Horse ownership has its challenges but overall, it is a very rewarding and wonderful experience. Owning horses involves companionship, activity, hard work, and relaxation all rolled into one. Having horses isn’t for everyone. It requires a lot of time, patience, money, and lots of land.
There are so many kinds of benefits related to horse ownership but in this article, we are going to aim our focus on the associated health benefits. Keep reading to learn how owning horses can enhance both your physical and mental health.
The 10 Health Benefits of Owning a Horse
1. It Keeps You Active
Just about every aspect of horse ownership is going to keep you physically active, except for when you settle down to sleep at night. Here’s how horse ownership helps you keep up with regular physical activity.
Riding isn’t always equated to exercise because it can be very peaceful and relaxing. The truth is that riding offers you quite a bit of exercise and you can burn plenty of calories while up in that saddle. It requires you to engage your muscles, stay balanced, and flow with the horse’s movements while maintaining your own stability.
Researchers at Texas A&M University discovered that riding a horse for 45 minutes at a walk, trot, and canter can burn up to 200 calories. More strenuous riding activities like cutting and reining were shown to burn nearly 7 calories per minute.
Grooming is a regular part of your horse’s care routine and while it can be a relaxing activity, it’s also a pretty decent workout. Horses aren’t small animals, and you are covering the entire surface of the body as you groom.
It’s an upper-body workout that engages the biceps, triceps, and shoulder muscles. It also involves using your core and engaging your lower body by bending down and working with the hooves and grooming their legs and underbelly.
Aside from your typical horse-related activities, ownership requires much more physical activity. You will be responsible for cleaning stalls, feeding, watering, tossing around hay bales, raking, pushing wheelbarrows, and carrying all sorts of tack and equipment. A lot of these responsibilities are daily chores that will keep you moving from start to finish.
2. Helps with Stress Management
We aren’t going to sugarcoat it, there are plenty of stressors that come along with owning horses. You can experience a range of issues from medical, behavioral, financial, and much more. Overall though, having horses in your life and interacting with them daily is incredible for stress management.
Horses can easily pick up on your energy and have an incredible ability to tune into how you are feeling. Handling horses requires you to remain calm and relaxed since you don’t want to affect their mood by being in a bad one yourself.
Human-animal bonds are incredibly powerful, so much so that studies have even proven what kind of effect they can have on a person’s stress levels. Interacting with animals can decrease cortisol levels, which is a hormone that is directly related to stress. When you are on horseback you are also out in nature, which has also been shown to reduce stress levels in itself.
3. Improves Core Strength
You’ve likely heard how important it is to have optimal core strength. Your core is the central part of your body and includes the stomach, hips, lower back, and pelvis. Having a weak core can lead to fatigue, decreased endurance, and make you susceptible to more injuries.
Horseback riding and your regular daily tasks to keep up the barn will help improve and strengthen your core. Because you will be doing these activities regularly, your core will naturally strengthen thanks to all the work you do.
You must use proper form when you are riding, lifting heavy objects, and doing your daily upkeep so that you can keep proper alignment, engage that core correctly, and prevent injuring yourself.
4. Keeps Your Muscles Toned
You won’t just burn calories and strengthen your core as a horse owner, but you will also be doing a lot of work and activity that will help you increase muscle tone throughout the entire body. In the beginning stages of horse ownership, you may find yourself sore and exhausted, just like you would when you get started back up at the gym.
A study completed at South Korea’s Hanseo University’s Research Institute of Sports and Industry Science revealed that over 8 weeks, women that were non-riders with no prior exercise routine gained a considerable amount of muscle tone in their thighs, hips, and torsos when riding horses regularly. Some of the women even doubled their muscle tone over those 8 weeks. That’s not including all the heavy lifting, grooming, and stall cleaning you’ll be doing as an owner.
5. Aids in Balance and Motor Skills
You have to work hard to keep your stability while on horseback. It involves lining up your center of gravity with the horse’s ever-changing center of gravity during movement. This is how you remain comfortable and well-positioned during your ride, and it requires much more effort than you’d think, especially at first.
Proper posture, balance, and coordination are all important when you are riding. You must continually align your body and distribute your weight evenly with your feet placed securely in the stirrups. It’s very easy to recognize when you are unbalanced in the saddle, which helps you naturally return to balance.
When you ride regularly, you are also consistently engaging your core and strengthening your muscles. After a while, it all becomes second nature, and your balance, coordination, and gross motor skills will improve. Studies have even shown that horseback riding in a therapeutic setting improved the balance of the elderly and those with disabilities.
6. Lowers Blood Pressure
Having a regular exercise regimen is key to lowering blood pressure. Research indicates that regular physical activity can lower high blood pressure by 5 to 8 mm Hg. It is generally recommended that those aiming to keep their blood pressure lower try to get at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise each day.
Horse owners should have no trouble reaching that goal and maintaining it. As we’ve discussed, your daily duties and your riding activities are all considered a form of exercise. Interacting with animals regularly has also been proven to lower blood pressure.
