Haven't read the whole thread, just the first few posts.
I think a lot of it has to do with background. Some horses are trained in a way that riding is play to them, some in a way that riding is work and to be avoided at all costs. Some come running up to the pasture gate when they see the saddle, some take off with their tail in the air.
I've been around horses that obviously dislike being ridden and the only reason they put up with it is because they seem to understand that the only other option is not one they want to take (these are the horses my camp rents for the summer, so yknow...). But, at the same time, those same horses that act like they hate being ridden (ears pinned, head turned away, head way down/up, hard to stop, etc) suddenly turn into happily working friends when someone who actually know how to ride gets on. I can get on the rankest, angriest horse at the camp (which isn't very rank, but pretty darn angry) and have it happily working in thirty minutes, just by knowing how to ride and not jerking on the horse every second like some of the kids do.
My horse, Lacey, loves being worked with. She's always perky and thrilled to go out. She actually starts seeming depressed if I don't ride her at least once a week. And, on top of that, she's better off for being worked because her arthritis starts getting much worse when she's not worked regularly.
Also, when you think about it, if they REALLY hated being ridden with such a burning passion, I think we would have found that out by now.
Do horses like to be ridden?
I believe that if treated and handled with respect that most horses will come to tolerate being ridden and will see it as part of the routine which controls their lives. In return they seek food, water, security and a refuge from the elements. If a horse did not, then we riders would soon be ejected from its back. This is all part of the deal which humans have made over the centuries with equines. Most of us have ceased to see horses as meat and horses are now either partners in work or partners in sport.
They have been domesticated partly by selective breeding - but they aren't allowed into the house.
For example: Sonny, a 15H2 cob 8yo gelding, lives on our small private yard. Sadly he is neglected by his owner. When the other horses come in for their sessions, he stands by the gate of his field and he gets more and more distressed as the day goes by. The other horses are each brought into the stable area for grooming and tacking up. Sonny is invariably left behind. He feels left out of it. He has grass to graze but nothing else to do with his day. His owner doesn't come to play with him.
Personally I can't watch him without taking pity on him and usually I'll go and get him. He doesn't ask for much. He likes to be groomed. He likes being handled. He likes a treat. Sometimes I just lunge him, or sometimes we do a little work in the arena. He has the trot of a pony and is uncomfortable for me to trot on for too long. But whatever we do, it doesn't really matter to him.
Actually he lacks for little. He is safe, he is kept healthy and in perfect condition ready for a mistress who never comes. What he does lack is a purpose in life and I think he misses that reason for being alive.
But who am I to judge. He can't tell me. All he can do is to respond to me in the way he does. Whenever my car turns up at the yard, he looks up at the sound of the engine when even my own mare does not bother.
What can I say?
Whether one believes that horses are content to be ridden goes to the very basis of how we approach the business of training a horse. Few of us are skilled enough to teach a horse to do much beyond what the horse can already do naturally. The aim of our schooling is to get the horse to respond and to do willingly as requested in response to an aid/cue. The big problem in training is usually one of communication -how does the horse understand what we are asking for? In effect all we are seeking is compliance, namely that the horse willingly agrees to do, what we know it can do, when we have asked it to do it.
Such a relationship between man and horse takes time to develop. In the old days too much time - so they used force, which is quicker but which doesn't always bring compliance merely sufferance. As a result some horses, trained by force and pain, come to dislike being ridden.
Baucher, a famous French horsemaster devised in the 19th century a system for training horses which eventually the British cavalry adopted. It produced horses fit for the cavalry trooper in a short space of time but his methods were seen to be harsh. We've been using his methods ever since.
Much of what we now take as Natural horsemanship was known to Baucher's predecessors as the Comte d'Aure wrote at the time.
Essentially I believe that the horse will carry me if I treat it with respect and understanding. Not all horses have been treated that way.
Sadly whilst we can show a horse how to remember, we can't teach it to forget.
My darling tells me in no uncertain terms when she diesnt want to be ridden your not going to get near her and that's that.
However it rarely happens so I mjust be doing something right.
I just listen to her she is a worker enjoys it and seems quite content however she is also quite content to spend her holidays doing nothing
Some people are content to be couch potatoes. Others love the feel of using their bodies. I don't know if I exactly ENJOY digging post holes for corrals in caliche, but I don't mind it nearly as much as you would think, given what hard work it is. And I've been jogging for 40 years, because I enjoy the feel of getting out and using my body.
Many people prefer team sports, since they like working with other people.
Is it wrong to think some horses are the same? My 2 live in an L-shaped corral, with each wing running about 70 feet. When I get them out and let them run loose in a larger area, the mare bolts around in Arabian fashion, tail erect. Gallop, spin, gallop, spin, etc. The gelding likes to kick his heels as high as he can, a half dozen here, move, a half dozen there.
My mare seems happy to see me carrying a saddle. If I have empty hands, she notices but mostly ignores me. She prances a bit as we walk to the saddling area. Riding varies. I'm not a good rider, have a stiff back and often hinder her. Sometimes she is spastic too, in my defense. When we get it right, it feels great to me and she sure SEEMS happy. You can almost hear her say, "Look at me! I'm big, I'm strong, and I can MOVE!" At times like that, my main challenge is in moving roughly the same direction and speed as she is, and holding her back enough to prevent an explosion of action beyond my ability.
Our gelding was badly treated on a ranch in Colorado. We finally stopped riding him for 8 months, and then sent him to a local trainer for 5 weeks of 'breaking'. She knew him and knew he had been ridden a lot, but we wanted to reset him...so she pretended he was an unbroke horse. I went over 4 times each week to watch. Most of the work was from the ground. Once he was more confident, the mounted stuff went fast. He's been back for a month, and my daughter takes lessons on him (from the same trainer):
Does he ENJOY being ridden? Not entirely. But as he gains in trust, he seems happier. At the end, he'll join us as I ask how the ride went, and listens sociably while we discuss what happened. Maybe his more subordinate nature explains why he doesn't have the "Look at me! I can MOVE!" attitude of the mare, but his more sociable nature seems to take pleasure in being with humans, and if they want a ride...he's willing enough. I think he does understand a trade-off, with him giving a ride and receiving lots of positive attention.
He also seems to like work, so they may start learning some basic reining together. Right now, he's having a Sally Field moment ("...you like me, right now, you like me!").