Did you know that there is a lot more to be gained out of a horseback ride than just taking a pretty view?
Horseback riding is actually very beneficial both for your physical and mental health.
It helps you become physically stronger; it relieves stress and much more.
Whether you ride for pure pleasure, take regular lessons or love to compete, you should know that you have a lot to gain from every ride in the saddle.
And if you haven’t had the chance to try horseback riding, it’s never too late to start!
Not only it is fun and exciting, but it also allows you to enjoy numerous health benefits, especially when it comes to muscle toning (also see 10 Benefits of Horseback Riding)
Just like yoga or weight lifting, a real day of riding can result in feeling muscle aches in places you didn’t even know you could feel pain.
Muscle tone is created by constant tension, so flexing and contracting them while riding can help you become fitter and feel better.
Here are 5 reasons why horseback riding is good exercise:
1. Core Strength
In order to keep your balance while horseback riding, and ensuring you won’t be bounced off, you have to use your core strength.
During horseback riding, your core muscles are continuously under tension. When you are riding a horse properly, you will engage all your core muscles, starting from your abs, to your lower back and obliques.
The only way to ride correctly is with your core muscles activated. Otherwise, your spine will suffer, and you will struggle to keep yourself upright.
Horseback riding has a similar effect on your core strength as doing ball crunches and planks.
For more exercise ideas check out 6 Core Training Exercises for Equestrians
Horseback riding requires a lot of strength and as much patience as balance and coordination do.
By balancing, you support your neuromuscular coordination which will result in a stronger core. Since balancing is not easy, it will help you burn calories and even shed some extra pounds.
The saddle and stirrups can serve as a crutch for inexperienced riders or for those who have troubles balancing. However, more experienced riders will learn to control their muscles , which keeps them mounted and up off the ground (even without stirrups!)
Horse riding has a similar effect on improving your balance as doing light yoga or Pilates.
3. Lower Body: Legs
Horseback riding is as good as a leg day in the gym. Since you have to hold your position for an extended period of time, you are basically doing an isometric workout.
In the gym, you will be more focused on constant motion, rather than isometric exercises. However, 30 minutes of riding can make your legs burn the same as they would on leg day in the gym.
This particularly applies to riders that have learned to post the trot and work in two-point. This puts you into a squatting position, which will have amazing effects on your legs.
The impact of horse riding on your legs is very similar to doing mini squats or one leg wall squats in the gym.
Your thighs will definitely burn during a ride.
In order to keep yourself perched in the saddle, you will sometimes have to squeeze your thighs so hard, that it will feel like you have drained every ounce of strength you had.
Also, squeezing your legs together, and engaging your inner thigh muscles to make the horse move forward, will target the muscles to make them stronger.
Horseback riding has a similar effect on your thighs as scissor leg planks, or side-lying leg lifts do.
5. Upper Body: Arms
Basic steering requires balancing and engaging your core strength.
However, to do this properly, your arms and shoulders also have to carry a lot of the load.
Although you may not have much pressure on the horse’s mouth, keeping your arms elevated, steady and engaged can be surprisingly difficult.
(not to mention all the work that goes along with it, like moving hay bales and heavy water buckets!)
Horseback riding can replace upper body workouts such as push-ups and deadlift rows.
About the Author:
David is a horse enthusiast who loves writing about horses. In his free time he loves watching https://www.tvg.com/promos/breeders-cup/.