Riding horses is fun— in fact, it’s pure exhilarating—but it’s so much more than just a good time. Horses change lives, they open up your worldview and broaden your opportunities; having worked around horses my entire life, I have seen time and time again the magic they produce in people of all ages. After a day at the barn, you might not be able to bring your new 4-‐leged-‐friend home with you, but you will accumulate a number of other take-‐home perks; here are 10 of the best benefits horse riding offers!
1. Confidence Boost
No matter how old you are, riding horses will improve your self-confidence. Riding a horse is not easy, but every time you ride you will feel the improvements, as your legs become less wobbly and your rhythm more confident. As we improve at something we feel accomplished and thus our confidence increases.
Plus, horses are not something EVERYONE is involved with; therefore they produce conversation and curious queries, when people are interested in our lives we naturally feel better about ourselves.
2. Tone Thighs
No need to busy yourself at the gym with those boring squats! Riding horses will tone your thighs like nothing else, in fact, good luck walking the day after you ride; you’re going to be pretty sore! It takes months of consistent riding to get used to the tremendous amount of unique muscles used when riding. Your legs help you steer and hang on—in fact they never stop working, not even at the walk. As you become more comfortable in the saddle you will learn different exercises that will hike up the intensity of your exercise, such as dropping your stirrups. In other words, the more that you ride, the more fit you will get!
3. Cardio Workout
We know the key to losing weight and getting fit includes some cardio, but a treadmill isn’t the only way to get your heart rate kicked up! While muscles are used to steer and stay on, some are surprised to learn that riding horses is also a cardio workout. Too many times I’ve heard someone assume that riding horses is easy or that the horse is doing the majority of the work. While you’re not the one running around, you are going to be working very hard; expect to get sweaty and have an increased heart rate. No matter how advanced you become, you are going to feel the cardio effects—the best part? While getting this great work out you will hardly realize it, you’ll be too distracted by all of the fun you are having. Still, don’t forget some water because you’re going to need it!
4. Clear Your Mind
The world is cluttered with stress, school, work, families, bills… it can all get a bit overwhelming at times! Yet as humans we are part of nature, we were never meant to live glued to our cell phones and computer screens; give yourself the break you’ve been craving. Before you even mount a horse you will feel a decrease in your nervous energy—a good thing because horses can pick up on your energy, the calmer you are, the calmer they will act too. Being out at a barn is a real escape, you’ll be so busy looking after this huge 1,000-pound animal you won’t have a spare second to think about the little things otherwise scurrying through your mind.
5. Build Responsibility
Horses are high maintenance and require regular care; caring for a horse is a lot of work, even if you don’t own one! Looking after such a large and powerful animal gives one a purpose, you can’t just forget to pick your horses’ hoofs or forget to tighten your girth before getting on, all of these little details add responsibility to ones’ plate—yet even kids don’t mind taking all of this on because the rewards are so instantaneous. Along with a great deal of watchfulness, horses also need discipline; when kids are put in the position of authority over a horse they often better understand and respect their parent’s authority over them.
6. Find Friendship
Regardless if you feel lonely or not, there is no companion like a horse. When you arrive at the stable your 4-‐leg friend will greet you with their signature hello, they will love you, and cuddle you; horses have the loyalty of a great dog. With friendship blooms love, and it’s not hard to love a horse! In fact, every little thing they do is pretty darn cute and will spark feelings of companionship, something we all need to feel whole. It’s not just horses you will meet; there are many 2-‐legged friends to meet at the stable as well! With a variety of age groups and individuals, you are sure to find a new friend to connect with. I have met some of my favourite people out at the barn, animal lovers with kind hearts and adventurous souls.
7. Physical Therapy
Horses are known to rehabilitate what once seemed irreversible; horses possess a healing power we have yet to fully understand; just take Krystal Greco for example. Now 16 years old, Krystal was only 14 when a rare spinal cord injury left her paralyzed. Instantly she feared how she’d continue her lifelong love of riding horses, yet it turns out that by continuing the sport—despite the lack of function in her legs—she has been able to reach new heights in her recovery; her latest goal is to walk at her high school graduation.
It might seem odd to someone who doesn’t regularly ride—that your legs could be improved by simply sitting on a horse—but it’s true, and it makes perfect sense. When you ride, you don’t have to move your legs, but your muscles have a chance to start working on their own; as they move with the motion of the horse and aid your balance you are gaining strength you would never develop sitting on the sidelines.
8. Emotional Therapy
Horses are excellent listeners, they don’t judge or discriminate, and they do all that they can to please. Perhaps this is why they provide unbeatable emotional therapy to those that ride them. Depression, anxiety, or any other emotional instability can be curbed by the love of a horse. Not only will being active out in nature clear your mind of repetitive or stressful thoughts, but also the horse itself provides a shoulder to lean on, and a mighty large ear to talk to! In fact, as you communicate with your horse, you will notice how they turn their ears to listen.
9. Improve Posture
Slouching is a common problem but unfortunately, bad posture will increase your risk for a back injury and add weight to your figure– among other things. Riding horses can help cure your slouched posture.
Horses are so sensitive to riders’ aids that they know when you simply tilt your head to the side. Riding lessons will force you to ride in the correct form, with a straight tall back and forward-facing eyes. This form will carry over into your everyday life, without any added thought or effort on your part.
10. Experience the Rush
Riding horses, especially at faster speeds, is a serious adrenaline rush! Even after riding nearly every day of my life, I still feel giddy when my horse plunges forward, the wind blowing back at us. The more often you ride the more comfortable the horses’ gaits will feel, before long you’ll be ready to sit back and take a deep breath, enjoying the rocking motion provided by the horse beneath you. If you are in a safe enclosure, try closing your eyes, even if only for a couple of beats—the feeling is sure to thrill, plus the more you let go of the physical world, the better you can connect with your horse. So let’s giddy-up and have some real fun!!