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Does horse riding count as exercise???

Now this is a very valid question given the world we are currently living in with Covid restricting our movements and exercise being one of the only reasons we can leave home. It is something I have seen come up in debates on social media quite a lot, so I thought I would do some research and add it to our blog.....

My family is very blessed to live on a horse property, as we can head into own back yard and ride several different horses for our daily dose of exercise. Sometimes it is nice to just go out and groom the horses and spend time with them. This can be so great for mental health during times like this, and I am so glad we can share our four legged friends with people within our LGA during this tough time, and soon the rest of Greater Sydney.

Horse riding can be a fun and challenging activity with plenty of physical benefits, it’s so much fun that you probably won’t even think of it as exercise!!!

How is it good for us?

Regular rider or not, have you ever been on a long trail ride and only walked, but that night or the next morning you are sore and thinking to yourself, “What did I do to get this sore?”… Well just the simple act, over a longer period of time of sitting up straight, engaging our core, using your leg muscles to grip the saddle, and holding the reins can make you use lots of different muscles, you may not use in everyday life.

The arm and upper shoulder workout

When riding, you need to steer your horse, but depending on your horse and discipline you may be required to keep tension on the reins. Experienced riders generally don’t feel the benefits their shoulders and arms are receiving, as it becomes so natural to have your arms in the correct positions, but they are still working, whether they noticed or not.

Inexperienced riders may feel the ‘burn’ a little more as holding your hands in the correct position and keeping proper posture is quite foreign at first and really works those arms and shoulders.

Your Core

To horse ride we have to have a good strong core, as it is critical for balance and posture. Core muscles are the ones that support your body and help keep you sit upright. They not only include your stomach muscles, they are also your lower back muscles, and the muscles that wrap around your spine and sides.

The best way to improve a horse riders core muscles is to ride more (I am sure there are many non-horse related ways to improve your core, but I am in no way a fitness guru). When riding, your core muscles should be continuously contracting and relaxing to maintain your balance; these actions exercise the muscles that keep your body in position.

Working your legs

Leg day at the gym is just as important as working your legs when we ride - maybe more so. Just like our core, our legs help us to stabilise ourselves, plus cue for speed & direction.

Horse riding works the inner thigh muscles and glutes the hardest. When a horse is rising to the trot, we are kind of replicating the squatting exercise, and we all know how good squats are for us. I know I have a love/hate relationship with squats, but when I’m horse riding, I definitely don’t feel like i’m doing that dreaded activity.


Last but not least, horse riding is an excellent form of cardio. To get the most out of this type of cardio workout, you do need to increase the intensity of your riding. Trot work and cantering is what will help with this. If your horse is getting a good workout, you should be too. A stroll in the local National Park isn’t going to raise your heart rate (unless a kangaroo or a plastic bag appears on the trail). So get out and work yourself and your horse a little harder than normal some days!

Today I have just covered some of the benefits of riding that I know of as a horse rider, not as a personal trainer... But I hope this helps, and reminds us all that cardio can be fun, and horse riding can be beneficial to not only our physical health, but also our mental health.

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Nice pic Renee!

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