Riding is a great and healing experience for the majority of people. What about the horses, though? Do they like to ride as much as we do? Unfortunately, it’s difficult to tell whether horses enjoy being ridden without speaking the same language.
Most horses are comfortable being ridden. In terms of enjoying being ridden, most horses are likely to endure it rather than enjoy it. However, as you’ll see, the answer could be more conclusive and varies depending on the horse.
While long and carefully bred for riding, horses did not evolve to transport humans. Instead, their backs are long and straight because of the massive digestive system dangling beneath. Many people say, however, that if horses don’t want humans to ride them, they may throw us off, as some horses do.
The truth is that there is no straightforward solution to this issue. Some horses enjoy being ridden far more than others. This is determined by various elements, including the rider’s talent, the horse’s training and previous experiences, health and well-being, and the fit of the tack, to mention a few.
Every horse is different
The individual is one of the most important factors influencing a horse’s view of riding. Horses who enjoy movement and learning new things will naturally prefer to be ridden over low-energy, calm individuals. Horses are similar to people in this way, and others will not be interested in riding at all.
The only way to discover a horse’s choice is to allow them to choose between labor and turnout. Shawna Karrasch, a researcher and trainer, put up trials in which horses were given a choice without fear of negative repercussions. They discovered that some horses willingly sought to cooperate with humans.
However, some horses will always flee as soon as they notice you approaching with a halter. The remedy in these circumstances is to make riding as joyful as possible for them.
It is also possible that a horse and rider are not a good combination. Horses, like humans, have personalities and preferences, and you should not rule out the chance that your chemistry is not working. However, while it may be difficult to accept, parting ways will benefit both you and your horse in the long term.
Sometimes a horse does not like to be ridden because it does not love a certain exercise. Give your horse a range of chores to find what he excels at.
To find out what your horse enjoys, observe his body language, reactions, and energy level.
Signs a horse likes being ridden
Many horses enjoy the exercise and socialization that riding provides. Do you need to know whether your horse enjoys being ridden? Here are a few indicators that he does:
1. He is easy to catch and saddle
If you ride your horse every day, he will most certainly know what you’re up to when you go out to capture him. Horses that are excited to ride perk their ears, whinny, and even come to you on the field. They will also accompany you into the stable and remain silent as you groom and saddle them.
2. He stands still when you mount
Horses who are fussy and move around as you mount are unlikely to enjoy riding. If your horse sits still at the mounting block and waits patiently for you to climb into the saddle, he probably enjoys being ridden.
3. He pays attention to you
From the saddle, keep an eye on your horse’s eyes and ears. Does he turn to face you whenever he hears your voice? Is he gazing at you or is he looking outside the arena?
A horse that enjoys riding will focus on you and will not be readily distracted by what is occurring on in the distance. He will keep his head pretty straight and look ahead rather than at other horses and humans.
4. He doesn’t try to eat
Every riding school has that one pony infamous for stealing any foliage it can get its hands on. Your horse is definitely enjoying the exercise if he can resist the impulse to nibble into the leaves and grass on trail rides.
5. He does what you ask
The fact that your horse swiftly obeys your commands is a strong indicator that he enjoys being ridden. He responds to even the tiniest touch and appears to know exactly what you’re thinking. To accomplish so, he must be completely focused on you and devoted to the ride.
Another thing to consider is if your horse works for or against you. Is his neck tight against the reins and his torso inflexible as he accepts the bit and moves away from your legs?
6. He is generally relaxed
Your horse will not enjoy riding if he is nervous and tense. A happy horse has a relaxed posture, ears that flick back and forth, and a calm tail. In addition, he will lower his head on a long rein and exhale loudly in relaxation.
What does licking and chewing in horses mean?
Many riders misinterpret their horse’s licking and chewing as submission and understanding. The interpretation of this behavior was contentious in the equestrian world until a recent publication clarified matters.
Licking and chewing in horses indicates that the animal is calming down after a stressful experience. It is not a sign of submission and marks the transition from a sympathetic (agitated) to a parasympathetic (calm) state.
The behavior of feral horses in their natural surroundings was studied by equine experts at the Norwegian University of Life Sciences in 2018. Prof. Ruth Newberry and M.Sc. Margrete Lie examined the herd for 80 hours and recorded 202 licking and chewing sequences.
The researchers noticed an intriguing pattern when they evaluated the behavior in both relaxed and stressed settings. The majority of actions preceding to licking and chewing were tense, while the majority of behaviors following were relaxed. This implies that licking and chewing occur as the horse goes from stressed to relaxed.
So, what makes the horse chew? The stimulation of the sympathetic nervous system following a disturbance appears to create a dry mouth, and salivation resumes once the threat has passed (parasympathetic activation). This is why we frequently hear a large gulp when the horse licks and chews.
How to tell if Your Horse Doesn’t Like Being Ridden
Now that we’ve established when our horses enjoy being ridden, let’s look at the signals that they don’t. Horses are very skilled at letting us know when they don’t like something, so these are usually obvious and difficult to overlook.
A horse that prefers not to ride is difficult to capture and handle in preparation for riding. They will be difficult to tack up and may even refuse to be saddled or bridled.
Horses that dislike being ridden but have learnt to tolerate it will frequently have their ears back during riding preparation.
If your horse shakes and throws his head, rolls his eyes, and flares his nostrils, he is most certainly unhappy under saddle. He may pin his ears back if you pose a question and may even try to unseat you. Horses can be inventive in devising new ways to confuse you, such as bucking, rearing, bolting, or spinning.
Horses’ tail swishing is also regarded to be an indication of distress. This is not to be mistaken with a harmless attempt to get a fly off their back. When horses are anxious, they flick their tails sideways and their muscles stiffen.
