As a young girl I would wish upon a star every night that a horse of my own would simply trot up to me out of nowhere and say, “Here I am! Let’s ride!”
Well, THAT never have happened, but I DID get my chance to begin riding at a local barn when I was ten. My parents found a local barn willing to allow me to exercise their horses in exchange for cleaning stalls, oiling tack, being a human hot-walker, and other miscellaneous tasks (which I still enjoy doing to this day).
I’m sure my folks thought the whole “horse thing” would be a phase I’d grow out of. They probably figured that all of the work required of me to ride would be too much for a ten year old, and that I’d soon tire of the activity. But what they couldn’t know then was that it was only the beginning of a lifetime love of all things horse. To this day I feel that same excitement when I pull into the barn, see those horsey faces, smell the alfalfa, and feel the leather of ever-properly cleaned and oiled tack between my fingers.
Now, if you’re reading this article, you’re already aware that horses can have wonderful effects on us, but what you might not know is that there are many magical, wonderful benefits of horseback riding. I’ve compiled some of those benefits herein: some you may have heard; others might surprise you!
Horses Teach Us Many Important Character Traits:
As you can see in the shots above, I was just a scrubby kid when I began riding, but it didn’t take me long to realize that my childlike selfishness wouldn’t work at the barn. I had to check my attitude at the barn gate.
Many years and countless horses later, I learned much about how the following character traits necessary for an optimum experience with your horse:
- Patience: Some say with regard to riding, “you walk ten miles to ride one” and, indeed, that can seem quite true. It takes a lot of work —physical, mental and more — to take a ride. No matter how simple it may appear, riding takes work and lots of patience.
- Empathy: When those big horsey eyes stare back at you, understand that he or she is completely dependent on YOUR ability to empathize with (or feel with understanding) their needs. Understanding how your horse feels will help you with relationships both on horseback and off.
- Self Control: You’ll learn that the barn is no place for elitism or hissy fits. You’ll be dealing with a 1/2 ton animal and will need to have the self control to act in kind to any of thousands of situations that could seriously injure you or your horse. Being in control of yourself will show your horse you are worthy of becoming his or her rider.
- Discipline: Along with self control, your discipline will also get a reality check. Unless you’ve got a boarding facility doing everything but riding your horse, it is up to you to keep your horse fed and watered; have their stall cleaned regularly (daily); have their feet tended to regularly (every 6 to 8 weeks); deworm and vaccinate them regularly; and, many more responsibilities that will require your time, money, and energy. Master this skill at the barn, and your personal skills with discipline will follow.
- Responsibility: Here again, you will find that your ability to comprehend and handle your horse’s daily and emergent needs will teach you the responsibility necessary of horse ownership; a skill also necessary in life. Your horse’s needs are your responsibility alone, and if you’re an experienced rider, it’s a good guess to say that you’re already a rather responsible person. Very cool! Be proud of yourself!
- Staying calm in emergent situations: When an emergency happens, your ability to remain calm and in control of the situation will help you keep your horse calm, and can drastically affect the outcome of the situation. Unfortunately, I’ve found that this lesson is most learned after an emergency happens. Learn to deal calmly with this type of situation by preparing for them BEFORE they happen, and you’ll definitely help yourself deal with emergencies in the saddle AND in life.
I’m sure my folks thought the whole “horse thing” would be a phase I’d grow out of. They probably figured that all of the work required of me to ride would be too much for a ten year old, and that I’d soon tire of the activity. But what they couldn’t know then was that it was only the beginning of a lifetime love of all things horse .Author, in discussing her parents’ reaction to the way she so easily took to horses – and still haven’t let go.
- Compassion: If you’re a horse lover, compassion is probably a characteristic you’ve already mastered, however, should it be a characteristic you are slightly lacking in, simply spend any time at all with a great horse. I bet you can’t help but become a much more compassionate, understanding person.
- Better, more effective reflexes: Riding comes with a host of surprises which will test your reflexes: a bird flies out in front of your horse’s face; a plastic grocery sack is stuck to a tree and is flapping WILDLY in the wind; a dog begins barking and (sometimes) darts out after you; you come upon a port-a-potty. Any of these situations and more may “spook” your horse, causing you to reflexively react in a calm and safe way.
Magical Ways That Riding Your Horse Helps You Keep or Get into Better Shape!
Not feeling very athletic? No worries! Continued, regular, trail riding is an excellent form of aerobic and anaerobic exercise — not to mention the sleek muscle tone you build in your legs and behind when posting at a trot! All of this while you’re seeing the world from the back your best, furry friend.
Gym? Thank you, NEXT!
