Ask anyone who rides horses on a regular basis and they’ll tell you the question they hear most often from their non horseback riding friends is “Doesn’t the horse do all the work?”. To which we reply in our most diplomatic voice “NO! Have you ever even ridden a horse?? You have no idea until you actually ride and feel muscles hurt that you didn’t even know you had!!”.
So how, exactly, can adults benefit from Horseback Riding? Here are but a few examples:
Benefits of Horseback Riding for Adults:
Increased muscle tone and strength
When we ride our horses properly, we are constantly using our muscles to aid us in our balance, control of the horse and maintaining the correct position to work with our horses (to name but a few!). As an example, let’s take a closer look of a rider performing the posting trot.
In this short video, we can see the rider using her core muscles to lift her body with the horse’s two beat trot. She must lift out of the saddle slightly for one beat, and then sit briefly for the second beat of the trot. In order to do this, the rider must engage her abdominal muscles and pelvic muscles. She must also use her inner thighs, calves, back, shoulders and arm muscles to maintain the proper position. This is truly a full body workout! It’s also an excellent cardiovascular exercise!
Balance is the key to riding a horse! You can read more about balance and how to acquire it in our blog post “Horseback Riding – The Art of Acquiring Balance – Part 1“. Basically, we must use our muscles in order to maintain balance on our horse. Again, this includes working your core muscles. Many exercise programs don’t work your core and these muscles are especially important to develop as we get older. Adults with lower back pain and poor posture frequently have weak core muscles. Working this area of your body is essential for adults as it will improve your stability and balance as you age.
Good coordination is especially important for adults because of the physiologic effects of aging on our neuromuscular system and the increase risk of falling. Horseback riding provides for the perfect training for adults to improve and maintain good coordination.
When riding a horse, you are constantly working on your coordination skills. Controlling the direction the horse moves, the speed and your ability to quickly react to unexpected movements (spooking!) of your horse will improve your ability to move all your body parts in a smooth motion and fluid motion.
As an example, we are asking this adult rider to walk across ground poles on a horse. Sounds easy, right? Nope! This requires the rider to use their coordination skills (among other things) to guide the horse to walk over a very scary object (the white ground poles could potentially eat the horse; at least in his mind!). The rider must look forward and straight ahead and use his/her reins, legs and seat to accomplish this task. There is a tremendous amount of coordination required by the rider to perform tasks such as these.
Improve heart efficiency, increase your energy and build stamina
When done correctly, horseback riding is a tremendous cardiovascular exercise. As we age, activities that seemed relatively easy to perform just a few years earlier become more difficult as our ability to produce the needed energy to perform work declines. Most people don’t consider horseback riding when they think about cardiovascular training. I’m here to tell you that it’s one of the best cardiovascular workouts you can get!
My beginner students tell me that posting trot is exhausting and a killer cardio workout. In fact, most beginners can’t post the horses trot for more than 10 minutes when they first start. They become winded and sore. We gradually increase the time to 30 minutes and the cardio results are amazing!
I invite anyone who thinks that “the horse does all the work” to join me in a 30 minute cardio tailored lesson. I can pretty much guarantee you’ll never utter those words again!
We’ve only touched the tip of the iceberg here on the many benefits of horseback riding for adults. I hope you’ll check back as I plan to further explain the benefits of horseback riding for adults such as improved self esteem & confidence, spirituality, relaxation, socialization and fun!
Please feel free to add to the benefits in the comments below!