For some, horseback riding may be a mundane activity that just involves sitting and yelling out commands. For others, it’s daunting because they’re afraid of falling over or facing other bad experiences with the horse. However, the age-old hobby may have its benefits, especially for children. Here’s how it can improve their physical, mental, and emotional capabilities.
It Gives Them Exercise
There’s a good reason why jockeys are considered athletes. Horseback riding helps sharpen your balance and coordination. It’s a lot like learning how to use a bike, except the bike has four legs and a majestic mane. With that said, it takes a lot of skill and effort before you learn how to find your balance on the unstable surface that is the horse’s back. Luckily, saddles and steering equipment like headstalls make balancing and steering much less complex.
Horseback riding also helps build strong legs and core. Exercise website Bodybuilding.com says that riding forces you to flex your lower body’s muscles for long periods of time to stay on the horse. A New York Times advice column called “Ask Well” also stated that the activity has a similar intensity to sports like squash or rollerblading. It even cited an old study linking horseback riding with better bone density and stronger quadriceps and hamstrings in young girls.
It’s a Great Way to Bond with Friends and Animals
When you take your kid to the ranch, it’s likely that they have peers learning the sport as well. If your child doesn’t go out much or is just shy, this activity may help them gain friends. Participation in sports like horseback riding may improve self-esteem and confidence in kids. It also helps them find a sense of belonging when they learn it with other children.
Whether you have a pet at home or not, horseback riding is a great way for kids to bond with animals. This bond also helps their social, emotional, and behavioral development, according to the literature review, “Companion Animals and Child/Adolescent Development: A Systematic Review of the Evidence.” The study, published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, cited other studies that showed improved self-esteem and decreased levels of loneliness among children and adolescents who bond with their companion animals. Children who bonded with their companion animals may also be better at socializing and showing empathy to others.
It Helps Them Achieve More
Apart from its social benefits, horseback riding may also improve your kid’s ability to perform and complete everyday tasks. An Irish study called “The Effect of an Equine Assisted Therapy Programme on Children’s Occupational Performance” showed that equine-assisted therapy may boost a child’s ability to interact with peers and face new challenges. Equine-assisted therapy involves using horses and other equines like donkeys to improve physical and mental health.
Six kids were enrolled in one hour and 30 minutes of horseback riding sessions for twelve weeks. Some of them became best friends after the program. One participant who didn’t like to do trotting warmed up to it and practiced the activity after a few sessions. These small but significant changes in attitude increased their performance and satisfaction scores as the study progressed.
Horseback riding has a lot of benefits for children and adults alike. It helps to improve physical health while giving them companionship with their horse and other riders. So the next time you go on a trip outside your town, consider going to the ranch and saddling up.