Ethical reasons against horse-riding

ethical reasons against horse-riding

To start off: I am probably going to offend people with this post. Not that I am planning on it, but out of past experiences I can imagine it happening again. I’ve talked about veganism to people a lot over the past years and there’s one issue that I always get a lot of responses on. I have doubted to post this, but I still believe that different type of views should be shared and considered. Today I want to explain why I don’t approve horse riding or keeping a horse as a hobby. Here are some ethical reasons against horse-riding.

you’re not a bad person

To begin with, I don’t think people who have horses or ride them are bad people. Neither do I think they treat the horses wrong. I have friends and family who ride horses. I know they take good care of the horses and would do anything for them. So, if you have a horse, please don’t assume that I think you are a bad person. I don’t judge anyway. But today I do want to formulate why I don’t approve the sport. Here are some ethical reasons against horse-riding:

not for them

This is my main point. I am against using animals for our own pleasure. That pleasure can be taste (like with meat and dairy products, entertainment (like in circuses and zoos), but also sport. Horse-riding is an official sport. The reason why people start a sport is for theirselves. They want pleasure, they want to be fit, they want to compete, they want to watch the horse do tricks. It’s all about the human. The human wants something. And so, we use horses for this.

That in itself is not okay in my opinion. Just because we want something, that does not justify breeding and using horses. Of course, when people ride horses they take care of them every day or every other day. They do that for the horse, they take good care of them. They do a lot for the horse, they give time, love and money. But the ethics behind horse-riding are wrong, it’s extremely self-centric to bring a living creature into this world just to use it for your own pleasure.

I am against using animals for our own pleasure

We can’t ask for consent

We bring horses into the world for our own entertainment. That argument in itself is not enough, since we do that with children too. People have children because they personally want it and think it’ll make them happy. That’s one thing. But we can’t do anything we want with children. They are born free. They can go anywhere they want, become anything they want and do anything they want. When we bring a horse into this world this is not the case. We breed them to let them live in captivity all their life. We put the horse in a place where we can reach them when we want. It’s all about us again, the horse needs do be where and do what we want.

People who ride horses say they know that the horse enjoys it judging the horse’s behavior. I think that’s not a valid excuse. 1. We can never know this 100% sure, we can’t talk to horses. We can’t ask for permission. 2. People who own horses aren’t with them 24/7. How do you know a horse is not unhappy when you’re not there? Maybe the horse is happy when they see you, because then they get some attention. The rest is a mystery. 3. The horse does not know any better. It was raised and trained by humans. Consequently, it doesn’t know about freedom. It just knows about training and doing what the humans want. They get rewarded when they do the things humans wants it to do. Just because they do not know any better, that doesn’t mean the situation is okay. The same goes with dolphins in a dolphinarium for example.


In this age, we put a price on animal life. A horse is worth a certain amount of money. That itself is ridiculous if you’d ask me. But we do it. And horses are very expensive. Some people can afford a horse, but not many can afford more. This means that people often have one horse. But in nature horses live in a pack. To set them in a small area by themselves is just cruel. Isolation makes anyone crazy, human or non-human. And even if you bring them to farm or riding school, they are alone in a stable. They’re alone, waiting to be used by a human for entertainment.

We need equipment and training

Horses need to be trained from a very young age to make them do things. As I just mentioned, they’re incarcerated and have nowhere to go. They will refuse to do certain things at first, but after a while they break because there is no escape. It does not stop. They are trained for as long it takes, until they listen. Also, humans need al sorts of equipment to ‘communicate’ with them. The most obvious is the whip. I know they aren’t whipped hard most of time, but still.

Then you have the saddle, which people need to ride horses. A bit, which is a metal bar inside of the horse’s mouth (that does not seem comfortable to me). The halter around the horses head, the reins, the list goes on. We need all these things to make a horse obey. I’m guessing that when you go up to a wild horse and try to ride it, you won’t be able to. We need to break and train domestic horses to make them do the things we want.

These arguments go for any activity where horses are used. Not just horse-riding. We use horses for shows, races, making them carry us in a wagon. And that last thing is just insane. It’s 2020! We have machines people, we don’t need horses to carry us around.

What I think it should look like

Those were some ethical reasons against horse-riding. I have thought long and hard about this. People often then ask me: but if we don’t ride them, they have no fun. For me the problem starts with the breeding. Breeding horses should be forbidden. I think we should preserve nature all around the world, way more than the amount we now have left. Nature should have more space. And within that space, that is where I feel horses belong. Wild and free. In a space that’s big enough and where humans do not interfere, not something silly like the Oostervaardersplassen in The Netherlands. That’s way too small. All in all, there should not be any domesticated horses.

What do you think of these ethical reasons against horse-riding?

Yours sincerely,

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11 thoughts on “Ethical reasons against horse-riding”

  1. You have some good points! What’s your opinion on dog-sports? I mean the one where the dog has to run a course with zigzags, tunnels, seesaws and everything. It shares similar aspects with horse riding because we as humans want to compete, but I think dogs also enjoy the sport. If the dogs enjoy it it suddenly looks more ethically responsible don’t you think?

    1. Good that you mention that, because I was doubting to put that in the post as well haha! I have the same opinion on dog-sports, but really on any sport where we use animals. I think it’s all wrong. All the arguments would go for dog-sports too. They seem to like it, but we breed them for that reason. They don’t know any other life. We can’t know for 100% sure, because we can never ask them. Also, we need tools for them to listen and train them. I think we should have never domesticated dogs either. I’d say: all animals should be free in nature and we as humans should leave them alone. No breeding. Does that answer your question? And thanks for asking!

  2. I resonate with all the points you’ve mentioned! I am deeply uncomfortable with zoos, and I’ve never enjoyed going to them.

    Horse riding is a very “elitist” sport in India and I only know 2 people to have ever done it. But yeah, this is applicable to any animal-sport or entertainment.

    It’s really sad..

    1. I’m glad you agree with me! Sometimes it feels like nobody gets it, when I see all the Facebook posts about people going for a ‘fun’ day to the zoo or video’s of them riding horses. I am glad it is not as common in India as it is here, in The Netherlands the industry is massive unfortunately.

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