Horseback riders aren’t crazy– there’s obviously a reason why we willingly seat ourselves upon a 1,000 pound pile of muscle with the ability to throw us over a wall with an unexpected turn, an occasional attitude, and an obsession with mints. You get to spend time with a magnificent animal and essentially become one with their body and mind when you’re astride your Royal King or Henri de Rivel saddle. The emotional bond between an equestrian and a horse would be enough of a benefit for anyone, but there are also multiple physical and mental health advantages to riding.
- Better balance and coordination: learning to balance on the backs of horses while they’re jumping or at a gallop requires significantly more effort than learning to balance at a trot or walk. If you can learn to move with a horse and balance, it can help improve your overall coordination.
- Enhanced motor functions: there are a lot of muscle movements that occur when you’re riding a horse–many of them intricate and subtle. From holding and steering reins, to the leg cues you give horses to tell them how to move, enhanced motor skills allow you to more easily control your equine, and therefore your body.
- Stronger muscles (abs, back, legs and arms): this one is a little obvious. It takes a lot of strength to stay on a horse and control its movements and direction. There’s a lot of different body parts at work, including your shoulders and arms when you move your reins with the horse and steering; the core muscles from staying balanced on a horse; and the legs’ fortitude that is required to grip the horse and give cues. Talk about a full-body workout!
- Increased patience and responsibility: like any process, learning how to ride or familiarizing oneself with new skills will take a lot of patience. It may be a while before both you and your horse will absorb something new, so being tolerant is important. Riding and caring for equines also takes a lot of responsibility. Horses are a lot of work and require a lot of upkeep, so learning how to properly care for one can teach you how to be more responsible.
- Raised self-confidence: you really learn a lot about yourself on the back of a horse. Equestrianism can be a real challenge, and the confidence that comes with performing something you previously thought you were incapable of doing is extremely beneficial to your mental well-being.
- Mentally stimulating: you are constantly learning when you’re on a horse, even if you’ve been riding for years. Like the other muscles in your body, you brain needs exercise to stay agile and in top working order. As an added bonus, scientists have possibly linked lifelong learning with reduced memory loss.
- Companionship with the horse: it’s almost inevitable that you’ll form a bond with your four-legged friend. Like household pets, people report finding solace and in their horses. Many riders see their horses as a kindred spirits who know how they feel from moment-to-moment, and can provide comfort during tough times.
- Stress relief: horseback riding takes a lot of concentration and it’s easy to get wrapped up “in the moment” while riding, so many people turn to it as a way to escape the wears of everyday life. Trail rides are a great way to reconnect with nature and relax. Like any human companion, your equine companion can be a shoulder to cry on or provide a listening ear when you just want to talk.