Horses have been ridden by humans for over five thousand years. They have been used for transport – both ridden and to pull carriages – and even in battle where brave warriors rode them into the action. But now those days are over and we have new, faster forms of transport, is there any need to ride horses anymore?
There doesn’t seem to be a place for these loyal creatures in modern life, however, there are multiple reasons you should still incorporate them. Not only providing great health benefits, the bond that can be formed between human and horses is also incredible.
Great Form of Exercise
As our civilizations have developed, a greater emphasis is being put on staying healthy. Whether it’s high-intensity spin classes, hot yoga or water polo, we have hundreds of options at our fingertips to stay healthy. So why pick riding?
When you are on a horse, you are using your whole body. Your legs have to be still and secure, your core needs to stay tight for balance, and your arms need to be strong to control the horse. While you are trotting, you are using your entire body to move up and down, while steering, staying alert and controlling your horse.
You will be working hard, with none of the struggles of being in a hot sweaty gym with bright lights and a pounding treadmill. You exercise harder when you don’t think about it and horse riding is the perfect outlet for this.
Improve Your Posture
The key to having a good seat is sitting tall and straight, with your heels down and not swinging your legs. This might not come naturally to everyone – especially those who have office jobs and find themselves hunching over a computer screen for hours a day. Every time you ride, you are resetting your body and teaching yourself to sit tall.
While it might not happen straight away, the more you ride, the more your body will learn to reshape itself. You’re not going to glide like a ballerina, but sitting up with your shoulders back will help you in everyday life.
Improve Your Balance
Not only will riding regularly help with posture but also it will significantly improve your balance. When you are on a 1000lb horse in an enclosed arena, and especially if it’s not willing to co-operate, you are going to have to stick in the saddle to succeed. This test of balance is something you seldom experience in day-to-day life.
There are also exercises you can do to improve your balance further. Riding without stirrups/your saddle/even your reins (yes, really!) are all techniques that seem completely unnatural, but will teach you to stay on the horse and dramatically improve your balance. This improved skill can be applied in everyday life and you will find that with better balance, you will be better at other sporting activities.
Socialize with Friends
When you exercise with friends, it doesn’t feel like work and this is the same with horse riding. It doesn’t matter whether you are professionals or just learning to trot – a group riding lesson is fun for everyone. Not only will you learn alongside your friends, if you both are learning a new skill at the same time then you can help coach each other after the lesson.
If you feel that your riding is beyond lesson status – going on a hack can be a liberating way to socialize and exercise your horse at the same time. There are obstacles to jump, trails to discover and you can even bring some food for a picnic. Getting out and into nature can help combat the stresses of modern life, plus some fresh air never hurt anyone.
Horse riding is a scary hobby at times – not only when you are first starting – but even as a professional when your horse is not co-operating. Whether it’s spooking, bolting or even rearing, there is a myriad of things your horse can do to throw you out the saddle. It is highly unusual to meet a rider who hasn’t taken a fall sometimes – the expression, ‘get back on the horse’ exists for a reason!
This can be challenging mentally, especially if you have been injured before. Teaching yourself to get back on and succeed in completing the move that just left you on the floor takes guts. Hardly any other forms of exercise provide a challenge like this and it is a great life lesson.
If you can overcome this, then you can use your mindset in daily life. Afraid to ask for a pay rise? Need to give a presentation? Want to ask that person on a date? If you can get back on a horse and jump over 3 feet fences without falling off, then nothing else should phase you.
Form a Bond with Your Horse
Whether it is the horse you ride for lessons or the horse you bought – riding forms a partnership with this highly intelligent animal. Not only are you learning how to ride the horse, but they are also learning from you and how you give commands. The more time you spend with them, the better you will speak each other’s language.
This bond provides a true emotional connection and once you learn to trust each other, then you will operate as a team. This means that when you go to compete and are riding at obstacles at high speed – you have the confidence that your horse wants to go over the fence as much as you do. Plus, horses have strong personalities and learning all of their quirks is a happy and rewarding journey.
Watch Yourself Improve
When you first start riding, it seems impossible that you will ever be a professional, moving with the horse and gliding around the ring. However, perseverance goes a long way and once you have mastered the basics then there is a whole world of opportunity for you. Whether it’s competing professionally or being a happy hacker on the weekends, you will constantly be improving. Make sure to look back on where you were six months ago, just to see how quickly you will improve from riding regularly.