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Our friend is interested in buying a horse for his daughter, and he’s never owned a horse before. At this time, he’s in the research phase and wants to know the benefits, if any, his daughter will learn from owning and riding a horse.
Owning and riding horses teach many positive life lessons such as responsibility for others, problem-solving, living in the moment, and the benefits of a healthy lifestyle.
The lessons a horse teaches us about living are innumerable. Almost every horseman I know touts the benefits they’ve derived from just being around horses. Let’s examine some benefits of horse ownership and riding.
What can we learn by riding a horse?
We take evening trail rides to exercise our horses, but also to relax after a hard day of work. But there are other benefits that might be obvious.
Horseback riding increases problem-solving, leadership, and social skills, in addition to being relaxing. Riding horses can also be an excellent workout for you and your horse.
To get the most out of your ride, choose a horse with a comfortable gait, and a calm temperament. Remember the point is to relax and have fun.
Horses teach without effort
If you have children, they probably love horses and would like to have one of their own. Or maybe you’ve always wanted to own a horse and never had the opportunity until now.
Horses have an uncanny ability to teach their owners without them realizing they’ve learned something new. These are the best type of teachers.
Owning a horse requires a good work ethic
Horses need daily care, especially if they are stall kept. Horses should be groomed, and their stalls kept clean. During the grooming process, horses need to be checked for any physical problems.
The lesson, you are responsible for the care of another living thing. Your work is necessary for the horses well being, so you better take care of your duties.
Horses teach respect for others’ space
Horses, let you know when you are getting too close and invading their space. They warn you to back off before initiating any direct action. A horse pins his ears as a visible sign that he is mad.
The lesson, you can have boundaries, and enforce the limits without the necessity of physical force.
Horses teach the power of non-verbal communication.
Horses are herd animals and communicate using visual cues. Horses transmit different messages with their ears, tail, and body. It takes time, care, and patience to understand a horse’s non-verbal communication. Humans also transmit signals with their body posture.
The lesson, be patient and enhance your ability to interpret animals and people by their body language
Horses teach respect for others’ strengths and weaknesses.
Both horses and their handlers have roles, and each has to respect the other. People learn the personalities of the horses in their care and adjust their training and work to fit the horses’ temperament.
Horses treat all equally and ask nothing in return other than to be dealt with honestly, respectfully, and kindly.
The lesson, everyone is an individual and must be respected for who they are.
Working with horses instills confidence.
Horses are powerful and imposing animals, gaining their trust and being in control of an animal of immense size and strength would boost anyone’s confidence.
Riding a horse, training it, and ensuring it’s well taken care of gives you a feeling that you can do anything, especially for people who had to overcome a fear of horses.
The lesson learned, you can handle and overcome obstacles.
Horses teach you to trust yourself and others
Horses have emotions, they get sad, miss their owners, and express happiness, however, they don’t hold a grudge. Horses also aren’t greedy, selfish, or envious.
They’re easy-going and not judgemental. Because horses don’t have the negative emotional traits found in most people, you can be yourself and still be appreciated for the person you are.
The lesson learned, you are a good person and can trust others.
Riding horses hones your problem-solving skills.
Horses rely on riders to make decisions for the pair. Decisions start before you even get on the horse’s back, what tack are you going to use on your horse, what saddle are you riding, etc.
Next, you determine when to start the ride, how long you will ride, the pace of the trip, and which direction you are going. If something unexpected comes up during your trip, you will decide how to handle the situation.
Recently we were on a trail ride with two young horses, to get to the trailhead we had to ride close to an old road. The road is rarely traveled by vehicles, but on this day, log trucks were moving timber out of the woods.
One of the trucks was either missing a muffler or was inordinately loud, and approached us from the rear. Both horses startled and began crow-hopping, bucking would come soon.
We had to make a quick decision, get off our horses, or try to ride further away from the road. We stayed calm and were able to coax the horses away from the roadway.
The horses settled, and we continued to our trail. We decided to remain on the horses because getting off may have resulted in an escalation of the fear in the horses.
A rider makes split decisions when horseback riding, there’s no time to discuss the options when a horse is coming unwound with you sitting on his back.
The lesson learned, be decisive, you have to make a decision and not wait for someone else to tell you what you need to be done.
