6 very good reasons to take up horse riding

  • The COVID-19 pandemic has illustrated how important health and wellbeing is to us all, thereby driving conversations at a national level on how we can improve our health – including overweight and obesity.

    On 27 July the Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a new raft of measures to “get the nation fit and healthy, protect themselves against COVID-19 and protect the NHS.”

    Figures prove that riding can have great health benefits, as well as putting a smile on your face, so here are six reasons why adults should take up the sport.

    1.  Exercise

    Being active lifts our mood, reduces stress and anxiety, improves our physical health, and gives us more energy.

    Megan Hawkins, PR executive for the British Horse Society (BHS), states the health benefits of riding are proven in a study commissioned on behalf of the BHS. The study found that horse riding meets the intensity level of exercise recommended by government guidelines.

    “The report found that just half an hour of horse related activity, such as mucking out, is classed as moderate exercise, while trotting exerts more energy than playing badminton,” says Megan.

    2. Mental state

    As well as exercise, spending time with animals is believed to raise levels of the mood-enhancing hormone serotonin, so it’s good for your body, brain and emotions.

    Megan adds: “The report showed the psychological benefits of interaction with horses, with 80 per cent of participants noticing a positive change in their mood after riding.

    “Riders felt more cheerful, relaxed and happy for being active. It was discovered anecdotally that horse riding can play a role in managing negative feelings relating to anxiety and depression.”

    Showing producer Natalie Reynolds says: “Riding is a well known stress reliever and can also help with confidence issues.

    “It can be a huge achievement for the novice rider to even contemplate getting on a horse, let alone controlling the animal with their voice and body aids.”

    Dressage rider Louise Bell says: “A good mental state is really important and riding does have the ability to make you feel better when other things in life are going wrong. However, don’t get on if you’re in a bad mood as your horse will be able to feel it.”

    3. Core strength

    In order to stay balanced in the saddle you’ll have to learn to use your core muscles.

    Natalie says: “Riding physically strengthens the body, especially the core. It’s a full body workout and helps to increase our balance and improves our posture. It’s likely that your posture out of the saddle will improve the more regularly you ride.”

    Louise adds: “Fitness is achieved by riding, but helped more so by working on core strength as that’s your anchor as a rider, especially in dressage. If you’re weak in that area you need to work on it — the body is an amazing thing and is the easiest to train so don’t be afraid to try.”

    4. Burning calories out of the saddle

    Whether you’re mucking out, grooming, pushing wheelbarrows or carrying buckets you will continue to burn calories once you’re off the horse and back at the yard.

    Natalie says: “Working with horses is constant physical work, and for people who work in an office environment, it can be a great release for them.”

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    5. Friendly competition

    Riding does, if you want it to, have a competitive nature and getting involved in competitions can lead to new friendships and a desire to do well. Once you start competing you’ll find dedication is the key to success.

    “Dedication is what you need and there will be days when things go wrong, but the days when it goes fantastically well make up for the bad ones. If you keep your focus on your realistic goals anything is possible,” says Louise.

    6. New challenges

    There are always new challenges whether you’re a newcomer or an experienced rider.

    “There’s always a new challenge whether it’s working with a certain horse’s personality and finding a solution or learning a new skill, such as show jumping. Horses never fail to challenge us,” says Natalie.

    Now you’ve hopefully taken up riding, why not sign up to Horse & Hound’s eight-week e-training plan to give your training focus and perfect your flatwork basics.

    We are continuing to produce Horse & Hound as a weekly magazine during the coronavirus pandemic, as well as to keep our website at horseandhound.co.uk up to date with breaking news, features and more. Click here for info about magazine subscriptions and access to our premium H&H Plus content online.

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