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Why I no longer ride

“Why I No Longer Ride”Arabian horse hontoto

by OurHorses community member Ren Hurst, Glen Rose, Texas

It has taken me weeks to finally sit down and write this. Mostly, that is because I wanted to do it from the same place of happiness and joy that this decision has given me many moments and glimpses of, but honestly – I’m in a state of transition that isn’t all that joyful lately. Instead, it’s downright uncomfortable and uncertain. I am not exactly sure what this decision means for my future, but it’s important for others out there wishing to follow their dreams to know the truth – it’s not always easy, sometimes you go through seriously rough periods of self-doubt and discovery, but I know from personal experience that the harder you push toward your truth, the more amazing the revelations and experiences are on the other side.

I don’t want to waste this beautiful life following the rules implemented by a society that is mostly asleep to the incredible world around them. I would rather be miserable for a little while until I figure things out and am able to move forward again with my lessons learned. So, with that said, I can see the light on the horizon, and here are my reasons to move forward and get off the horses’ backs.

bareback bridleless beach horse

I could do it all, but was it worth it?

I have been studying and working with horses for the majority of my life. Because of the nature of the work I do and have done with them, I have had the rare opportunity to work with hundreds. When you engage with those kinds of numbers, whether it is human, horse, or any other type of being, you get a lot more information to ponder than the average person when it comes to drawing conclusions about the truth of certain things. I have also been on a personal journey of my own spiritual development over the past decade, mostly concentrated in the past four years or so.

horse scared bag training

Training technique I used to think was acceptable for me.

The combination of those two facts has provided me with real life example after example of the harm that is caused by controlling, manipulating, and causing physical discomfort and harm to another being for no other reason than my own personal enjoyment or desire. To say that riding benefits the horse in some way seems completely delusional to me considering all the scientific evidence to prove otherwise. There are now countless studies and research materials available to prove the science behind the harm of riding, but I will not go into those facts here. I think it is much simpler than that. When people are able to climb on the back of a horse and have some non-violent means of communication that didn’t take 30, 60, or 90 days to accomplish through pain, equipment, manipulative means, coercion, bribery, learned helplessness, etc., then I will be 100% open to believing we belong up there.

standing on horse

I used to think this was cool!

And then there are the horses themselves, and the stories they “tell” when riding is no longer a part of their lives. It isn’t as simple as just throwing them in a pasture and letting them stand around free of any responsibility. One actually has to make significant changes in their management as well as begin relating to them and spending time with them in different ways for the changes to take place. It is hard to describe to those that aren’t aware of the principles behind Nevzorov Haute Ecole, but all I can say is that our herd of twelve horses has never been so eager, engaged, playful, healthy, or vibrantly excited to be a part of our lives. Some of them still have a long way to go, but the improvement is seen daily.

It is like a completely different world with our horses now, and I cannot imagine ever going back. I have said it before, but I must say it again – after working with so many of these animals, I never truly met one before I decided to let go of everything I thought I knew about them, meet them as equals, and provide them the safety and respect that comes from allowing someone to be exactly who and what they are, and then loving them for just that.

The truth is, I could fill an entire book (maybe many) with all of the information, experiences, etc. that have led me to make this decision in my life. I think it makes more sense for this blog to keep it short and simple. I no longer ride because I am choosing to honor a creature I love in order to attain a greater and more permanent sense of peace and joy in my life. I am using this way of being and relating to horses in part as a vehicle to move toward my own inner peace and self actualization, in a way that I hope to share with others.

It is my hope and desire that by only engaging in peaceful interactions with my horses, I will cultivate peace within myself and in my relationships with my fellow humans. I want the world to be a more peaceful, joyful place, and the only way to make that happen is to start with me.

horses barefoot hoof trimming

Barefoot hoof trimming at liberty, one of the ways I work with horses today.

Is it wrong to ride horses? I don’t think it is for me to say, and I have no desire to convince anyone to make changes they are not comfortable with in their own lives. All I know is there is great harm that comes from riding, both for the horse and the human. Anyone wishing to explore that more fully could begin by studying the latest hippology texts or checking out the principles of Nevzorov Haute Ecole (http://www.hauteecole.ru/en/nevzorov_haute_ecole.php) – that will take care of the horse end of things. As for the human…I encourage you to check out the work we are doing at OurHorses.org.

