Do horses like to be ridden?
I was presented with this question by one of my pupils and in short, my answer was ‘horses don’t mind being ridden’… provided certain conditions are met!
It’s my opinion that horses don’t mind being ridden if we make it a good experience for them. Whether we are out on the trail, giving a child a lesson, or on a cross country course, we can make the experience for the horse a good one. It’s very important that you are not the only one who’s comfortable and having a good time, both you and your horse have to both be on the same page – you are a team after all! Like people, horses are all different and have different preferences, some may tolerate being ridden better than others or prefer certain types of riding or tasks over others. It’s up to us to match the ‘horse to the course’ as best as possible.
So what can we do to ensure our horses are comfortable and feeling good about the riding experience? Let’s explore some key points by making sure your horse’s needs are being met.
Safety – horses need to feel safe. If they don’t feel safe they will not be happy! It’s important that your horse feels safe with you when you take him away from his home and friends. If your horse is anxious when you take him out, you know that you have some work to do. When your horse feels safe with you, he will be relaxed and enjoy the ride along with you.
Comfort – tack must fit correctly.
Tack is an essential piece of kit for all horse riders and it is important to regularly check your tack fits correctly. Whether you are a happy hacker or compete regularly, correctly fitting tack will ensure your horse is comfortable and can perform to the best of his ability without hindrance.
Incorrectly and badly fitting tack can cause discomfort to your horse which can result in behavioral issues both when riding and on the ground.
Sufficient knowledge – having adequate knowledge on the subject of horses and riding is a must – if we don’t know what we are doing or lack understanding of our horse, we are not doing him any favors. We owe it to our beautiful beasts to put time and effort into learning about them and not just riding them.
Prepare your horse and don’t overextend her – whether you are riding out on the trail or in the competition ring, your horse needs to be sufficiently prepared. If you are asking him to do things he is not yet comfortable or ready for he will not enjoy it, and it won’t be a great experience for the rider either! We often ask our horse to do many things that are very unnatural to them, and we must give them the time to get the hang of whatever it is that we are asking. We must allow them ample time to learn and be comfortable with what we are asking them to do.
Communication – communication is key to any successful partnership. When riding your horse you are constantly communicating with them using your whole body ( seat, legs, hands, your voice, and your core) Like a finely tuned machine you can learn to use all the different “communicating tools” smoothly together.
We must strive to ride our horses with care and finesse – not yanking on his mouth or kicking him incessantly.
Is your horse healthy and fit to ride? If your horse is in pain or even if he just feels “off ” that day rather err on the side of caution and not ride him. Horses are sometimes silent in their pain, and we may only get very subtle signs from them that something is amiss.
And just for a little fun – what about jumping? so you say your horse loves jumping? I’ve heard this many times. Yes, there may be a some horses who truly enjoy jumping, but for the most part, horses will walk around an object rather than going over it. Rushing around a course and into jumps is often more a symptom of anxiety than your horse” loving it”. Leave your horse loose in an arena with a few jumps and see if your horse truly “loves” jumping 😜