Horse riding may appear to be quite a relaxing sport to the inexperienced. In fact, high-level horse riding requires a good deal of strength and agility which is built up by work and time. In this article we look at the various ways in which horse riding promotes physical fitness.
If you are just starting out in horse riding you do not need to be at the peak of physical fitness. You will develop your muscles and strength over time in this sport. Gradually your level of fitness will increase, you will find your body aches less after long rides, and your strength will increase.
It is good practice to warm up before riding a horse. The strain on the arms and legs and be quite strong, and a good warm up will help prevent aches and pains later on. Stretching is a good way to warm up before a ride, as is a warm down when you have finished. Instead of standing and stretching any form of physical activity which causes you to stretch will assist you in warming up. This could be a quick jog, mucking out stables, or grooming your horse.
Horse riding can burn up to 500 calories an hour, and so is a great form of exercise to stay trim and help keep off unwanted pounds. It is considered a cardiovascular exercise which can require the same level of exertion as cycling and running.
Balance is a fundamental skill in developing a good horse riding technique. Without it the rider cannot maintain good posture and bad habits may develop and inaccurate messages are sent to the horse about which direction they should go in. Keeping yourself in alignment with the horse is essential for keeping both yourself and the horse in balance.
Horse riding requires the use of many muscle groups, the constant movement of the horse and rider stretching and contracting these muscles as they ride. The main muscle groups involved are those located in the back, thighs, calves, arms and shoulders. Gradually though horse riding these muscle groups with strengthen and tone, giving you stronger muscles and improved fitness.
Horse riding also causes less stress to areas of the body where other sports may result in stress and wear such as the knees and feet. It requires coordination and quick reflexes, which gradually improve in the rider over time.
Horse riding is also considered by many to be good for emotional well being. Many riders report feelings of calm, purpose, and happiness when riding or looking after their horse. There is often a sense of community within a horse riding group, creating new friendships and a feeling of support and well being.
For many riders, horse riding and the associated work such as mucking out and grooming are their sole source of exercise, and can be regarded as a moderate to high intensity level form of exercise. The added psychological and social benefits make horse riding a great choice for those wishing to exercise and be part of a social and fun environment.