Is Horse Riding Good for You? Seven Surprising Facts
Yes, it is! Whether you are an experienced rider or a beginner, riding horses gives you significant health benefits – physical, psychological, and some say spiritual benefits. Riding horses has shown to help those suffering from depression. Riding horses provides good physical all-body exercise. And some argue that by riding horses, they make a connection between themselves, the horse, and the environment around them, resulting in a somewhat spiritual experience.
Horse riding offers all types of physical benefits. According to Dr. Alison Stout riding horses strengthens your core stomach and back muscles, helps improve your balance and coordination, works on improving your muscle tone and your level of flexibility. Plus, depending upon the type of riding that you do, riding a horse can provide a good level of cardiovascular exercise.
Riding a horse requires the rider to use many muscles and muscle groups, in particular your core (abdomen and back) as well as your legs. For example, one way to collect your horse or to slow it down is to sit up tall in the saddle, contract your abs, and slow your hip movement. Show jumpers and eventers use their core strength when jumping fences, mostly to sit up and steady the horse’s pace in order to meet the jump correctly. Dressage riders also rely on core strength to perform various movements. In addition to strengthening your core by doing exercises (sit-ups), Pilates, etc., horse riding will not only help to strengthen your core muscles, but will also enable you to ride better.
Riding and just being around horses has tremendous psychological benefits. Research shows that horse riding, working them on the ground, or just being around them gives you a calming effect – your breathing slows, your motions slow down, your mind clears, you talk more softly, and you simply become relaxed.
Just think about it – grooming your horse, tacking them up, getting on, simply walking while enjoying nature all around you on a bright sunny day – all give you a sense of well-being and happiness. The happier you are, the more you are able to deal with life’s challenges.
Of course, you can use riding to set and achieve goals as another way to boost your outlook on life. Whether it’s jumping a tougher course, riding out of an arena for the first time, or cantering on the correct lead – whatever goals you set for riding can motivate you to become a better rider plus make more of a connection with your horse.
Spiritual experiences in life are very personal and individual. Remember that a horse is a living and breathing animal, as are you. Some horse owners and riders describe a special bond that they have with their horse. Once a rider has mastered the art of riding and experienced a sense of confidence, those who open themselves to create another level of connectedness with their horse say that it is truly spiritual. It is a level of consciousness, or unconsciousness, where both horse and rider sense each other’s thoughts and feelings. Of course, spiritual connections have not been validated scientifically, but those who obtain this level of connectedness do describe it as spiritual.
Riding Horses Is Good!
Winston Churchill once said, “There is something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a man.” Both men and women who spend time around horses, including in the saddle, agree with Churchill. Horses bring us such joy! They help us keep fit. They help us improve our sense of well-being and happiness. And, for some, they provide a spiritual experience. Horses are strong and fragile at the same time. Their eyes are calm, their noses soft. Taking time to be around horses is really good for our overall health!
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