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Importance of Horse-Rider Bond

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  • Importance of Horse-Rider Bond

    I've been struggling with a question for the last several months and would like to get people's perspective ...

    In the past, I've ridden several horses as part of a my job at stables and I've leased horses for my own use, but I've never really formed a bond with any of them. I truly enjoyed them and always took the best of care and gave them attention, but I knew that they belonged to someone else and decisions regarding their future were ultimately the owner's. Two years ago, as an adult, I purchased my first horse. He was great and I loved him to pieces. But he was totally not suited for jumping - at all. It took me about a year to see that, and, when I did, I sold him and purchased another horse. We are doing great and good match. The issue is this ...

    My trainer has encouraged me to let other people ride him, students that she has trained and that don't have horses of their own. She has even suggested those students show him in classes that either I'm not good enough to compete in or when I'm not available. I have definitely not embraced the idea! I want my horse to be responsive to the way I ride. I want us to have a bond, as I like to believe that it's important for us to be a successful team. Plus, I don't want him to be a school/lesson horse that just does his job, regardless of the rider. Similarly, she encourages me to ride the lesson horses so I can get better. I don't have as big of an issue with that.

    Anyway, am I just being overly sensitive? Does there horse/rider combination really matter, within reason? Any input is greatly appreciated.

  • #2
    Sounds to me like your trainer needs a lesson horse for more advanced students and she's hoping to make use of yours. He's your horse so you get to have the final say. I would say no. Set a goal for the pair of you and focus you energy on that.


    • #3
      Originally posted by lcw579 View Post
      Sounds to me like your trainer needs a lesson horse for more advanced students and she's hoping to make use of yours. He's your horse so you get to have the final say. I would say no. Set a goal for the pair of you and focus you energy on that.
      I completely agree.

      Is this the same trainer who didn't want to use the saddle that fits your horse because she likes hers better?

      Unless you have a pressing financial need, or the trainer has proposed a really significant fee (and insurance) to lease your horse to use in lessons... I would not sign up for this.
      We move pretty fast for some rabid garden snails.


      • #4
        What a horse does with another rider does not affect his bond with you, so that's not going to be an issue. Just like you being his owner doesn't affect the bond he has with whomever feeds him his grain in the morning.

        I have allowed my horse to be used for lessons, and it hasn't affected our relationship at all. But if you do not want someone else riding your horse, he is your horse. Say no. That's that! It does sound like your trainer needs an additional lesson horse and is eyeing up your guy. If you're comfortable with it, then it can be a good way to get your horse some exercise on days you're not riding. But if not, "no" is a complete sentence.
        "I'm not always sarcastic. Sometimes I'm asleep." - Harry Dresden

        Amy's Stuff - Rustic chic and country linens and decor
        Support my mom! She's gotta finance her retirement horse somehow.


        • #5
          It is totally up to you, but as someone who used to be the girl riding other people's horses, is now someone who loves letting other people ride my own and still catch rides for my trainer/ rides upwards of 4 horses a day, I would go for letting other people ride my horse. That is in large part because I trust my trainer and so if someone else is getting on my boy, then I trust that he will be in good hands and learn something from it. When I get back on him the next day he responds just as well to me as he did before (however less and less people are willing to ride him because is is a little tempermental and "a challenging ride".
          Bottom line is: If you don't want people on your horses back, tell your trainer that. He's your horse, came out of your pocket, and ultimately he's your responsibility.
          My Horse Show Photography/ Blog


          • #6
            Without knowing your specific horse/trainer/situation...I will say that the bond between a horse and rider can be a great thing. I have had mine since he was 4, he is now 11. I can tell what kind of mood he's in before my a$$ hits the saddle. When a whole barn full of horses are nickering for their dinner, I can tell his voice from all the others. I can ask him to do just about anything and he will, because he trusts me 150%. He is not my first horse as an adult, but we are a TEAM like nobody's business.

            All that being said.

            The best thing that has happened to my riding in AGES is that my trainer has been letting me hack horses for other customers who are not masochists and don't want to come freeze their hineys off during the winter. It has shown me all the weak spots and compensations I have developed after riding the same horse for years and years. I am stronger and more able to ride correctly, and that has done nothing but help me ride my own horse better. It's hard, but in a good, humbling way. Maybe your trainer is trying to help you or teach you something. I know mine is.


            • #7
              You riding other horses? Great! This will make you a better rider.

              Other people riding yours? Maybe not so great. Pressure to allow it? That's WRONG!! Your horse, your rules. In some cases it can be beneficial - better riders means free training for your horse. But it also means less time in the saddle. Other riders won't damage a bond with you per se, but if it means you're not on him as much, you don't have the same opportunities to bond as you would otherwise.

              Bonding DOES matter, IMO. Bonding is why my gelding learned to pop a shoulder and hold me up before I fell off. Bonding is why my mare tries to take care of me.

              But riding many horses is how we get better as riders.

              I don't know what's right for you in this case, but I do know that you should never feel pressured to allow other people to ride your horse. For any reason.
              Born under a rock and owned by beasts!


              • #8
                If for some reason your trainer can't ride and she has a more advanced student to school him that might be a good idea. Or if he's wild at shows and someone can take him to a few till he settles down. However, if she's using him for lessons that would have to be up to you and you should be getting money for it.


                • #9
                  I'd only let other people ride my horse if I wasn't ridden often enough to keep him in shape, etc - which isn't the case for me. The only people that have ridden him are friends for a single 'pony ride' and a pro rider to help with some issues I'm not advanced enough to solve for myself.

