Most non-horse folks underestimate the amount of skill it takes to ride a horse. Your body is taking on a whole new form of exercise with muscles that have never been used before. Each discipline from barrel racing to trail riding requires things like balance and stamina in order to succeed. Luckily, your body adjusts and you get stronger each ride!
Skills Necessary for Riding
Balance: In order to stay in the center of the saddle and not slide off, you’ll need a good amount of balance. Each gait is slightly different. The trot is bouncy and throws you from side to side, while the lope thrushes you forward. Furthermore, some horses spook and jump to the side or leap forward. Your balance is what keeps you from falling off!
Coordination: Riding requires using your entire body. Your aids include your hands, legs, and seat. They’re all working in various ways to communicate with your horse.
Core Strength: Your stomach muscles are essential for staying balanced and using your riding aids. If you really want to test out your core muscles, try sitting the trot! You’ll need to be loose enough to absorb the movement, but strong enough to not flop around.
Stamina: Your heart rate goes up as you ride, which can quickly get you out of breath. Since you’re using so many muscles at once, oxygen needs to be transported to them for an extended period. That’s quite tiring!
Strength: While your core strength is important, it’s not the only muscles being used. Your legs, back, and arms will all be required when riding. Barn tasks like stall cleaning and tacking up also require a good amount of muscle.
Mental Skills: It’s easy to only think of the physical skills needed for riding, but there are also mental ones you need to consider. Riding requires discipline and overcoming fear. You have to be patient, observant, and assertive.
Ultimately, riding can make you a well-rounded person. It requires using your entire body, but also strengthens you in the process!