Why would I be interested in working with horses?

Celeste at Horse Show

It isn’t for everyone; but work with horses is very gratifying. I have found horses to be understanding. Now, if you mistreat them; they will not forget and challenges will arise for the next person who rides that horse. This is why, whenever I fall off, I always get back on; even if it is just to walk. If you don’t get back on, even to walk around with someone leading you, you will be scared of riding for a very long time. Maybe forever. If you get back on and even have someone walk you in a circle, this won’t happen; because it will be a positive experience after a hard fall. It’s also important to fall correctly. When I know a fall is imminent, I typically start to dismount. Horses typically do not step on riders who have fallen; they can’t see well there (it’s in their peripheral vision). I have never been in circumstances where this has not been possible, but I have seen a couple falls where that did occur. One woman was kicked in the stomach. Some may say – “See – horses can be mean!” However, this doesn’t reflect the entire situation. Horses tend to react to how they are treated. Let’s say, for example, that you are riding a mare (a female horse; just because I have mostly ridden mares myself).

I haven’t fallen off in a while. It’s better to develop the skill to stay on rather than fall; and that really just comes with experience riding difficult horses. You have to learn to stay in the middle of the horse’s back and make your response almost automatic. Horses cannot rear or buck unless their bodies are in a straight line. Asking your horse to move forward in a circle is good; the horse is still moving forward, but it’s hard to bolt and turn at the same time and since she’s turning, it will be very difficult for her to buck. Be careful not to pull back too hard on the reins. This can cause the horse to rear. By pulling on the reins, you’re really asking her to stop, back up and perhaps sit on her haunches. Rearing can be nerve wracking because it can feel like you have no control – but you do. The horse can’t stay in the air forever. To stop a rear, pull the horse’s neck towards your knee when the horse is on the ground. Never do it while the horse is in the air. You do not want to pull the horse on top of you. Horses can sense anxiety and will react to it.

If you (as the rider) are having a bad day, your horse is going to reflect your attitude in how she behaves; even if you don’t mean for that to happen. This would remain true with a gelding (a neutered male) or a stallion. It might even be exacerbated with a stallion – they can be rambunctious if you are not very conscious of what you are doing or if any other riders around you do not give you plenty of space. This is especially true if anyone is riding a mare and isn’t paying attention about staying out of your way if you’re riding a stallion. If you’re having a bad day, your horse will reflect that.

I could go on with stories, but these are really either rare circumstances, or they are a predictable reaction to a mistake made by the rider (i.e. digging heels into the horse’s side, reins too tight or too long, gripping the saddle at the knee, etc.). I’ve made the mistake of gripping the saddle with my knees before; it caused bruising and pain for me. It helps to practice good posture, particularly on a lunge line to start with, so you learn correct posture from the beginning. With proper posture, any horse is far less likely to misbehave (because it’s more comfortable for the horse) & you are far less likely to fall off if the horse does spook or misbehave. It is rare to fall anyways. Most of the time, everything will go well and there will be no issues.

Confidence helps also. If you are scared or nervous, your horse will completely believe you – she will feel there must be something to be scared of. When you are nervous, it is also more difficult to have a correct posture. It’s important to be relaxed. If you’re still nervous, it’s not the end of the world (especially if you have an assistant helping from the ground – via a lunge line). In that case, if your assistant is calm and relaxed; this may help. You should use a longer lunge line rather than a lead rope, because this will allow you more space to do a bit of schooling on a bigger circle. If you are uncertain, you may also wish to ride a larger horse. The bigger breeds are generally quieter; and there will be more horse to stay on top of. Some small horses (particularly ponies) can slip out from under you quite easily.

Job 39:19-25 says:

“Do you give the horse his might?
Do you clothe his neck with a mane?
Do you make him leap like locusts?
His majestic snorting is frightening.
He paws in the valley, and rejoices in his strength;
He goes out to meet the battle.
He laughs at fear and is not dismayed;
And he does not turn back from the sword.
The quiver rattles against him,
The flashing spear and javelin.
He races over the ground with a roar and fury,
And he does not stand still when he hears the sound of the trumpet.
As often as the trumpet sounds he says, ‘Aha!’
And he senses the battle from afar,
And the thunder of the captains and the war cry.”

Riding can help your confidence. The Lord is always there for us and hears our cries. Psalms 40:1-5 reassures:

“I waited patiently for the Lord;
And He reached down to me and heard my cry.
He brought me up out of the pit of destruction, out of the mud;
And He set my feet on a rock, making my footsteps firm.
He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God;
Many will see and fear
And will trust in the Lord.

How blessed is the man who has made the Lord his trust,
And has not turned to the proud, nor to those who become involved in falsehood.
Many, Lord my God, are the wonders which You have done,
And Your thoughts toward us;
There is no one to compare with You.
If I would declare and speak of them,
They would be too numerous to count.”

2 responses to “Why would I be interested in working with horses?”

  1. I love this post! The passage from Job is one of my favorites!

    1. Thank you! Job is deep and full of wisdom…

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