You Got Sold a Dangerous Horse….

Author: Dr Shelley Appleton


Books & Courses




You were so careful to buy the horse that came with all the assurances it was going to be a good fit for you and your family.

It was quiet, it was reliable and had been there and done that and had no issues. Your test ride went great. Vet check didn’t show any red flags. The horse loaded on the trailer fine to come home.

A couple of months later and now things are very different.

The horse is hard to catch, rug, lead, won’t go on the trailer. It bites, threatens, keeps getting emotional and can’t handling things. Feeding it is scary and handling it is a nightmare.

And don’t even talk about riding it…that is even worse!

The horse is dangerous. You must have been lied to and horse probably drugged when you rode it. You contacted the old owners and they tell you it must be something you have done to the horse as it never did any of these things to them.

You are furious as there is NOTHING you have done wrong….NOTHING.

Someone says that maybe you should get help with the horse. This is ridiculous because even your neighbour can’t catch the horse and it rushed through gates with them.

It is the HORSE. It is a dud, it is dangerous.

The old owners refuse to take the horse back. You are stuck.

Someone suggest the horse might be in pain. You get the vet out. You struggle to handle the horse for the vet. The vet struggles to handle the horse but can find nothing obviously wrong, except it is hard to handle and highly emotional.

Maybe it needs drugs. A chemical restraint for its difficult behaviour? It seems like it is the only option.

Again, someone mentions getting help with the horse but that makes you angry as THIS horse is clearly dangerous. Your neighbour and the vet have basically confirmed this. Who do they think you are anyway – a beginner, stupid??

Another friend suggests that maybe the horse needs groundwork. You smile, nod and fume on the inside. The horse is SO dangerous to even lead through a gate. You have never done groundwork but you know this horse is out of the league of groundwork…..

Want to hear the truth?

This horse has just had its world turned upside down by moving home. Everything has changed. Every reliable thing it could understand and navigate has changed. Your routine, the way you do everything with it is different.

This change is stressful. The horse will experience stress in this transition and stress makes horses more reactive and more emotional. This is NORMAL and managing the horse through this change is something we have to LEARN how to do.

Is your horse dangerous. Currently, yes. But most likely NOT because there is something pathologically wrong with it. It is because you are not being able to recognise this and support the horse through this change. Being able to handle them in a way that provides the sense of clarity that allows them to feel they can successfully predict and navigate this new world.

You are lacking the insights and skills to support a horse through this transition.

Instead the horse is stressed, you have got stressed. The horse feels threatened, you feel defensive and threatened and everything has gone pear shaped.

That is the truth. It is not the responsibility of the horse to navigate this themselves. While some are less impacted than others, it is our role in the partnership to understand their needs and how to help them.

Just because the neighbour, vet, your friend or even riding instructor cannot help the horse does not mean the horse cannot be helped. These handful of people are not necessarily experts in handling horses that have become distressed and difficult to handle. Also, the horse is not going to be “fixed” in 5 minutes once it has been stressed for a period of time.

You need to learn 3 things:

1) Insights into horses and their behaviour

2) Skills in how to influence horses both for handling on the ground and in the saddle; and

3) Self awareness of what you might be doing that is contributing to the horse being stressed by your presence and interactions with them!

Each horse that comes into your life is a gift.

They reveal gaps in your knowledge, skills and awareness of how you negatively impact horses unconsciously.

You cannot outsource to someone else to fix this problem because your gaps will always be experienced by horses and they will react to them according to their individual tolerance.

But I know what you are thinking now….but Shelley, my horse IS different….you don’t know THIS horse.

I don’t know your horse but I do understand horses. I also understand deeply how people negatively impact horses without any clue they are doing so. People can make mistakes with horses while trying their hardest to do the right thing.

I know this as I have been that person. I have wasted years with a horse that I was stressing out only to discover he was the most easy going beautiful horse when I learnt how to not freak him out!

But again…I know what you are thinking…that is not me, its this horse, he has a history and I have been lied too…my neighbour, the vet etc…they all agree…

And that is ok ❤.

If one day you get curious, contact me and let me guide and support you in navigating this situation with your horse. This situation can be turned around ❤.


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