Most people who are riding horses are being taken for a ride. Why ? If you are sitting on a horse and not making the decisions you are just a passenger, not a rider.
This is fine if you are a twice a year rider/passenger. If you turn up at a trail riding establishment climb onto a very quiet horse who is basically following the horse in front you are fine, keep doing what you do if you like it, tell people you ride if you like, it’s unlikely you will be reading this information.
If you own a horse or ride regularly and you are not making the decisions for you and your saddled partner you are not riding you are living on borrowed time. If you don’t get hurt you are lucky not skilled.
Riding is a proactive activity, luckily horses are very docile animals. You might not agree with this last statement but horses, not being proactively ridden, are either willing to plod along and accept clumsy inconsistent communication, or become agitated and confused still maintaining some semblance of sanity. 9 times out of 10 horses will take on one of these roles and do nothing particularly dangerous but 10% of the time they will melt down and become very dangerous. So 90% of the time you are safe because horses are such wonderful animals! the other 10% of the time you are in the hands of the gods.
If you have any interest in improving your riding experience and improving the life of your horse it is necessary to take on a leadership role. Riding is a partnership between you and your horse, if your roll as boss is not clearly defined you are in a dangerous position. Sitting on a a beast, one generation away from a wild animal up to 1000kgs of nature able to do whatever it likes if it happens to work out that it is in charge.
Horses crave leadership and thrive on it. In the wild, most horses will never be leaders, they are happy to be lead by the dominant horses within the herd, usually a dominant mare leading the way and a stallion, driving and keeping the mob together. Without competent leadership horses are nervous and unpredictable. Once we have proven to our horses that we are worthy of their respect they will faithfully be led by us, over cross country jumps, through rivers into battle if required.
We should cherish the opportunity to be involved with such wonderful accepting creatures. They are, perfectly designed by some freak of nature to be able to carry us with the same beauty that they are able to carry their majestic selves, to dance, jump, gallop, and spin all carrying generally about one quarter of their body weight what magnificent athletes. That have the power and the means to dispose of us at any time, but it is relatively rare that they do.