Friday, May 17, 2019

The Non-Ridden Equine

This has been a year of soul-searching and redefining expectations for me and Beautiful Girl. I've had so many questions swirling in my mind:

             Does she want to have a relationship with me?
             Is a non-riding relationship a worthy one?
             Can we still have goals in a non-riding world?
             Have I let her down by not developing her into a saddle horse?
             Is there still a future for us in a riding relationship?
             What is it that caused our riding relationship to derail so spectacularly?
             Is there another route I've overlooked?

The answers are a work-in-progress, but I did recently come across a Facebook page devoted to "the non-ridden horse," and I have seen some amazing equine work and relationships there that have inspired me anew.

Last week I had a pampering day with all the horses, and BG just ate it up.  She loves being groomed--brushed, clipped, bathed, sprayed with fly spray.  In fact, she loves all those things more than any of the others.  She excels at it.  And she seems to know it. 

It reminded me of our adventures last summer, before the riding incident, when I'd take her to the state park and work with her on the ground over the trail course--she did every station perfect the first time, and she loved being ponied out there.

So, I've made a decision to keep those things up because they seem to be extremely rewarding to her--and me. 

I haven't answered all those swirling questions, but I did answer the first few:

Yes, Beautiful Girl does want to have relationship with me, and she has earned my respect on the ground--and she should take pride in that and see where it grows, and

Yes, a non-riding relationship with her is every bit equal in value to a riding one, and we can still have goals in that non-riding world--relationship, communication, and growth.

Do any of you have horses that are strictly non-riding relationships?  Do you have resources like the Facebook group?  Inspiration?  Goals?


  1. I believe that riding is just one facet of the relationship we have with horses. And , in terms of bonding, it’s nt even the most important one.

  2. I agree, riding is a small, small part of horsemanship as a whole. I’ve always felt a responsibility to get my horses as far as I can so that they can make it in the world, should I be removed from the equation. I am so happy to see that many people are choosing a non-riding life with their horses—because that may be as far as we get, even though, she did so well under saddle, at first, until she didn’t. I haven’t totally given up on that yet. But I’m kind of excited at the prospect of more intense ground work. I saw a post this morning from a woman who taught her pony to actually dance with her—mirroring her steps! I LOVE it.

  3. We've had many horses that weren't ridden for one reason or another. Donnie was one who we always had high hopes for. He would be fine for a few days and then out of nowhere he would lose his mind and start bucking and just couldn't handle being ridden. After many years of trying we just gave up. He would love to play games with the clicker and cones and he got lunged etc. He was the sweetest horse in the barn and the herd and loved everyone and worried about all his pals. I don't think he ever minded not being ridden it was just too stressful for him.

    We don't ride Sami either, he's too small for us but he gets lunged and played with and he doesn't seem to mind as long as he gets attention. He likes his grooming too.

    The relationship we have with our horses doesn't have to include riding if we
    show them love and attention. They're fine either way. With Beautiful I think if you give her a lot of attention and ground work and play games with her,groom and just spend time with her she might be rideable when she has a deep personal bond with you that includes trusting you and looking to you for direction. It could take a year or two or it could be never. She'll have a way of letting you know if she's ready to have a saddle and person on her back again.

    1. I do think the attention is important. I used to think they were just happy being in their herd, and that is probably true, in the wild--but in a domestic situation, they see us part of their lives, and they want to have security in that relationship, too.

      I do agree that if she ever wants to go further, I'll know it. But the problem with saddle training is that they don't see you anymore, and where we had a strong connection and trust on the ground--which is why she did all the trail obstacles the first time I asked (which none of my others have done, by the way) it didn't translate all the time in saddle. I tried to prepare her for it by the ground driving, and that went great, too. I'm just not sure why the saddle training went wrong twice--once for the trainer, and then later, for me. Maybe a pain somewhere that she's compensating for. Hard to know. I may never know. But yes, she has a lot to give, despite not being a ride-able horse. I'll stop saying "saddle horse" because she'll pack a saddle all day and not buck a bit.

  4. Yes- Belle was never ridden due to her weanling injury, but she has excellent ground manners. I so wish she could have been rideable. Beamer is getting the the stage of no longer being rideable, I am going to keep trying very short rides bareback just to get him out and about. I do agree that riding is only a small part of the equation in our relationship with horses. As for BG- if you have fun doing liberty work with her and poinying her and doing in hand stuff- why bother with riding? I bet it isn't important to her. And you have several horses to ride, so maybe just enjoy BG as a different type of relationship. It will be a learning curve for you too!

    1. I call BG "the enforcer," but really, she's a teacher--and a good one. She knows the rules of the herd, and she likes everyone to follow them. I have had some of my best moments, in groundwork, with her. She was hands down the best at trail obstacles. I may take her to the SCOPE de-spooking clinic. Half of their day is in-hand, and the other half is in saddle. Maybe I could do more in-hand things with her. I'll have to research that.

  5. All our horses are "non-ridden horses" to me. They seem content being horses, cared for and groomed etc At times it bothers me (not them) that I don't ride anymore. Altho sometimes I feel like Koda is bored and wants to do more, likely just a reflection of me. Our horses can be ridden, so it's different then one that can't for whatever reason. I whole-heartedly agree, it is very important for horses to have "value" should they end up being shuffled from home-to-home...different topic for another day. Sorry no resources to share, but the FB group you mentioned sounds like a good one for ideas. If BG thrives with ground work, then it makes sense to continue down that path. It's a win-win.


Please feel welcome to join our discussion by telling us about your own thoughts and experiences.