Is Riding a Horse Like Driving a Car?

Plenty of people have ridden horses, but without experience, you’re often just a passenger. Once you get the hang of it, it makes you think. Is horsepower all that’s left in the automobile from the bygone days of grass-fed transportation? There’s some pretty obvious differences, but let’s get past those. There’s a few surprising similarities.

Horses don’t always do what you want

Horses are reasonably smart animals. I find them most similar to cats in terms of behavior and intelligence. Big rideable cats. They have definite personalities. Similar to cars, some horses are easier to ride than others. Even more similarly, the faster they get, the more dangerous and unpredictable they tend to be. This also makes them a lot more fun in a terrifying kind of way.

This is, of course, because it’s an animal. A horse can tell by the way you’re seated on it how comfortable you are with the whole situation. That isn’t just some Avatar-esque hokey pokey animal-human connection pseudoscience, it’s true. That means if you’re nervous, it knows. If you ask to go left, it might just think, “No”, and carry on doing what it was doing. You are directing this animal. If you aren’t confident, if you don’t commit, it won’t know what you mean, and it gets frustrated.

Although cars are always responding to your direct feedback without any fuss, your level of confidence and commitment will definitely effect how it acts. Think about a seasoned, professional driver, vs somebody like Richard Hammond. The results will be effected.

I’ve seen several instances of people simultaneously pulling on a horses reins, instructing it to slow down, and kicking it feverishly, telling it to speed up. Just like how cars don’t like it when you floor the accelerator and brake pedal simultaneously, the horse knew the person riding didn’t know that they were doing. It got frustrated, and didn’t cooperate.

The sensation of speed

Taking off in a fast horse is just as, or more exciting, than dropping a clutch in a quick car. You may not actually be going as fast, but they accelerate with intense haste. Horses have a tremendous amount of “torque”, and nearly infinite traction. I put torque in quotes because you can’t really quantify the torque of an animal that doesn’t spin something around. However, an average draft horse can pull as much as eight thousand pounds, from a dead stop, on a sled, over a loose surface. In 1924, a single English draft horse allegedly pulled 29 tons from a dead stop.

That’s about ten Dodge Ram 3500s.

Draft horses also typically weight around 1800 pounds, making them the pound-for-pound kings of “torque”. However, you don’t ride draft horses. Even ones not meant for strictly pulling still have some serious power.

This means that if you take a horse from a stop, and briskly encourage it into a full gallop, it’s stunningly quick. I still remember the first time I did it. Once you can actually harness that power and gain some confidence on the back of a horse, it feels more natural than any car I’ve driven.

So I should get a horse then?

No. You shouldn’t. If you have a bunch of spare time and you like being outside and or smelling bad (which car-people actually tend to like I suppose)? There’s a lot of places that are basically like boarding houses for horses. They will allow you (for money, of course), to ride them around and learn. Although it’s a totally useless skill, it’s an interesting thing to put on your resume under “Proficient”. And hey, driving will be an irrelevant skill soon, too. It’s above all a lot of fun.

Horse Tips

  • If you are attempting to feed a horse, put the food in your palm. Do not grasp it in any way. Most horses don’t want to bite you, but they will if they think your finger is a carrot.
  • When you sit on a horse for the first time, it feels like you’re really high in the air. You’ll get used to it, you need to relax. Loosen up on the reigns, stop standing up in the stirrups. If you don’t relax, the horse will catch on, and it won’t relax.
  • If you find yourself in a situation where horses are running around with you in the vicinity, stay still or move slowly and confidently. Horses don’t naturally want to run into things, they have to be trained to do that.
  • Don’t poke the horse with anything, stand behind it without it knowing you’re there, or try to startle it. A horse is at least a thousand pounds of mostly muscle. It could pretty easily kill you and not have a second thought. If you have ever seen a horse kick anything, it’s pretty terrifying. In fact, it’s best not to stand close behind a horse at all.
  • Is your horse holding it’s ears back? Get it away from other horses before it starts a fight and inadvertently injuries you. See? Just like cats.
  • Some horses need more encouragement than others. You aren’t hurting the animal by giving it strong encouragement. If you are, somebody will tell you.
  • There are four “speeds” to riding. Walk, trot, cantor, and gallop. A canter is like a jog, where a gallop is like a full sprint. Want to impress somebody who thinks you know nothing about horses? Say the word Cantor!

So what?

Are cars and horses similar? Yeah. I like the same things about cars that I liked about horses. You of course don’t “operate” a horse in the same way you do a car, but they can both be equally as fun. I also haven’t ridden a horse in more than a year, which really highlights why most people don’t. It’s a pain in the ass to deal with a thousand pound cat.

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