The Art of Natural Dressage

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 Post subject: Does riding hurt horses?
PostPosted: Sat May 07, 2016 1:51 am 

Joined: Thu Dec 10, 2015 3:33 pm
Posts: 15
Hi! I haven't ridden either of my horses in over a year. I read a while ago some studies that have shown that riding hurts horses. Well today a friend told me that those studies are very flawed. That they aren't peer-reviewed, controlled, or published in any scientific journals. I didn't know much about research, so I didn't see these things as important when I first read them.

Is this true that riding does not hurt the horse? My friend showed me a study that says horses can comfortably hold 20% of their weight. But another one said they can't hold any weight on their back (only for 15 minutes in natural collection). I don't know what to believe!

I didn't know anywhere else to ask this question. Please let me know if you'd like me to remove it. I just wanted to ask it here because the community is very kind, knowledgable, and explain things well.


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PostPosted: Sun May 08, 2016 2:43 am 
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Joined: Thu Dec 04, 2014 3:19 am
Posts: 83
Location: America
That's an awfully complex question. :yes: It can, but that doesn't mean that it will, so the answer is kind of yes-and-no. It depends on how you ride, how long you ride, and the horse you ride. For instance, riding a horse that has back pain will obviously hurt. However, what about riding a healthy horse? I think that if someone can ride well (like not bouncing around a lot, keeping balance well, and keeping cues to a minimum), and doesn't ride for a long time, then it shouldn't hurt. About the weight rule you mentioned, I heard that a rider and their tack should never exceed 15% of their horses weight. I believe that is true, but it's more of a general guideline than a hard and fast rule. If someone rides often, they should probably observe it more strictly than someone who only rides every couple of weeks. Another factor to consider is what you do while you ride- are you doing something physically strenuous, (like jumping high or jumping really often, or contesting) that can affect the wear of the horses joints over time? So, it depends on a lot of factors. I think the best judge of weather to ride or not is the horse- does he/she seem happy and comfortable while riding, or do they seem uncomfortable, subdued, or in obvious pain? But even then, horses have a tendency to hide pain. (Think about their prey psychology- the horse that seems hurt will be selected by hunters first.) And then there's saddle fit, which I won't get into in this post because it in and of itself is complex enough that entire books could (and have been) devoted to it. When I said that this is a complex question, it is a VERY complex question (and there are probably additional factor that I'm not thinking of right now.)
Sorry if the earlier paragraph got you worried. That wasn't the goal of that paragraph- the goal was to give you some examples of things to consider. If you care, I personally have ridden my horse less than 10 times since last summer, but that's mainly because she has lameness issues (I only ride when she hasn't been lame within the last week or two). I really don't know how much I would ride if she didn't. I guess that if you're considering riding again, think about if your horse is physically capable first, and if your saddle fits alright. Riding a few times for about 15-20 minutes each time won't hurt your horse, since most damage from riding is built up over time. You can try out riding again if you want, and see if both of you are comfortable with it. But I wouldn't worry too much about the weight, especially if at first you're only riding for a short time anyway. Collection does help the horse carry the weight, but remember that it your horse hasn't done it in a while, it is pretty tiring for them. Anyway, good luck with whatever you decide to do! And don't feel nervous about posting any questions you have. How is anyone supposed to learn or get smarter if they don't use their brain once in a while? :sun: :sun: :sun:


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PostPosted: Sun May 08, 2016 4:51 am 

