If someone asks you about sports at random, horse riding is not most likely the first thing on your mind. You may have also wondered if horse riding is really a sport. The reality is that horse riding is more than a sport; It helps us tone our muscles, maintain correct posture and is an excellent cardiovascular exercise. Besides, it is ideal to clear the mind with great psychological benefits.
Many people claim that horse riding is just a hobby because the rider just sits, and the equine does all the work. However, the art of horse riding goes much further. Find out in this article why horse riding is a sport and the benefits it offers.
First of all, it is convenient to clarify the term sport, taking into account the word’s strict sense.
Definition of Sport
The sport itself is a physical activity carried out within a game or competition of any kind, the practice of which is subject to specific, regulated and institutionalized rules.
This physical activity can be simple entertainment, a competition, a game for pleasure or a physical and/or mental exercise that helps us to be in shape or recover a lost state.
That is to say, it is a sport, any activity that involves physical effort, that has common rules for all its participants, and that is organized by a national and international entity. Based on this definition, horse riding is undoubtedly a sport, as it meets all these requirements.
Why Horse Riding is a Sport
The horse’s work when walking, trotting, galloping, or jumping, depends on the rider’s strength and skills. It’s about controlling all the muscles in your body while looking forward and controlling the horse simultaneously.
Riding a horse is a sport different from others insofar as it brings together two entities: the rider and the horse, the rider and their mount. One does not exist without the other and vice versa. The result is a discipline that demands, apart from certain skills, education, a perfect knowledge of the animal and deep respect for it.
In fact, the relationship that is usually created between the horse and the person is incredible.
Abilities Needed for Horse Riding
The abilities that you will work on in this sport are diverse. You need strength to be able to move the horse forward and to stay in the correct position. If you ride for the first time, you will see how the next day your legs and abs will feel quite sore from the exercise.
Don’t forget that you are dealing with a significantly larger animal, heavier and stronger than you. In this sport, you will use many muscles that you probably don’t use in another sport. You also need balance, flexibility, agility, awareness and body coordination.
Something that you probably did not imagine is that it also requires a lot of cognitive abilities. Strategy, reasoning, memory and confidence are some of the key mental skills for this sport.
You must memorize a jumping course in a specific order, or you must choose the safest route during a horse ride; you also have to make quick decisions when the horse reacts unexpectedly.
Facets of Horse Riding
Riding a horse is not just doing sports; it is being part of a team, which gives this activity a particular dimension. Besides, it is not a single discipline but several, among which are: clothing, shooting, endurance, turning, jumping, horse-ball, polo, etc.
In other words, it is a sport that can be seen as a real discipline based on training and competitions, or as a specific hobby with walks, open-air circuits, etc.
Benefits of Horse Riding
The big differentiating element of this sport compared to other disciplines is interacting with the animal, which makes it an even more engaging activity. Also, horse riding has significant advantages over the body for those who practice it.
Contrary to popular belief, in horse riding, the saddle does not do everything. Riding a horse requires very important muscular work at the back and abdominals level, especially when riding in a saddle (walk, gallop or seated trot).
Regarding aerobic activity and the calories you can burn, we want you to know that a person burns approximately 170 calories per hour while riding. This is equivalent to walking 3.2 kilometers per hour. If instead of walking with the horse you jog, you burn 441 calories per hour, and when galloping, 549 calories per hour.
In addition to the riding activity itself, the entire pre-riding process also burns calories. If you are the one who saddles the horse, cleans it, feeds it, or carries the bags of food, you will also be adding extra exercise.
When the trot is practiced standing, the muscles of the legs (thighs, calves, etc.) and the buttocks are also strengthened. On the other hand, in traditional horse riding, especially in dressage, much emphasis is placed on maintaining the back and shoulders as well as a beautiful posture of the bust.
Regarding acrobatic discipline, riding also reinforces the sense of balance and favors motor coordination, which is improved thanks to the need to remain firm on the horse and direct the movements.
If practiced regularly and in the long term, it allows the heart to muscle and develops respiratory capacities. So it is an excellent activity to improve cardiovascular health.
Riding a horse is not only good for the body, but also for the mind. First, it can help us overcome fears, know how to manage problems, and gain self-confidence. A horse can be unpredictable, and you have to learn to handle all situations with great cold blood.
This discipline is a rigorous school that requires solid qualities such as morality, satisfaction with effort and concentration, and is practiced outdoors in contact with nature. In short, it is one of the activities that provides more possibility of disconnection and relaxation.
So much so that it can work as a therapy or as a complement to it in many cases. This aspect of horse riding is called hippotherapy or equestrian assisted therapy and is carried out by professionals in physical and/or mental health.
It has been shown that exercise with horses can help rehabilitate children, adolescents and adults on many levels: psychological, cognitive, neuromuscular and social.
Horse riding is a very complete sport and very different from all the others. If you are interested in trying it, we recommend taking a class with a coach to experience this fun sport.