It’s well known that physical exercise, mental stimulation, and relaxation are essential components of a balanced and healthy lifestyle. Involving horses in your life is a great way to tick all these boxes.
Mind, Body, and Soul
Equestrian sports are a great combination of mental and physical challenges. Cleaning stalls and grooming your horse are tasks that are obviously physical – but don’t underestimate the tone and strength you’ll build from riding too. Even if you have mobility issues, riding can help you to stay active and flexible.
Horses are also great at building confidence, creating challenges, and building mental resilience – there’s a reason we have the saying ‘get back in the saddle’. Spending time with horses helps you to exist in the moment and encourages a mindful approach to life by reacting to the immediate environment, rather than dwelling on problems. A clear focus on your horse and their needs is a great way to disconnect after a long day at work.
There is a growing use of horses in the complementary treatment of patients suffering from a range of diseases and mental difficulties. There are well-documented studies of equine therapy programmes helping cancer sufferers to feel more confident and in control. Children with cancers such as leukaemia who attended an equine therapy retreat in Tucson, found that after 4 days they were ‘more confident and had a more positive outlook on life’. The course also helped improve the relationship between parents and children.
Animal therapy can also help people with post-traumatic stress disorder to feel less anxious or stressed. Learning new skills and bonding with the horses helps to increase self-confidence and the ability to cope in unfamiliar situations. While these are obviously beneficial to those overcoming great personal challenges, the same principles of mindfulness and confidence apply to everyone.
Horses are also great for the development of kids, promoting empathy and a sense of responsibility. The child has to learn that no matter how cold or tired they might be, the horse comes first and must be cared for. If you’re concerned how much time your child is spending in front of a screen, horses provide an engaging and active alternative. The clear progression through mastering the different paces and arena disciplines gives clear goals to aim for, and encourages pride in honest hard work; there are no short cuts in learning to ride.
Horse riding is often thought of as an expensive past-time, and while owning one can certainly be a big financial commitment there are other options. Talk to your local riding school, who may be able to offer a deal of cleaning stalls in exchange for lessons. This can actually be advantageous when you’re starting out – you learn a lot, try different horses, and build up a great support network of both horse and human friends.