With summer in full swing, horse riding can be one of the most enjoyable ways to keep fit and enjoy some of the elusive British sun. Equine obesity can be a real problem for many horse owners during the summer months; so as well as keeping your four-legged friend fit and healthy, here are some of the benefits of horse riding than can help to keep you in shape.
1. STRENGTH TRAINING
While getting to spend quality time with your horse is often enough motivation for some people to get into horse riding, the benefits to your body are without a doubt a nice little bonus. Toned arms, strong thighs and a bum that looks like the result of thousands of daily lunges, you can achieve the body of your dreams whilst taking in the beautiful British countryside.
While the horse is trotting you’ll find that you’re simulating a continuous squat motion – up and down on the horse. As the horse canters, you’ll have to work a little harder as you have to sit deep into the saddle. Your inner thigh muscles will be working overtime, while your quads, glutes and hamstrings will all be engaged too.
Then there’s the opportunity to get arms to rival Jennifer Aniston. Whether you’re navigating the direction of the horse, or simply maintaining the relaxed, raised position, your arms don’t get much opportunity to rest while riding. Over a long period of time, you’ll soon feel a deep burn setting in!
Certainly more fun than lifting weights in the gym.
2. CORE STRENGTH
Poor posture will affect the control you have over your horse, so – in order to stabilise yourself on different types of terrain and what can sometimes be an unpredictable animal – you’re really going to have to engage those core muscles. You’ll find that, as you ride, your bodyweight will constantly be shifting, even though you’ll be maintaining the same upright position. Forget the crunches; if you’re looking for the ultimate six pack, horse riding will work your obliques much harder than you’d expect.
Not all the health and fitness benefits come from riding. Any horse owner will be all too aware of the behind the scenes work that comes with having an equestrian hobby. From lugging hay and food around to mucking out the stables, there’s certainly quite the cardio work out available when it comes to looking after your horse. 10 minutes of mucking out can burn up to 80 calories – who needs a treadmill?
Flexibility is important for any great rider! Forget sweating it out in Bikram yoga, did you know that there are now classes for rider pilates? This may seem like a passing fad but it’s proved to be very popular and full of benefits; mainly in the form of new fabulous flexibility.
Just like any sporting activity, improving flexibility helps with range of motion and decreases the risk of injury but especially with horse riding – Tight hamstrings or glutes will hinder your form, whilst tight adductors will be detrimental to your stability on the horse. Be sure to stretch out thoroughly before and after!
Between maintaining good form, guiding your horse, and remaining stable on a multitude of different terrain, there’s a huge element of multitasking when it comes to riding – so coordination really is key. Not only will it help you to be much more aware of your own body and muscle groups, but the truly great horse rider will also get to know their horse’s body too.
6. MENTAL HEALTH
In 2016, we’re all now aware that it’s just as important to look after our mental health in the same way we do our physical. There are tons of recommendations out there of how best to practise mindfulness and wellbeing and horse riding is without doubt one of the best remedies available to you. Exercise, fresh hair, a break from screens and the internet – there are many positive benefits to getting in the saddle and releasing some endorphins.