The US equestrian team came into its stride during the recent Tokyo Olympics, losing out on a gold medal by just 1.3 seconds in the team showjumping event. They also achieved a silver medal in dressage for the first time since 1948.
Yet, you don’t need to aspire to higher level equestrianism to enjoy horses. You can head out on scenic trail rides instead, ride in local shows, or even keep them as pets. People of all ages can enjoy riding lessons and children simply love horse summer camps.
Most people ride for pure enjoyment, a sense of achievement, or even the thrill of moving at high speed. Yet, you can also enjoy several other benefits from horseback riding.
Find out more about these perks, here.
1. An Excellent Way to Exercise
Riders of the highest order engage in rigorous exercise programs to stay at the top of their game. Yet, the average rider will experience improved fitness from day-to-day riding, too.
These are some of the physical benefits of horseback riding:
Improved Muscle Tone
If you can remember the first time you went horse riding, you’ll recall that you felt pretty sore and stiff the next day. That’s because adjusting to the correct riding position takes a lot of muscular coordination and effort.
It gets easier as you go along, but these initial aches are enough to prove that horse riding works plenty of muscles, and can significantly improve your overall muscle tone.
Strong Core Muscles
Horse riding is an isometric exercise. That means you’ll need to harness specific muscles and practice good posture to remain upright on a horse.
In this way, riding helps improve your balance and strengthen your core, even if you’re just ambling around on a trail ride.
Firm, Toned Legs
You’ll also rely heavily on your legs to guide and direct the horse, as well as perform certain movements, like posting to the trot. These activities help strengthen and tone your leg muscles.
A Healthy Cardiovascular System
Riding at the trot, canter, and gallop for even short distances can get your heart pumping. So, you also enjoy the benefits of a cardiovascular workout while riding.
Regular cardiovascular exercise has the following benefits:
- Decreased risk of heart attack and stroke
- Preventing heart failure
- Lowered ‘bad’ cholesterol in your blood
- Improved fitness
Weight Loss Benefits
Thanks to these cardiovascular efforts, you’ll also burn calories while riding. This contributes to maintaining a healthy weight and reduces your chances of contracting diabetes and other obesity-related ailments.
Horses are powerful animals, but they have their limits. You’ll need to keep yourself at a healthy weight if you want to enjoy all they can offer.
Often, the desire to ride can also contribute toward people keeping themselves trim and free of excess weight.
2. Helps Reduce Stress
One of the biggest benefits of horseback riding for adults is that it can help you to better manage stress and depression. For starters, you’ll need to stay focused on the task at hand while riding a horse.
If you’re engaged in a riding lesson, you’ll need to stay in tune with your instructor’s directions. Other activities, like riding out in the countryside on trail rides help fill you with a sense of calm.
While out riding, you can’t check your email or look at social media, and it’s a good idea to leave your phone behind, too. We all need more breaks from the negative impact of technology, and horse riding can help us achieve this.
In these ways, horse riding helps keep your mind off the negative thoughts that help feed stress and anxiety.
Like all types of exercise, horseback riding also helps keep your brain on an even keel. There are two trains of thought that support this theory.
Firstly, exercise, as discussed above, helps increase levels of feel-good neurotransmitters in the brain. Secondly, studies also show that interacting with companion animals can help prevent stress and increase feelings of happiness.
There’s a third aspect that can affect your mental wellbeing while on a horse. That is the simple act of getting out in nature.
Numerous studies support the fact that spending time in nature is an excellent way to de-stress and sharpen your mind.
In this way, horseback riding delivers a triple whammy when it comes to preventing and alleviating stress and mental upsets.
3. Benefits Coordination and Balance
While engaged in horse riding you need to focus on staying upright in the saddle.
You can’t simply sit on a horse as you do on your sofa. For starters, it’s moving.
That means you must constantly make fine adjustments to your muscles if you want to follow the movements of the horse. At the same time, you must follow directions from your instructor and guide the horse in the direction you want to go.
All the above applies only to walking along. When it comes to the faster paces, you’ll need to make further adjustments to your posture and balance to avoid falling off.
Things get even more complicated if you want to learn the advanced signals required in dressage or the physical contortions that show jumping demands.
On top of all this, horses can behave in unpredictable ways sometimes, so you’ll need to stay alert at all times and fine-tune your reflexes to respond quickly in an emergency.
4. Broadens Your Social Circle
When you engage in group lessons and other riding activities, you’ll make new friends thanks to these shared activities. You’ll spend time with the barn staff, other riders, instructors, and the barn owner.
If you attend local horse shows or become a serious competitor, you’ll get to meet even more like-minded horse lovers.
You don’t need to compete to feel a part of the crowd, either. All kinds of horse lovers attend these events, from keen spectators to retired pros.
