Whether you only tune in for the Melbourne Cup, or you’re passionate about horses 365 days a year, riding horses does more than provide a public holiday (if you’re in Victoria – everyone else, back to work).
Horse riding is still a popular recreational activity for Australians. And this activity comes with a host of favourable health benefits.
The British Horse Society commissioned research from the Plumpton College and the University of Brighton in 2010, that explored the psychological and physical effects that are achieved from horse riding.
This report discovered that a large percentage of the participants that rode for at least 30 minutes, 3 times a week, that meant that these people were either exceeding or meeting the minimum exercise levels recommended.
These findings also suggested that many horse riders linked these experiences with psychological feelings that were positive. This had to do with the interaction with the horses themselves along with the act of engaging with their natural surroundings.
So if you’re ready to improve your physical and mental health, here are 7 benefits of riding horses.
#1 - Burn Calories
It may be true that unlike many other sports such as rowing or running, it will be the horse that is doing the work, yet you will also be burning calories while you ride.
Trotting at a gentle pace for 30 minutes will burn around 350 calories, and it helps with toning the stomach muscles. Horse riding is a moderate intensity type of exercise that you are able to control according to how fast you want to ride.
#2 - Increase Your Flexibility
If you have noticed how undignified some people look when they try to get onto a horse, you will soon come to realise that trying to get a leg over the torso of a horse, is no easy task.
When it comes to horse riding, specific body parts like your hips will in most cases become more flexible, and this will improve the more you ride.
Looking to develop your flexibility while having fun? Explore a women’s horse riding event with the perfect cup of coffee too!
#3 - Core Strength
People may assume that horse riding is just another leisure activity, yet it is actually a part of what is known as isometric fitness, which helps to make your core a lot stronger.
The act of balancing on the horse will force you into using specific muscle groups, like your thighs.
Horses are also used by people with disabilities and for individuals in the process of recovering from an injury, for this exact reason. Isometric training involves static position exercises, while the muscle length and angle of the joints remain the same throughout the routine.
#4 - Develop Extremely Strong Thigh Muscles
If you have ever gone on a long ride, then you would have most likely experienced the feeling of aching thighs and stiff legs.
According to sports massage experts this has to do with using different muscle groups that you are not used to working. They explain, “horse riding works the hamstrings, quads, and glutes. The glutes loosen and tighten as you ride down and up with your horse.”
You will also naturally squeeze the muscles in your legs to stay in your saddle.
#5 - Coordination
Riding is not as straightforward as many people like to think.
Controlling the speed of a horse will take coordination when it comes to the pressure on the reins, your leg pressure, along with how your body is positioned, all at the same time.
An example of this would involve patting your head, rubbing your stomach, and skipping simultaneously. It is not an easy task.
Once you start to become a more confident rider, you will learn more about the more subtle movements that you can use in order to get your horse to respond in the way you would like them to. Horse riding will also teach you how to use different body parts independently.
Once you have acquired these skills you can use them in other types of sports, like golf or tennis that requires coordination skills.
#6 - Improve Your Posture
Many people make the mistake of sitting incorrectly on their horses when first mounting the saddle.
Common mistakes include:
- holding the reins too tight
- using their thighs to grip the horse
- pushing their feet too firmly into the stirrups
This type of tension is what causes beginners to lean too far forward, and they are tensed in anticipation of what the horse will do next. When asked why, leading osteopaths explain that, “as soon as you begin to relax and you start to feel more comfortable with riding, your arms will naturally fall lower and your back will start to straighten.”
This will help to improve your posture. As you start riding more, your posture will also carry on improving.
#7 - Mental Wellbeing
As clever animals that are known for their unnerving abilities to respond to the emotions of the rider, horses are also associated with stress-relieving qualities.
Animal chiropractor and kinesiologist, Keith Maitland, explains that “dating back to as far as 600 years BC, there is evidence shown that the ancient Greeks knew about the therapeutic qualities of horses.”
Even though the scientific evidence of using equine therapy as part of a treatment plan for conditions like depression or autism when compared to treatments that are more verifiable is not all that clear.
It is well-known and accepted that spending 30 to 60 minutes riding a horse is highly likely to lower your current stress levels.
Are you ready to enjoy the benefits that come with riding a horse? Chat to the expert team at Horse Riding Hub to find out how!
Author Bio: Boris Short