I don’t think I need to go on a rant about how incredible our horses are and how emotionally in-tune they are to our feelings. Oftentimes, when I’m having a rough enough day that I don’t want to talk to any humans, I take a drive to the barn and miraculously feel better after smooching on my horses muzzle and burying my frustrated face in his mane.

I know I’m also guilty of letting my bad days turn into bad rides. It’s both a blessing and a curse to be partnered with creatures who can detect our emotions so quickly and easily. If I hop on for a ride and have a million other things on my mind – how stressed I am about school, an argument I had with a friend, or the bills I have to pay this week – my horse definitely knows. I think I accidentally channel that frustration, distraction, and negative energy into my ride. To me, it seems like my horse isn’t listening to a single thing I ask. To my horse, it seems like I’m bouncing along up there putting in minimal effort. He’s thinking, ‘why should I put in the effort if she’s going to be an indecisive grouch anyways?’

It is so, so, so important to remember to keep your negative emotions out of your rides (your positive emotions, however, can be used to shower your good horse with praise and affection!). Although they understand us and detect our emotions, they don’t have the same problems we have and they don’t understand why we’re sending mixed signals, asking for things more harshly than usual, or getting angry over little mistakes. It’s like when someone is yelling at you in a foreign language – it’s frustrating, overwhelming, and generally harms the situation more than helping it.

If you’re having a bad day, go ahead and use your horse’s affection to cheer you up, but if you ride, set aside your daily worries and dedicate the time you owe your horse to your ride. If you’re already at the barn and ready to ride, you weren’t going to fix the problem within the next hour anyways, so block it out and focus on your time in the saddle. Allow your horse to distract you from problems you cannot immediately fix. You’ll probably feel better afterwards, anyways!

I am also a huge advocate of getting down to earth with some bareback riding. Stripping it down and riding with just a bridle (or just a halter, for the daring) is truly good for the soul. It allows you to become more in touch with your horse, feel his or her movement, and appreciate the big beast who totes you around on the daily. You also tend to ask for a great deal less when riding bareback, so you have less to become frustrated about. Giving yourself and your horse a carefree ride every once in awhile is not against the rules, even for the fancier show horses!

All in all, appreciate the fact that our horses feel us and understand us. We’re very lucky and fortunate to be able to treat our worries and sadness with an hour in the saddle or a few minutes of our arms wrapped around a horse’s neck.