Horseback riding is a wonderful exercise for autumn. It’s a great way to check out the incredible fall foliage, and some popular fall season destinations, such as Fernwood Resorts in The Poconos, actually offer special horseback riding packages to make the most out of your autumn retreat. But more than just a fun leisure activity, horseback riding has many health benefits that can help strengthen you physically and emotionally.
Riding can burn upwards of 250 calories per hour, while trotting can burn over 400 calories an hour. You will also engage most of the muscles in your body. According to the Huffington Post, your biceps and quads do the majority of the work, but your abs, glutes, hips and triceps all help to support your body while on horseback.
Caring for a horse and the stalls offers a bonus workout as well. In fact, the British Horse Society asserts that “horse riding and activities associated with horse riding … expend sufficient energy to be classed as moderate intensity exercise.”
Horseback riding is also an activity that is accessible to those with a variety of abilities. The Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship (PATH) International aims to bring therapeutic riding to those with both physical and emotional needs. Coordination and balance are essential skills gained while horseback riding, which is why riding is a great form of exercise for those with physical disabilities.
According to PATH: “Riding a horse moves the rider’s body in a manner similar to a human gait, so riders with physical needs often show improvement in flexibility, balance and muscle strength.”
PATH is committed to a holistic approach to healing and serves many populations with “a range of physical, emotional, behavioral and cognitive challenges,” including those with ADD/ADHD, autism, emotional disorders, and multiple sclerosis, among others. Through their Equine Services for Heroes program, they even help veterans dealing with post traumatic stress disorder. PATH-certified programs are led by therapeutic riding instructors and include what PATH calls EAAT, or equine-assisted activities and therapies, that combine riding, bonding and caring for a horse to strengthen the rider’s body and mind. To find a PATH-certified riding center near you, check out the PATH International website.
Want to condition your body for the trail? Try Pilates! According to Balanced Body, a regular Pilates practice will help you gain core strength, which will improve your stability on the horse as well as your posture. Pilates will also help increase flexibility to help you move with the horse during the ride. "Pilates for Equestrians," a book by Liza Randall, demonstrates a range of Pilates movements for the horseback rider, including stability ball exercises and a variety of stretches, and can be purchased through Balanced Body and Amazon. Kerrits Equestrian Apparel offers some introductory Equestrian Pilates tutorials on YouTube.
Check with your physician to see if riding is the right fit for you. Here’s to hitting the trails this fall!