Is Horseback Riding A Sport? The Truth


During my time spent in the horse industry, I have had debate after debate regarding whether or not horseback riding is a sport or if it is considered just another activity. As an equestrian and riding instructor myself, I have experienced many of the ins and outs of horseback riding. With this question still being asked frequently, I wanted to end this discussion once and for all. So, is horseback riding a sport?

Yes! Horseback riding is in fact a sport. The definition of sport is “an athletic activity requiring skill or physical prowess.” This means that horseback riding is considered a sport as it requires physical talent and strength, as well as lots of skill. The Olympics even started recognizing horseback riding as a sport in the year 1912!

Claims People Make Saying Horseback Riding is Not Seen as a Sport:

For those of you, like myself, who have had to constantly sit there and defend yourself on why you believe riding is a sport, you may have heard many of the following reasons people give to back their claim that riding is not a sport:

The horse does all the work.

  • If the horse did all the work, then anyone would be able to get on a horse and ride.
  • If the horse did all the work, why do riders often need reins, whips, and spurs?

Horseback riders just sit there.

  • If a rider were to just sit on their horse, the horse would not have any idea of where to go, what to do, how fast to move, and so on. Riders do a lot more than just sit there.
  • Riding a horse requires you to:
    • Balance
    • Steer your horse
    • Give your horse cues to turn, move faster, move slower, etc.
    • Perform any additional requirements that the rider’s specific discipline asks of them

Riding is too easy to be considered a sport.

  • Many of the people who make this claim have never been on a horse before
  • All you equestrians reading this know that horseback riding is not as easy as we all make it look
  • Riders even at the top levels often fall and become seriously injured or even are killed

Horseback riding is a hobby, not a sport.

  • I believe horseback riding can be considered both a hobby and a sport.
  • Just because something is considered a hobby doesn’t mean that it can’t be considered a sport too

Horseback riding is not as dangerous as most other sports.

  • Actually, horseback riding is one of the top ten most dangerous sports in the world
  • Every year, over 100 people die in the United States alone from horse related activities

The list of claims against considering riding as a sport could go on and on. But, though these reasons and claims seem to be endless, that doesn’t make them factual.

Reasons Horseback Riding could be Considered a Sport:

Horseback riding matches all the ‘qualifications’ needed to consider it a sport. Professional riders have been training and practicing for years and years to be able to make this sport look so easy and effortless. Those who claim that the horse does all the work have only seen the masters ride, and likely have never attempted riding horses for themselves.

It takes incredible teamwork skills to communicate with a horse.

  • When riding a horse, you must communicate with that animal with pressure and releases from your legs, hands, and seat.
  • Knowing how to communicate with an animal that doesn’t speak our language is a very difficult thing to do and is learned only through years and years of practice, training, and experience.

Great strength and patience is needed to be able to guide a 1,000 pound animal around.

  • Because horses are such large animals, it takes some serious strength and patience to be able to direct them through a series of maneuvers, obstacles, and turns.

Even the Olympics has been recognizing horseback riding as a sport since the year 1912.

  • Horseback riding was first entered into the Olympic games officially in the year 1912.
  • Horseback riding is an Olympic event even when other sports such as American football are not

To make riding a horse look easy and effortless, it takes a great amount of skill, balance, and strength

  • One of the main goals to reach when riding is to become so in tune with your horse’s movements that riding looks absolutely effortless.
  • To achieve this it takes a lot of practice, time, and patience paired with great strength and skill.

These are just a few of the reasons why horseback riding is a sport and should be considered a sport by everyone and anyone.

Organizations that Consider Horseback Riding a Sport:

Horseback riding is not just considered a sport by those in the horse industry. Some well known organizations that consider horseback riding to be a sport include:

  • The Olympics
  • Rolex
  • Ariat
  • Ace Hardware
  • Calvin Klein

Best Comebacks to Claims Against Considering Riding a Sport:

For all those remarks and comments you get from those very uneducated people about whether or not your sport is a sport, here are some great comebacks to help you prove yourself true in your next incident.

“Would it be in the Olympics if it wasn’t considered a sport?”

  • If you think about it, it probably wouldn’t be in the Olympics if it wasn’t a true sport

“If all I did was sit on a bike would the bike steer and pedal by itself?”

  • This is a very good point. If sitting on a bike and waiting for it to move doesn’t work, how would that work with horses?
  • Horses can’t read your mind. It takes lots of cues and directions to get them to go and do what you want them to do.

“Last time I checked, football wasn’t in the Olympics”

  • Ahhhh… my favorite….
  • For all of you football players who try to take down equestrians, is your sport in the Olympics? Try again buddy!!

“Have you ever tried to move 1,000 pounds with your legs?”

  • For those of you who don’t ride, moving a horse and directing them with your legs can be very hard!
  • Why don’t you try some pirouettes and flying lead changes and then you can come back and tell us how easy it is!

“Yes you’re right. It’s just like swimming; the water does all the work”

  • Honestly, if the horse did all the work then why would it be in the Olympics? And what would be the point of horseback riding lessons?

I hope this helped you guys to prove that your passion is in fact a true sport!

Hailey Johnson

Horses have been my passion ever since I can remember. At school, I was known as that weird horse girl, and I would read horse encyclopedias for fun. Over the years since those days, I have only learned more. My experiences with horses of a variety of breeds have taught me a lot. Now I want to share what I know with you!

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