Joined: Thu Dec 10, 2015 3:33 pm
Posts: 15
Thank you for replying! :smile:
You're definitely right! With a light rider, well fitting saddle, and healthy, happy horse I don't think it does any harm!
I think I'll just be riding in the arena every once in a while, like a few times a month, for maybe 15-20 minutes.
Also do you think a treed saddle is good? I have two treed synthetic western saddles I'm going to try out. I've heard mixed views on tree vs treeless saddles, not sure which one is better!
I was nervous at first because I thought I'd receive backlash, I've received it on other forums in the past for asking questions similar to this one.
Rose wrote:
That's an awfully complex question. :yes: It can, but that doesn't mean that it will, so the answer is kind of yes-and-no. It depends on how you ride, how long you ride, and the horse you ride. For instance, riding a horse that has back pain will obviously hurt. However, what about riding a healthy horse? I think that if someone can ride well (like not bouncing around a lot, keeping balance well, and keeping cues to a minimum), and doesn't ride for a long time, then it shouldn't hurt. About the weight rule you mentioned, I heard that a rider and their tack should never exceed 15% of their horses weight. I believe that is true, but it's more of a general guideline than a hard and fast rule. If someone rides often, they should probably observe it more strictly than someone who only rides every couple of weeks. Another factor to consider is what you do while you ride- are you doing something physically strenuous, (like jumping high or jumping really often, or contesting) that can affect the wear of the horses joints over time? So, it depends on a lot of factors. I think the best judge of weather to ride or not is the horse- does he/she seem happy and comfortable while riding, or do they seem uncomfortable, subdued, or in obvious pain? But even then, horses have a tendency to hide pain. (Think about their prey psychology- the horse that seems hurt will be selected by hunters first.) And then there's saddle fit, which I won't get into in this post because it in and of itself is complex enough that entire books could (and have been) devoted to it. When I said that this is a complex question, it is a VERY complex question (and there are probably additional factor that I'm not thinking of right now.)
Sorry if the earlier paragraph got you worried. That wasn't the goal of that paragraph- the goal was to give you some examples of things to consider. If you care, I personally have ridden my horse less than 10 times since last summer, but that's mainly because she has lameness issues (I only ride when she hasn't been lame within the last week or two). I really don't know how much I would ride if she didn't. I guess that if you're considering riding again, think about if your horse is physically capable first, and if your saddle fits alright. Riding a few times for about 15-20 minutes each time won't hurt your horse, since most damage from riding is built up over time. You can try out riding again if you want, and see if both of you are comfortable with it. But I wouldn't worry too much about the weight, especially if at first you're only riding for a short time anyway. Collection does help the horse carry the weight, but remember that it your horse hasn't done it in a while, it is pretty tiring for them. Anyway, good luck with whatever you decide to do! And don't feel nervous about posting any questions you have. How is anyone supposed to learn or get smarter if they don't use their brain once in a while? :sun: :sun: :sun:


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PostPosted: Sun May 08, 2016 11:14 pm 
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Joined: Thu Dec 04, 2014 3:19 am
Posts: 83
Location: America
Quote:
I was nervous at first because I thought I'd receive backlash, I've received it on other forums in the past for asking questions similar to this one.

That's too bad that other places reacted badly to such an important question. That attitude minimizes the importance of the horse, don't you think? Anyway, don't be nervous about asking anything. We might not know everything, but we'll help with what we do know. :D

My saddles (one english and one western) both have trees, and I've never tried a treeless one. The thing I worry about with treeless saddles are that they don't distribute weight as much as a treed saddle, which is the goal of a tree. Riding bareback puts all your wight on a concentrated area on the horse's back. An english saddle spreads out the weight, and a western saddle spreads it out even more. (Think surface area relating to psi) I don't know where a treeless saddle fits into the scale of weight distribution. It probably does spread it out, but I don't know to what extent. The main problem with treed saddles is getting the fit right, and that a horse's back line will always change over time, so one saddle won't ever fit one horse for its entire life. I think that mainly, weather to get a treed saddle vs. a treeless saddle comes down to who you ask! Everyone seems to have an opinion, and if you ask 50 people you will get 50 different responses. I don't think that one is inherently better than the other (but I would like to repeat here that I've never ridden in a treeless saddle, so I'm not exactly an expert). If at all possible, I would recommend trying out a treeless saddle along with the treed ones, and see which you feel better in and what your horse seems to prefer.


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PostPosted: Wed May 11, 2016 9:57 pm 

Joined: Sun Apr 07, 2013 11:22 am
Posts: 211
My opinion is similar to Roses - I think that riding can and often does hurt horses, by ill-fitting equipment, abusive mentality of the rider, by the rider moving against or blocking the horses motion, and many more. But it can also be an absolute fun game between you and your horse, and can even help your horse in getting healthier by training the muscles well.

Concerning the saddle, let me make it more complex in telling you it not only needs to fit your horse but you as well. If the saddle does not fit you correctly, then your body will be blocked in its motion, which then blocks the horses motion as well... Wether treeless or with tree will depend on both you and your horses preferences, and on the time you ride. As an example I have a thickly padded bareback pad which was fine for riding 15-20 min. But when I used it for 45 min, I could see the pressure of my bones on the horses muscles because there were actually holes visible! I naturally didn't repeat that experience but bought a saddle instead, in my case with a tree which is supposed to be minimally flexible, and the width of which I can easily adapt myself to cope better with a growing horse as well as differences in his weight due do pasture and hay. I still use the pad, or ride completly bareback, but only for short amounts of time. Nowadays, I also much prefer the saddle because it positions my body much better, letting me adapt to the horses motion more easily.


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