Horses Do Not Want To Be Ridden
 By Winniefield Park   •   22nd Aug 2013   •   20,469 views   •   9 comments
Horses Do Not Want To Be RiddenIíve been criticized because Iíve always maintained that horses donít really enjoy being ridden (or driven). Iíve been told I must not be a good rider or owner, and my horse must be very unhappy if it doesnít enjoy its work. Many people claim that their horses love jumping, or trotting down the trail. They think their horses are excited to run barrel races or love winning ribbons. But, I donít think so.

Horses donít think like we do, so donít value the same things that we do. We may feel pride and accomplishment to see a wall full of rosettes, and shelves of trophies. Or, we might feel relaxed or re-energized by an afternoon trail ride. However, itís important to ask if our horses do too. The enjoyment of those things may not be the same for horses as it is for us.

Most of us regard our horses as companions and friends. We like it when our friends like the same things we do. Itís a lot more fun shopping at our favorite stores, playing the same video games and hanging out with people that like the same things we do. Because people tend to anthropomorphize (credit animals with human characteristics) companion animals, they assume they like the things humans do. I know a lot of people think their horses love to jump, for example. And of course, people love to jump their horses as well. They take things like pulling, little bucks and tail wringing as excitement at being able to jump. However, if your horse did those same things hitched to a cart, theyíd be a problem. We would say the horse is misbehaving. Why are those behaviors an indication of enjoyment in one sport and misbehaviors in another?

Have you even seen a horse voluntarily jump a course, go out on an all day walk, run the barrels, do a dressage test or equitation pattern all on its own? I know I havenít. Thatís because horses just donít care about those things. The things that motivate them are largely instinctualóeating, reproducing, and seeking comfort. Yes, they may kick up and race around the pasture, but that isnít the same. Jumping buckets of flowers, turning ridiculously tight corners around colorful barrels and all the rest of it just isnít that important to a horse. They do those things because we make them. We really donít ask their opinion, and they donít have a choice.

I think that believing horses donít like most of the things we make them do may make us better owners and riders. It makes us look differently at our horseís behavior. It makes us ask the question, ďwhy is this happening," when we see less than desirable behavior or performance, rather than just reacting to it. It makes us exercise compassion, knowing that our horses work hard for us without them understanding why or sometimes how. We look for ways to make our horse's work easier. In making our horseís jobs easier we do things like be meticulous about saddle fit, find bits that are comfortable, and care for them in the healthiest and most stress-free ways.

My horse doesnít like being ridden. Nothing can convince me otherwise. But I hope, because I donít really think Iím the best rider or owner, that it makes me a kinder and more respectful towards them. But then again, I might be wrong.

What do you think?

Image Credit: © Alexander Zhiltsov |
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Deep as Rhubarb  
You present some very good points. However, I can honestly say that in my experiences with certain horses, they are much happier when they are being ridden. I can't say what they enjoy about it, but some horses that are generally quite grumpy and rude can turn into pleasant friendly creatures when they're being ridden. If a horse has its ears pricked and alert and it is moving at a nice forward tempo with little to no encouragement, I wouldn't hesitate to say that it enjoys whatever task it is completing.
I also have known horses to jump for no particular reason. If they were in the arena, either by themselves or free lunging and small jumps were set up, they would jump without being asked.
Maybe certain horses don't like being ridden, but I have ridden horses that are unmistakably happy to go for a ride. That's just my opinion though.
  Aug 22, 2013  •  21,692 views
And the person who wrote this article also doesn't really like horses and wishes she had never ridden a horse before. So I'm wondering what you really know about horses. Youcan't pick up the things about a horse's personality like a true equestrian can.
Some horses DO love their job, and when you see it, it's a truly amazing sight. I have seen horses love their job and my own pony loves her job. She likes galloping and going on trails, and she LOVES jumping. Her ears are perked and she sometimes attacks the jump. Of course, other times she doesn't want to, but she does like her job most of the time. If a horses didn't want to jump a fence, it wouldn't and there would be nothing we could do about it.
  Aug 22, 2013  •  22,198 views
Dark Star  
I think you are horribly wrong. Horses either enjoy their job or they won't do it. You cannot make a half ton animal do anything if it really does not want to. That is just insane. I will use Dee as an example. She loves to run barrels, she is like an entirely different horse when she is pointed at a barrel pattern, so much more energized and such a nicer mover when she is pumped up and wanting to run. She does to the pattern mostly by herself, I have to hold her back when we merely walk past the pattern, she tries to take off running every time. She hates her job so much, right? *sarcasm* She also accepts english riding and performs well because I let her do her own thing and leave her alone.

