18 Benefits of Horseback Riding and Why You Should Try It

The benefits of horseback riding are vast.

There are some you probably didn’t even know about.

Spending time with horses can benefit both the mental and physical health of everyone, even if you don’t go riding.

So, with that let’s uncover all the amazing ways a horse can bring joy to your life.

18 Amazing Horseback Riding Benefits

The health benefits of horseback riding are wonderful. Speaking from experience it is my time to escape the world and spend time with an intelligent soul who only wants your love and attention with no other expectations.

Some people might be put off as horse riding is a sport. Of course, there is more risk than in other sports and that is one of the disadvantages of horse riding.

However, everyone can participate in some way and pretty safely if done in the right environment with someone experienced. It can help you with life skills and provides a number of forms of exercise.

Horseback riding therapy benefits are now widely known, so I’m going to dive into these first.

Here’s a short Tiktok clip on some of the benefits of horseback riding.

@bitsandspirit Horse back riding really improved your metal and physical health #fyp #viral #horses #equestrian #equine #foryou ♬ original sound – Aubrey 🤠

Therapeutic & Mental Horseback Riding Benefits

Many years ago, only hardcore equestrians knew the true benefits horse had on mental health. When you talked about it to a non-horsey person, you probably got a funny look.

But things have changed. There are studies that have proven the positive therapeutic and mental benefits horses have on our lives. 

One study of horse riders found that over 50% felt that riding horses improved their mental health, helped them relax, and improved their disposition. [1]

Those are only a few of the mental and therapeutic benefits of horseback riding. Let’s take a deeper look.

#1 Stress Reduction

girl horse riding somewhere

We all know that spending time outside is great for our health. Horse riding provides an escape from the stress everyday life puts on us. 

The time you spend with a horse gives you something to focus on, other than all the stressful thoughts running through your head.

This break will give your body a chance to relax and reset.

#2 Socialize With Friends

friends socialising on a horse race

Horse riding gets you out of the house and breathing fresh air. It is usually a social activity. Most people will go trail riding with a friend or take group riding lessons.

You will meet other people who share an interest that you might not meet in other situations. It’s not just about riding a horse but hanging out around the barn, sharing funny horse stories, that non-horsey friends definitely don’t want to hear.

I have built lifelong relationships with people I have met horse riding.

#3 Mental Relaxation

Spending time with horses is an outdoor activity. Going outside in any way has positive effects on your mental health and helps you relax. Many riders love it and find it a relaxing activity.

“Sunlight helps keep your serotonin levels up. This helps raise your energy and keeps your mood calm, positive, and focused,” something Carmelita Swiner, MD agrees with. [2] 

#4 Mental Stimulation

Horse riding helps stimulate the brain which can improve other aspects of life. A 2017 study found it had a great effect on the cognitive ability of children. [3]

“Horse-riding could improve cognitive abilities in children. These are brain-based skills of which an improvement can lead to enhanced learning, memory, and problem-solving.” [3]

In this video, you can learn more about the benefits of horse riding activity for children.

#5 Companionship

This is one of my favorite benefits of horses. You can form wonderful relationships with them. Tell them your worries without judgment and have a friend that wants nothing from you bar the odd treat.

Horses are incredibly able to sense our feelings. They can help with companionship in many different ways. These include those with anxiety, depression, loneliness, trauma, and special needs.

This psychological benefit has a positive impact. Despite being a 1,000-pound animal, a horse is a wonderful companion animal in my opinion.

#6 Achieving Goals

a person achieving something

Having goals and purpose is great for mental health benefits. With horses, you can set goals to achieve. These can be flexible and as big or small as suits you. For example, being able to ride at the walk around the arena without someone leading the horse.

Or something much bigger like learning to jump. Whatever your goal, the feeling of reaching it always gives satisfaction.

#7 Builds Self-Confidence

This benefit is connected to most of the others. A shy child or person can come out of their shell after interacting with a horse. 