17 Responses to Why I no longer ride

  • Sarah says:

    Good for you! I too followed a similar path. I do not know if it is right or wrong to ride horses, I just know it is wrong for me. Horses have become like people to me now, thier innocence and sensitivity are gifts to an unseeing and unfeeling world of humans who have turned thier heads away from nature and in doing so have turned thier hearts to stone. My best to you, Sarah

  • Frances Boreland says:

    I would love to ride again, but only if my horse says it’s truly ok with him and he’s happy to do it. Otherwise I have two good legs of my own. What’s most important to me is doing things together that we both enjoy.

  • Julie says:

    If everyone followed your example , then no one would have horses . I am trying to understand where you are coming from , but sorry , just dont get it at all . Man has spent many hundreds of years breeding specific horses for us to ride , race and drive .. if it had been left to nature then we would still be looking at tiny ponies rather that the plethora of magnificent breeds we have now .
    I wish you well with your internal struggle , for me and my barefoot and metal free horses .. well we are having a ball riding and competing . They love the attention and the new places we go to .. I also fail to see what negative impact riding has on me as a rider ?? I always have a huge grin on my face when I ride … My horses are my best friends and have never known violence since they have been with me .

  • Deby says:

    Yep! I get it entirely. I had the correct answers when I was kid and playing with horses was more important, then fell in love with riding, studied all the books so that I would do it with as little harm to them as possible. Became a riding coach, horse trainer, competitor, grew to hate it, realised I loved horses and not the hype. An accident (thank you universe, but gee it was hard to understand at the time!) Got out of it. Let my glorious horses go to loving homes. Became an author. Don’t regret the thought of never riding again. If I need to exchange feelings with a horse and sit down in the paddock and enjoy their company. Don’t regret becoming the best rider I could be but do regret getting involved with the industry.
    Good for you. Keep on trucking. You’ve made the right decision for YOU and your horses will not love you less!

  • Nora says:

    How can you ride horses naturaly? not causing them pain or abuse? I want to ride, but I want to ride in harmony! how is that possible?

    • admin says:

      Nora, what many of us here at OurHorses and Nevzorov Haute Ecole have found is that it is not possible to ride horses without causing them a certain amount of discomfort or pain. There is a different type of relationship called “hontoto” which means “together in heart and spirit.” In this type of relationship (without small spaces, ropes, or other devices to pressure a horse) there are ways to relate as friends. You may find what you’re looking for with that type of relationship. You can read more about it in the Path of the Horse book available at: http://ourhorses.org

  • Ruthie says:

    Hello,
    Thank you for sharing your incredible journey! After several years of riding lessons I bought my daughter the most magnificent paint to help her find herself in the midst of bullying and academic struggle. We’ve had him for about 6 months now and I “stumbled” onto your book by way of the documentary “The Path of the Horse”. Everything in me is paying attention now because my daughter tried to communicate the truth to me after a lesson she took a couple of years ago. After the lesson she came to the car a broke down sobbing. I asked her what happened and between sobs she said he (a beautiful barn favorite paint named Joe) doesn’t like this. I can feel his sadness. In my heart I knew she was right but didn’t know any other way for her to relate to horses. We now “own” a gorgeous 9 year old gelding paint named Theo. I have no idea where to go! We currently have him at a typical barn in Massachusetts that employs the typical training methods. I have done some research and can’t seem to find any place even remotely close that believes and trains in the same manner as your sanctuary. Any advice would be so greatly appreciated!
    In gratitude,
    Ruthie S

    • admin says:

      Hi Ruthie,
      Thanks for exploring this path! I will ask around and see if I can find anywhere in Massachusetts that has more gentle ways of being with horses. Is riding important to your daughter or is the relationship more important than riding? You might look around for people who do clicker training. It’s not quite what we do in sanctuary but it is certainly less harmful to horses physically than other types of training and it develops the habit in the human to look for the positive and minimize the negative.

  • Ruthie says:

    Hello,
    Thank you for your kind and very quick reply! I haven’t said anything to my daughter yet as I only came onto your book and documentary yesterday. I think that ultimately my daughter is looking for the relationship much more that the riding but I want for her to come to that on her own. I was hoping we could move to a barn that is more like a sanctuary and have her learn to relate to Theo with respect, equality, and love and realize riding is painful to him. The only trainer in Massachusetts that was listed on your site is in Pittsfield which is unfortunately 125 miles from us.
    Thanks again for sharing honestly,
    Ruthie

  • Xavia says:

    I REALLY NEED HELP!!
    I am 14. I want to quit riding after 2 yrs, but my family definatly does not approve for some strange reason. This is not the first time I have done something against their wishes, I have been vegan for over a year and they are just starting to warm up to the idea. I presented them with a lot of evidence for my decision, but they still think I am being “absurd”, “hormonal”, and I “need protein” LOL!
    Any advice would be greatly appreciated!

