A conversation that comes up a lot at the barn is what each person is looking for in a horse. To me, this is a very personal decision and it requires being very honest with yourself about what you want from your horsemanship, and your horse.
If horses are about riding for a particular purpose, whether in a show, on the job, or on the trail, you need to be realistic about what you can offer a horse and what your horse can offer you. There are plenty of horses that could do a specific job with a lot of work, support and the perfect rider combination, but otherwise will struggle to feel okay enough to perform. Other horses have physical limitations that determine what they can or cannot do. This doesn't make them bad horses, it just makes them who they are and in need of the right circumstance.
A lot of us might be able to offer these horses a great deal, if we are willing to live within what the horse needs and has to offer. This doesn't always match what we were hoping for, though. So then a decision has to be made by the person, as to whether it is the external goal that is important, or the journey with the horse. This is a personal decision, and has a lot to do with what the person is interested in.
I know fantastic riders who are primarily interested in going down the trail, doing a job, or showing. I don't have any problem with this. But I think it is important that they are matched with the right horse. A horse that can handle the pressure of the job, physically and emotionally, without a ton of support, and without worrying much. There are horses that can do this, with the right combination of personality and experience. There are other horses that may or may not still perform, but fall apart emotionally. And that's not fair to the horse.
For me, my interest for my personal horses is more in the journey, and I don't mind spending a long time working on emotional issues, physical challenges, or anything else that comes up. That's where my interest lies in horses at this point in my life, from the saddle or from the ground. Each horse that I own has it's own special strengths and limitations. My lesson horses have physical issues that limit how much riding they can do and determine their need for extra care, but they have unending patience and offer safety for their students. Among my personal horses, I have horses with physical and emotional issues that may or may not be resolvable, but hopefully are manageable in the long term. But they offer me a world of learning and they have no where else to go. I'm a last stop for them. And I'm happy with that, with who they are, and I think that I have enough to offer them to keep their quality of life.
So the question that I encourage everyone to ask when deciding on a horse to take home, or whether to keep one, is if your goals, and the effort you are willing to dedicate to the horse, match what that horse needs and who that horse is.