Riding Your Way to Summer Fitness on Horseback
Few activities are as rewarding as riding a horse. It’s an ancient practice that survives to this day, when we have all sorts of other modes of transportation. The horse still plays a significant role in people’s lives.
This summer, consider keeping fit by riding horseback. Did you know there are many benefits to horseback riding? Let’s take a look at those, and then discuss some tips for beginners.
The benefits of horseback riding are purported to extend beyond the physical advantages. Emotional, psychological, and physical benefits all combine to make this quite a well-rounded activity!
Here are some of the benefits of horseback riding.
1. Emotional/Psychological Benefits
* Therapy – Interestingly, horses have been used in emotional and mental therapy, especially for children and teens. There is just something about horses that helps children come out of their shells. For some troubled kids, taking care of a horse and experiencing devotion to it is the first “safe” relationship they’ve had.
* Taming the crowd – One of the reasons that mounted police are still used to control riots and other chaotic situations is that the presence of the horse seems to have a calming effect on the crowd.
* Too much fun to be exercise – For many people, horseback riding is so pleasurable that it just doesn’t seem like exercise. Unlike working out at a gym, many participants do not feel like they have to “drag” themselves to their workout if that workout is on a horse!
2. Physical Benefits
There are definite physical benefits to horseback riding. Here are some to consider.
* Core muscle strength – When you ride a horse, you do not “hang on” with your hands. You hold yourself steady and guide the horse primarily with your lower body. This requires a supple strength in your waste, hips, and upper legs. The more you ride, the stronger these muscles should become (if you’re doing it right!).
* Burns calories – There’s no dispute that riding a horse burns a decent amount of calories, whether you are trail riding or riding in a ring. Depending on your weight, 60 minutes of horseback riding burns at least as much as a half hour of jogging or bicycling, sources say.
* Easy on joints – Horseback riding is not a high-impact exercise, so your joints, muscles, and connective tissue all get a good workout but without the jarring impact of, say, jogging or some aerobics.
Here are some tips to maximize the benefits of your summer fitness program on horseback.
* Always stretch before and after riding to minimize soreness.
* Remember that the reins are not a lifeline; hold on with your legs, not your hands.
* Keep your weight down in your heels. Only the balls of your feet should be on the stirrup, and your heels should be down and your toes up.