A person who might have low self-esteem or who has suffered trauma will often being to rebuild how they feel about themselves. This will carry over into other aspects of their lives.

#8 Builds Self-Awareness

One issue some people face it that they have trouble knowing how their behavior affects others.

Horses are very reactive and will not hide that they are upset, angry or happy.

They can gently teach people what behaviors get negative or positive reactions.

#9 Develops Empathy

girl bonding with her horse

Understanding the signals a horse gives can help teach and develop empathy. You begin to know what the horse wants or if you have upset it.

In turn, this helps people recognize the needs of others and helps them learn how to deal with them. This can help with problem-solving skills and interpersonal skills.

ALSO CHECK: How to Approach a Wild Horse

#10 Dealing With Grief

Grief is hard and unexpected. It is hard to understand what it is like until we experience it personally. 

A grief facilitator from Compassus, says that; “Equine therapy helps those who are grieving rebuild trust, awaken opportunity, and balance emotions. Change occurs as the horse becomes the therapeutic emotional exchange.” [5]

#11 Treating Depression

a woman that's dealing with something heavy

Did you know that equestrian activities have a huge impact on depression? 

A study carried out by the British Horse Society (BHS) found that “horseback riding stimulated mainly positive psychological feelings, with reducing depression by 30% as well as lowering the chance of dementia by 30%.” [4]

Major depression affects a high percentage of people around the world. According to the Anxiety & Depression Society of America, it is the “leading cause of disability in the U.S. for ages 15 to 44.3.” It affects just over 6% of the 18 and over US population each year. [6]

#12 Special Needs

There are not many different therapeutic riding programs for children and adults with special needs.

Hippotherapy is the name of one type of therapy that is proven successful. In this therapy, the movement of riding a horse helps people stimulate their motor skills and senses. [7]

It is also thought to help develop neuropathways. [7] This is often the type of therapy used for people with autism, cerebral palsy, and many other disorders where stimulation of the senses and body is beneficial.

Physical Benefits of Horseback Riding

In addition to all the ways horse riding benefits mental health, it is also great for physical health. 

Non-horse riders, don’t understand the physical strength needs to ride. 

They have a tendency to think the rider just sits there and the horse does everything. This is far from the truth and a lesson quickly learned when someone rides a horse for the first couple of times.

Let’s take a look at the main physical benefits of horse riding.

#13 Improves Balance

a person balancing on a plank of wood

Advanced riders will have incredible balance. This is not something most beginner riders start off with. Balancing on a horse develops your core muscles.

It takes time to learn how to correctly balance your body on a moving horse. It also requires developing strength in the right muscles.

RELATED ARTICLE: How Often Do Riders Fall Off Horses?

#14 Builds Muscle Strength

If you ride horses regularly, you will notice that certain muscles get stronger. You will also notice when you start out, that you can get pretty sore! This pretty much disappears for an experienced rider who is fit and strong.

Even if you are fit and strong in another sport, you will find that horse riding further develops muscle strength. This is because you use different muscles or they work in a different way.

As your muscle tone develops and your balance improves, you will get a strong core.

ALSO READ: Best Equestrian Riding Boots

#15 Improves Coordination

a woman with a great sense of hand eye coordination

Your coordination will improve the better you get at riding. Horse riding is a bit like an art. It requires learning subtle ques, knowing when to combine them, and when to use them.

This requires developing ‘feel’ something that riders can take years to learn fully.

#16 Improves Circulation

Moving on a horse and the horse’s movement itself gets your blood flowing. This helps your muscles work.

#17 Improves Flexibility

a person flexing prior to exercising

Horse riding requires some degree of flexibility. The different paces a horse moves your body in different ways. As your muscles stretch and strengthen, your flexibility will improve.

This will give you a better range of motion in all areas of your daily life.

#18 Burns Calories

Horse riding burns calories at different rates depending on the intensity. Of course, if you just sit on a horse that is standing still, you won’t burn that many.

