Is riding necessary?

Is riding necessary?

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.

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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?

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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.

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9 thoughts on “Is riding necessary?”

  • Another truly wonderful post and I wholeheartedly agree with you too. I love my horses and simply having them in my life is so special, with or without riding. You write with such care and compassion for horses. It’s so lovely to read. Xx

    Bestest wishes to you and your two ‘boys’ Xx

  • This is so important, I’m so glad you addressed this topic! I’ve come to this same conclusion in the past 8 months with Misa…realizing that when I make her allow me on her back, the obvious breach of trust that she feels, how it affects her demeanor is heartbreaking. She goes from proud and powerful and willing, to silently accepting, dull and unhappy. She finds no joy in it, and I don’t either… It took seeing that change in her to make me realize that I don’t want it if I have to force it with her. I take the opportunity when she offers it but it’s few and far between, although each time is so magical and special because it’s not forced. Physical pain can make a horse sour to riding, obviously because it hurts, but mental pain and fear can be just as damaging to the horses desire to carry a rider, and needs to be addressed and healed just like a pinched nerve or strained muscle.

  • My heart expands when I read posts like this. I have an almost 31-year-old gelding, Prowler. He sometimes doesn’t want me to ride him. We’ve never done a LOT of riding together as I have had a lot of fear issues and deal with PTSD when my fear is triggered. It’s a real balancing point for me and my horse as well. The nice thing is that I mostly ride him bareback or with a bareback pad and we just walk around. Without a lot of tack, (I ride in a halter) or controlling aids, I really have to listen to him and I can feel him so much more with this close contact.
    I hope it’s ok to put this here, I think all us horse loving bloggers need to support one another and I have my blog here if you’d like to read more about my journey, stories and communications with horses. http://www.myhorseisimyguru.ca

    • Hello Jai. Thank you so much for your response, kind words and for sharing your story. It sounds like the two of you have a wonderful relationship and I am so happy to hear how you figure it out together. He sure is a lucky horse to have a human like you! I will check out your blog ASAP. Looking forward to it!

      • I look forward to hearing what you think. Some are stories, some are information I’ve learned along my journey that have added years to my old guys life. Let’s stay in touch!

  • I LOVE this. I have a horse so beloved to me. But I’ve become chronically ill and it’s so hard for me to ride. I suffer guilt over this as well as negativity from people.
    But the love I feel when I wake in the morning and he hears me. We look at each other. I feel so blessed.
    It makes it easier to cope with my illness.

    • I am so happy and honoured to hear! Thank you so much for sharing your story. I am really sorry to hear about your situation, but you should never feel guilty about it. I do not doubt for a second that your friendship and time together will mean so much to your horse and he will never blame you for not being able to do the things you might used to. You should find peace with the situation and the fact that your horse loves you no matter the circumstances as long as you share love with him <3 I wish you all the best of luck for the future!

  • I love your two boys. They’re so proud and beautiful! About 10 months ago, I started leasing my horse, Cutter. I’m very inspired and interested in teaching him about his own freedom and I can see that he hates being ridden and does simply because he is forced to. Unfortunately he isn’t truly my horse and he has an old injury that stiffens his shoulder and makes it very difficult to stretch out and relax. Recently I’ve been doing a lot of field work and trails to stretch his shoulder but also because he has a completely different outlook when it comes to trails. He perks up and is willing to move. Not quite as relaxed as I’d like but compared to the ring where he would buck when you asked him to move and when he did move it would lack all energy or playfulness that he sometimes displays on the ground. He’s 24 and most people hate him because he’s so lazy and the way he expresses his feelings is through agression. I want to make it easier for him and try doing more from the ground and sometimes, when he isn’t ridden for several days, he has a complete change in perspective.

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