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Do Horses Like To Be Ridden?

By Alex Verwest


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If you’ve ever ridden a horse before then chances are that you consider it to be a very therapeutic experience that you’d definitely want to do again.

This is because riding horses has been considered to be a very good stress reliever over the years, to the point where many people ride to clear their heads a bit and find a solution to their problems because of how calming of an experience it is to them.

But what about the other party? What about the ones being ridden in the first place?

Do horses actually like being ridden or do they live through a perpetual cycle of pain and misery as we laugh maniacally after putting them through the horrors of living as an extension of our legs for hours upon hours every week?

Horse Riding – Joy
Photo by Lisa Johnson / Pixabay.com

All jokes aside, do horses actually enjoy being ridden or do they just put up with it because it’s something we trained them to do?

This is what we’re here to find out together and while we do so we will also try to give you a list of what you can do to make sure that your horse is happy too.

With that being said, let’s just go right ahead and answer the question of:

Do Horses Like to Be Ridden?

Horse Riding – Enjoyable
Photo by Nicola Giordano / Pixabay.com

It actually fully depends on the horse because believe it or not, horses are not that different from humans when it comes to their emotions overall.

As such, some horses will definitely love to be ridden and they will love to have fun with their owners because it is an activity that they can both get a lot of dopamine out of. But, as you can already tell, this isn’t the case with every horse out there.

Some horses actually despise being ridden and they will show this by trying to get you off as soon as you get on top of them. Remember that horses are all individuals and they will like certain things and hate others and so on and so forth.

Most riders out there consider going on a random ride with their friends to be somewhat of a reward for them, as they get to spend more time with them, while also helping them exercise, but is it actually that good for the one being ridden?

What about the tack, does it help them in any way or is it only there for the one riding the horse? The real issue here isn’t the fact that we know that they don’t like it, it’s the fact that we really don’t have any idea to begin with.

There are a lot of horses out there that love being ridden but a lot of them are very visibly against it, fighting their way as much as possible out of being ridden until they have no choice but to give in.

Why Your Horse May Not Enjoy Being Ridden?

Horse Riding – Not Enjoyable
Photo by wendy CORNIQUET / Pixabay.com

Most horses are not that obvious about their emotions though, so here is a quick rundown of every reason as to why your horse may hate being ridden:

Improper Tack

Horse Riding – Improper Tack
Photo by Petra / Pixabay.com

Yes, you do need to make sure that your horse is wearing a proper tack before you ride them not only for the sake of your own bum, but for the sake of the horse’s back as well.

Saddles are not universal; they are not the type of items that you can get once and use for any horse in your stead. You will need to find the perfect fit for them or at the very least you will need to get a custom one to make sure that it doesn’t hurt them as they trot around.

You can always go to a local saddlery and see there whether they can make custom ones for your horse. Make sure to mention what kind of riding activity you are going to take part in and more specifically you will need to offer exact measurements to make sure that you got everything right.

Another commonly asked question is whether this tack is meant for a working horse or a competition one and of course, how long are the rides for you most of the time.

The questions you need to bring up or you need to be asked here are very much so going to be very specific to your horse but you can’t forget about them as these are the blueprints that you will use to get the most out of your deal.

The Rider

Horse Riding – Rider
Photo by Sofie Zbořilová / Pixabay.com

This may sound like a bit of a personal attack but it is definitely something that you need to keep in mind here.

The heavier the rider’s hands for example, the worse it’ll be for the horse and of course, we can’t forget about the fact that your horse is not exactly going to be thrilled to have to carry you around, if you weigh twice as much as the ordinary human.

We get it that body shaming is not something that you signed up for when you started reading this article, but if you want your horse to be happy when you jump up on their back you don’t have to be the equivalent of a mini nuke when you do hop on them.

On top of that, you also need to keep in mind that the way that you ride the horse will greatly impact its enjoyment of the process.

We recommend that you check in with a riding instructor if you want to get better at riding without actually hurting the horse in the process.

Post-Ride Care

Horse Riding – Grooming
Photo by Svetlana Svetlana / Unsplash.com

This is actually a surefire way that you can employ in order to make the horse look forward to being ridden. You just need to get your hands on some treats, give them some water and hand walk them for a couple of minutes as they calm down a bit.

They will need to drink lots of water while galloping around and treats are always great for them especially if you want them to look forward to being ridden by you.

Grooming is also essential as the more they gallop the more they sweat and you don’t want them to get too itchy while you’re on top of them, trust us.

You can also take this time to look for injuries on their bodies. You never know when the horse may find itself needing a bath and this is a perfect time to start brushing them to see if there’s anything going on in that department.

Common Signs Your Horse Is Happy

Horse Riding – Happy
Photo by Uschi / Pixabay.com

There is a huge list of ways that you can look forward to after you’ve ridden your horse that showcase whether or not they enjoyed their time, but by far the most telling ones are the following:

  • If their ears are relaxed and flopping around in the wind as opposed to them being pointy the whole time it means that they’re now happy and stress-free
  • If their head is slightly lowered and their lips are drooping around then they’re now showing you that they are a bit tired but they are also showing you that they’ve had fun before
  • If they are standing tall and not slouched that means they’re not too exhausted from the ride
  • If they’re now licking and chewing on you or basically any object around them then they’ve clearly enjoyed their time so far
  • If they are now slowly blinking and looking for you every time you move away that’s a very good indicator that they enjoyed their time and they want to do it again
  • If their tail is swinging around rapidly then, similarly to dogs, that means that they had a lot of fun and that they can’t wait to do it again

Common Signs Your Horse Is Unhappy

Horse Riding – Unhappy
Photo by Önder Örtel / Unsplash.com

These are the most common signs of discontentment for your horse:

  • If their ears are pointy and pinned to the back of their head
  • If their heads are shaking back and forth that means they’re distressed
  • If they are stomping their feet and digging around with their hooves that means they’re very angry at the moment
  • If their back foot is lifted, it’s time to calm them down because they’re ready to strike
  • If the white in their eyes are showing
  • If their tail is clamped down and not moving in the slightest


Horse Riding – Conclusion
Photo by Jack Blueberry / Unsplash.com

While our answers may not have been exactly what you were hoping for, we do hope that they came in handy and more specifically we hope that you now have a better understanding of your horse’s behavior.

It may be hard to realize that you are the problem here but trust us when we tell you that you are not alone on this. Many riders don’t realize that they are actively hurting their horse and that they could easily fix this by just adding in an extra treat and spending a bit more on the tack.

The more you do for your horse the more you’ll show it that you care so never do half of a job, always do your best and you will be rewarded with a happy and calm new friend in no time.

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About Alex Verwest

Alex is an equestrian consultant who has co-founded several successful start-up companies and worked with various international equestrian businesses. Using his experience and connections in this field, he loves to introduce readers to many outstanding small equestrian brands, sharing stories about equestrian lifestyle and trends. Learn more about Seriously Equestrian's Editorial Process.