Blog Fitness Trainings Horseback Riding Exercise: Why It’s Good For You And How To Get Started

Horseback Riding Exercise: Why It’s Good For You And How To Get Started

What’s a good exercise? One that incorporates aerobic fitness, strength training, core work, balance, and coordination, all into one. That, plus it must be one that you’re willing to stick with. If you’re reading this, it’s because you’re interested in horseback riding, have access to a horse, or are already riding. So you have a big advantage over others who may be trying to start an exercise regimen. You’re lucky enough to have found an activity that ticks all of the boxes, and can be done year-round! Horseback riding is not only great exercise, but it’s also enjoyable and can be done at any age. Many people take up horseback riding later in life and find that it helps them stay active and keeps them young at heart. So, what are the benefits of a horseback riding exercise?

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Strengthens Core Muscles

Your core muscles are a group of muscles that stabilize your spine and pelvis. These muscles include the abdominal muscles, the oblique muscles (on the sides of the abdomen), and the lower back muscles

Strong core muscles are important for good posture, balance, and coordination.

When you ride a horse, you have to use your core muscles to stay upright in the saddle and maintain your balance. As your core muscles get stronger, you’ll find it easier to stay in control of the horse, and you’ll be less likely to get tired on long rides (3).

Improves Balance And Coordination

Horseback riding is a great way to improve your balance and coordination. When you ride, you have to use your whole body to control the horse. This requires a lot of coordination and balance (1) (2).

As you ride more, you’ll develop better balance and coordination skills. These skills will transfer to other activities, such as sports, and can help you stay safe and prevent injuries.

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Builds Lower Body Strength

Your trunk and lower body are responsible for most of the movement when you ride a horse. This means that riding can help to build lower body strength.

Having strong quads, glutes, and hamstring muscles will help you stay in the saddle for long periods and make it easier to control the horse.

horseback riding exercise

Increases Aerobic Fitness

Horseback riding is a great way to increase your aerobic fitness (5). When you ride at a moderate pace, your heart and lungs have to work harder to supply your muscles with oxygen. This increases your heart rate and breathing rate, and over time will improve your aerobic fitness.

Read More: Benefits Of Horseback Riding: What Science Says About Horseback Riding

Stress Relief

Stress is an inevitable part of life, but it can have negative effects on your physical and mental health (7). Exercise is a great way to reduce stress, and horseback riding is no exception (6). 

When you’re riding, you can focus on the present moment and forget about your worries. The rhythmic movement of the horse can also be calming and help clear your mind. 

The environment you’re in can also add to the stress-relieving effects of horseback riding. Being out in nature, surrounded by fresh air and wildlife, can help reduce stress levels.

Social Interaction

Horseback riding can also be a great way to socialize. If you take lessons, you’ll meet other people who have the same interest in horses. You can also join riding clubs or groups and go on group rides. This is a great way to make new friends and have fun while getting some exercise.

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How To Get Started With Horseback Riding

Now that we’ve gone over some of the benefits of horseback riding, let’s talk about how to get started. 

If you’ve never ridden before, the best way to start is by taking lessons from a qualified instructor. They can teach you the basics of riding, how to care for a horse and help you feel more comfortable around horses.

Once you’ve learned the basics, you can start renting or leasing horses. This is a great way to get more experience without making a long-term commitment. If you decide that you want to own a horse, there are many things to consider before taking the plunge. 

We’ll briefly go over a few of the things you need to think about: 

The Type Of Horse

There are many different types of horses, and it’s important to choose one that will be suitable for your riding ability and experience.

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Your Budget

Horses can be expensive, so you need to make sure you can afford the initial purchase price, as well as the ongoing costs of care and maintenance. 

Your Housing Situation

Do you have a property where you can keep a horse? If not, you’ll need to make arrangements for boarding your horse at a stable.

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Your Time Commitment

Caring for a horse is a big responsibility. You’ll need to spend time everyday feeding, grooming, and exercising your horse (4). 

Again, the best way to get started on this journey is to consult with a qualified instructor or equine professional. They can help you assess your riding ability, choose the right horse, and make sure you’re prepared for the commitment of horse ownership.

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horseback riding exercise

What Are Good Exercises For Horseback Riders

To get into horseback riding, you’ll need a certain degree of fitness. Being physically fit will help you to control the horse and stay in the saddle for long periods. It will also reduce your risk of injury

Here are a few exercises that can help you get into shape for horseback riding: 

Squats

Strengthens your quads, glutes, and hamstrings. Each of these muscles is used when riding a horse.

