The beauty and splendor of horses, immortalized in art and photography, holds a special fascination in our minds. Its aesthetic rewards are not its only appeal. Equestrian activities whether for recreational or professional sport offers a wealth of health benefits that boost fitness due to its ability to work the entire body. Handling such a powerful animal requires skill. You do not need to be a professional athlete to enjoy the mental and physical rewards of horse riding but learning the essential skills in terms of safety, proper form and techniques for horse care is important to truly see results. Starting with a solid foundation, equestrian activities when done regularly can improve well-being in ways that will get you motivated to saddle up and start riding.
Balance and Coordination of an Equestrian
A casual observer may think horseback riding is a cinch do. In reality, there are a multitude of movements involved in directing a horse. To get an idea of how challenging it is, imagine hopping while rubbing your belly and tapping your head all at once. The same difficulty applies when it comes to horseback riding. Several actions need to be coordinated simultaneously. Yet, with regular practice equestrians learn how to equally distribute their weight and be ambidextrous as they steer a horse.
Horseback riding requires extra effort, energy, and cardiovascular capacity, which can be a good thing for your body. Aerobic exercise plays a key role in living a healthy lifestyle as it strengthens heart function and burns fat. Depending on the type of riding and the speed and agility of the horse, equestrian activities can get your adrenaline pumping, raising your pulse and improving your metabolism.
Believe it or not horse riding is an isometric exercise, using specific muscles to maintain certain positions as your maneuver in the saddle. These muscles include your abdominal, obliques, lower back and glutes. The stronger your core muscles, the easier it becomes to sustain your balance on a horse. Overtime, these muscles will strengthen as you start riding consistently which will also correct your posture.
Muscle Tone and Flexibility
A rider must be particularly flexible in the pelvis and hips. Together with the core muscles, the inner thighs and pelvic area get the biggest workout. Riders usually need to keep a squatting position while they ride, frequently adjusting to the cadence of the horse. This exercise helps with developing overall muscle tone and flexibility.
Mental Alertness and Concentration
If you have any ideas of daydreaming while riding on a horse, think again. The activity requires concentration and alertness to synchronize all the different tasks that need to happen at the same time. Your body needs to be positioned correctly in the saddle. Also, the animal looks to the rider to give it cues on where to go and how fast to go. Still, animals have a mind of their own so it is important to pet and bond with the horse to get the best experience from your ride. Being attentive to the horse and staying mentally alert during the session is the best way to accomplish this.
Stress Management for the Equestrian
For many people, interacting with a horse can be a powerful experience bringing them closer to nature and alleviating stress. Horse riding involves much more than simply sitting on a mount. The rider must always keep in communication with the horse through both body and mind. It is a partnership that requires a person’s full attention. The problems of the day are placed aside in order to effectively guide a horse and establish a relationship. This type of mindfulness reduces stress and increases a person’s confidence as they start to wield more influence over the way the horse responds, creating a sense of power.
The next time you revel at the brilliance of a horse through either a painting or photograph, consider a more personal interaction. The equestrian life can be a pleasurable activity that enhances your mental and physical fitness as well as provide an opportunity for you to appreciate nature without the distractions of modern-day technology.
Jody Miller is a professional photographer specializing in Horse Photography, Equine Photography, and Equestrian photography. Her work can be viewed online here in her gallery section, and she is also featured at Arts Prescott Gallery, in Arizona.