Back in the days of the Wild West, trail riding was the only kind of riding, with some cowboys driving their cattle 1,500 miles to market to earn a living.
Along the way, they faced inclement weather, hostile locals, and cattle thieves. They slept rough and spent countless hours in the saddle every day.
Nowadays, horse trail rides aren’t nearly as lengthy or strenuous, with most people saddling up to enjoy a pleasant diversion from the daily grind.
Keep reading to discover why you should join the millions of people who take part in this activity every year.
1. A Horse Trail Immerses You in Nature
According to the American Psychological Association, spending time outdoors has enormous mental benefits and promotes cognitive development. There’s a catch, though – you need to spend at least two hours outdoors per week to experience these benefits.
If you can’t split your outings into manageable chunks during the week, spending time on a trail ride is the ideal solution. You can relax and absorb all the benefits of your surroundings while your faithful mount carries you onward.
There’s always something new to discover on these outings, and you’ll find no shortage of beautiful places to trail ride across the country. You can take seaside rides along the coast, head out on the prairie, or lap up the lovely pastoral scenes of York, PA.
When you head out on a horse riding trail, you enjoy an elevated vantage point that makes the views even better. You’ve got a much better chance of seeing and hearing birds and small animals too since horses pose no threat to them.
There’s no doubt that a horse ride is the best way to sit back and maximize the benefits offered by time spent in nature.
2. Trail Riding Is So Much Fun
Once you’ve mastered the basics and can walk, trot, and canter in a controlled fashion, there’s no limit to the fun available on a trail ride.
You’ll splash through puddles, climb mountains, and enjoy the exhilaration of the wind in your face as you move at speed through the countryside.
You may encounter small obstacles to jump over and find many opportunities to trot side-by-side or amble down country lanes chatting and laughing with newfound friends.
Once you’re a competent rider, with your own horse, you can arrange many diverse rides with your like-minded friend. These include picnic rides and overnight camping excursions.
3. Getting Out Is Good for Horse and Rider
Horses are naturally curious and athletic creatures. They love discovering what’s over the horizon with you, so you’ve got a willing partner as you travel over hill and dale.
If you own a horse, and you’ve been putting in some intense training in recent weeks, you’ll both benefit from a break in routine. A trail ride is the best way to spend time with your horse in a relaxed, fun atmosphere.
It gives their minds and bodies a chance to recover from the rigors of arena work, lets them stretch their muscles, and improves their balance. Instead of flat, manicured surfaces, your horse will need to keep their wits about them over uneven terrain.
If you sense your horse is feeling bored, a trail ride will set things right again.
4. Trail Riding Boosts Your Confidence
When you blaze a trail through the countryside, there are no fences to confine your horse. Some people may find this unnerving at first, but they soon figure out there’s nothing to fear.
Trail horses usually stick with their friends along well-worn routes. They’ll walk along patiently waiting for your next instruction.
Once you’ve relaxed and got into the steady rhythm of the trail ride, you’ll feel like you can keep going for many more hours.
The ability to negotiate the great outdoors while controlling a large, powerful animal is enough to give anyone a sense of achievement.
This newfound confidence may inspire you to ride more often, fine-tune your skills, and even enter competitions one day.
5. There’s No Pressure
Trails offer the ultimate escape from everyday pressures far from the stress of work or competition riding. Even top Olympic riders take time to enjoy a casual trail ride every so often.
Trail rides are a low-stress activity where you can relax and enjoy the experience. There’s no pressure to improve your riding performance, no work deadlines, and no family demands to worry about.
6. It’s a Great Way to Stay Healthy
When you ride over the varying terrain of a trail ride, you’ll need to adjust your posture frequently to stay upright in the saddle. This means your inner thighs, core, and pelvic muscles benefit from a workout.
A strong core means excellent posture, less back pain, and a lower chance of injury.
Adjusting your posture to the horse’s gait helps improve coordination and balance, firm muscle tone, and increase your flexibility.
All forms of exercise help lower blood pressure by increasing your heart rate and boosting cardiovascular health. Studies show that being around horses has the same effect, even if you’re ambling around on a low-energy trail ride, or simply grooming a horse.
Those who’ve never tried horseback riding may think horses do all the work, but we know better. Riding horses is considered a medium-intensity workout, so you’ll burn plenty of calories during a trail ride.
7. Horse Trail Rides Improve Mental Health
Apart from spending time outdoors, there are two other scientifically proven ways to keep your mind on an even keel. These are:
From the above, it’s clear that trail riding has it all when it comes to keeping your mind in top form. Horses and horse riding are important components in treating the following issues:
Depression and Dementia
Thanks to its confidence and self-esteem-boosting benefits, horse riding helps create positive emotions. These stimulate the production of feel-good neurotransmitters in the brain which in turn help combat depression.
