Hey there! Nope, not a member of PETA either. I’M WORSE THAN PETA!
Did I send all the prejudiced and ignorant peeps running? Good. Now we can talk.
No, I don’t think (proper, force free, +R) riding is cruel. But I also don’t think we should teach kids that riding is the only cool thing you can do with horses. That you haven’t lived until you have ridden. That you aren’t a true horse(wo)man if you don’t ride or haven’t ridden. Just think about it. Almost all the little horse figurines are included with a handler holding a whip (in my country, at least). Almost all the little children’s books about farm animals and horses show horses carrying a saddle and often wearing a bit (unless they are shown talking) as well. It’s the wrong message. People tend to think horses need to be ridden because that is the way they are taught to look at horses from a very young age. Recently, a friend told me she sometimes considers selling her youngest mare because she feels like she is wasting the mare’s potential. What? I asked her whether she would send her Beagle to the UK as well because he would make a good hunting dog (please don’t start a discussion about hunting, that isn’t the point today (but yes, hunting is cruel *flies away*)). She laughed and realized she was talking nonsense. The mare was perfectly happy: met in all her natural primary needs and getting regular exercise with lots of games to keep things fun. So what if she isn’t being ridden all that often? She doesn’t care, trust me.
Another thing about teaching kids riding is [all there is] / [the best thing] about horses, is that they will start to feel entitled. They will start saying things like “The horse needs to earn its keep”, or “I do SO much for that horse and ask SO little!”, and “If he didn’t want to be ridden, he shouldn’t have been born a horse.” I bet they don’t even realize what it is they are actually saying.
I guess I felt the need to make a FuF response to the cute Dana’s Doodle cartoon, and the message is the following: You don’t have to conform. You don’t have to ride. Do something with your horse that you BOTH enjoy. If riding is part of that, good! If it isn’t, change something or don’t ride (for a while). Horses have more to offer than transportation. Much more. And we owe them more than they owe us. Don’t agree? Go buy a bicycle.