7. Great for Heart Health
Just like daily activity is great for your blood pressure, it is also important for your cardiovascular health. Horseback riding alone can increase the heart rate to between 136 and 188 beats per minute, which is considered moderately intense physical activity.
Clean-up and care duties will also increase your heart rate because it involves strenuous work regularly. Studies have also shown that high-stress levels can increase the risk of heart disease. Considering that horses are also proven to help reduce stress levels, ownership is great for your heart in just about every way.
8. Helps Prevent Bone Loss
There are a lot of factors that affect bone health including diet, age, family history, and more. There are plenty of recommendations your doctor will have to help you prevent bone loss, with one of them being physical activity.
Participating in strength-building and strenuous exercise can help build strong bones and prevent bone loss. As you can see by all the other health benefits on this list, horse ownership involves a lot of exercise and strength-building activity which, with a proper diet and following other recommendations, could help you prevent bone loss in the long run.
9. Helps with Confidence and Decision-Making Skills
When you own and work with horses, you will be put in a position where you have to make quick decisions and take on a leadership role when riding or training. Riders learn how to maintain a certain level of awareness and control when on the back of an animal that weighs over 1,000 pounds.
It’s hard to tell what kind of situations you’ll come across when out riding. You must work with the horse when you run into any obstacles or challenges while out and about. Your level of control doesn’t just end when you hop out of the saddle, either. Confidence and decision-making will play a role in all your interactions with individual horses and the herd.
10. Promotes Relaxation and Mental Wellbeing
It may seem counterintuitive to think that horse ownership would be considered relaxing, but it certainly can promote a sense of calm and relaxation. This doesn’t mean every aspect of ownership is relaxing, as there are plenty of strenuous parts, too.
Riding may be a calorie-burning and muscle-toning exercise that requires full concentration, but it can be very peaceful when you are out in nature, enjoying the sights and sounds on the back of a trusted companion.
You also learn to develop very strong bonds with your horses. Each animal is an individual and no two are alike. There will be certain horses that you will just click with, and there’s nothing like it. Having that kind of relationship can improve your mental health and help you feel less lonely and isolated.
How to Benefit from Horses if You Don’t Own Any
Horse ownership isn’t for everyone. It requires plenty of land, secure finances, and the many necessities it takes to keep them successfully, like a barn, fencing, and equipment. Horses are also social animals that live in herds, so you should never have only one.
If you love horses and genuinely enjoy being around them, it can be disheartening if you are not in a position to have your own. There’s no need to get too discouraged though, there are plenty of things you can do locally to get a regular dose of these amazing creatures.
Get Involved with a Horse Rescue
Horse rescues work hard to save the lives of unwanted and neglected horses across the country that are destined for slaughter. It is very financially, emotionally, and physically taxing to keep up in the world of horse rescue, so anyone looking to spend some quality time with horses is urged to reach out and offer to volunteers.
Volunteers can typically help in many aspects of horse care including cleaning, maintenance, grooming, riding, and even training and socialization. Ask around or do an online search to find a rescue near you that could use your help. It is a very rewarding experience that will stay with you for life.
Board a Horse
Some horse lovers may have the finances to own but don’t have the land or the time to care for a herd of horses, regardless of how small. There are plenty of stables that offer boarding services for this type of situation so that horse owners have a safe place to keep their horses for a monthly or weekly fee.
The specifics surrounding boarding will depend on the stable and what they offer, but there are two types of boarding offered:
Lease a Horse
Leasing a horse is also an option for those that are not able to own it for one reason or another. Leasing includes a set fee to ride a certain horse that is owned by another individual. The lessee has fewer financial and care responsibilities but has access to ride and have access to that horse.
Leasing is more popular in the equestrian sports world. There are different levels of the lease including a partial lease, where you are not the only person with access to the horse, or a full lease where you would be that horse’s only rider.
These agreements can vary significantly so anyone interested in leasing would need to contact local stables that offer the services.
Sign Up for Lessons
Riding lessons aren’t just for beginners. Anyone interested in riding is welcome to join in on riding lessons. More experienced riders may opt to start lessons to freshen up their skills or learn more advanced riding practices. It’s a great activity for children and adults regardless of experience level.
You will usually find that lessons can be done in either a group setting or individually. It’s a great way to get out of the house, spend time with horses, and meet new people. You won’t be limited to riding either, most lessons involve all the hands-on work it takes to care for horses, too.
Go for a Trail Ride
If you aren’t able to own horses but you’d just love to go for a ride, try looking up local stables that offer trail riding. These trail rides can range from beginner level to advanced. A lot of places will offer different durations of ride and even a variety of terrains.
Trail riding is available for all experience levels. Pricing will vary depending on the stability, geographical location, and the specific type of ride you choose to go on. This is also a great way to support local businesses and small equine operations.
It’s a bit shocking how many health benefits are associated with owning and working with horses. These incredible animals have worked alongside humans for centuries and we are better for it. Owning horses is no small commitment and is not a decision that should be taken lightly.
It requires time, patience, money, space, equipment, and lots of hard work. Not everyone is going to be in a position to own or care for horses but even then, there are plenty of ways to get out into the community and involve yourself with horses.
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