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The 7 Ways Horse Riding Is Amazing Exercise

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My wife and I are determined to get in shape; we plan to eat a healthy diet and exercise. I suggested riding our horses more often for our exercise; it’s enjoyable, productive, and provides a workout. My wife thinks it’s a cop-out, so I decided to prove her wrong.

Horse riding is great exercise that strengthens your core muscles, improves heart health, and works your leg and arms muscles. Riding a horse is one of the most efficient ways to get exercise, be productive, and have fun.

Most people run or work out in a gym to get exercise. But horseback riding is a great alternative to normal exercise routines. It provides a physical workout, lets you spend quality time with your animal, and reduces stress.

Picture of a horse jumping an obstacle with a rider.

Horse riding is excellent exercise.

A good exercise plan should incorporate aerobic fitness, strength training, core exercises, balance training, and flexibility. Plus, to be effective, an exercise plan must be one you are willing to stick with.

Horse riding is a great exercise that checks all the boxes, fun, outdoor, and strenuous. It strengthens your core, improves your balance, and provides a cardio workout when performed at higher intensity levels. Still, even light riding provides exercise, and it’s fun.

We often start a workout program only to quit after a short while because we don’t enjoy it. You’re more likely to keep it up with horseback riding because it’s enjoyable, and you won’t get bored.

Today, society is aware of the benefits of maintaining a healthy lifestyle, and many seek non-traditional methods of exercise to improve their fitness.

When you ride a horse correctly, you work your arms, legs, core, and shoulder muscles. In other words, horseback riding provides a full-body workout.

1. Strengthens core muscles

Core muscles are the ones that support your torso and help keep you upright. They include your stomach muscles, lower back muscles, and all the ones on the wrap around your spine and sides.

A strong core is critical for balance and posture, preventing or reducing low back pain. Core muscles are at the center of all your movements and are especially important to horse riders.

Picture of a woman sitting on a horse.,

Riding a horse requires balance, which is only possible because core muscles support our bodies. When we ride, our core works to maintain our balance on the horse’s back.

The core muscles continuously contract and relax when riding to maintain your balance; these actions and reactions exercise the muscles that keep your body in position. The more we ride, the stronger our core becomes.

Many muscles work together to keep you positioned correctly on your horse’s back. And of course, when these mass of muscles are working, they burn energy, which helps you lose weight.

Having a good strong core gives you better posture, more endurance, and overall better physical performance in your daily activities.

Horseback riding is an accepted therapy used to strengthen the muscles in older adults, and it vastly improves the symptoms of children and adults with disabilities.

Muscle soreness

When I get back on a horse after a short break from riding, my back and legs are typically sore the following day. Soreness is a welcome inconvenience because it lets me know I worked my muscles.

Normal muscle soreness is a symptom of getting stronger. During exercise, muscles and fibers are stressed and break down; they get bigger and healthier when they repair.

2. Works your leg muscles

Leg muscles are worked when riding a horse through isometrics; in other words, they are worked by using force against an object. In this case, leg muscles are used to support your weight using stirrups, and it’s an isometric exercise.

Horse riding works the inner thigh muscles and glutes the hardest. When a horse trots, cantors, and gallops, riders hold their body weight by pressing down on their stirrups, duplicating squats’ benefits.

The inner thighs are worked by exerting pressure against the horse to increase speed or maintain balance.

Horse riders also work their legs pressing against horses’ sides to stabilize themselves and cue their animals. Depending on the horse’s speed and activity, a rider may workout their legs harder than they would at a gym.

3. Your arms and shoulder muscles get a workout.

Your arms and shoulders are always working when you ride a horse. And for experienced riders accustomed to the movement fail to realize the exercise their arms and shoulders get.

As you get more comfortable riding, you learn to ride more with your body than your hands. Your hands are used to feel the horse’s mouth and to communicate through the bit.

Holding your hands in the correct position and keeping proper posture works your arms and shoulders. Novice riders are often sore in their shoulders the day after a ride.

To find out if you carry your hands correctly, check the position of your upper arms. Your arms should hang from your shoulders in a relaxed manner and contact your upper body.

During a horseback ride, not only do you need to steer your horse, but often horses require you to keep tension on the reins. And sometimes horses drop their heads to graze at inopportune times requiring you to pull its head up.

