Generally, the first thing that comes to a parents’ mind when they hear ‘horse riding’ is that it’s dangerous, however, the risk of injury exists within any sport and horse riding when done right is no more dangerous. What I mean by done right is that children learn via riding schools, on properly trained school ponies. Instructors will judge their ability and they will decide when the child is ready for something more complicated. As a parent, you need to resist the urge to tell the instructor how to do their job or that your child needs to be jumping higher or on a bigger horse. Trust the instructors and your child should be safe. Here are some reasons horse riding is actually very beneficial to children (apart from the fact that it’s just great)
1. Balance and Coordination
Have you ever tried to ride a horse? There are a whole host of muscles that need to work together in order to firstly stay on, and secondly, control the horse in more complicated exercises such as jumping or polocrosse. You need to sit up straight, squeeze with your legs while keeping your heels down, maintain contact whilst keeping your hands together and as still as possible, while at the same time looking towards your next destination and keeping your head up. Sound complicated? It is, but it’s definitely beneficial!
You may have heard about therapeutic riding before but in general, horse riding definitely has therapeutic abilities. From the moment you climb on, all that matters is the horse and you. Not only do children learn a ton about themselves in the process, you learn to put everything aside (even if it’s just for a little while) and focus on the task at hand. What’s more is that studies show that both exercise and sending time with animals increases the mood-enhancing hormone, serotonin. Besides, horses are beautiful, loving and calming- who wouldn’t benefit from this?
3. Good Exercise
In a world of mobile phones and video games, one thing you can be certain about is that horses will get your children out of the house and doing some very physically demanding activities. From riding alone to working in the barn or even just generally caring for the horse (brushing and cleaning), it all requires hard work and the best part is that they find it fun!
Caring for a horse will teach your children responsibility. They learn that in order to be able to ride their beloved pony, there are many other things that need to be done first. The horse needs to be fed and watered, the stable cleaned out daily. Horses need to be brushed and cleaned. Tack needs to be looked after and cleaned regularly. While most riding schools have grooms that do most of the heavy lifting (feeding, cleaning stables etc.), most children love to be involved in the process.
5. Patience and perseverance!!
This one’s a biggie. Children learn that things don’t just happen overnight. They need to work hard, fail and try again. Controlling an animal that is 3x bigger than you with a mind of its own definitely does something to humble a person. It takes hard work, commitment and patience to get a horse to perform at the top level.
6. Unconditional Love
You might argue that children are able to learn this with any animal, but have you ever met someone who owns a horse or listened to their stories about riding? What you might pick up is that even though their horse refused the jump and they had a hard fall, it’s never the horses’ fault! Most common excuses are “oh, shame I dropped him” or “I didn’t see my strides” or perhaps “My legs weren’t on”, doesn’t really matter what happens it’s never the horses’ fault. And when it is, “he’s just fresh today” or “there must be something wrong with him”- usually followed by a vet visit. Not only do children learn to take responsibility for their actions, they also learn that no matter what happens, you can still love unconditionally.
7. Core Strength
Horse riding is classified as an isometric exercise, which means that certain muscles are targeted in order to maintain a certain position. Core strength is essential in everything that you do, from getting out of bed to walking down the street, but most importantly, core strength is needed to keep you upright and balanced. Core muscles are basically the support structure for your entire body.