    • Martha says:

      I don’t know if you will ever go back to this site, Xavia, and get to read my reply but I hope you do: I want to tell you that I am all of 68 years old and became a fully vegan person only 10 months ago and it was the BEST decision I ever made! Do not let anyone tell you that it is absurd. Or lacking in nutrients. It is the only way to live, now I see, because we are killing animals for our own unnecessary purposes. They have feelings, feel pain, think and want to live just as much as we do!! We get plenty of protein. I have my blood checked for all of that, all minerals too, and vitamins and I am low on B-12 which is normal for a vegan and requires only a B-12 daily supplement. And my cholesterol went down! Go to nutritionfacts.org and see how eating vegan is better for your health than eating any animal products! And thank you for not wanting to ride a horse. It is common sense. They were not born with a sign saying “I want you go climb onto my back”. Were they? Let them live as Mother Nature intended: riderless! You are a great kid to see things so early in your life! Go to my Facebook rescue page: “Marie Saved from the RR Tracks”, open to the public. Best wishes to you, dear!

  • Irene abel says:

    I’m honored and proud to hear of your work. Following your heart and listening to ” them” ! I see how Travis hears you in the vedio as if he is speaking plainly right along with you. Still processing the pain from bits as you speak of it.
    I’d love to talk to you. I’ll be completing my Equinisity certification this year. You are helping to change the world!! I think I met you in an airport last year. SF?
    Maybe.
    I still want to be on their back to be close, but reclined not sitting up, and without “equipment “, & only for short periods. But I’m waiting for permission from my 10 Year olds. My older mare clearly has said ” we’ re not doing that any more! ( riding) and even cried real tears the last two times I started to saddle her. I respect them. I wander with them. They heal people.

    My apologies for being such a choppy writer– I’d rather talk or listen.
    Thank you for making movies about the SHIFT!
    I come into contact with so many previous trainers who now are getting it, by watching and listening. Keep on !!!

  • Ava says:

    I get it, but for a long time I didn’t. When I retired I decided to get horses because I finally had the time and the money to own horses. I really think they are beautiful and always wanted horses. I thought that riding is all just part of having a horse because everyone I know who has horses rides them. After having horses for a few years I finally came to realize that I love horses, but I just don’t want to ride them. I’m not comfortable and neither are they. I am not a dominant person with them and I’m not changing my personality at this late age. I enjoy watching them, being with them, brushing them, giving them treats, and laughing at their silly antics. I keep my cousins horse so that my horse has company and they are good companions for each other. Today, they were out eating grass in the pasture with my 3 goats, and 4 wild deer; just enjoying the sunshine and beautiful scenery.

  • Melanie says:

    Thank you for sharing.I am from the UK and moved to Queensland, Australia 6 years ago. I learnt to ride the English way but when I moved here I felt the need to explore Natural Horsemanship. I have 2 horses. I do not ride very much at all but when I do it is with a rope and halter. I feel something holding me back from riding and I am at a cross roads. I love being with the horses and very much want to explore working at liberty. Thank you again for sharing.

  • Jean Vestuto says:

    Thank you for sharing such important information.
    I have been considering volunteering at an equine therapy barn – until I found your information.
    Do you think children can find emotional and physical healing spending time with the horses, grooming, feeding, etc.?
    Is it painful for a horse to carry a child without using saddle and bridle in brief sessions?
    I would like to create an educational environment for children and at risk teens focusing on kindness and responsibility toward rescued animals and each other – but not at the expense of the animals.
    I appreciate your thoughts on these questions.

    • admin says:

      Hi Jean,

      Thanks for your consideration. I do think there is healing that happens when children spend time with nature and animals. I also believe that if we allowed children to engage with free, empowered horses, we would be giving them a healthier model rather than convincing them that it is healthy to manipulate the horses into doing what we want. There is some level of pain with pretty much all horseback riding and training especially if it is done with tack including halters. You may be interested to connect with Ren Hurst who is creating a new model of sanctuary and human equine interaction that seems to be the best possible situation for both horses and humans. https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLG-ZTuYFyTI3MJp5KS7PVkbrZ1F1kQcKN Feel free to continue the conversation after you have watched the videos.
      Take care,
      Stormy

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