Before motorized auto vehicles like cars and motorcycles, people widely used horses to get them to different places — whether by riding on a horse alone or riding inside horse-drawn vehicles like carts, coaches and buggies. Most people at the time used to ride on horse backs for many purposes, from commuting to hunting.
Nowadays though, horseback riding is mostly considered a sport and recreation. However, it doesn’t mean that it has lost its utilitarian value.
Moreover, horseback riding seems to have found a new purpose: providing health benefits to the body and mind. You won’t believe it? In that case, we are rolling out good reasons why you should take up this sport.
1) Physical exercise
Exercise? But it’s the horse that does most of the work, right? That’s right, but you may be surprised to find out that horseback riding also helps in burning calories. According to a recent research, a 30-minute light trotting burns about 360 calories, which is enough to qualify as a moderate-intensity exercise. It also helps in flattening and toning your stomach along the way.
Mounting on a horse, as well as alighting from it, provides some workout as well. Positioning yourself on a horse, and adjusting to the horse’s gait will help in toning your back, inner thigh and pelvic muscles. Riding on a horse for prolonged periods of time will also develop stronger legs and thighs.
2) Balance and coordination
For most people, horseback riding is just mounting on a horse and going off – that’s it. In fact, horseback riding is not as simple as you think. It requires good balance and coordination. For one, controlling your horse’s gait and speed will require you to coordinate your position on the horse, as well as rein pressure and leg pressure – all at the same time. As the horse makes its moves and turns (often quickly), you must be able to be “in harmony” with your horse’s moves as well as be able to support yourself.
3) Improved flexibility
When you have gotten used to horseback riding for some time, you will be able to see your flexibility considerably improving. Certain parts of your body, such as your pelvic and hip area, are most likely to improve in terms of flexibility. Flexibility is important – even crucial – in horseback riding, because it allows the rider to coordinate with the horse’s movements in a naturally agile and flowing motion.
4) Improved posture
Riding for a prolonged period of time allows you to sit in specific positions to keep yourself balanced while on the saddle. As a result, your posture will remarkably improve.
5) Mental exercise
It is definitely a challenge to become (and to stay) focused on yourself and your horse and that requires mental work and concentration – which, in turn, is a good exercise for your brain. Horseback riding is also known for its meditative and stress-relieving benefits. Plus, spending time with animals are supposed to increase levels of serotonin, a hormone which enhances your mood. So overall, horseback riding is not just good for your body, but it’s also good for your brain and your emotions.
Dealing with a large, powerful and intelligent animal such as a horse – which also tends to act independently – is both a full-body and a full-mental workout. It forces you to use your muscles you never knew existed and develop your quick thinking skills as you are constantly adjusting to your horse’s motion.
Knowing more about horses is also a key to a better riding experience. Check out an article titled “Interesting Facts about Horses” which will help you understand horses better – their characteristics, quirks, as well as their basic needs (and these are nothing short of amazing).