There are almost 2 million horse owners in the USA, and even more casual riders. So, you’ll find fellow enthusiasts sharing horseback riding tips and recalling their experiences at every turn, whether it’s at the local fair or the feed shop.
For the most part, the worldwide web of equestrians comprises a laid-back, welcoming crowd, keen to share their knowledge, experience, and love of horses with newcomers.
5. Horses Are Fantastic Companion Animals
By definition, horse sports are a team activity. After all, you wouldn’t get very far in these disciplines without a horse.
Horses make great teammates, both on and off the field. They’re excellent listeners, and gentle creatures capable of showing affection.
They soon learn to recognize their owners and there are few sounds more heartwarming than a gentle nicker of recognition from a favorite animal.
Owning and caring for a horse can indeed become a costly and time-consuming affair, but horses pay you back several times over with their supreme athleticism and work ethic.
What’s more, horses will teach you compassion, patience, perseverance, and non-verbal communication skills.
Horses have walked beside mankind for centuries. They’ve helped us cultivate our fields, travel to faraway lands, and conquer our enemies.
This long and mutually beneficial relationship means that we’ve reached a good understanding by now. It’s easy to spend time with them and many horse owners form very strong, almost telepathic bonds with their animals.
Domestic horses are charming, friendly, and curious animals, with unique personalities. It’s easy to admire horses for their strength, gentleness, athleticism, speed, beauty, and intelligence.
6. Teaches Children Important Lessons
Few activities can beat the benefits of horseback riding for kids. Children receive all the above benefits just like adults do, but horses and ponies offer them even more.
Age, size, attire, or appearance don’t matter to horses – they treat everyone the same way. That means children who suffer from low self-confidence in school sports or academics have an equal chance of success on horseback.
Everyone can achieve a sense of satisfaction and self-worth by learning to ride. The simple act of controlling an animal that’s so much larger than them is a huge boost to any child’s confidence.
Most horses have an affinity for children, and seasoned schoolmasters even seem to help them along the way at times. In short, you’re setting your child up for success when you sign them up for horse riding lessons or other horse-related events.
Horse riding opens the door to a host of fun activities and opportunities for learning.
There are a lot of life lessons waiting for children at the barn, too. They must learn to put the horse’s needs before their own by feeding, watering, and grooming their steed no matter how tired or hungry they are themselves.
Children develop strong, mutually beneficial bonds with their horses, and the positive effects of this will spill over into their daily lives. Some of the key skills children can learn from horse riding include:
- Analytical skills
Children can gain exposure to all these learning curves by taking part in horse riding summer camps, that truly immerse them in the day-to-day activities of the barn.
7. Horseback Riding Is Therapeutic
The Ancient Greeks first used horses for therapy in 500 B.C. and by the 19th century, horse therapy was the standard treatment in Germany for episodes of hypochondria and hysteria.
By the time the 1970s rolled around, the North American Riding for the Handicapped Association, now known as the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship, had formed.
People with physical disabilities benefit enormously from both the physical benefits of horse riding as well as the confidence building, mental health, and skill development aspects.
In the 1990s, horses went to work helping addicts and mental health patients on the road to recovery. Research also shows that equine therapy can also assist with trauma issues, depression, anxiety, and dissociative disorders.
Nowadays, there are two main branches of hippotherapy, namely:
Equine-Assisted Psychotherapy (EAP)
These sessions involve an equine professional working with a licensed mental health practitioner. They work with clients toward their psychotherapy goals.
Equine-Assisted Learning Therapy (EAL)
These sessions center on developing life skills like self-confidence, honesty, and trust. It’s based on how horses communicate among themselves, and thus focuses on using non-verbal cues to perform exercises.
The hands-on experiences offered by EAL can help patients thrive.
Both these types of therapy use ridden as well as interactive experiences to help patients find the relief or growth they crave.
Horses as Therapy Animals
Equine therapies are well-known across the globe as effective treatments for both mental and physical maladies. It’s easy for patients to bond with horses since they have similar social responses.
Therapy horses have gentle, friendly natures that make them ideal for soothing nervous, agitated patients. As such, experts have achieved pleasing results when treating patients suffering from the following afflictions:
- Anxiety and Depression
- Cerebral Palsy and Genetic Syndromes like Down Syndrome
- Traumatic brain injuries
- Abuse and behavioral issues
- Developmental delay
Horses are widely used to help soothe the symptoms of PTSD in veterans, too.
Enjoy the Benefits of Horseback Riding on Horse Summer Camps
If you love horses, there are more reasons to start horse riding than there are to put it off any longer. Owning horses is an expensive hobby, but most people can afford to head out on a trail ride occasionally, or sign up for weekly riding lessons.
So why not get started? Sign up for one of our trail rides or enroll your kids in horse summer camps so you, too, can experience the joys of horseback riding.