- Balance: Nothing helps you gain and keep your balance more than riding your trusty steed. Bareback riding (even at a walk) is an even MORE EXCELLENT way to gain balance, should it be lacking.
- Work your core: Riding, whether in or out of the saddle, builds your core abdominal muscles — whether you realize you are or not! A good core is a necessary for keeping your balance while riding, and once you see that you’re building yours, you may be motivated to ride even more! But, don’t forget to work on your upper body strength, as well. We are athletes and strength will definitely improve your trail riding skills.
- Improve blood circulation: Simply doing all the prep work to ride, such as tacking up and grooming, will get your blood pumping, but if you use proper cleansing breaths (in through the nose; out through the mouth) while riding, you AND your ride will soon get some serious, healthy blood circulation.
- Aerobic exercise: Once in a pattern, you can build your workouts to include those which challenge your aerobic abilities. As I touched on earlier, posting at the trot is, in my opinion, the finest two-in-one workout, in that it works both YOUR hind quarters AND your horse’s. Remember to use the cleansing breath technique (noted above) to help you build your aerobic strength and keep yourself from running out of steam too quickly.
- Flexibility: You don’t have to be a gymnast to ride, however, you’ll gradually build more flexible muscles – especially your inner thighs and Achilles tendons. Yoga will help much if you’re in need of more flexible muscles for your riding.
- Increase your bone density: Because riding and the many activities that go with it are very physical, you’ll help build better bone density, and THAT can keep you jumping into the saddle for many years to come. The original owner of the barn Layla is boarded at was still jumping horses over fences at 90 years of age! My goodness, should I live that long, allow me the strength to continue jumping into the saddle! 😊
Horses Show Us Magical Ways of Having Fun!
- Joining a trail riding group can help build a wonderful comradery with others from all across the country who share your passion for riding (hint: Top Trail Horse is by far the BEST of those groups, in my opinion, AND you can try it right now for 30 free days!). Having that support and hearing the stories of other riders will help you keep striving to be a better rider — what can be more fun than that?
- Trail riding is an ALL season sport, so it allows you to enjoy horse activities year round. The changes in season also teaches you to properly dress and to pack the necessary supplies required for being outdoors in all types of weather. Each season comes with its own challenges, but also it’s own fun and exciting ways to make the most of your time with your horse.
Did You Know?
Riding a horse at a walk, trot or canter for 45 minutes can help you burn up to 200 calories.Texas A&M Schol of Animal Sciences – College Station, TX
- If you own or have access to a horse trailer, you and your trusty steed can travel to any of countless publicly owned trails across our great nation.
- Viewing majestic vistas from the back of an equine can help you build (or build upon) a person’s sense of freedom. Plan a trip to a historic trail and learn the stories of those who created it, as well as all the interesting sites you’ll find along the way.
Horses Can Even Magically Help Your Mental State!
I can’t tell you how “Zen” I feel when I’m at the barn. I’m in my happy place! I might not do my yoga there, but I certainly feel a release of negative energy immediately as I pull in the barn drive.
- Learning to handle, care for, and ride horses can build within you a great sense of pride. Continuing to ride regularly, your self confidence will grow in leaps and bounds — as it should! Not everyone has the skill set necessary for riding and horse ownership. Be proud of yourself!
- Much like daily crosswords and sudoku puzzles, exercising your brain is a constant when you’re on the trail. When riding, you’ll find it necessary to react quickly and accurately to many varied situations which add to your lifelong learning experience. Many scientists, physicians and clinical trials have shown that lifelong learning can help ward off memory loss! Who can’t use that?
As you can see, horses are so much more than just livestock or transportation. They are magical, wonderful beings who can be our best friends; our confidants; workout buddies; and, teammates in riding (and life!)
Should you come across those who wonder aloud why you chose trail riding as your extracurricular activity (and you probably will) simply share this article with them! You may just find a new riding buddy! (But, make sure they sign up for the 30 day free trial of our program while you’re at it!😀)
As always, I thank you for joining me here at my Top Trail Horse writing desk! Now it’s time for me to get ready for a lovely and magical summer’s evening ride on Miss Layla.
Until next time riders, Ride On!!!!
🌸 As I promised at the beginning of this article, here are the ways you can win when you compete in Top Trail Horse:
Top Trail Horse Challenge
Leaderboard is monthly, based on total mileage for the month, has three divisions, awards given
Top Trail Rider Challenge
Leaderboard is quarterly, based on total mileage for the quarter, has three divisions, awards given
Trail Master GPS Rider Challenge
Based on the number of rides logged by the rider for the quarter, has three divisions, awards given