Change is tough sometimes. It's hard to let go of what is familiar, even when it wasn't a good match for what you wanted to do. It's hard to let go even when you know you had no choice, so when there is a decision to be made there is a tendency to second guess yourself.
This past spring 3 riders have had to say good bye to the horses they were riding, each for very good reasons. The first was not so hard. My daughter is off to college this fall, and her horse has been sitting in the pasture for the last year as senior activities and college prep have taken over her rider's life. The times she did get to ride, she also realized her ambitions had grown beyond what her sweet, sturdy packer could do. Meanwhile a dear friend had been borrowing the horse for trail rides, and gradually falling in love with her personality, and eh, whatever attitude to things on the trail. After some serious discussion, the desicion was made to let her horse go to the person who had time to ride her, and loved her for what she could do now.
The second decision was harder. My husband has been riding his MFT gelding for 3 years. He has always been a challenging horse. Green broke with bad habits, over the years my husband has worked with him, and turned him into a solid equine citizen, with impeccable manners. He is good fun to ride on the trails, and has lots of energy. But my husband has also had less time to ride, and our boarding situation has never been ideal for this horse. He was gelded late, and never lost some of his stallion behaviors. Specifically he gets possessive of mares he is pastured with, to the point he gets hysterical when he is separated. When we had geldings, we would pasture them together, and everything would be fine. He would play gelding games, and ignore the mares on rides. But when we got down to just mares and him, his behavior got worse.
It wasn't like he was happy being this way either. He preferred to be with geldings, but when he had mares with him, he felt it was his job to watch, herd, and guard them. This eventually got to the point to rearing and spinning on trail rides, when other horses got between him and the mares. If we rode every day, or we had a gelding field to put him in, we probably could have worked through this; but with our time and situation it just didn't seem fair to him or us. So now he is with a group of trail riders who ride gaited horses several times a week on trails, and only have geldings. Sad for us, we will miss his personality and impish sense of fun; but better for him because now he will not have all the stress our set up was putting on him.
The last one wasn't a decision we got to make, it was made for us. Years ago my horse Shadow fell through a bridge on a trail ride and injured her hip. She was out in pasture a year healing, and learned to compensate for the injury. A little weaker on that side, a little stiffer, but not very noticeable unless you asked for that lead at the canter. She has had good years and bad years, I have known I would have to retire her eventually. I thought I would lose her last year when she got a very bad case of Lyme's, but then she rallied back to her old feisty self! We even competed in a show last fall. But, at the show, she refused a jump, and suddenly felt wobbly. Then with holidays, etc. I didn't ride until the next spring. When I rode her again, she was dropping her hip and limping. I realized both her past injuries, and trying to walk in the deep snow of the past winter had done it's damage. The vet confirmed she had torn the tendon in her back leg beyond any repair. She can hobble around, do a little walking, but that is it.
So we have gone from all of us riding together, to no one riding. I personally have discovered I don't have the same drive to ride I used to. I used to always want to ride, any horse, any where, but now after so many years with Shadow, where it was a close partnership, it's just not as much fun with another horse. I have a young horse to work with, a green horse to train, and hopefully a gelding for my husband to ride. Right now our lives are a bit full, but hopefully the trails will call us back.