To do a basic squat:

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. 
  2. Bend your knees and lower your hips until your thighs are parallel to the ground. 
  3. Make sure your knees don’t go past your toes. 
  4. Stand back up and repeat.

Squat Progression

Progressing to a more difficult squat will help you build even more strength in your lower body. 

You can increase the difficulty of your squat by:

  • Placing your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. 
  • Adding weight, such as holding a dumbbell in each hand.
  • Doing a single-leg squat, also known as a pistol squat. This is where you stand on one leg and lower yourself down until your other leg is parallel to the ground.

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horseback riding exercise

Lunges

Lunges are another great exercise for horseback riders. They target your quads, glutes, and hamstrings, as well as your hip flexors. These are all muscles that are used when riding a horse. 

To do a lunge:

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. 
  2. Step forward with one leg and lower your body until your front thigh is parallel to the ground and your back knee is close to the ground.
  3. Make sure your front knee doesn’t go past your toes. 
  4. Push back to the starting position and repeat with the other leg. 
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Lunge Progression

As with squats, you can progress to a more difficult lunge by: 

  • Placing your feet wider than shoulder-width apart. 
  • Adding weight, such as holding a dumbbell in each hand. 
  • Doing a reverse lunge, where you step backward instead of forward. 

Step-Ups

Step-ups are another great exercise for horseback riders. They target your quads, glutes, and hamstrings. These are all muscles that are used when riding a horse. 

To do a step-up:

  1. Place your right foot on an elevated surface, such as a step or box. 
  2. Step up with your right leg and raise your body until your left foot is on the box. 
  3. Step back down with your right leg and repeat with the left leg. 

Step-Up Progression

As with the other exercises, you can progress to a more difficult step-up by: 

  • Increasing the height of the elevated surface. 
  • Adding weight, such as holding a dumbbell in each hand.
  • Doing a single-leg step-up, where you raise your body with one leg and then step down with that same leg.

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horseback riding exercise

Calf Raises

Calf raises will strengthen your calf muscles, which are used when you’re in the stirrups. Strong calf muscles will help you to stay in the saddle for long periods. 

To do a calf raise:

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and your toes pointing forward. 
  2. Rise up on your toes, hold for a second, and then lower back down. 
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Calf Raise Progression

You can make this exercise more difficult by:

  • Doing a single-leg calf raise, where you rise up on your toes with one leg and then go back down.
  • Adding weight, such as holding a dumbbell in each hand. 
  • Using the leg press machine at the gym.

Side Planks

Side planks target your obliques, which are the muscles on the sides of your stomach. Strong obliques will help you to stay in the saddle and maintain good posture while riding. 

To do a side plank:

  1. Lie on your side with your legs straight.
  2. Prop yourself up on your elbow and raise your hips so that your body forms a straight line from your shoulders to your ankles. 
  3. Hold for 30 seconds and then lower back down. 

Side Plank Progression

You can make this exercise more difficult by: 

  • Raising your top leg 
  • Lifting your top arm off the ground 
  • Placing your foot on a stability ball

When you first start doing side planks, it’s ok to prop yourself up on your forearm instead of your elbow. As you get stronger, you can progress to the full side plank position. 

Horseback Riding Exercise: The Bottom Line

Horseback riding is a great way to get all of the benefits of exercise while also enjoying yourself. If you’re thinking about starting an exercise routine, horseback riding is a great option. It’s important to start slowly and build up your fitness level gradually. 

If you’re new to horseback riding, there are many resources available to help you get started, such as beginner lessons at a local stable or online tutorials.

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DISCLAIMER:

This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!

SOURCES:

  1. Comparison between the Effects of Horseback Riding Exercise and Trunk Stability Exercise on the Balance of Normal Adults (2014, jstage.jst.go.jp)
  2. Effects of mechanical horseback riding on the balance ability of the elderly (2015, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
  3. Health Benefits and Participation Barriers of Different Level Horseback Riders Age-Wise (2022, frontiersin.org)
  4. Horse Care | ASPCA (n.d., aspca.org)
  5. Rider Energy Expenditure During High Intensity Horse Activity (2021, sciencedirect.com)
  6. STRESS RELIEF: The Role of Exercise in Stress Management (2013, journals.lww.com)
  7. The impact of stress on body function: A review (2017, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
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