In my 14 years of working with horses, I am always asked one question, why horses? I always came up with some pretty lame excuse like, “just because” or “my older sister rides, so I should ride too.” I never really understood the true benefits of working with horses until now. When I was younger I participated in a lot of other activities like dance, softball, basketball, and soccer. There was even a point that I wanted nothing to do with horses, and my mom almost sold my beloved pony Sassy. It’s a good thing she didn’t, because I wouldn’t have been able to receive all of the amazing benefits in the years to come.
Horses offer a lot of health benefits. Believe it or not, riding a horse is one of the best exercises you can do. Horseback riding uses specific muscle groups to stay in one position, mainly the core muscles. Alongside the abdominal muscles, the legs are vital in horseback riding. All of these muscles work together to help maintain proper posture while on the horse. This also takes incredible coordination, you are constantly having to adjust your position to guide the horse at all of the different gaits.
Horses help teach body awareness while developing strong muscles and coordination.
Not only do horses offer health benefits, they help people develop incredible character. There are a host of traits that people can develop by working with horses. Horses help teach responsibility. Not only are you taking care of yourself, you are in charge of looking after a large animal that has needs similar to your own. Horses can also teach patience. There is a massive communication barrier between horses and humans. It can be frustrating to work with an animal that simply doesn’t understand. But getting after the horse gets you nowhere, instead you must remain patient and work through the issue with the horse. Another important trait is self awareness. The horse can’t be told to say yes when it knows it should say no. Horses mirror our actions, and simply respond to what their rider does. Working with horses offers an insight on how our own actions affect others. This self awareness can improve people’s daily lives immensely.
There is no doubt in my mind that horses have shaped who I am today. Without horses I would be a completely different person. I asked my mom why she continued to let me work with horses. One reason was to keep me from getting a distracting boyfriend, good move mom, who has the time when you have horses? But the main reason horses have stayed in my life for this long is to make me a better person. I am more compassionate, responsible, accountable, and patient (depending on the ride). I know that horses shaped me, and are continuing to shape lives everywhere.
If you are interested in working with horses, contact your local horse council for more information on how you can get involved with these awesome animals.