As a keen horse rider when I was young, I recently got back in the saddle and was instantly reminded of the joy it brings.
With autumn approaching and after all that 2020 has thrown at us, I was keen to keep myself physically and mentally healthy, so turned to a sport I loved so much when I was young… horseback riding.
I was lucky enough to have all my dreams come true when my parents bought me a pony as a youngster. He is now retired and happily living out his days as an expensive lawn ornament. I haven’t been able to ride him for a number of years, but recently got the opportunity to ride a friend’s horse and the feeling of utter joy and elation came flooding back. As a former equine journalist I can vouch for its amazing benefits – not just physically, but psychologically, too.
Picture yourself ambling across a sun-drenched field, weaving through trees and picking up speed across beautiful landscapes. Perched on horseback, you get a different perspective of the world and can feel closer to nature. Not only this, but the health benefits are plentiful. Find out why I’ve been relishing the feeling of freedom and reaping the butt-toning benefits of this high-octane sport…
1. Tone up
Your inner thighs and pelvic muscles get the biggest workout from riding. It helps with good overall muscle tone and flexibility. In fact, the muscle strengthening developed when riding can be as effective as (and possibly more enjoyable than) doing squats.
2. Blast calories
Riding a horse and the activities associated with it, such as mucking out and grooming, expend enough energy to be classed as moderate-intensity exercise – yee haw!
3. Perfect your posture
Horse riding is an isometric exercise, which means it requires multiple specific muscles to stay in certain positions to keep you balanced – particularly your core. This creates good postural strength.
4. Hone balance
Staying balanced becomes more challenging as you pick up speed when riding, and as you progress you will also develop better balance and coordination to move in harmony with your horse.
5. Maximize lung power
As well as developing strength, tone and flexibility, horse riding is also a great cardiovascular workout, particularly when you ‘up’ the pace. Not to mention the added benefits of lungfuls of fresh, country air!
6. Clear your mind and reduce stress
Not only does horse riding have physical benefits, it’s worth noting that being immersed in nature can be a great stress reliever, while the concentration and coordination required gives your brain a workout, too. Bonus!
7. Create a bond like no other
Finally, horseback riding – or indeed, simply spending time with horses – allows you space with your own thoughts while also bonding with a wonderful animal. Experts espouse that the psychological benefits of interaction with horses is vast with riders feeling happier and calmer after a session in the saddle. I can vouch that there’s no workout buddy quite like a trusty steed!
Hop on: You don’t need your own ride to enjoy the sport; there are a number of equestrian facilities across the country where you can enjoy lessons and riding excursions.