A Horse Isn’t a Machine… 

BY TPH Staff

We feel the need to constantly remind others of that. 

We can see it plain as day when a rider gets frustrated with their horse, and the horse was simply not performing like they wanted it to that day. 

Or, maybe they just simply aren’t present with the horse unless they are riding.

We’ve seen this scenario before: 

A rider does bare-minimum grooming and tacks up in less than ten minutes, then rides for 20 minutes, walks out quickly, untacks, and scrolls through her phone while the horse dries off. She puts him back in his stall – all in under an hour and without really being present with her horse at all. 

We’re busy. Sometimes, we only have a short amount of time we can spend at the barn, or we are getting ready to show that day – it happens.

However, our horses work hard for us as riders. They put up with our sometimes unbalanced seats, or our not-as-soft-as-they-should-be hands, or an accidental spur grazing against their side.

When you’re on your horse’s back and focused on the training, your jumping round, or whatever it is you want to accomplish, it’s easy to forget just how much they put up with – and that they really don’t have to – because they aren’t machines. It’s especially easy to forget with those well-trained, “push-button” saint-like horses. 

Not the most perfect day in the show ring? Always remember – they are complex beings with feelings. 

That means, not every trip around the show ring will be your best one, and sometimes that’s simply because it’s not your horse’s day. 

Maybe it was because they spooked the banner in the corner, or they were fresh because the temperature dropped twenty degrees overnight, and they crow-hopped a little during their lead change. 

Another thing to remember is horses feed off of your emotions, so if you’re stressed, they can feel it, and react to it, too.  

Spooking is a way horses tend to remind us that even the most bomb-proof horses aren’t machines. 

It’s never fun when you’re walking your horse down the trail to suddenly have them leap sideways at a funny colored rock. It’s easy to get mad or frustrated. But remember, in a horse’s mind, that funny colored rock genuinely startled them. And once again, it’s because they are not machines, and they have feelings. 

Be present with your horse any chance you get. Maybe that looks like a long grooming session and some bonding before your ride. Maybe it’s hand grazing while your horse dries off from their bath and being consciously present with your horse and staying off your phone. Or, maybe it’s just being a little more patient when you aren’t having the ride you wanted. 

When you’re in the saddle, really be mindful of what your horse is thinking and feeling that day. Take a nice long walk on a loose rein and be present with them before you dig into what you set out to accomplish in your training that day. 

Horses have feelings and those feelings are valid. As riders and horse owners, we need to remember this even on days when our ride doesn’t go as planned. 

Because at the end of the day, our horses are what makes us equestrians in the first place, and they are what our sport is all about.