Sunday, 21 April 2013

Guest Post; Horse Riding For Your Health

This week's guest post is written by Marcela De Vivo who is a freelance writer who has written on everything from marketing, tech, to health & wellness. She loved to ride horses when she was younger but hasn’t had the chance recently; however as her children grow older she hopes to teach them how to ride and for them to benefit from horsebacking riding just as much as she once did!

Image courtesy of Tanatat /

Horseback riding has long been recognized as having a host of therapeutic, psychological, and physical benefits. Unsurprisingly, a formalized form of therapy has been developed to harness the vast catalog of improvements achieved through horseback riding.

At the same time, not only is the physical exercise in an outdoor space an excellent stress reliever, but the establishment of a relationship between yourself and horse can positively impact your confidence and improve your other relationships.

Therapeutic horseback riding

Also known as equine-assisted activity, adaptive riding, or hippotherapy (no longer frequently used), therapeutic horseback riding teaches riding skills to individuals with a range of physical and emotional disabilities. 

Originating in Germany as therapy to help with orthopedic problems like scoliosis, therapeutic horseback riding is now also used to help people recovering from injury, or people with social and psychological difficulties. As horseback riding requires a host of muscles to work in concert to keep a rider upright, muscle strength and tone is greatly improved with prolonged riding experience.

More recently, equine therapy has gained popularity as therapy for children with autism. Autistic children who experience this form of treatment demonstrated improvement in responses to verbal and external stimuli. This activity is said to benefit the communication, motor skills, and social skills of an autistic person.

Therapeutic horseback riding has also proven to be an excellent way to counsel troubled youth when traditional forms of therapy have been less than successful. Youths undergoing equine therapy generally gain confidence, self-efficacy, improved communication skills and impulse control, reduction in trust issues and isolation, and a better understanding of social skills and boundaries. Equine therapy also teaches the at-risk individuals responsibility horse care, grooming, and safety are a few of the lessons taught.

Image courtesy of dan /

Physical and psychological benefits of horseback riding

Horseback riding is an excellent form of exercise as an hour on horseback burns the equivalent number of calories as a 30-minute jog. Not only does riding improve respiration and blood circulation (and in turn, the entire cardiovascular system with consistent practice), but it also has significant muscle conditioning benefits.

The horse’s movement under the rider creates a dynamic situation for the rider, who has to constantly adjust in order to stay upright (and on!) the horse.  Pelvic muscles and other core muscles are activated; at a gallop, upper leg muscles like quadriceps and hamstrings are also engaged to keep the rider moving with the horse.  Posture is also improved as those core muscles strengthen.

Balance and coordination are also improved with frequent horseback riding as both are required to stay upright and to move with the horse.

Some psychological benefits of horseback riding, outside of the stress reduction that comes from exercising outdoors, include improved confidence. Learning and then mastering any new skill improves self-confidence; when it comes to mastering a skill that involves handling an animal with a mind of its own, even greater confidence is developed.

Additionally, some of the lessons in learning to ride, like developing trust and a relationship between the rider and the animal can translate into relationships in everyday life. A better sense of empathy and understanding is usually developed by a rider as communication is non-verbal.

Whether you’re seeking to ride horses for exercise, for stress relief, as a way of learning a new skill, or are implementing it as a form of therapy, horseback riding is an excellent way to improve your physical and psychological self.

Sunday, 14 April 2013

Guest Post; Choosing A Horse For A New Rider

This week's guest post is by Holly Powell who writes for Edgemere, a leading online equestrian supplies retailer helping the horse riding community get the very best horse gear and equipment.

Imaged: Draft Cross, an easy going horse with good temperament.

Horse riding is one of the UK's favourite past times, and in rural areas in particular horse riding is very popular indeed. Horses make for fantastic pets, and if well looked after can live 20 or even 30 years. There are over 200 species of horse on the planet and of them, many are recommended for new riders whilst other breeds are best left for seasoned professionals. Horses can have a tendency to "flip" under pressure or stress, leading many to choose a safer breed of horse especially as a new rider.

If you are looking at which horses are best for a new rider who is perhaps a member of your family or a friend, or are a new rider and would like to discover how you can best choose your first horse, let's take a look at some advice published by experts.

Consider time dedication
Horses are a long-term commitment and should be treated as such. They require a lot of maintenance, and contrary to some belief, a domesticated horse would likely not survive living on a grassy field alone in the winter months. Amongst other things, horses need to have their feet trimmed and shoed, and regularly checked every few days for illness or any signs of possible infection. If you board your horse yourself, its stable will also need to be regularly cleaned and maintained.

Consider the riders capability
Not all riders are equal and for some people it can take years worth of experience to get the most out of a ride. The amount of training and on-horse time a rider has had will likely determine a rider’s ability to handle a horse. If a rider has had little to no experience, a quiet well-trained horse is the best bet to ensure the rider’s and the horse’s safety. For more seasoned riders, a horse with a fiery temperament can be enticing due to the nature of the challenge. 

Always consider finances
Horses take a lot of maintenance, and they also cost a lot of money. It is always said that if you cannot afford to keep a horse and keep its living conditions consistent, then you should not be buying a horse in the first place. The amount of training a horse has had is the main determining factor of initial cost as well as breed / pedigree. A horse that is 6 - 8 years old will likely cost upwards of £1000 or more, however is safer than a younger horse for a new rider. As well as initial cost, you will need to also consider veterinary bills as well as food, clothing and other necessities. What's more, relocating a horse can cost a pretty penny too.

Consider the breed of horse
There are 267 breeds of horse in the world and all of them are unique in their own special way. For a new rider or beginner, "draft crosses" are usually a top beginner horse due to their quiet demeanor and soft temperament. Whatever the breed, though, training plays a key role in whether a horse will to get on with a rider. 
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