...I think I had a too romantic idea of horses and I understand now that is really hard work and I am willing to put in the work and better my skills, but I kinda feel a little discouraged... Why does this happen?...I really don't know how to respond properly to horse behaviour so I don't respond (because I want to think first: why does it do that??)...But I still think I might be doing something wrong since every horse I ride seems to become kinda naughty after a few lessons....The other riders also tell me I am too kind....
Lesson horses can get quite sour on riding. Then they will do OK if someone insists, but the "romance" of horses may not exist with a lot of school horses. If a horse becomes 'naughty' after a few rides, it may be a horse who has decided - maybe years before you met him - that being ridden sucks, and then looks for ways of getting back at the rider. Not BIG ways normally, and not with someone with the experience to punish them, but...still expressing their dislike for being ridden.
Traditionally, the response is to gain enough experience to punish the horse. And with a thoroughly disgruntled horse, that may be all that is left. I have a small mustang who was a lesson horse for years. 5 years later, he still LOATHES being ridden in an arena. He fights his rider in an arena, which is why no one wanted to buy him or even take him for free. The instructor remembered when my family took lessons and offered him to us.
And while he still hates the arena, he's an utterly enjoyable horse - opinionated, but enjoyable and helpful - on a trail. He'll try to get you off in an arena, but will carry a grown man for hours on a trail.
He's had at least 6 previous owners and may never truly trust a human again, but he is pleasant enough and certainly safe enough on a trail. My wife rides 6 times a year, and on the trail she can ride him like this:
The romance of horses comes with a horse who isn't sour on riding. I recommend this journal as a great place to hear about the romance of riding: Why I Gotta Trot
). The romance comes when a horse views his rider an someone who ENABLES him rather than someone who dominates him. When the horse views humans as a friend who does stuff WITH the horse, not TO the horse.
That can be done in arena riding and many do so. There are horses who love riding in an arena with their pal. But there are also a lot of ruined horses who are certain humans are jerks and it isn't always possible to change their minds. Particularly if you don't own them!
It is certainly possible to get a lot of horses to enjoy being ridden. Trails or arena. But that requires them to be ridden by someone who appreciates them and who uses reward - things the horses like, not just food - as well as rare punishment.
This is one of my favorite quotes about horses. It was written over 150 years ago by a cavalry officer:
The French say, when speaking of a horse that shows restiveness, "il se defend" - he defends himself...There is much truth in this expression, and it is one that riders should constantly bear in mind, for insubordination is most commonly the result of something having been demanded from the horse that it either did not know how to do or was unable to perform...
...There is another thing to be considered with regard to the horse's character - it loves to exercise its powers, and it possesses a great spirit of emulation; it likes variety of scene and amusement; and under a rider that understands how to indulge it in all this without overtaxing its powers, will work willingly to the last gasp, which is what entitles it to the name of a noble and generous animal...
..Horses don't like to be ennuye, and will rather stick at home than go out to be bored; they like amusement, variety, and society: give them their share of these, but never in a pedantic way, and avoid getting into a groove of any kind, either as to time or place, especially with young animals. It is evident that all these things must be taken into account and receive due attention, whether it be our object to prevent or to get rid of some bad habit a horse may have acquired; and a little reflection will generally suffice to point out the means of remedying something that, if left to itself, would grow into a confirmed habit, or if attacked with the energy of folly and violence, would suddenly culminate in the grand catastrophe of restiveness...
On Seats and Saddles, by Francis Dwyer, Major of Hussars in the Imperial Austrian Service (1868)
A couple of other journals I recommend: My 2 Mares were stars on Trail today!
Trotters, Arabians, Donkeys and Other People
There are quite a few others, but those are three journals that have given me a lot to think about.
"because I want to think first: why does it do that??
If you can keep that attitude, you can become the sort of rider horses want to be with!