Benefits of Horseback Riding: Exercise and Responsibility


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    By: US Equestrian Federation

    For some children, the world of horses not only introduces them to a new 1,200-pound furry friend but also opens up the door to an entire lifetime of physical and recreational exercise.

    Time spent riding—especially while trotting and galloping—helps improve coordination, balance, and core strength. And even when they are not riding, children tend to be active around the barn area, helping out with chores such as grooming and feeding.

    Getting children involved with horses is easy—because riding horses is fun. Horseback riding often brings kids outdoors into the world of nature.  And as a child’s riding progresses, he or she develops increasing confidence.  Even just the process of “tacking” (putting the saddle on, sliding the reigns over the horse's head and putting the bit in the horse’s mouth) can be an initial challenge that grows into a confidence booster. That self-assurance continues to grow as the rider learns the intricacies of walking, jogging, loping, turning, and stopping the horse.

    Just as importantly, children learn responsibility. Grooming, feeding, and exercising along with maintaining the stall and sometimes caring for a sick or injured horse is a great responsibility.
    Horseback riding also can be a great way for a child to make new friends. Many children take riding lessons together; in fact, some barns cater to youth riders.

    Horseback riding, according to the Department of Disability and Human Development, provides these physical benefits and opportunities for social and emotional growth:

        Improved balance and muscle strength
        Improved coordination, faster reflexes and increased motor planning
        Stretching of tight or spastic muscles
        Increased range of motion of joints
        Improved respiration and circulation
        Improved visual spatial perception
        Improved eye-hand coordination
        Improved self-confidence
        Improved risk-taking abilities
        Development of patience
        Emotional control and self-discipline
        Development of respect and care for animals.

    U.S. Pony Clubs has set up a series of rating levels for both riding skills and horse management. Members work their way up the ratings as they learn more about horse care and become better riders.  Pony Club members also have the opportunity to learn about many different horse sports. Many local 4-H Clubs also offer a variety of horse clubs, where participants learn everything from riding to taking temperatures to wrapping legs.

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