Last updated: May 2, 2021
Our riding horses are gentle and walk to us as we approach them. When we tack them, they stand still and wait patiently. Knowing they could easily escape from me made me wonder why do they let humans ride them?
Horses let humans ride them because of a relationship of trust developed through hard work, time, and training. Humans sitting on the back of a horse and guiding it isn’t natural. In the wild, horses run when humans attempt to approach them.
Most people buy horses trained to ride and don’t put much thought into why a horse lets them sit on their back. But there is a lot that happens even before a saddle is ever placed on a horse is ridden.
Why horses allow humans to ride them.
Horses in the wild run away from humans. They sense danger, and so they bolt; this is how they’ve survived for thousands of years. So what changed? Why did they start letting humans ride them?
Horses didn’t just stop running and let us ride them. They were captured and domesticated. Researchers once believed horse domestication began in northern Kazakhstan almost six thousand years ago.
But with modern technology, this has been debunked. The oldest confirmed remains of the modern domestic horse date back to about 2000 B.C. and Russia and Central Asia’s chariot burials.
One way scientists confirm horse domestication is from their teeth. One way scientists confirm horse domestication is from their teeth. The bits used to steer horses cause indentations, which researchers rely on to establish humans rode horses during a particular period.
Another method researchers used to determine horses’ domestication is by the location of equine bones and unearthed tools. In Kazakhstan, they relied on evidence that suggested humans kept horses corraled and used them for food, milk, and riding.
Before horses were domesticated, they were hunted for meat, much like deer, moose, and other large mammals. But once captured, humans began training them.
Horses let humans ride them because they are trained to. Training a horse to allow a human to sit on its back is a long process and begins well before a saddle is ever placed on its back.
Training a horse to ride.
The first order of business when working with horses is to develop trust and your roles. Horses are herd animals, and they instinctively believe you are either a part of their herd or a threat.
It would be best if you established dominance over your horse. Many horses accept humans but test them to check if they have the power or you. You must develop your dominant position early.
Establishing roles begin early before you ever saddle your horse. Start by correcting your foal when it misbehaves. Don’t allow a yearling to walk over you. When you lead a young horse, make it pay attention.
There are numerous ways to establish control, and horses appreciate clearly defined roles in their relationships. Taking control also develops trust between you and your horse, and they start relying on your decisions.
Trust works on the rule of “give and take.” So, if you take control, you must make decisions in the best interest of your horses. You have to give your best effort.
Moreover, it helps to remember the basics about horses’ mentality; they are natural herd animals and like to roam free. Training to ride isn’t natural for them, but most want to please.
Racehorse owners to start their racehorses as young as safely possible. When our horses approach two years old, we typically begin feeling their knees to determine how open they are.
You can’t put substantial weight on a horse’s back until their knees are fully developed, or they get hurt. If we think a horse’s knees are ready, we get them x-rayed to confirm it.
To avoid riding a horse too young, we confirm the progress of their knees with an x-ray. We can tell when their knees are open with our hands, but not always when they are closed.
It’s better to be safe and take x-rays of young horses’ knees before riding. If their knees are closed, we bring them to a stall and put a saddle pad on their back.
We may do this a couple of times a day and rub under their belly where the girth goes. Next, we put a saddle on their back and bring the girth up and let it fall.
We do this a couple of times and watch the horse reaction. We then cinch the saddle and lead the horse around the barn. Depending on how the horse reacts, we will move to a rider laying over the saddle and sliding off.
Next, a rider will lay across the horse’s back and move to a sitting position. With the rider on the horse, we walk the horse around the barn. Every horse is different, some take more times than others, but eventually, we mount and dismount using the stirrups.
Because horses are different, there is no set timetable for the process. If you’ve owned a horse, you likely developed a special connection. This connection can increase your ability to train a horse relatively quickly.
Interestingly research shows this link isn’t fantasy; a new study finds that horses feel and understand human emotions.
The personality traits of horses
Horses are individuals and have various temperaments. Temperament is the general demeanor and personality of a horse. Some horses are naturally skittish, and others are calm.
It would help if you learned your horse’s temperament before you ride. Some horses may take some time or specific steps before riding. My son-in-law has a horse that likes to be saddled and worked on a lunge line before riding.
He doesn’t have to lunge the horse before each ride, but the animal works much better with a short amount of groundwork before jumping in the saddle.
To get the best from your horse, you need to treat it as an individual and pay attention to its personality. By paying close attention to your horse, you can build a relationship of trust and confidence.
Build a relationship of trust:
You don’t have to be abusive to be a leader. Harsh training methods don’t work, are cruel, and should be avoided. Successful horse trainers are firm but train horses with compassion and respect.
The most effective training occurs when a horse is comfortable and feels safe. When horses are working, your job is to pay close attention to their body language.
In addition to this, there are other tips to win the confidence and build a trustworthy relationship.
- Prove yourself as a good leader by introducing training and new techniques slowly.
- Spend time with your horse working from the ground before riding. Lunge lines are a great way to train a horse and develop trust.
- Moreover, you never choose a date to ride a horse for the first time; you let the horse’s progress make this decision.
If you follow these tips, then your horse should trust you and feel comfortable in your presence. With trust, it’s easier to transition a horse for riding.
What to watch for when riding a horse.
If you are riding correctly and not hurting the horse, you should have a worry-free and enjoyable ride. However, sometimes horses don’t want to be ridden; this could occur for various reasons.
As I discussed earlier, every horse has different traits and personalities. In addition to temperament, if a person is too heavy, injured, or the horse is uncomfortable, it may send us a message that it doesn’t want to be ridden, or you need to check its tack.
Here are some signs to watch for when riding your horse to let you know how it’s feeling:
|Signs of comfort||Signs of discomfort|
|The horse is feeling relaxed and sideways ears.||Rotating ears|
|Lowered head||Raised head|
|If he is standing squarely on all four feet||Stomping feet|
|Relaxed lips||Tight skin around eyes|
|Licking and chewing||If the tail is swishing|
|If the horse is blinking and gazing slow and soft||If the lips are pinched|
|Swinging tail||Flared nostrils|
Pay attention to how you sit on a horse. Poor riding style can hurt a horse’s back and make it more difficult for them to carry you. Apart from this, ensure you use the correct size saddle. So, if you love horse-riding, then be gentle and make sure your horse is comfortable, and it will let you ride.
Do horses like to be ridden?
The shortest answer to this question is yes, horses like to be ridden. There isn’t any reason that proves that horses suffer when humans ride them. Moreover, we all know horses are beautiful and powerful animals.
So, most can easily toss them off if they don’t want a human to ride them. I know this is a simple statement, and most horses trained by an aggressive owner will force an unwilling horse to succumb to riding.
But when a horse is determined not to be ridden, it can be challenging to make one. So a horse in the wrong mindset can make riding it extraordinarily difficult.
So one of the best ways to determine if you’ve put in the correct training in a young horse is by how it reacts to its first ride. Before you ride, always make sure your horse feels good, is saddled correctly, and comfortable.
Horses let humans ride them because we build a relationship of trust through training.
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Meet Miles Henry
An avid equestrian and seasoned racehorse owner, Miles Henry brings his extensive experience to the equine world, proudly associating with the AQHA, The Jockey Club, and various other equine organizations. Beyond the racetrack, Miles is an accomplished author, having published various books about horses, and is a recognized authority in the field, with his work cited in multiple publications.
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