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Do Horses Like to Be Ridden? 5 Keys to a Happy Horse

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Recently we were getting ready for a trail ride, and one of the horses moved away when I walked towards it while carrying a saddle—seeing the horse step back prompted my granddaughter to ask me if horses like being ridden or do they find it uncomfortable and unnatural?

The answer depends on the horse. Some seem to enjoy horse riding and actively seek attention and affection from their riders. Other horses, however, seem to despise being ridden and will do everything they can to avoid it. They’ll resist getting saddled and become agitated and skittish as soon as they feel a rider on their back.

When done correctly, horse riding offers a horse the chance to exercise and burn off excess energy, helping to keep them healthy and fit. In addition, horse riding can help to build up the muscles in a horse’s legs and back, improving their overall strength and stamina. However, it’s important to remember that not all horses enjoy being ridden.

People riding horses on the beach.

How does your horse feel about being ridden?

When you swing up into the saddle and take the horse’s reins in your hands, you are asking a lot of him. You are asking him to carry you on his back, to respond to your commands, and to trust you not to harm him. So how does your horse feel about being ridden?

There is no easy answer to this question, as every horse is different. Some horses enjoy the companionship and the exercise, while others find it tedious or even frightening.

However, there are a few things that all horses share when it comes to being ridden. First of all, they must be properly trained and conditioned before they can be ridden safely. Secondly, they need to have a good relationship with their rider based on mutual trust and respect.

Finally, they need to be healthy and sound in order to carry the weight of a rider without strain or injury. If all of these conditions are met, then most horses will likely enjoy being ridden – at least some of the time.

Reasons a horse may not like being ridden.

While horseback riding can be a fun and relaxing activity, it’s important to remember that horses are not always comfortable being ridden. There are a number of reasons why a horse may not enjoy being ridden, including discomfort, fear, and boredom.

By understanding the reasons why horses may not enjoy being ridden, riders can help to make the experience more enjoyable for both horse and rider.

Improper tack

One of the most common reasons for discomfort is ill-fitting tack. If a horse’s saddle or bridle doesn’t fit properly, it can cause chafing and pain. That is why It’s essential to make sure that the tack you use fits the horse… and you… properly.

Saddles aren’t generic; one size fits all items. The best fit is probably custom, but as that’s expensive, there are ways to get a good fit. Take the measurements of your horse to the saddlery.

That and the breed of your horse will help determine the correct fit. While you’re there, talk to them about the type of saddle, and the riding activity you plan on doing will help you choose the right equipment.

When looking at bits and bridles, consider the horse’s comfort as well as how you need to communicate with it. Is this going to be a working horse on a cattle ranch? Do you plan on taking gentle hacks around the nearby trails? Are you going to be doing a competition?

Some of these will require specific types of bit, and others may have variables that you need to discuss with the folks at the saddlery. However, there is something you need to know about bits, and I will cover it in the next section.

Picture of horses

The rider

That’s right; the most critical part of the question about horses and riding is the rider. We’ll start with the bit. Do you know what the most painful bit available is?

It is a bit being used by someone who has heavy hands. You could have the mildest bit available, and it will still hurt and/or tear the mouth of the horse.

Another thing to consider is size; this is not about body shaming but rather about making sure the horse can carry the rider. A large man should probably not attempt to ride a small horse. It would be uncomfortable for both.

Before I continue, yes, I do remember what Dr. Phil said. I’m afraid I have to disagree with him. Horses provide a great deal of exercise for their human counterpart, especially if it is done correctly.

However, when you choose a horse, keep both the horse’s size and your own in mind. You’ll both enjoy it more. How you ride is essential. It isn’t enough to just get into the saddle if you really want your horse to enjoy being ridden.

You have to be a partner with the horse. If you want to get the most out of your horse riding experience, having a riding instructor is a good idea. They will teach you how to sit, when to stand partially in the stirrups or irons, etc.

Picture of a young girl grooming her horse,

Preparation

What you do before you put the saddle on is as important as having the right saddle. The first thing is to carefully groom the horse. Besides making sure that there are no twisted bits of hair to pinch, you will have a chance to see if there are any injuries that would make riding painful.

