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Benefits of Horseback Riding
 By Winniefield Park   •   8th May 2017   •   1,240 views   •   0 comments
I recently read a story from a local newspaper about a girl who, after losing both legs in a car accident, took up riding again. Her parents were uncomfortable with the idea and still frightened each time she gets on her horse. But, she has formed a remarkable bond with the horse sand feels safe and joyful when she rides.



I believe horses are a great way to get physically fit and a good reason to improve your physical fitness. Horseback riding, horse care, driving and all the other activities surrounding the ownership of a horse require a certain level of fitness. That fitness is attainable and maintainable by almost everyone. A horse is not an easy chair with legs.

I've told students that riding a horse is somewhat like riding a bike. If you don't peddle and steer your bike, nothing much is going to happen. In fact, if you try to just sit on your bike you may even fall over. Your horse certainly won't fall over if you just sit there. But, It may wander over to the barn door, or the nearest patch of clover, or try to follow a buddy—all things you don't really want to have happen. Applying natural aids—using your body to cue your horse requires balance, coordination, body awareness and strength. There isn't one of these things you can substitute for the other or completely dispense.

If you've been taking lessons already, you already have some concept of the physicality of horse ownership. You may already have some sense of the time and effort it takes to look after a horse. So consider your own fitness level and health when choosing your dream horse. If you think your fitness level could use some improvement, you won't want an energetic animal that thinks and moves faster than you do—at least not yet. Some people like the challenge of a high energy horse, even horses that many of us would consider 'difficult'. But to begin with, you should probably match your energy level with the horse's. If you're the fit wiry type, ready to take on say, a high-spirited Arabian or Thoroughbred, then you may be up for the challenge.

But if you're likely to tire of a horse that jigs and pulls when you're out on the trail, or has a hair trigger spook, consider something more mentally and physically phlegmatic will give you a more satisfactory experience. And I'm certainly not suggesting that all Arabs and TB are flighty and quick. There are individuals amongst every breed that go against the perceived temperament and character. And if that type of horse really appeals to you, then keep that future in mind, while you do all you can to master the knowledge and skills required to enjoy any horse.

Those of you who are already fit may find they can take on a 'little more horse'. My sister once gave riding lessons to participants of the Eco-challenge races, which included 30 miles of trail riding. She was astounded as to how quickly these athletes caught on — even learning to post within a very short time. The more fit you are, the easier you will find horse riding and ownership. Carrying buckets and bales will not be as strenuous. You won't be as prone to injury from overexertion muscles or even taking a spill. Really, we owe it to ourselves and our horses to maintain a healthy fitness level. Lifting weights, a bit of jogging, some stretching will go a long way to benefiting yourself and your horse. Improving your fitness level now is something you can do before you ever lift a bale, or sit on a horse. Just like a horse, you are a born athlete.

There are lots of people who are dealing with physical issues that may feel that horse ownership or at least riding isn't available to them. If this is you, I'd encourage you to go online and search for Equestrian Paralympics. What these athletes do, with much less than most of us, is humbling. If you're dealing with an illness, mental or physical, I believe there is a horse for you. It may take more searching and careful choosing, but even in your horse dreams, don't be bound by perceived limitations.
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