I saw a post in a horse classified ads page on Facebook a while back. The woman had been in a bad accident and said it would likely be 1-2 years before she could walk again – so riding was a long way off for her. Therefore, she was selling her beautiful Lusitano gelding for about half what he was worth because “he deserves someone who can give him a better life than I can.”
This is heartbreaking to me – this assumption that horses like, need or even want to be ridden! For sure, some love to go riding and will even come and get you saying, “C’mon, let’s go for a ride!” But others don’t like to be ridden much, and some, not at all. Many horses have been through so much trauma at the hands of humans – losing their babies, never being able live in a family herd, manipulative or coercive training, nails driven through their hooves, compressed spines, and so on – they are thrilled to never be ridden again.
And unlike most of us humans, when you have an intimate connection with a horse, that horse really IS there for you – for better or for worse, in sickness and in health – that horse does NOT desire to be away from you because you are struggling, or hurting.
Many times all I do with my horses is sit there with a sketchbook as they eat around me, one of my horses likes to co-write poems with me. Another one loves to give me massages with her lips on my shoulders and back. Sometimes we go out for walks together on the road – all of us walking – and stop at a nice grass patch for a while. Sometimes I jump around the poles until one or two of them decide to join in. Sometimes we invent games together.
Zara (my now 12-year-old daughter) summed it up in a conversation we had recently:
Me: If you couldn’t ride, would you still go through all the work, time and expense to have horses?
Zara: Because they’re amazing! They’re wise, intelligent, beautiful animals – in a way no other animal is. I’m happy just to see them run and hang out with them. I don’t need to be on their back to enjoy them running.
Me: But what benefit do you get from that?
Zara: I LOVE seeing them run – it’s like watching gymnastics, or a really good dancer. And when I just hang out with them I feel…. lightened.
I love that. LIGHTENED. Perfect.