Riding horses and being around them is so so fun! But did you know that working with and riding horses is more than just a fun sport? There are so many benefits to riding horses which is a big reason why many kids are put into horseback riding lessons at such a young age.
I actually teach horseback riding lessons and I have students as young as 6 and 8 years old. Having talked to their parents, these students are enrolled in my program for many reasons.
Some of the reasons I hear include:
- My child loves horses and is really excited to ride
- I think that riding horses is a great outdoor activity that my kids can participate in and it takes them away from the screens
- My child is really submissive and shy, riding horses may be able to give her confidence and help her to open up
- I hear riding horses has a lot of benefits and I want my kids to have those newly found skills and strengths associated with riding
There are even more reasons as to why many of the parents who sign their kids up to ride choose to do so.
Horseback riding is a really fun sport whose benefits can be used in all aspects of life!
The 5 main benefits that children gain from working with and riding horses include:
1. Better Patience
For those of you reading who ride horses, you know how much these animals can test your patience. Sometimes your horse might not respond to you in the way you were wanting or your horse may be consistently failing to complete tasks correctly that you want them to do for you.
To be working with a large animal that can’t tell you what’s wrong, what they’re thinking, or what they’re confused about can make working with, riding, and training horses very taxing on your patience.
If you have your children in lessons and learning to ride, they will likely face points in their riding careers where horses and/or ponies will test their patience. There are plenty of naughty and disobedient horses out there and having kids involved in this sport can teach them how to be patient.
Some of the things that horses do that may make you frustrated:
- Refusing to jump
- Cantering on the wrong lead consistently
- Stopping at random
- Refusing to turn
- Refusing to collect
- Refusing to move at all
- My lesson horse Cisco ALWAYS does this when we first put his halter on. We need to pull him into a circle sometimes to get him to move at all
- Stopping and facing you when lunging your horse
- Not picking up gaits when they are cued and requested
Remembering to stay patient when working with horses can be hard but it is also extremely important. Your horse is in most cases just trying to figure out what you are asking of them.
Stop, take a deep breath, and try again!
2. Bettered Teamwork Skills
The connection between a horse and rider and the communication that goes on there is like nothing else on the planet. A horse and its rider is the ultimate example of team work. The horse and rider calmly work together regardless of the fact that they don’t speak the same language and are completely different species.
With your child working with these animals consistently, they learn new ways of communicating with the horse as they advance in their riding.
Though working with horses is not the same as working with people. That consistent need for communication and consistent need for teamwork is still there with riding and it can definitely benefit your child’s ability to work with their peers.
Children who consistently work with and ride horses are noted to work better with their peers in group projects and in teams. This not only is due to their increased patience earned through working with these animals, it is also due to the constant communication and team efforts horse and rider go through in every second of the ride.
3. Mental Health Benefits
Riding horses actually has mental health benefits! There are even therapy programs that use horseback riding as a huge part of their therapy and rehabilitation programs!
Riding horses has been known to help treat and rehabilitate people with the following mental illnesses and conditions:
- Down’s Syndrome
Horses have a calming energy about them. This, along with the movement of the horse’s body help to ease the mind.
Some more benefits regarding mental health that horses can help people with include:
- Stress Reduction
- Mental Exercise
- Positive Mood Changes
- Emotional Agility
- Social Intelligence
- Muscle Memory
Horseback riding is not just a sport that works out the body, it is also a sport that exercises the mind which is very powerful in the development of a child’s brain. Putting all of these positive effects into a child’s life at a young age can greatly impact them for the better.
When riding horses, the mind is thrown many different curveballs. Not only does your brain need to learn to keep your body balanced, it also needs to remember all the cues, gaits, and positions you ride your horse in. Because your brain needs to store so much in the subconscious mind, this exercises the brain and works it to be able to store so much more subconscious information.
The brain is like a muscle, and horseback riding is a great way to exercise that muscle and make it stronger!
4. Physical Health Benefits
For all of my readers who also are riders, you know how physically taxing riding can be. After a long ride your entire body feels tired all the way from your core, to your legs, to your booty, and everywhere in between.
Riding horses is a great balance exercise and because of the constant need for balance, a lot of your abdominal and core muscles are used. The muscle groups used and exercised when riding horses include:
- Lower Back
With all of these areas being used consistently as you ride, just riding horses can improve and help with:
- Bettering your posture
- Improving your balance
- Increasing your coordination
- Overall increasing your strength
- Decreasing your lower back pain
- Increasing your performance in sports
- Improving your stamina
- Bettering your muscle tone
- Helping with weight loss
- Aiding in muscle gain
With all of these great benefits coming with riding, your child will grow and develop in a sport that helps to make them stronger both mentally and physically.
Riding horses is both a physical and mental workout that helps you to become stronger in both areas!
5. Increased Circulation and Flexibility
When mounting a horse, especially for the first time, it can be extremely hard to get your foot all the way up there into your stirrup. How the heck am I supposed to even reach my leg 3 feet in the air to get my foot in and then swing up on top of that?
Practiced riders can do this with ease due to consistency and practice. The movement of the horse helps to work, stretch, and strengthen your muscles helping your muscle growth, flexibility, and blood circulation.
Due to practice and consistency, riders of all ages, colors, and sizes can enjoy their newfound flexibility.
Introducing your child to riding is a great idea when it comes to not just physical exercise, but to flexibility as well. With the improved range of motion that riding introduced, children are less likely to be injured, can move a lot more freely, and experience less soreness.
Now with so many new reasons for your child to ride, are you ready to let them give it a shot?