Equestrianism, as a sport, is competitive and fun. But we don’t ride horses just for fun; the activity has many more benefits. Interacting with animals is highly therapeutic, and the physical demands of equestrianism are actually great for your body. Here are a few ways horse riding can be terrific for both your mind and body.
Core strength: Horseback riding uses certain muscles to stay in specific positions, and riding for hours on end means maintaining the right posture, which requires using the back, chest, and core muscles. Thus, an engaged core is a necessity, as postural strength is a very important aspect of horseback riding.
Muscle tone and flexibility: In addition to the core muscles, your inner thighs and pelvic muscles get quite a workout too, as you constantly position yourself on the horse. This helps maintain your overall muscle tone and increases your flexibility.
Coordination: It’s critical that the equestrian coordinates with the horse, while guiding it in the correct direction. As staying balanced becomes a challenge when the horse is moving faster, the rider needs the right skill set to move with the horse, stay balanced, and not fall off.
Stable strength: Equestrians are familiar with the concept of stable strength, another form of physical activity. Equestrianism is not just about riding a horse; there are activities before and after that, too. Pushing wheelbarrows, carrying tack, grooming horses, lifting 20kg bags of feed, hauling hay, shovelling and leading horses in and out of the barn strengthens muscles and increases cardiovascular capacity. Taking care of a horse and the barn are not light tasks and require a fair amount of strength and endurance.
While the sport is highly beneficial for your physical health, interacting with the horses delivers its own type of therapy.
Hippotherapy is the use of horse riding as a therapeutic or rehabilitative treatment to help improve coordination, balance, and strength. Horse therapy involves the movement of the horse’s body in a manner similar to how humans walk. Many disabled individuals lack the muscle tone to ride a horse and severely lack coordination. This is where hippotherapy comes in handy, and gives the individual a physically enjoyable experience, helps develop muscle tone, and improves balance and coordination.
While horseback riding affects the body mainly, it can also positive affect your mental health. Riding is an excellent way to boost your self-esteem and confidence. Just like any other activity, you set a goal, work hard for it, push yourself, and achieve success. Hence focusing on your goal and getting lost in the rhythm of ridingis a great stress reliever, as it will help take your mind off your everyday problems. Trotting around can help you sleep better, improve your mood, and reduce aggression and irritation.
Equine-assisted therapy is a treatment which uses horses for the rehabilitation of people with disabilities, mental disorders, and those who have been through a trauma of any kind. Grooming, feeding and caring for a horse establishes a bond with the living creature, which helps reduce stress and lower blood pressure. Just spending time with your horse will uplift your spirits!
Horses act as an emotional mirror for humans, and respond to the emotions we display. As they’re herd animals, they have a strong emotional sense that they use as a survival tool. Horses never hide their emotions, and if your approach one with anger, it will respond by shying away or becoming stubborn. These qualities of the animal can facilitate the healing and rehabilitation of people.