Ask anyone that rides horses “why they enjoy horse riding”, and most often, they can’t tell you the exact reason why.
It can be challenging to put into words the feelings and passion that horses invoke in people of all ages. For some horse riders and owners, it’s the challenge of control, and for others, it’s sharing the horse-human connection. Common is that typically they have caught the “horse bug”, a discovery, a purpose and fulfilment.
It’s evident in terms of competitive horse riding that the rider is looking to pursue a sporting outcome, and the horse is their equipment and/or partner. However, what is the motivation and what is the purpose behind therapeutic horse riding.
To answer the question, first, let’s look at the benefits of Therapeutic horse riding:
Horses are different to most domestic animals. Firstly they aren’t a predator like humans, cats or dogs, so they have a different set of behaviours and challenges for us master in partnering with them. The overall confidence boost of a horse and rider partnership and understanding a horse is very uplifting for human confidence. Horsemanship can be challenging and extremely rewarding, new skills are developed, and the outcomes seen firsthand. Feedback can be immediate and very empowering.
Read More: Horse Riding for Confidence
Staying or using a saddle requires to some degree strength and activates core muscles involved in balance. Therapeutic horseback riding can help improve core strength and balance, and muscle tone. One example is those with Cerebral palsy; since many spend most of their time sitting down in a wheelchair, horse riding can give them a chance to improve their body condition. The movement of the horse’s hips simulates walking, simultaneously relaxes their muscles, and many have reported feeling more flexible than before riding.
Read More: Disability (NDIS) Horse Riding
While this is a specific example, horse riding engages many different muscles and increases heart rate, thus providing a cardiovascular, balance, and strengthening workout in one.
According to a British Horse Society (BHS) & University of Brighton study, horse riding increases the mood-enhancing hormone Serotonin. The report showed definite psychological benefits of interaction with horses, with “80 per cent of study participants noticing a positive change in their mood after horse riding”. Riders reported feeling more cheerful and relaxed. It was discovered anecdotally that horse riding can play a role in managing negative feelings relating to anxiety and depression.
Read More: Horse Riding for Mental Health
The horse bond is probably the number one unrealised reason why people enjoy horse riding overall. Horses are herd animals; they show character and are vulnerable to those they trust. The trust will take a while to earn but develops a powerful bond. Riders essentially become part of the equine herd. That trust becomes very precious to the rider, and they come to understand the horse relies on them just as much as they do. Horse Riding, therefore, becomes a mutual experience of bonding. There aren’t too many animals that we can ride, less that place trust in us as a horse does. Rare in nature is prey (horse) working with a predator (human) in a symbiotic relationship.
“There is something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a man” Sir Winston Churchill.
There is no doubt about it; horses are fun! They act as our legs; we can go faster, go longer, jump higher, and explore more. They increase our abilities and open us to a vast range of new activities, sports and recreational pursuits.
Overall, horses give us so much. There are so many reasons, studies and articles online as to why therapeutic horse riding is impressive. Ultimately it’s personal to the rider why they get out and about with their horses. It can be social, one of the reasons above or entirely something unique. One thing is definite, horse owners and riders are passionate, and there is something that gives them the “horse bug”, and boy, do they catch it hard.
At Freedom Equestrian we supply everything needed for you to try therapeutic horse riding in a safe and welcoming location about 15kms north of Gympie QLD. We offer both Equine Facilitated Learning (EFL) as well as more broadly Therapeutic Horse Riding Sessions. All ages and experience levels are welcome. Book online.