Written By Chris Cervantes
Are you looking for a great way to keep in shape and bring that stress level down? Have you ever considered riding horses? Or, at the least working around them? Research shows that you don’t have to be an everyday rider to benefit from the substantial mental and physical health benefits horses can offer.
It is not surprising that just about everyone who spends time with one, especially little girls, falls in love with horses. They are big, gentle animals who generally want to please, and love being smothered with attention. There is a reason horses are used in therapeutic riding programs for the disabled, children with autism or Down’s syndrome, and victims of violence, in addition to being a great way to exercise the body, they also exercise and heal the heart and soul.
The Physical Health Benefits Of Horseback Riding
Anyone who tells you riding is not a great form of exercise because the horse does all the work is someone who has probably never ridden a horse before. Riding horses is a great form of exercise, burning plenty of calories. Even just an hour long casual stroll on horseback through the woods or park can burn close to 150 calories. If you ride a little harder, breaking a good sweat from trotting, cantering, or jumping you will burn plenty more.
For most people who do this a few times a week, they find it is a great form of additional exercise in a really fun and exciting new way that gets them outside enjoying the fresh air. Finding an enjoyable activity is key in making exercise a long-term lifestyle change. Regular exercise by itself can help boost mood, spirit, and self-esteem, but add a horse into the mix and you may find your entire outlook on life improves.
Caring For Horses Is Great Exercise Too!
In addition to burning calories and shedding a few pounds from riding you can also lose plenty from just working around horses and helping care for them. There are lots of things to do when it comes to caring for horses that do not involve riding. Between cleaning stalls, a decent grooming before and after rides, feeding, cleaning out paddocks, water troughs, maintaining fences, general barn maintenance, moving jumps — the list is endless – you can certainly find some activity you can enjoy doing that will help you get and stay in shape and reconnect with the world at large.
Everything to do with keeping these noble animals healthy requires daily work; riding is just a small portion of horse ownership. All the other things that go into proper care of a horse not only allow you to enjoy horses on another level, but if you’re looking to fit additional exercise in your schedule this is a perfect way to do it. If you have not been the most active person, you will notice a change from these other non-riding tasks alone.
I know from experience working with five other people taking care of between 20-25 horses daily doing all of the above listed things I easily maintained a very lean, toned shape just from these non-riding tasks alone. Just to mix things up a bit I still kept up running and swimming for fun, but just a few times a week. When you feel better, have more energy, you are more likely to pursue other activities that bring you pleasure.
If you don’t plan to ride for any reason, whether it is due to health limitations, you are too overweight or too out of shape to start just yet, or perhaps you are a bit timid or not into riding but like horses and really want to get involved with them, you can still reap many of the health benefits horsemanship has to offer without actually riding. Even as a newbie into the horse world there are plenty of farms that would love to have someone willing to help out around the barn – especially rescue organizations and local equine shelters. In every barn there are chores that always seem to get pushed to the back burner but need to get done and most will welcome extra hands around the barn, especially on weekends when they get so busy.
Horses Are A Great Way To Relax
Another great thing about being with horses is that it can have a tremendous calming effect on the person. For those who are not too intimidated by these big animals spending time with them is great way to unwind after a long week sitting in an office, dealing with the phone ringing off the hook. Looking forward to being able to spend time with horses at the end of a long day or week gives you something positive to focus on which can also help you get through the challenges of the day with less stress.
Just being able to groom a horse, has a calming effect for the horse as well as the person. Horses will groom each other with their teeth as part of a social bonding experience. Grooming cleans the horse bringing up natural oils to the surface and allows for bonding time between horse and human. Horses bond with other horses, but they can also form extremely close bonds with humans. This wonderful bond offers unique emotional rewards, especially for people who find it hard to trust or bond with other people.
Horses Helping People, A UK therapeutic riding organization believes that “Horses give us the opportunity to experience non-demanding physical contact. Just being around horses and stroking them can reduce stress levels and increase a sense of well-being. A calm and peaceful environment helps to decrease anxiety.”
Horses are great in the way that they bring an overall balance to a person’s life and also can effect positive changes in one’s demeanor. Horses have a way of teaching us responsibility without it seeming like a drudge, they teach us to trust, and for the riders they will teach you humbleness and humility. That definitely has a positive effect on a person for sure.
Horses nowadays are seen as more of a luxury than a necessity for life. So if you are one of the few people in the world who get to enjoy them in some way whether it is owning, riding, or just being around them consider yourself lucky. You have a fun, healthy outlet to kick back, relax, shed a few pounds and enjoy a piece of the “old days” that most people don’t get to.