Horses are not born with a saddle on their back or wearing harness. Riding or driving horses is totally a human agenda. Yet mostly what we see in the equine world is about riding or preparing horses to be ridden. Today equines are used in many different disciplines, for sport, practical work, pleasure, etc. We must never forget that this has evolved over thousands of years as the horse has had a place by man’s side throughout history worldwide. This brings with it tradition and culture in approaches towards the horse. There are growing number of people who are seeking a better way and questioning the status quo. Practices are being closely examined and bad practice condemned. Research is now showing certain sports or training approaches may cause stress, discomfort and even pain. It is a vast hot topic for debate about the ethics of riding and how horses are trained, physically and mentally. This will evolve over time with human understanding of the horse being a sentient being. We should ask more questions that focus on how the horse might feel, what it thinks, wants, needs, desires, enjoys, etc. This will open up a lively conversation and debate that in turn will shape up ethical approaches with horses.
We must never forget there are economic factors that also shape our relationship with horses. A lot of money is invested in many equine disciplines and sports. The equine world has big organisations and business that invest in marketing and selling to us. Sadly the horse is often seen as a disposable commodity. We live in a throw away culture, and horses once they cannot give the human what it was bought for are often put to sleep or moved on. The responsible and difficult decisions are unpalatable and extremely hard. I know first-hand the heartache in this decision making process. Many horses change hands with the truth hidden for the next owner to unravel, with the rollercoaster ride and heartache that goes with it. Plenty of horses float round the system physically and or mentally broken with resulting behavioural issues. Where money is a factor with horses ultimately it can have an impact on welfare in some way. Not many of us are able to sign a blank cheque in difficult circumstances for our equines. It is not surprizing that given these factors non ridden horses are seen to have very little economic value and often face a bleak future. Even those that get the job of being a companion to a ridden horse often get treated like a second class citizen. Plus owners of non-ridden equines often face criticism and find themselves having to defend their choices over keeping a horse that is seen by others to have little or no use.
There is a world out there beyond being a companion to a ridden equine. Some non-ridden equines are lucky to have humans who value and treasure them. You can have lots of fun playing with your horse. For example something as simple as teaching your horse to target touch can lead onto playing football. Getting creative about how you play is great fun, think about what your horse enjoys. Some like to problem solve, others like to let off steam, others like gentle play. Read for FREE my article the Art of Play that appeared in Horsemanship Magazine. You can extend play into the sport of Horse Agility and if you and your horse enjoy it there are opportunities to compete. These are just a few suggestions of many wonderful activities you and your horse can enjoy that are not ridden. I wrote a Non Ridden Equine Resource Pack for The Non Ridden Equine Association UK celebrations for International Non Ridden Day. It is FREE to download. You can click here for your FREE copy.
If your horse adores being pampered, maybe in-hand showing could be your thing and you don’t even have to leave home to compete, you can compete on-line too. There are businesses offering these opportunities for non-ridden equines. Click here to visit the Non Ridden Equine Association UK website it has a list of on-line showing platforms.
There is far more to having a horse than riding or competitions. Having a horse in your life is great for mind, body, spirit and soul. When I look at a horse I see a spirit and soul looking back at me. For me horsemanship is a unique spiritual bond, a connection between two souls. Interspecies soul companions with a deep understanding of each other to form a very special relationship. I have championed this for many years. I am passionate about what horses bring to us, the opportunities they provide us with for personal development and wellbeing. I freely share my insights and knowledge on this and several articles have been published which you can now read for FREE.
I have helped many people to enjoy their horses without riding being part of the agenda. Our horse Kez is an Irish cob and a non-ridden horse. He is a beautiful soul, who is smart, clever, intelligent, keen to learn, loves to play and a joy to have in our lives. He has so much to give and a huge loving heart. There are so many like him, many are unwanted, some suffering neglect, some floating around the system with undiagnosed health problems, some waiting to be rehomed in rescue centres etc. Our Kez is truly an ambassador who I hope can inspire other people to look at giving horses like him the opportunity to blossom. These horses give to humanity far more than what riding gives us.