                  For me it's the journey he and I have together, even though he was 13 when I got him, it's still about working together. Plus I'm selfish Get your own awesome pony!


                  • #10
                    Maybe I'm alone here, but I do think that others riding your horse can mess things up. My older horse was a really easy-going guy, and 9/10 times other people could ride and lesson him all they wanted and I'd never know the difference, but the 10th person could really cause some damage. I can think of 2 situations- 1 rider made him terribly nervous and the other made him back sore. Lovely people who, in all other respects ride well, but my trainer knew who could and could not ride him after the sore back incident (the other occurred at another barn). Of my current horses, 1 only to be ridden by myself, my mother, or my trainer, and the 2nd is fine with 2 consistent riders (ie, myself or my trainer), but if you add others in the mix, he's a mess.

                    Riding other horses is great, and letting other horseless-riders use your horse is also great, as long as it works for all parties.


                    • #11
                      Some horses and some riders bond, when they do, it is a special thing. Predicting when it will happen is impossible. But if you feel a bond with a particular horse, Honor it!
                      Some riders change their horse, they change their saddle, they change their teacher; they never change themselves.

                      Remember the horse does all the work, we just sit there and look pretty.


                      • #12
                        I don't know, in both my horses' cases, we have maintained strong bonds despite the fact that other people ride them occasionally (in the case of the mare) or often (in the case of the gelding). They are smart enough to know who I am and who pays the board bills. When someone else is in the saddle, my horses still look at me with that "there she is!" look when I walk into the arena.

                        I have no problem with someone who rides better than me riding my horses, or for my mare to tote a beginner around, because a beginner can't mess up my training, or to take someone out foxhunting who is riding with a loop in the reins. I don't want someone getting on who is going to mess up my training, however.


                        • #13
                          To me...owner of 20+ horses...my "personal horse" is off limits to everyone!! I liken a "personal horse" to a pair of kidskin gloves...made to fit ME. I may not be the greatest rider in the world, but one reason I ride (over 50 years) is for the relationship with the horse. My "bestest" guy hasn't had anyone on his back in over 17 years. We know each other inside out (he was a serious SOB when we got him) and I know what buttons to push and what ones not to touch!! In your position I would keep the horse for my own use unless you had an issue a pro trainer was addressing...certainly not a bunch of lesson people. JMO!!
                          Breeders of Painted Thoroughbreds and Uniquely Painted Irish Sport Horses in Northeast Oklahoma


                          • #14
                            No way would I go for that. To me, it's ALL about the relationship. Nothing else matters. There's no way I'd let somebody else handle my horse.

                            Leading little kids around on a lead line? Yes, I would do that. Giving somebody a lunge line lesson myself? Yes, I would do that. What you're describing? No way on earth.
                            I have a Fjord! Life With Oden


                            • #15
                              I'm wondering if for some reason your trainer might not think you're as good a match as you think you are and she's used letting others ride him as a round about way of telling you this? Or does she somehow think she's doing you a favor by letting more advanced students show him, thereby increasing his value if you consider selling down the road? Anyway just speculation but I do think you need to speak up if you don't like what's happening.

                              As for the bond with the rider, I'm of the camp that my horse benefits from all types being on her back. I think if I were to just ride her all the time it wouldn't be beneficial to either if us.


                              • #16
                                My horse is off limits to everyone but my trainer and my mom. I've owned him for 7 years and he's 17 now. he's a seasoned jumper who knows his job and doesn't need to be trained on. It takes a week to get him re tuned up after a lot of time off or beginner rides from my mom, and he hardly needs reminding. I have a really close bond with him, and I believe I ride him better than most. I know his quirks and what makes him go best. I know what not to pick on him for and I know when he can do better. He knows my voice and I know his. He's my heart horse and I can do anything with him, from showing in the jr/ao jumpers to riding without a bridle or reins. I honestly don't feel like he's missing out being ridden only by a select few people.


                                • #17
                                  I had a horse ruined by a girl who was half leasing. The mare was so pissed off by the girl that she started kicking out whenever she put her leg on. My mare kicked out, connected with the arena wall, chipped a bone in her ankle and was never completely sound again.


                                  • #18
                                    If there is an advanced rider you trust, then letting them do a jumping lesson every now and then on your horse can help your horse stay tuned up. Likewise, you should try to also ride other horses occasionally, as it will help you a lot. But I wouldn't want her using your horse regularly. It sounds like she just doesn't want to buy a lesson horse for her advanced students.


                                    • #19
                                      there's quite a few diverse opinions on this matter,to i would be fine to it, some that say"no way" and some that say okay,but with limitations.i am with the group that says "no way".i love the bond i have with my current horse and have had him since he was born.That bond helps not only in training but also will help in the show ring when it comes to that time.I feel like a lower leveled rider would ruin all that training that work so hard on.i personally like a horse that is used to my way of riding.


                                      • #20
                                        Although I agree that horses can bond with their people, I disagree that bond is the only reason to keep people off your horse.

                                        There are many cases were a more experienced rider or trainer can help make things clearer to your horse or fix problems.

                                        What matters here is if your trainer feels your horse needs some more training by more experienced riders or if your trainer sees that you have a nice horse that she can use in her lesson program.

                                        I once had a trainer who would take people's horses in for training and use them in her lesson program. She'd charge the student for the lesson AND the owner for the training ride. Really quite clever.

                                        If your trainer is using your horse for lessons and leasing him to people at shows that would be your personal choice. Do you need the money? Do you feel like the people riding him are doing him no harm? If there's no monetary or training benefit and he didn't need to be fitter (which would also put wear on his bones) I would keep him for myself.