The Health Benefits of Horseback Riding for Seniors
There’s no need to rein in your enthusiasm for horseback riding because of your age. If you’re someone who loves animals and the outdoors, and even if you’ve never ridden a horse before, the health benefits of horseback riding are well within your reach.
Back in the Saddle Again
If you’ve ridden before, you’re certainly ahead of the game, because you know what to expect. You know what it takes to swing yourself onto a horse or how to keep your seat as the horse begins to trot. On the other hand, if you’re among the many seniors who are new to all this, or if you haven’t ridden for some time, you’ll want to think about a few things before saddling up.
Your Fitness. If you’re in pretty good shape, the physical impact of riding will be less hard on your body. You need a certain amount of strength and flexibility to lift a saddle, mount and dismount.
Your Ability. New riders will need lessons. Long-ago riders will need a qualified riding instructor to review your skills, and help you brush up on what you’ve forgotten. Even for experienced riders, having someone on the ground watch you can be very helpful in correcting errors and improving technique.
The Horse. You’ll need to be matched to a horse that fits your experience and ability. As experienced senior riders advise, it’s wise to avoid getting “too much horse.”
The Risk. Falling off a horse can put a real hitch in your giddy-up. Give some thought to whether or not you’re physically able to handle a fall. It might not happen, but the chance is there. For many seniors, the fear of a fall is a big barrier to getting on a horse in the first place.
What’s Your Comfort Level?
If you’re worried about the physicality and risks of horse riding, visit a nearby equestrian center in person, talk to instructors about your concerns, and maybe even go on a trial ride. You may find that you’re more physically able than you think you are. In fact, Dr. Dennis Sigler, a professor of animal science at Texas A & M University, states that riding a horse may be a solution for those who can’t physically endure high-impact activities such as jogging. “Some have joints that can’t stand a jog, but if they can ride a horse and burn 400 calories a day, that’s significant,” he asserts.
For that same reason, you shouldn’t feel hobbled by joint pain or after a joint replacement. Seniors can compensate by mounting from the off-side or using a mounting block or using a longer stirrup length than normal.
Health Benefits of Horseback Riding
If you’re feeling good physically, and have a solid comfort level around horses, you’ll gain many health benefits from horseback riding, as long as you’re able to safely do so. Here are just seven of them:
1. Physical Strength. Maintaining proper posture requires you to use your core in addition to your back and leg muscles.
2. Improved Coordination. You’ll develop better coordination as you match your movements with your horse and direct it in the direction you want to go.
3. Builds Trust. You’re building a relationship with another living being, one that doesn’t communicate verbally. You’ll become more observant as you learn to be sensitive to its behaviors and moods.
4. Mental Health. As you exercise physically, you’re also learning how to communicate with your horse, execute commands and overcome obstacles. You’re working your memory and your reasoning skills.
5. Problem Solving. When you become more proficient, you may want to take on other challenges. Learn a different style like Western riding, participate in a timed event or teach your grandchildren how to ride.
6. Like-minded Friends. You’ll widen your social circle by spending time at the barn. You’ll get to know your instructor, grooms and other riders. The horse community is very social and full of people who help each other and help care for horses.
7. Relaxation. Horse riding has long been used as therapy for depression and anxiety. In one study of seniors, horse riding had a relaxing effect on the body and mind, reducing mental stress and enhancing concentration and feelings of comfort.
Get to Know the Neigh-bors
The Village at Gleannloch Farms is located on a former horse breeding farm owned by a famous Texas family, the Marshalls. They had a great passion for exceptional horses, importing beautiful Arabian horses directly from the Middle East. This beautiful, serene oasis has been featured in movies, and hosted past presidents and celebrities who have had horses bred and raised here.
When you visit our senior living community, you’ll see some of the original wood-clad stables and barn nearby. They’re still in use today. The stables are open to the community and offer instruction for new and experienced riders. You’ll also meet residents who are as enthusiastic about horseback riding for seniors as you are.
If you want to take up or continue this wonderful hobby, we’re truly the best place to be. We’d be glad to answer your questions about the personal and residential services offered here. Until we meet, we wish you happy trails!