However, this increases when you do more. Dr. Dennis Sigler, from Texas A&M University, did a study focusing on a 45-minute walk-trot-canter ride and found that “Riding a horse for 45 minutes at a walk, trot and canter can burn up to 200 calories.” [8]

If you ride a horse regularly, especially every day, it will keep you pretty fit. Of course, The fitness level you reach will depend entirely on the riding activity that you do. 

If you regular jump horses or rope cattle, your fitness level will be higher than a rider that spends 30 minutes riding at a walk each day.

Health Expert Peter Nielsen talks about the health benefits of horseback riding featuring, Sonny, his horse.

FAQs

Is horse riding good exercise to lose weight?

Horse riding can help with weight loss. The more intense your riding activity, the more calories you will burn. For many, it is a great form of exercise. It is considered a moderate exercise.

Is horse riding a sport?

Yes, horse riding is a sport. It requires a lot of physical skills to be successful. More than a lot of people realize. Horse riding has competitions in many different areas from reining, to dressage, to showjumping, and barrel racing.

Conclusion

I hope my guide helped you learn about the many benefits of horseback riding. Several of the positive effects here can have their own article, there is so much to them.

What benefit of riding horses do you find helps you the most?

Why You Should Try Horseback Riding

Now that you know what the benefits of horseback ridings are. Please share with us your thoughts on it down in the comment section!

References 

  • 1. Malchrowicz-Mośko E, Wieliński D, Adamczewska K. Perceived Benefits for Mental and Physical Health and Barriers to Horseback Riding Participation. The Analysis among Professional and Amateur Athletes. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health [Internet]. 2020;17:3736. Available from: https://res.mdpi.com/d_attachment/ijerph/ijerph-17-03736/article_deploy/ijerph-17-03736-v2.pdf
  • 2. https://www.facebook.com/WebMD. Slideshow: Health Benefits of Getting Outside [Internet]. WebMD. 2019. Available from: https://www.webmd.com/balance/ss/slideshow-health-benefits-nature
  • 3. Frontiers. Horse-riding can improve children’s cognitive ability: Study shows how the effects of horseback riding improve learning in children [Internet]. ScienceDaily. 2017. Available from: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/03/170302115822.htm
  • 4. 6 Reasons why horse riding is great for your health | British Horse Society [Internet]. www.bhs.org.uk. Available from: https://www.bhs.org.uk/our-charity/press-centre/news/2019/september/6-reasons-why-horse-riding-is-great-for-your-health
  • 5. Healing With Horses – Equine Therapy in Grief Counseling [Internet]. Compassus. 2017 [cited 2022 Apr 28]. Available from: https://www.compassus.com/blogs/everyday-compassion-blog/posts/449-equestrian-therapy#:~:text=Equine%20therapy%20helps%20those%20who
  • 6. Anxiety and Depression Association of America. Facts & statistics [Internet]. ADAA. 2021. Available from: https://adaa.org/understanding-anxiety/facts-statistics
  • 7. Aslam N. Horses Really are the Best Therapy [Internet]. FEI.org. 2020. Available from: https://www.fei.org/stories/lifestyle/health-fitness/equine-assisted-activities-therapies-2020
  • 8. 6 Health Benefits of Horses [Internet]. www.heart.org. Available from: https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-bond-for-life-pets/horses-have-heart/6-health-benefits-of-horses
Siun L
Siun L

Siun is an all-around animal lover, with a passion for horses. She grew up in the United States, competing in the hunters, equitation, and jumpers. Now living in Ireland, she competes with her own showjumping horses. She is experienced in the care and training of horses, as well as teaching riding lessons. She loves to combine her love for horses with her work. When not working, Siun will be found at the stables, rain or shine.
Find her on FACEBOOK
Read her latest ARTICLES.
Learn more about HER

Leave a Comment


SUBSCRIBE OUR NEWSLETTER

Want The Best Care For Your Horse? Subscribe to our EXPERT RIDER Tips