Horse people themselves are almost as prone to this as non-horsepeople. The presumption is that a horse is a riding animal, a using animal: transportation. A horse who doesn’t “earn his keep” is not worth keeping.
So why would anyone keep a horse she doesn’t ride?
To stay on the negative side of the ledger, maybe she’s afraid to ride him. Maybe he’s too much for her. Maybe she’s had a bad experience, or more than one, and she can’t bring herself to get back on. So he sits around. Eating his head off. (Horse heads appear to be extremely easily removable by the application of food.)
Or maybe he’s too much horse for anybody to ride, even a professional trainer. Maybe he’s not safe, through physical or mental issues. Maybe he’s so damaged by prior trainers or owners that being ridden causes a monster attack of traumatic stress. Which can put his rider in the ER, and him on the kill list. He can’t be sold for fear he’ll damage his new owner, and that supposes anyone would dare to buy him in the first place. So he adorns the pasture, and his owner gets The Question.
He might be retired through age or injury. He’s given at the office, and now he’s done. He gets a well-deserved rest, and if his owner is the right kind of horse person (and can afford it–finances are a tough one as always), she lets him relax and just be a horse.
Then again, maybe he’s too young to be ridden yet. He may be a strapping youngster with a mature look to him, but he’s only three or four or even five, and he’s still growing. He’ll get to work when his bones and muscles are more developed and his mind is more ready.
So what good is the non-rideable horse? The young one might get a pass, since the point is to train him when he’s old enough, but the healthy horse who isn’t ridden, or whose mind or body won’t let him be ridden, is useless except as a lawnmower or a companion for a more useful horse.
Or is he?
What can a horse do besides be ridden or, more rarely now than in the days of horses as main means of transport, driven or worked in harness?
You might be surprised.
How about: yoga instructor/equipment/guru:
There’s a lot a horse can do besides pack a human from here to there. He can be a therapy animal, a massage and bodywork instructor, a mentor for a young horse or human, a companion, a friend, a bodhisattva.