A study by the British horse society indicates that this physical effect on the brain can also reduce the chances of developing dementia by as much as 30%.
Time spent near horses also helps alleviate stress. That’s because being near horses and riding them causes a decrease in the stress hormone, cortisol, in our bloodstream.
While interacting with horses, you’re forced to focus on something other than your troubles and this helps you put things into perspective.
Anxiety and Anger Issues
Since horses mainly communicate with each other via non-verbal cues, they’re adept at picking up body language in humans too. Due to this ability, therapists regard horses as a mirror of human emotions.
When you feel upset or anxious, the horse knows about it immediately and reacts accordingly. In this way, they can help us become aware of our feelings and take steps to keep them under control.
Keeping our emotions and anxieties bottled up can lead to serious mental problems like PTSD or General Anxiety Disorder. Horses will help you take a deep breath and let all these negative feelings go.
The lovely natural surroundings of a trail ride help kick-start the process.
Equine-assisted therapies are often used to treat traumatized youths with great success. Research suggests that horses help reduce trauma by helping patients feel safer and enabling them to experience feelings of control.
These findings also suggest that the gentle motion experienced by riding a walking horse helps soothe the mental state of these trauma patients.
Addiction is an exceptionally complex disease, incorporating many of the above emotional and psychological aspects.
Horses can help boost recovery for addicts in many ways. They give addicts a sense of responsibility, improve self-esteem, create new interests, and provide nonjudgemental companionship.
Trail rides incorporate all the above into a single package.
It Feels Good to Be Around Horses
Horses are friendly, sociable creatures capable of great affection toward people. No matter how bad a day or week you’ve had, interacting with horses helps you feel better.
Whether you’re struggling with emotional or psychological issues or trying to help a friend who is struggling, a trail ride might be just what the doctor ordered.
8. Horse Riding Instills Discipline
Discipline pervades every aspect of dealing with horses. As a horse owner, handler, or rider, you must put the horse’s needs first.
You need to ensure they’re fed, watered, safe, and secure before attending to your needs and wishes.
While it’s certainly a relaxing exercise, you can’t let your guard down during a trail ride, either. Stay focussed and don’t let your mind drift too far into blissful contentment.
You must pay attention to your surroundings, so you’re prepared for the terrain ahead.
Your horse will watch where they put their feet, but it’s always best to keep a lookout for any holes or deep muddy patches up ahead. A horse could misjudge these hazards and slip or hurt itself.
They could also start and unseat you if a bird or animal appears suddenly in their line of sight, or jump over a wet patch or small obstacle. For safety’s sake, it’s important to remain conscious of your horse’s demeanor during a ride.
If you don’t follow your trail guide’s instructions, you could find yourself in trouble, lost, or left behind the other horses.
You need to consider others while out riding, too. Never increase your pace without the guide’s permission and warn the other riders before you set off.
9. Almost Anyone Can Go On a Horse Trail Ride
Although most trail rides have certain restrictions for safety reasons, anyone can enjoy the benefits of horse riding.
In some cases, children can learn to ride as young as three years old and participate in fun pony-related activities. Many of these youngsters get to embark on private trail rides with their instructor as soon as they’re ready.
On the other end of the scale, you can continue riding until any age, as long as you’re fit and healthy enough.
Thanks to all the above benefits of horse riding, even people with disabilities can take part in horse riding and enjoy closely supervised trail rides in some cases.
Horses don’t mind whether you’re a high-end executive or a humble housekeeper. Trail rides are open to any competent person who books and pays for the experience.
10. It’s a Fantastic Way to Spend Your Leisure Time
Few activities can offer as many benefits as trail riding does. You don’t need any expensive equipment to take part, as most of it’s provided by your hosts.
An occasional trail ride is a much cheaper way to enjoy riding than owning and keeping a horse of your own. It’s also cheaper than a day spent at the health spa or a couple of sessions at the psychologist.
It’s a wholesome activity with no risk of overspending, over-indulging, or any other variables that go along with a night on the town. There’s a good chance you’ll learn and discover new things and meet interesting people whenever you go trail riding.
Are You Keen to Saddle Up?
Learning to ride is the first step toward unlocking the many benefits of trail riding.
When you sign up for lessons, your instructor will show you the ropes in no time, and nurture your skills until you’re competent enough to head out on horse trail rides with a guide.
Don’t try to learn by yourself, you’ll soon lose enthusiasm and might even hurt yourself. Rather visit a reputable stable yard with experienced riding school horses who know their job, and expert instructors to guide your journey.
Get in touch to arrange your first lesson at Ridge Meadow Horse Farm, or, if you’re already at home in the saddle, book your trail ride now.