Horses & Health: Why Riding a Horse is the Best Hobby for Your Children
In our current digital age where children and teens are constantly staring at screens and sending out texts, parents are sometimes desperate to find a hobby that will both get them outdoors and off of the couch. Do you enroll them in a sport? Sign them up to learn an instrument? Send them off to summer camp?
Odds are, horseback riding probably wasn’t on your shortlist of options when it comes to getting your kids a healthy hobby, and because of that, they’re missing out! Horses and horseback riding have proven to give kids an array of positive outcomes in many areas of their lives- some that could positively change their attitudes, health, and academic skills going forward.
Health Benefits & Exercise:
Even though outsiders may claim that it looks like the horse is doing all or most of the work, horseback riding is actually a great way to get your kids to become more physically active! It is a great isometric exercise that requires you to fully utilize the core muscles in your body, as well as the inner thighs and pelvic muscles to keep balance on the horse.
These movements also improve the posture of the rider, and maintains a great level of muscle tone, coordination, and flexibility. The process and activity of caring for a horse (grooming, lifting buckets & saddles, cleaning stalls, etc.) can make for a great upper-body workout as well!
Character Development & Valuable Life Skills
A 2006 study sponsored by the American Youth Horse Council found that participating in consistent horse riding activities helped to develop a strong character as well as cultivate priceless life skills in children. The findings also showed that there is not only a correlation between horsemanship skills & life skills, but it showed a significant positive relationship between the two.
Ann Swinker, Ph.D., one of the study’s co-authors explained, “Handling, riding, and caring for a horse or pony can develop a host of positive traits in a child, including responsibility, accountability, patience, level-headedness, empathy, kindness, and self-discipline. Horses can’t be made to feel guilty, or talked into saying yes when they know they should say no, they simply respond to what their rider does. Riding enables kids to realize how their choices, attitudes, and behaviors affect the other living creatures around them”.
With this study in mind, and the changes that are seen for those who take part in horseback riding, it is safe to say that handling, riding, and caring for a horse develops a number of positive traits in a child including responsibility, accountability, patience, level-headedness, empathy, kindness, and self-discipline.
A study on the effects of horse riding involving 106 primary school children found that while on the saddle, a child’s cognitive ability is likely to be improved. The study found that the vibrations produced by a horse while being ridden have the ability to activate the human brain’s sympathetic nervous system.
This increased cognitive ability means that children are likely to have improved memory as well as enhanced problem solving and learning abilities that can help them to tackle academic-related tasks more easily and do better in school. The perseverance and focus needed to excel at horse riding can also spill over to their school work. As kids are ‘forced’ to concentrate and not let their mind wander when they’re riding, they are likely to apply this heightened level of focus in other aspects of their lives – including their studies.
So parents, get your kids involved in horse lessons, ranch volunteer work or guided horseback trail rides! It will benefit them greatly and they will have a great time learning these life long skills.