We probably all know that riding horses helps to keep us physically healthy. It is an activity that is not only enjoyable, but great exercise too.
But did you know just how good horses are for us? Spending time around them can actually benefit you in more ways than you realise, not just physically but also emotionally too!
Horse therapy has been used for many years as a way of helping people from all sorts of different backgrounds with a range of issues, but even outside of a therapy environment, simply riding or interacting with horses can have a huge benefit for anybody.
Here we run through ten ways that horses positively affect our lives, to make us happier and healthier.
1 Burn calories
The most obvious thing perhaps, is that riding and working with horses burns calories. As exercise, it is a great form of cardio, and you can burn hundreds of calories an hour from riding, grooming, or mucking out, and you even get a bit of a workout from leading your horse.
2 Increase strength
Horse riding is a fantastic full body strength workout, engaging your core, shoulders and back, and of course, your legs and thighs.
3 Reduce stress
Lots of people go riding as a way to unwind, and it turns out that a study carried out by Washington State University actually showed that riding horses reduced the levels of the stress hormone cortisol significantly, compared to a control group who were not interacting with horses.
4 Increase empathy
Mutual understanding is very important when humans interact with horses, and this can lead to people who ride having increased empathy, and in turn improve their interaction with other humans.
5 Reduce risk of mental health problems
Due to the reduction of stress, riding also helps to reduce the risk of developing further mental health problems, and equine therapy is effective in aiding patients who suffer from anxiety. Addressing the feelings of anxiety by being in the present moment and accomplishing physical tasks helps remove the focus on internal worries and future problems.
6 Improve self esteem
Riding has been shown to improve feelings of self-worth, and accomplishment, leading to increased self-esteem. This is likely partly due to learning new skills, and also the ability for horses to make people feel accepted.
7 Aid recovery from PTSD
Veterans who have suffered with post-traumatic stress disorder have had great success with attending equine therapy sessions. From a simple “time out” activity to bring the mind to the present moment, to the alleviation of anxiety, stress, depression, and isolation, horses offer wonderful benefits to sufferers.
8 Reduce loneliness
Horses are herd animals, and the dynamic is rather similar to human families. As a result of this, a horse will immediately start to bond with humans as part of their herd, and this wonderful bond can help immensely for people who suffer from loneliness.
9 Increase self-awareness
Horses are very good at picking up on how someone is feeling. They sense emotions, and react in a similar way. For example, someone angry might cause a horse to behave stubbornly, an anxious person might find the horse becoming skittish, but a calm person will often find their horse behaves calmly too. This reflection can help people to see their behaviour more realistically, and be able to reflect.
10 Help those with autism
People on the autism spectrum often benefit greatly from interacting with horses or attending equine therapy sessions. As horses respond so well to behavioural and non-verbal cues, very little verbal communication is required in equine therapy sessions, which can help those with autism recognise and understand behaviour, and help do so in situations outside of therapy sessions.
As you can see, horses are wonderful creatures, and developing a relationship with them is a really valuable experience which can help overcome a great many obstacles and issues.