Riding a horse increases your leadership abilities
A rider is responsible for his horse; if there is something wrong with the saddle or tack, it’s the rider’s responsibility to get off and fix the problem. During overnight trail rides, everyone takes care of their horse, feeding, grooming, and making sure the horse has water.
On long trail rides, we designate one person as the trail boss. The trail boss sets the pace and makes sure all participants are accounted for at rest stops. The trail boss is always an experienced horseman but has younger riders as his assistants.
All the riders learn valuable skills during long trail rides. Still, the trail boss’s assistants develop a deeper understanding of how to deal with unusual situations involving not only horses but also people.
The lessons learned are leadership qualities of patience, discipline, understanding, and dedication.
Riding a horse helps develop social skills
Horseback riding is not a solo activity; you always have a companion. If you intend to get involved in an equestrian event, you interact with other contestants and trainers.
At equestrian events, even the introverts come out of their shells when you inquire about their horse. What is interesting is to see young and old talk horses as equals. Horses seem to break barriers of skin color, age, and gender.
The horse community encourages each other and are open to help anyone, even their competition. Equestrians have a shared appreciation for horses and the people who love them.
Lesson learned, people are beautiful; you can come out of your shell and socialize with people of all ages.
Riding a horse helps you learn to relax
After gaining control of our horses, we turned onto the trail and entered thick woods. The path was narrow, so we rode single file. Although I could see my companions back, I felt like it was just my horse and me together in the woods. I only heard the sounds of his movement and birds.
Even though we just entered the woods, the scent in the air changed, and I felt close to nature. We were on young horses in a thick forest, and I was relaxed. A relaxation you can’t get in a comfortable chair at home.
The lesson learned, live in the moment, peace will come.
Is horse riding a high-impact sport?
I switched horses with a friend during a trail ride. He wanted to try my horse for a few miles. So I was stuck riding his horse that pounded its feet into the ground with every step, I would have sworn I was riding a jackhammer.
Some horses are extremely high impact, and others are very smooth. Luckily it’s rare for a horse to be as rough as my friends; if you have a back problem, it’s essential to know the horse before you take it for a ride.
Most horses that are not naturally gaited are rough rides during a trot and some during a fast walk. However, in some instances riding a horse can be good for your back.
Horseback riders develop a strong core and posture. To learn more, read this article on horseback riding with scoliosis.
Does Horse Riding Tone your Body?
My grandfather rode horses six days a week and he always looked fit. I often wondered if he maintained a toned body because he rode so often.
Riding horses does give you a good workout and tones your core, legs, and arms. The constant contraction of muscles when riding keeps your body firm and toned.
Riding a horse requires us to use core muscles to balance ourselves on the horse’s back. The more one rides, the more benefit in strength and tone of the core. A strong base leads to better posture and balance.
You have to apply leg pressure to keep yourself balanced and in control when riding a horse. Holding your legs tightly against the horse for an extended period works your inner thighs and glutes. Riding a horse for thirty minutes is comparable to a regular leg workout in the gym.
Riding horses requires holding the reins and steering your horse. Guiding a horse gives your shoulders a good workout. Horses drop their heads and graze at inopportune times, and you have to encourage them to lift their head; this might require pulling your arms.
Horseback riding is fun, but it can also be used to tone your body.
Can You be too Heavy to Ride a Horse?
I often see massive people riding horses. Some are just naturally large individuals, one of our close friends is close to seven feet tall and thick built. I often wonder if he should be riding.
A person can be too heavy to ride a horse. Horses have limits to the amount of weight they can carry. To determine if you are too heavy for a horse, you need to know how much the horse can carry. Most breeds can comfortably carry 20 percent of their weight.
So a 1,000-pound horse can carry a 200-pound man comfortably. Some horse breeds can hold more than 20 percent and some less than 20 percent of their weight. But also take into consideration the fitness and age of the horse.
Signs you may be too heavy for your horse.
Horses with riders too heavy often refuse to move. An overloaded horse is afraid to move because it fears falling.
An overloaded horse will take unusually short strides. The short strides are needed to keep the excessive weight over his front legs.
An overloaded horse will stumble on flat ground because he can’t get his feet lifted adequately.
To avoid these issues try a large horse, like a Percheron, they make good riding horses and are stout enough to carry large individuals.
Below is a YouTube video that shows the benefits of horseback riding for children.
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