Horseback riding may not seem like an activity that would pack a full case of benefits since it appears fairly simple and not physically challenging. However, there are plenty of physical and mental benefits that accompany the sport.
The benefits of horse riding spread a wide range, from increased muscular development and growth to mental clarity. So what are the specific benefits from horse riding that can be gained? Let’s look at 10 benefits you can get by horse riding!
1: Improves and Increases Muscle Strength, Tone, and Development
Horse riding, even though it looks leisurely and easy, actually forces the rider to engage lots of different muscles, particularly their core.
Leg and arm muscles also get a lot of work, since they are used to direct the horse. When riders are not on their horses, the stables provide many chores and activities that need to be done, such as cleaning stalls, hauling hay and feed, and cleaning the horses, that use the whole body.
2: Posture and Core Strength
To keep the upper body stable while riding, the core muscles (abs, lats, obliques, etc) are required to hold the rider in the proper posture. The correct posture is chest out, shoulders back, and spine lengthened.
Sitting in this manner while on a horse forces the muscles to be highly engaged. Getting into the habit of sitting properly with good posture while riding often transfers into daily life, giving horse riders better posture than their peers, which has health benefits as they age.
Not slouching improves blood and oxygen circulation, allows for deeper, fuller breaths, and can even help to prevent spine and back issues as the horse rider ages.
3: Improves Trust and Relationship Building
To be a successful rider, you must build a relationship with your horse. You must trust your horse as it trusts you.
Forging a relationship with an animal can be very difficult since there are language and species barriers, but learning how to form a skill of reading body language in place of spoken communication can help riders connect with their horse.
This skill can then be applied to many situations in life, as being aware of subtle cues and reactions will help in the workplace and in forming lasting friendships.
Horse riding can improve coordination since it is so important to the sport. Riders must control their own movements and their horses to successfully navigate obstacles like hurdles and barrels.
Using this skill consistently while riding will help make it stronger, and help the rider become more coordinated and spacially aware of their surroundings in day to day life.
The benefits of horseback riding have been linked to increased relaxation! Some studies say that the rhythm of the horse can have a calming effect because of the way it stimulates the joints and muscles.
People with sensory issues often find horse riding as a perfect tool for them since the motion helps to compress and stretch the joints, which is what many people with sensory issues often need to feel secure and content.
This is why there are lots of new therapy places opening up that involve horse riding for people who need it or who have sensory issues. In addition to the sensory input (good sensory input relaxes all people not just those with sensory issues,) the riders have time to clear their minds of daily stresses and problems while riding, which helps them attain mental clarity and self-assurance.
Think of that time as a super-focused meditation where the thoughts that distract you are no longer able to do that, and your thoughts become purified.
Horse riding provides the opportunity for friendly competition within the community of riders. Riding competitions have a variety of different activities for a rider and their horse to compete in, from speed races to jumping to dressage, so any type of rider can experience it.
Competitions can help foster self-confidence and self-esteem, as well as create goals and fuel the passion for riding. While winning increases self-confidence, losing is beneficial as well. Losing helps to fuel the passion to do better the next time, and give riders goals or times to beat during the next competition.
7: Social Time and Community
Horse riding stables are a very social atmosphere since there are other riders to grow friendships with, and trainers to create social bonds with.
These are lasting relationships since horse riding is a community-based sport. The stables are full of people, and there is a friend for everyone. The social circle of a horse rider can become much bigger when they reach out to their fellow riders and this can help improve their overall health and joy in life!
8: Problem Sovling Skills
Horse riding can dramatically increase the problem-solving skills of a rider.
Since horses are animals, and therefore occasionally unpredictable, they may run a wide turn and the rider may have to do some quick thinking to get back to the right angle to perform a jump or barrel turn.
Quick thinking when your horse does not listen to you is a must-have skill, and so it grows stronger and can apply to many aspects of life.
9: Mental Exercise
Unlike other activities like video games, social media, or T.V., horse riding engages the mind and the body.
As you learn to communicate with your horse and think critically and quickly, your brain strengthens these neural pathways, making them become second nature to most riders. These communication and quick-thinking skills will be very useful in day to day life as well.
10: Improves Mental Health
As with any physical activity, horse riding can improve the mental health of the rider!
When the body is worked physically, the brain releases endorphins, which are neurotransmitters that create happiness and joy. (Think dopamine and serotonin.) This makes the riders feel happier for longer periods of time, particularly after a session of training. Additionally, studies have shown that spending time with animals can help boost your mood and decrease depression and anxiety!