Do Horses Like To Be Ridden?

Trying to figure out if horses like to be ridden has been a challenge for many years since horses can’t actually tell us themselves. There has been plenty of research on this topic, including horse’s preferences, so we’re going to dig in and find out what horses enjoy most.

If only Mr. Ed could have cued us in on whether or not he liked to be ridden. Like people, horses tend to be very different when it comes to what they enjoy doing. Only horses have to use signals to try and tell us when something is wrong or off. 

We can tell a lot from horse behavior; some people will even tell you they know for certain that their horse does enjoy being ridden, but how do we know for sure? 

Let’s dig in and find out! 

Hanoverian Horse

Understanding Your Horse’s Behavior When Ridden

Building a solid relationship with your horse is one way to gain their trust. When you ride a horse, you want to be certain he or she enjoys being around you. It’s like friendship, where both parties need to be equally involved. 

Treating your horse with respect and knowing when your horse is not a fan of some activities is key to keeping them happy. You can look for signs when trying to find out if your horse likes to be ridden. 

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Does your horse meet you at the gate when they see you coming? 
  • Does your horse run away when they see a lead rope in your hand? 
  • Does your horse avoid you when they see a halter? 
  • Does your horse always come to you regardless of what you are carrying? 

The answer to these questions will help you understand your horse’s personality and what they find enjoyable vs. what they really don’t like. 

You may even have a horse that comes running to the gate on some days, and on others, he or she stays away. Just like humans, horses also have off days and don’t want to be bothered. 

If your horse is staying away and resists being instructed or pulls the other way when you try to lead them, chances are they do not want to be ridden. 

Why Riding Is Considered Work To Your Horse

People often affiliate working horses with the ones you see on farms that are pulling equipment, not the ones leading wagons at festivals. When you think about it if you had to serve food at a festival, wouldn’t you consider that work? 

Horses that run free and have access to nature at all times are not seen as working horses; in fact, wild horses would never be called working horses. They are more like free spirits who run just to feel the wind blowing through their manes. 

When you ride your horse, you are essentially making them work. Not all horses like to work. Therefore, not all horses want to be ridden. 

You’ll know when a horse enjoys his work; they flaunt their excitement with every move they make. It’s almost as if they are screaming from the stables, ‘I want to work today!’

Just as you’ll know when a horse who doesn’t want to work isn’t visibly showing up. If you have to go to your horse and convince them to get saddled up, you might want to rethink whether that is a good idea. 

Keep in mind; we are not talking about training a horse in this article, which can require stricter enforcement to teach your horse how to ride. We are talking about if horses like to be ridden once they know how to do it correctly.  

Why Would A Horse Not Want To Be Ridden?

We know it seems crazy to think that some horses don’t like to be ridden when you see how easily they walk with some of their owners. However, if a horse has had a bad experience while being ridden, they won’t forget about it anytime soon.

Horses have exceptional memories when it comes to both the good and the bad. If your horse was injured while being ridden, chances are they won’t enjoy being ridden again. This doesn’t mean they won’t allow you to ride them; it just means they probably won’t enjoy it.   

If you took the time to reassure your horse that everything is okay and that what happened won’t happen again, you could slowly build their trust up again depending on how damaging it was to their body and or mind. 

Horses are one of the most loyal creatures on the planet, and they will treasure your friendship forever when they are treated with respect. Gaining the trust between a horse and rider is golden.  

Top Signs That Your Horse Likes To Be Ridden

If you really want to know if your horse likes to be ridden, then you should start paying attention to some of the telltale signs. In most cases, your horse has already decided if he or she is a fan of having riders on its back. 

Here are the tops signs to look for:

  • They are responsive to all of your commands
  • Their ears are perked up instead of being pinned back
  • They are willing to do most things that are not within their nature
  • They stand quietly while being bridled or saddled
  • They are constantly licking their lips
  • They have a very relaxed facial expression
  • They aren’t bucking; they appear to be very relaxed  

If you find that your horse has all or most of these attributes, then it’s safe to assume that your horse likes to be ridden. 

However, if your horse shows these signs only some of the time but on other days definitely doesn’t express the need to go for a ride, then we suggest being mindful of how your horse feels and whether or not if today is a good day to go riding with him or her. 

Why You Should Ride Your Horse

Domestic horses don’t really get all the physical activity or exercise they need. Even horses that get out every day and run through the pasture aren’t getting the same movement that their fellow wild horses are receiving daily.  

However, your horse doesn’t need to search for food or try to find water regularly either, so that is one of the advantages of being a domestic horse. But their condition does depend on getting in enough physical activity. 

Your horse could weigh anywhere between 900 and 2,000 pounds; not getting proper movement could lead to serious health issues in the future.

Responsible horse owners should always practice the following guidelines when deciding whether or not to ride their horse. 

Check Regularly For Pain

One of the biggest misconceptions about horses is how they handle their pain. Your horse cannot tell you they are experiencing pain. Therefore, you need to be aware of signs in their behavior that indicate there is an issue. 

Bad behavior can be a clear sign that something is bothering or wrong with your horse. This is especially true if your companion usually is well behaved. Seeking medical attention from a certified horse vet would be in your best interest. 

Horses are known to be ‘silent sufferers,’ and the last thing you want to do is ride a horse who is in pain and needs medical attention.

Zero Punishment

There are ways to train a horse that doesn’t involve punishing them when they don’t do what you want them to do or do something you’re not a fan of. Remember when we talked about the bad experiences above? This is what we are referring to.

If you use punishment to train your horse, they will remember this as a bad experience and not want to be ridden. They might not be able to tell you themselves, but their actions will speak louder than any words ever could.   

Know Your Horse’s Ability

Not all horses were born jumpers or designed to go long distances. You have to work with your horse and teach them the tasks you want to accomplish. Be mindful of their abilities and don’t push them to do something they are not capable of doing. 

Provide Plenty of R ; R

Your horse needs time to rest and relax (R ; R); you shouldn’t be pushing your horse to train for hours on end. Depending on your horse’s age, you need to respect their condition and what they are capable of handling. 

It’s one thing to want to train your horse to ride or jump, but it’s another thing when your horse is exhausted from all the activity and is physically drained. Imagine if your boss made you work nonstop all day and then demanded even more. You wouldn’t be a fan either! 


Whether or not horses like to be ridden is something we’ll really never know the answer to because every horse is different. Yes, some horses enjoy bonding time with their owners while being ridden, and other horses are definitely not having it. 

Take the time to really get to know your horse and his or her personality. There will be signs that will indicate if your horse likes to be ridden; you just need to pay attention to them.