Now, on the flip side, Western Pleasure is a non existent debate with her, she will only do it when she gosh dang feels like it and she dares you to tell her otherwise. I can slap whatever I want in her mouth, from a snaffle to a correction to a cathedral and she will do whatever she wants whe
  Aug 22, 2013  •  21,878 views
Valkyrie   MOD 
I disagree. Each horse is different, some horses may actually genuinely hate being ridden (for one reason or another), but most actually enjoy it. At least, I think they do. Horses like having something to do, they like having a job. They may disagree with the rider whilst doing that job, but keeping them mentally and physically active is the way to have a happy, healthy horse.

Sure, horses don't go out and jump a show jumping course by themselves. But humans can't be expected to do a course of anything without guidance either. Albeit our guidance is learning the course beforehand. Try and tell the horses I work with that jumping isn't fun for them, Dallas would disagree with you politely and Fox would probably bite you LOL!

Dressage horses have been known to do piaffes in the paddock, Quarter Horses perform spins and sliding halts at liberty, Standardbreds pace the fenceline, Thoroughbreds race one another at turnout, foals will jump thistles and tall grass that they could easil
  Aug 22, 2013  •  21,463 views
If a horse doesn't want to do something, they'll certainly let you know. When my hunter has a day where she doesn't feel like jumping, she'll let you know and make it hard work for you. But when you're getting her ready for hunting she begins to fidget more as time goes on because she knows what's coming, when you're hacking to the meet she starts pulling because she's eager to get there, and then when we set off her ears are forward, she's taking a bit of a hold, there's a pep in her stride. If she didn't want to hunt, she'd dig her feet in and say no, because she's the kind of mare to let you know if she doesn't like something.
Her daughter absolutely loves to jump as well, I can take her round a course of showjumps on a very light contact without worrying about her slamming the breaks on or running out.
Mum's hunter loves to hack out, hunt and do funrides, but the second you get in the school, she looses her energy and looks fed up.
I recently had to sell my Dutch Warmblood be
  Aug 23, 2013  •  21,894 views
I'm not sure if you've noticed, but horses are very big, strong animals, and they know they can do some serious damage to us. If they didn't want to do something, there really isn't anything we can do to make them. Some horses might enjoy work more than others, but if they really didn't want to be ridden, they simply wouldn't allow a rider to sit on them.

And yes, horses do most of what we ask them to do naturally. In the wild, the spend all day moving with their herd, sometimes covering huge distances. The majority of horses at my yard (some of which are unbroken) have jumped the field fence in the past, for a variety of reasons. When they play, they race around, doing tight turns. Most dressage movements were thought of after seeing a horse do them naturally in a field.
Horses have a lot of natural energy, and they'd go crazy if they were unable to release it because they're in a restricted area such as a stable or a field.
  Aug 23, 2013  •  21,591 views

The poles video just amazes me, because it is so intricate for a horse to do by itself.
  Aug 23, 2013  •  20,999 views
Winniefield Park  
There may be some scientific backing to my opinion.
  Aug 28, 2013  •  21,630 views
Honestly I've seen plenty of Barrel Racing horses who would run the barrels by themselves (no rider or tack) just to run them. Also my Quarter Horse literally grabs the saddle blanket off the rack and drops it at my feet. And your trying to tell me horses don't like to be rode?
  Sep 27, 2013  •  20,290 views
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