If you own a horse, you know there are plenty of ways to get additional exercise when you off your horse. Carrying hay bales and toting feed bags takes strength and works your entire body, especially your arms.

In addition to heavy carrying, you exercise many other ways around a farm, such as fixing fences and cleaning stalls. These mundane chores not only build muscles they also develop character.

4. Boosts heart health.

Horse riding is a cardiovascular exercise. Cardiovascular exercise is essential to good health. The cardiovascular system transports blood and nutrients to cells to help fight diseases, stabilize temperature, and maintain organs. The heart pumps the blood through the vascular system.

Picture of a horse and rider, both look like they are getting exercise.

For your cardiovascular system to work its best, you should perform exercises to increase its strength. Horseback riding is an activity that does this.

Cardiovascular fitness is achieved through sustained physical activity that increases your heart and breathing rates. You can do this riding horses, but you need to raise the intensity level.

Trail riding or slow walking isn’t likely to raise your heart rate enough to provide cardio benefits. Raising your heart rate is key to cardio exercises; a resting adult typically has a heart rate between 50-60 beats per minute.

During exercise, you need to increase your heart rate by 50 percent or more. When riders work their horses intensely, their heart rates typically rise sufficiently to provide a good cardio workout.

In some studies, riders working horses at moderate levels increase their heart rates to 130-140 beats per minute. The benefits of an intense but controlled exercise routine for your horse can get you both in shape.

5. Improves balance and coordination.

Balance training is essential to overall good health and should be included in your fitness routine, along with strength training and cardio. Balance exercises strengthen stabilizer muscles and improve joint stability.

Balancing is a fundamental aspect of our lives; we balance when we stand, walk, and ride horses. When you’re riding correctly, your body is balanced over the horse’s center, front to back, and side to side.

To maintain your center of balance, you have to use core muscles to stabilize yourself. The more often you ride, the stronger your core will become, and the better your balance will be.

Picture of a dressage horse.

Before long, you’ll be seeing the benefits. Having good balance builds better posture and reduces the risks of falls.

Horses perform better under a balanced rider, and as your balance gets better, you will become more aware of body positioning. You’ll notice that riding with your feet out front causes you to move back vertically and vice versa.

Horses react to your movements, so awareness of your body is essential. As your horse becomes familiar with your riding style, it will adjust its actions to help you stay properly balanced.

And the same goes for you; pay attention to how your body movement influences your horse’s actions. When you are balanced, it’s much easier to notice the rhythm and timing of footfalls, which helps you ride better and develops horsemanship skills.

The faster a horse moves, the harder it is to keep a proper position and balance. The core muscles, arms, and legs all work together to achieve a balanced ride.

6. Lowers stress

Horseback riding is good for your mental health; it reduces stress and helps concentration and problem-solving skills. If you ride horses, I’m sure you know it reduces stress, but it was confirmed with a study as well.

Teenagers were divided into two groups, one group was assigned to ride and care for horses, and the other group wasn’t given any horse related duties.

After 12 weeks, they were tested for stress-inducing hormones and found that the ones riding and caring for horses showed significantly lower levels. (click here to read the study)

7. Helps develop problem-solving skills.

Horse riding requires you to focus and stay alert, which bolsters your ability to concentrate and develop problem-solving skills. Horses can bolt quickly, so you have to stay alert, or you could end up on the ground.

And sometimes, you have to make quick decisions when riding and be flexible to avoid dangers. We often take our horses to new locations, and unexpected obstacles are routine.

More often than not, we travel a different path than we anticipated at the start. Experiencing new things is good for your mind. Try to take a new trail next time you go out with your horse.

You’ll notice you have to keep alert and be ready for the unexpected when you finish the ride, see how refreshed you feel, mentally and physically.


Is horse riding good for weight loss?

Horses are a great way to get in shape without even realizing it. Riding can burn off 360 calories an hour, the equivalent of peddling on a bike for about the same time!

Does horseback riding make your thighs and bum bigger?

Generally, your legs and bum will tone but not get bigger from horseback riding, but each person is different. Overweight people may trim their legs and bum, while skinny people could develop muscles through riding.

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