When you’re brushing your horse’s area where the saddle sits, pay attention to the animals’ reaction. If it flinches, this may be a pain reaction that needs investigating.

Rub your bare hand over the horse’s back, looking for bumps, sores, and heat that could mean your horse is unfit for riding. Before putting on the saddle blanket, inspect it for debris.

It’s not unusual for small shavings or pieces of hay to attach to its underside. I typically brush the saddle pad before putting it on my horses. After you put the saddle pad on your horse, make sure that it isn’t bunched up in one spot or hanging unevenly.

An improperly fitted saddle pad can cause all kinds of problems and will definitely chafe the horse. Saddle pads should be in good condition and also put on correctly. Before tightening the girth on your saddle, check to make sure it’s clear, rests against the horse evenly, and isn’t pinching it.

Picture of a black race horse

Post-ride care.

If you want your horse to think kindly about being ridden, what you do after you finish riding is as crucial as any other step. It’s more than just removing the tack.

If you’ve ridden hard, you may need to hold off on the water until the horse has cooled down. We typically unsaddle our horses and hand-walk them for a few minutes, then let them drink a little water.

Then we continue to walk them for a few minutes more and allow them another drink, and I continue this process until I’m comfortable that the horse is cooled down sufficiently.

Once that is done, it is time to groom the horse again and for similar reasons as the pre-ride grooming. Riding can cause sweat to build up and dry. The dried sweat gets really itchy. Brushing the horse will feel good to it, and once again, you can look for injuries. We often give the horses a good bath as well.

Don’t forget the horse’s hooves when you are grooming, especially after a ride. Dirt and rocks can get into the frog, and that can be painful. You can also make sure that there are no injuries to the frog and whether it’s time to call the farrier.

After grooming, I typically keep the horses separated and feed each a nice flake of alfalfa hay. This is the reward they’ve been waiting for.

General horse care

Why would this matter in the context of whether or not horses like to be ridden? An ill or injured horse isn’t going to like much of anything. The farrier needs to visit every six to eight weeks.

Besides trimming the hooves, shoes may need to be changed or replaced. If you have decided to let the horse go barefoot, the farrier is even more critical. They can check to make sure this is the right decision or if shoes are actually needed.

Immunizations can protect both you and your horse from illness. Many horse owners give these injections themselves, but the vet can do it for you if you aren’t comfortable with that. Sometimes there are immunization clinics that are a less expensive option.

The equine dentist is essential, as well. The dentist will look to see if the horse’s teeth need to be floated and if there are any corrections that need to be made. Ask the equine dentist what the ideal timing would be; for some horses, it’s every six months, and for others, it is once a year.

Picture of a horse walking

Conclusion

There is no definitive answer to the question of whether horses like being ridden. While some horses seem to enjoy the companionship and the attention that they receive from their riders, others may find the experience to be uncomfortable or even stressful.

Ultimately, it is up to the individual horse to decide whether it enjoys being ridden. However, there are a few things that horse owners can do to help their animals feel more comfortable while being ridden.

For example, it is important to make sure that the horse’s saddle fits properly and that its tack is in good condition. In addition, riders should be aware of the horse’s body language and should avoid putting too much pressure on its back or pulling on its reins.

I’ve experienced both. The one who didn’t like it had as many problems as the riders did. The ones that typically enjoy being ridden have experienced riders in control, give their horses new experiences, and take care of their animals after riding. The key is the rider more than the horse.

Below is an informative YouTube video about why horses let us ride them.

FAQs

Are horses hurt when you ride them?

No, horses properly tacked are not hurt when you ride them. However, sometimes it may feel pain, and if it continues, the horse may eventually start to display signs of discomfort, such as slowing down or refusing to go forward. When this happens, it is important to determine the cause of the problem and find a solution.

Does it hurt horses when you trim their hooves?

No, it doesn’t hurt a horse to trim its hooves; in fact, it’s similar to cutting our fingernails. The hooves are constantly growing, and if they’re not trimmed on a regular basis, they can become overgrown and start to cause problems for the horse.

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