Seeing as Kitty has only had me on her back a few times, it made me think about what happens in her mind once I'm on.
My friend shared an anecdote of her horse nickering when she got off as if she had been gone while she was riding him. I don't think Kitty sees much of me when I'm up there. A horse can see the ground all around themselves but how much does a horse see above their back? behind their head?
Kitty seems to look for someone to guide her when I disappear from her peripheral vision. She sees maybe my arms to my shoulders and my feet and knees? She seems distracted by my feet when they pop in and out of her field of vision and nibbles at them. It's as if I become a thought at the back of her mind. A place we probably spend a lot of time in since our horses must think of us when we're gone.
So if the rider is just a thought, does the horse think it's deciding to do what it's being asked to do?
What does my horse think is going on when I poke at her from her back?
This is a creature with no prefrontal cortex, so ideas and feelings might get a little blurry sometimes. Can they reason things out such as "oh she's on my back and I'm being asked to trot now" or is it more like "the thought of her is making me feel like I should trot"? There is the physical cue but if it's disembodied what does a horse think of it?
If we go with the notion that they think we disappear into their minds, then they are accepting us as a part of themselves. Our thoughts are their thoughts. Their body is an extension of ours. We are then in a mind meld situation where there is no distinction between their decisions and ours. In that case miscommunication and bad behavior is more of a cognitive disonance than reticance to comply. There is a duty to the rider to be clear. If we're inside their head, there is an obligation to be kind.