Please Keep Your Hands To Yourself: An Op-Ed And A Rant

Amanda makes a case for proper social etiquette… and maybe spirals just a little bit.

I’m usually introduced as Amanda That Rides Horses.

Despite the fact that I, surely, have other attributes, like I graduated college double majoring in Cultural Anthropology and History (anyone want to talk about sacrificial burials? ), or that I work as a freelance journalist (yes, that is a job that pays money… a little, anyway), or even that I’m an autocross and F1 enthusiast (go Lando! ), or how I love rom-coms more than life itself (watch The Fall Guy now), the fact that I ride horses is THE DEFINING PERSONALITY TRAIT.

Photo Courtesy of Author

To be honest, being an equestrian does tend to be an all-consuming activity.

But after this introduction, there is always the inevitable conversation starter of, “Oh, that’s cute. My (insert random daughter, son, niece, nephew, or cousin name here) also loves horses. Maybe they can come ride with you sometime.”

At this point, I usually ask, “Do they have a horse?”

And mostly, they don’t.

See, the statement that “they can come ride [with me] sometime” means they can come ride my horse sometime.

When I was younger, I would usually cringe on the inside and try to immediately divert the conversation to something else. When I got older, I just straight up cringed (on the outside) and said, “No.”

I vividly remember one person being shocked by this answer. They physically tilted backward on their heels, their eyebrows skyrocketing upward.

“You won’t let a little girl come ride your horse?” they asked aghast.

I shook my head and said, “Absolutely not. He’s not a five-dollar pony ride at a carnival.”

They muttered something about me being selfish.

Which brings me to the point of this article: Why do people think horses are there to be used as toys or props or puppies to be petted?

They’re not.

This fact has never been more true considering the bad press the British King’s Guard horses are getting currently.

They’re biting tourists. Tourists that get too close and touch them without permission. As a lifetime equestrian, my first thought was, “Well, maybe we should go back to preschool and learn how to keep our hands to ourselves, hmm?”

But, unfortunately, that isn’t the sentiment of the public. The average human thinks it’s the horse’s fault.

Why shouldn’t a random tourist be able to touch, poke, stroke, and scratch? They’re not doing anything inherently bad, right? Shouldn’t the horse just stand there and take it? Shouldn’t the rider do something to force the horse to stand there and take it?


We shouldn’t.

First, horses are prey animals. As prey animals, a stimulus unnoticed by humans is often cause for alarm for horses. That includes a random stranger (that to a horse probably looks weird, sounds weird, and smells weird) coming too close and/or laying hands on them.

Second, the horse has a very fast response time. A prey animal must react instantly to a perceived predator to be able to survive. This means if you, I don’t know, have a hot pink striped scarf blowing around in a horse’s face while you pose for a photo, guess what? They might react.

Third, yes, horses can be trained to be desensitized, but they are also fallible. I don’t care how many pool noodles we (literally) throw at them; we can’t prepare for their every mood in every situation on every day.

Fourth, as a highly social animal, the horse communicates its emotions and intents through both vocalization and body language. Anyone near them needs to be able to read the horse’s body language, and random strangers cannot do that. So if the horse slightly moved away, did a skin twitch, or flicked an ear backward in irritation before it struck out, those cues would be largely ignored.

How does this tie in with me telling people their random friend or family member can’t ride my horse? Well, the truth is, maybe I’m not willing to risk the training and well-being of the creature I’ve spent the last decade loving. Maybe I don’t care if you want a five-minute joy ride so you can post it on Facebook afterward like a Boomer with the hashtags #farmlife and #blessed.


Or sue me.

Mostly the last one.

Go riding… just not on my horse.

Amanda Uechi Ronan is an author, equestrian, and wannabe race car driver. Follow her on Instagram @amanda_uechi_ronan.