Another major warning flag is your horse’s refusal to cooperate. If he refuses to move when you ask, moves his head but not his body to your rein signal, or works against the bit, he probably doesn’t like being ridden. Taking care of your horse should not feel like an upper-body workout.
5 Reasons Your Horse Doesn’t Like Being Ridden
There are numerous reasons why a horse may dislike being ridden. If your horse begins to misbehave during your riding sessions, the first step is to discover whether the problem is physical or psychological.
Examine your horse with your veterinarian, farrier, and physiotherapist to rule out any health issues.
1. Ill-Fitting Tack
One of the most prevalent reasons horses dislike being ridden is ill-fitting equipment. Bits and bridles that are too small can be painful for the horse and cause head shaking.
An ill-fitting saddle, on the other hand, will induce pressure points on the horse’s back and suffering while riding. White hairs under the saddle suggest that the equipment is too small.
Ideally, your saddle fitter should inspect your horse every six months, as sections of the saddle may need to be adjusted owing to musculoskeletal changes. Making sure your horse’s equipment fits and is comfortable goes a long way toward making riding more enjoyable.
2. Unnecessary training aids
While riding, you should only utilize the bare minimum of training aids. Whips, spurs, martingales, side reins, and tie-downs are the most used training aids. In general, with comprehensive training and good riding, any training aids can be avoided.
However, you may discover that employing a training device aids your horse’s present level of training. Remember that accessory straps like martingales should only be worn for a brief period of time until your horse overcomes the difficulty. Many specialists have discovered that using these training aids for an extended period of time causes the horse to work against the apparatus.
3. Health issues
Riding can be difficult for your horse due to a variety of health concerns. The sooner you discover out what’s wrong, the sooner your horse will be able to enjoy riding again.
Back and leg difficulties, musculoskeletal pain, arthritis, and hoof disorders are the most frequent health issues that impact riders. It’s not always easy to pinpoint the source of a problem, so get your horse inspected from all perspectives.
Also, horses have an instinct to disguise their pain for as long as possible. This adaption allowed them to survive in the wild for millions of years. As a result, yearly health examinations are recommended to spot problems early.
Horses, like humans, have distinct personalities, and some are not suited to riding. Although most horses may be trained to carry a rider, their attitude and temperament will determine whether or not they enjoy it.
It’s also possible that a horse isn’t in the mood to ride on that particular day. Horses, like humans, have terrible days, and it’s a grand gesture to be gentle with them during those times.
5. Previous encounters
If a prior rider has abused a horse, it may develop an aversion to riding for the remainder of its life. It is always far easier to undermine a horse’s confidence than restore it. To learn to like riding again, a nervous horse will require a lot of time, love, and attention.
Inexperienced horses may sometimes dislike being ridden at first since they now have to work harder than before. After that, however, they become accustomed to regular riding sessions, and many start to like the exercise.
6. Rider problem
The riders themselves may be the most significant cause leading horses to dislike being ridden. However, we are responsible as riders constantly to develop our abilities and fitness to help horses transport us.
An enormous or unsuited rider can cause several issues in the horse. According to research, horses can securely carry up to 20% of their body weight. A rider too big for the horse will suffer back pain and musculoskeletal problems.
Even if weight isn’t an issue, an unfit rider is likelier to sit imbalanced on the horse, leading to problems like unequal muscular growth. As a result, it’s a good idea to have someone check at our riding regularly and tell us if we need to be sitting correctly.
Inexperienced, unduly harsh, uninformed, or frightened riders can also cause issues. If the rider is scared, it is natural for the horse to be agitated or fearful. If the rider is stressed, they reason, there must be something to be concerned about.
How to make riding more enjoyable for your horse
There is always space for improvement when it comes to riding. You’d be surprised how many things you can do to improve your horse’s riding experience.
Consider your horse’s preferences
Horses generally like us better and are more cooperative when considering how they feel. Therefore, be willing to modify your training schedule based on your horse’s preferences, and he will reward you. This does not imply allowing your horse to do anything he wants; instead, it is a compromise that makes both parties happy.
This entails getting to know your horse and what he enjoys. Try to pay close attention to what your horse tells you about the riding you perform together in the coming weeks.
If your horse appreciates a particular exercise, perform it more often! Allow him to work in a group if he enjoys it! If he’s a foodie, include grazing breaks in your trail rides as a treat.
Mix things up
Training with diversity keeps your horse engaged and attentive during work. No horse like dull repetitious work. Therefore, this will make him want to ride more!
Alternate between arena work and trail riding. The arena is filled with activities ranging from lunging to flatwork, pole work, figures, transitions, and leaping. You can also alternate between working alone and in groups.
Develop a good relationship with your horse
Spending quality time with your horse will help to improve your bond and increase his liking for you. He will like spending time with you and going on rides with you.
Increase your horse’s comfort
Always strive to reduce your horse’s training aids and move to friendlier equipment. Having comfort will considerably boost your horse’s enjoyment of riding.
Be relaxed and patient
Things will only sometimes go your way while dealing with horses. When this happens, try to be calm, patient, and understanding. Your horse will appreciate it.
Get your horse fit
Horses in good physical condition will carry their riders more easily and enjoy the workout more. Check that your horse has sufficient muscle strength and stamina for the exercise you perform.
Provide friends, forage, freedom
These three items are critical for the health of every horse. Allow your horse lots of turnout in the companionship of other horses during non-riding hours, and feed a forage-based diet. Horses who live a good life and are mentally fit will appreciate riding more.
Learn more: 7 Ways You Can Help to Save Wild Horses Today