A question I have often been asked is if I think riding is necessary when you have a horse. Of course not if it is a small pony, but a horse that fits you in size for riding. Should you absolutely ride him then? I have never really given the question a lot of thought, but these past few months I have really started thinking about this exact thing for more reasons… First of all I had a horse in my hands that had (at the time) undefinable issues in his body which made it pretty impossible to ride. Secondly I had to listen to him even more than before because I had to make sure that when I finally got on him that he was okay with it. This whole experience made me more observant and listening because I under no circumstances wanted to cause him pain by riding him if he was not fine with it. In this period I also experienced that even though I missed riding I constantly found other things to do instead. I started letting go of my huge desire to ride and instead I made it my goal to come up with things that he would find pleasure in and freely choose to be a part of.
After spending a lot of months with a horse who has not been physically ready for riding I have also had a pretty long break from sitting on a horse actually. It has been self-evident that I should not ride because my horse was not fit for fight, but what about afterwards? What about now? I would not say that I have ever seen riding as something that I just had the right to do at any moment, but yet more than how I feel about it now. Spending 7-8 months without being able to ride my horse without it feeling wrong has made me appreciate the little moments more. I knew this already, but either way it has made it
even more clear to me that riding is a privilege, not a human right.
I have realized how much bigger the joy is when you get invited on the back of your horse instead of telling him to let you. I have realized that even though I LOVE riding, I love doing what my horse enjoys even more. I have grown into loving and accepting that my horses has an opinion too even more than I did before. I have stopped finding the same joy in ‘making’ my horse go for a ride with me. That also means that I have accepted and seen with my own eyes that riding is not necessary. Especially not for my horse. He sure can enjoy a ride and I am most happy to go with him if he likes, but I am not making him go for a ride for his pleasure. I mean… If I have to make my horse take me for a ride is the pleasure really that big for him then? Wouldn’t he have offered it himself if he wanted it?
To me riding has become a privilege that I can not always expect to have. I have stopped finding joy in a ride that is not chosen by both me AND the horse. Instead I have found much more love, trust and joy in the rides that are introduced to me by my horses. I honestly do believe that doing everything else than riding can be absolutely enough for both horse and rider. Yet it is also my experience that when you accept that you can’t just demand your horse to carry you, then he will actually start to offer it himself. It is the moment when you stop expecting him to carry you that he feels the freedom to let you ride him. Suddenly it becomes something the he can give you as a gift instead of something you take from him without his consent.
So do I think riding is necessary when you have a horse? No.
Do I think you should ride if you and your horse finds pleasure in it? Absolutely, yes.