Could Horseback Riding Become the New Yoga?

The mind and body benefits are comparable

Caitlin U.
ByCaitlin U.

2020 has thrown its fair share of curveballs. Along with just having to cope through the daily stressors that come along with uncertainty, we've also had to rework work and find new outlets. Sure some of those new hobbies have included baking, knitting and binge-watching for sport, but other activities have drawn us out of the house and into nature.

And while gyms and yoga studios have reopened some, with limitations of course, many people are hesitant to get back into a shared, confined space. So, if you are all walked or jogged-out, what are other ways to break a sweat and enjoy some fresh air?

While horseback riding may not seem as attainable as going for a run, it's actually not as elusive an activity as one might think. Not to mention, that the benefits we can reap are incredibly worthwhile. Especially if you're looking for a way to get active and centered at the same time. 

"As someone who has struggled with anxiety, owning horses has given me a stronger voice and made me prioritize their well-being over my comfort," shares Nicole Janiga, avid rider and horse owner. "There would be days where I wouldn’t want to get out of bed or sit in traffic to get to the barn and ride, but in owning a horse, you willingly accept that responsibility and privilege."

Photo Credit: Nicole Janiga

Many tout the physical, psychological, and even spiritual benefits of horseback riding. And these benefits can be experienced at any age or level, whether a novice or expert. To be honest, the mind and body workout achieved from horseback riding actually seems pretty similar to that of a yoga class: 

The physical benefits: Horseback riding offers an all body workout. It's great for core strengthening, as it engages the stomach and back muscles as well as the legs. It can also promote better posture, balance and coordination.

The mental benefits: Horseback riding can exercise the mind too. It forces the rider to focus, but also to relax. Horses have long been revered as great therapy animals, whether you are actually riding one or simply around them. Caring for or riding a horse has been known to help with depression; it's been described as a multi-sensory approach to healing. 

Further, bonding with an animal and connecting to their motion or thoughts can feel like an almost spiritual experience for some people. "There is something very humbling about developing a relationship with a 1,200 lb animal – it’s the contrast between their strength and trust in you," says Nicole. 

If you're new to the idea of horseback riding, consider volunteering at a horse stable. This will give you an opportunity to get comfortable with the animals and spend time outdoors. Volunteer positions can include things like grooming and walking alongside a horse and rider as a support person. You could also call local stables and take some lessons or find a park that offers a guided trail tour.

If you think horseback riding could be your new form of exercise or decompression, just remember to keep your safety top of mind. Find reputable coaches, stables and programs who can help teach you how to best get started. 

Does horseback riding sound like a good way to exercise the mind and body? What have you been doing to decompress? Let us know in the comments.