\

  17. Pingback: Welcome to the August 2014 Blog Carnival of Horses | EQUINE Ink

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