When trying to find the right horse, it is important to be careful to avoid getting an animal that does not suit you. When you have a horse that is too strong, too green or even too well trained you are over-horsed. This means that you have a horse that is beyond your skill level.
It is not uncommon for riders to become over-horsed. There are many reasons for this. Sometimes a rider overestimates her skills and buys a horse that she cannot manage. Other times a parent or a coach is pushing too hard and puts a rider onto a horse she is not ready for yet. Whatever the reason, it is important to find a horse that fits the rider’s skill level as soon as possible, before the rider looses confidence, and possibly looses interest in riding at all.
When looking for a horse, be sure to carefully evaluate your skill level. There is nothing wrong with getting a horse that will challenge you, but you need to be careful not to go too far.
A common mistake is to choose a horse that is too big or too strong for the rider. With more and more riders feeling that they need a 16.2hh + horse, it is not unusual for a short rider to end up on a huge horse. Because small riders do not have the length of leg, or the weight to manage the large horse, many become intimidated.
Another mistake is to buy a fancy show prospect when you really only need a mid-level horse. Horses who are bred to compete in the upper levels generally have a more difficult temperament that horses who were bred for the lower levels. This is because they are athletes. They are built, mentally and physically, to be competitive. When not adequately challenged they will turn to other things to keep their attention. This can quickly intimidate the rider, who then backs off even more, making the issues even worse.
Some riders will try to save money by buying a green horse, when they don’t have the experience to train him. These riders do their best to train their horse, but run into troubles when the horse goes beyond their experience and starts misbehaving. While some riders will turn to trainers to help, this is not always financially possible. The horse remains uncooperative, and becomes unpleasant to ride. Sometimes these perfectly nice horses, who would have been fine with proper training, wind up getting dumped due to training issues.
Even worse is when riders choose to buy a weanling or a yearling because they are cheap. The rider does not know what to do with the baby and does not put in the handling time the baby needs to know his place. Other times the rider spends a lot of time with the baby, but does not set up boundaries, creating dangerous situations. Many riders grow impatient with waiting for the baby to grow up and start them under saddle too soon, winding up with flighty, underdeveloped horses who are not ready mentally or physically for the work they are asked to do.
If you are going to buy a horse, be sure to buy something that fits your current skill level. Choose something that will challenge you, but be prepared to get help as soon as problems arise. Being over-horsed is terribly unpleasant and can ruin your long-term riding career.