I love having my own horses, although it means I rarely go on holidays and the horses get food and rugs before I get clothes. I wouldn't change it! When you think about it there are definitely health benefits to owning and/or riding too.
So what are the main benefits (reasons to keep going!) :
- Companionship: horses and ponies are great for spending time with and building relationships. You can tell them all your secrets and worries and they won't tell anyone!
- Fresh air: time spent outdoors in the fresh air is always better for your health than being in the city or a stuffy room.
- It builds self confidence: horse riding is a partnership in which the rider is a teacher and leader who works with the horse. Nothing builds self confidence better than “leadership training.” When you tell a 500kg animal to move in a certain direction, and then to follow you, it’s a feeling of accomplishment that you successfully taught it to do that. And when the horse does not comply, you are responsible for administering the proper discipline. That’s a form of empowerment that’s only found working with large animals.
- Reduces stress: studies have shown that any interaction with animals may provide a decrease in blood pressure and in the hormones associated with stress reactions. Physical exercise is also a scientifically recognised mediator of stress and as already mentioned horse care and riding provide good physical activity.
- Keeps you socially active: Taking riding lessons helps you meet many friends with similar interests. This is part of the reason I returned to having lessons to share my passion with others. Most of my best friends are those that I met when I kept my pony at livery.
- Engages the creative side of your brain: Training a horse brings up daily challenges that will force you to think creatively about how to train it and how to solve a particular problem. If something worked in the last lesson, but it’s not working now, how else can you solve this issue? Being faced with such situations helps you engage your creativity to solve problems and find what works best.
- Mental exercise: There are so many mental benefits to riding horses. Not only do you really learn about yourself as you experience time on a horse but it can also have a meditative effect because for the time being, the only focus is on riding and staying on the horse. While riding is a great exercise, there is a real benefit of the connection with the animal and the peace of mind that comes with every ride.
- Quick Thinking: riding a large, powerful animal with a mind and agenda of its own is a full-body workout that will force you to engage muscles you didn’t know existed and be constantly adjusting to the form of the animal.
- Builds character: Character building is a natural part of horse ownership and riding, teaching responsibility, punctuality, sportsmanship, frugality, patience, commitment, confidence and self-esteem.
- It promotes a union with nature: Being outside and enjoying the fresh air can do wonders for your mental and physical health. Plus, the dose of vitamin D you get from being in the sunshine is essential for your body.
- Improves digestion: Riding a horse at a walking pace stimulates the internal organs just as walking on foot does. This aids in liver function and digestion.
- Physical activity: Riding and other horse care jobs always keep you moving. Cleaning stables, grooming, feeding, sweeping , pushing wheelbarrows, etcetera actively burn calories and build muscle.
- Core Strength: Horse riding is an isometric exercise, which means it uses specific muscles to stay in certain positions, in this case, keeping balanced on the horse. Because of this, postural strength is very important when riding and the posture of riders improves even in day to day activities.
- Coordination: There are many movements that need to happen simultaneously while riding for the horse to be properly guided- this is what coordination consists of. Therapeutic riding programs for the sight-impaired have had a lot of success developing better coordination.
- Body Awareness: Horseback riding really works the core muscles that stabilize the trunk: the abdominal, back, and pelvic muscles. However, it’s not just about the strength of the core, but the coordination and stability of it as well. The more you ride, the more the body learns to move with the horse.
- Maintains bone mass: All of the weight-bearing exercise that you do, including hauling hay, shavings, equipment and carrying saddles, helps maintain bone mass, which is important as you age.
- Muscle Tone and Flexibility: Along with the core muscles, the inner thighs and pelvic muscles get the biggest workout as a rider positions himself or herself. Riders often have to maintain a squatting position while they ride, constantly adjusting to the cadence of the horse. This exercise helps with good overall muscle tone and flexibility.
So next time someone asks why you ride - you can tell them all the benefits and probably more!
Did you see last week's video ' Riding in Review Tag!'
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Until next time!