A common question from our horseback riding guests is, "Do the horses enjoy coming out here on the trails and being ridden?"
The answer is that every horse is different. People, in general, are not around animals all that much; and are much more used to being around dogs than any other animal. It is natural, then for most people to assume that horses are just like a big dog. However, horses are quite a bit more subtle in their likes and dislikes than a dog is. Horses rarely enjoy going out on the trails as obviously as a dog enjoys taking a walk. While the sign of a dog enjoying a walk will be that he runs to you excitedly and maybe even brings you the leash, the horse's enjoyment will be seen in such subtle cues as a relaxed tai and ears that are perked forward.
While a dog will want to be right by the master's side and go for a long hike, I think that just about any horse at any given moment, if really given his druthers, would just stop eat grass. Whenever it was a cold morning, be would run and kick up his heels for a half a hour or so; but then it would be right back to the grass. The main exception I know of to this is the cowhorse, especially in the cutting. A good cowhorse really does enjoy working a cow in as obvious a manner as a border collie enjoys it.
Horses do, however, in their own quiet way, truly enjoy a job and a routine. Horses that have a regular job to do, such as, ranch horses, pack horses, and our trail horses, tend to be much calmer and happier in their demeanor, and even tend to have a much healthier digestive system and to be much healthier all around than a horse that does nothing but graze in a pasture year after year.
In many ways, a horse that is treated right will like going on a ride in about the same way as you hopefully enjoy your own job. In one sense, at any given moment, you would probably rather be on a vacation somewhere; but at the same time, you want to grow in your career and find a certain enjoyment in it. It is not the same excited enjoyment as a child at Disneyland; but it is an enjoyment nonetheless.
If you are ever in the Zion National Park or Bryce Canyon National Park part of Utah, I hope you will visit us here at Rising K Ranch and enjoy some horseback riding here on our Utah trails!