BeginnerHorse Riding & TrainingHorseback Riding

What Are The Benefits Of Horseback Riding?

In this article...

Discover the surprising benefits of horseback riding! From boosting your health to enhancing happiness and creating lasting friendships, find out how this amazing activity can change your life. Learn more about the joy and advantages riding brings.

Have you ever wondered how horseback riding can impact your life beyond just the joy of galloping through open fields? Maybe you’re curious about how this unique sport or hobby can boost your fitness, mental state, and even social life.

As someone who’s been in the saddle since the age of eight, I’ve personally experienced a wide array of benefits that horseback riding can offer.

This post will dive into not only the most common benefits but also some you might not have expected. Along with insights from some studies and a peek into my own journey, we’ll explore how horseback riding can enrich your life. Keep in mind these are only a handful of benefits there are many more!

RELATED BLOG POST>> 50 Benefits Of Horseback Riding For Kids

And, to keep things interesting, I’ve included a poll and a must-watch video that perfectly complements our topic today.

The following is a quote from a study by Frontiers In Psychology called Health Benefits and Participation Barriers of Different Level Horseback Riders Age-Wise:

“Regular practice of horseback riding is associated with physical, social, and psychological health benefits and improved wellbeing. Balance, coordination, and posture are improved, better reflexes, muscle development, etc.”

(Sáez et al., 2022, Frontiers in Psychology).

The Physical Benefits

When we talk about the physical perks of horseback riding, it’s not just about staying active. Riding can profoundly influence your overall physical health in ways that might surprise you.

  • Improves Balance and Coordination
  • Boosts Core Strength
  • Improved Leg Muscle Tone
  • Flexibility

Improves Balance and Coordination

Balance and coordination are essential in horseback riding. Keeping yourself centered on a moving animal requires a keen sense of body awareness and control. Not to mention applying riding aids correctly while staying balanced and moving properly with the horse takes quite a bit of coordination.

Just in case you didn’t know, riding aids are the signals that you give to the horse when asking them to do something. This skill not only helps in riding but in daily activities as well.

From personal experience, my balance has improved significantly in the saddle over the years. I was not a natural. I have noticed I have decent balance with some Yoga moves that require balance and people have commented on my coordination. That counts right?

Boosts Core Strength

Your core muscles play a crucial role in maintaining posture and balance while riding. Horseback riding engages your core in a dynamic way, strengthening these muscles as you adjust to the movements of the horse.

I feel my core being worked the most when I do sitting trot work especially with no stirrups and when I am out of riding shape. The ab burn is real! Having a strong core is also great for improving your posture too!

Improved Leg Muscle Tone

Enhanced leg muscle tone is a standout physical benefit of horseback riding, evident both in the saddle and in daily life. On the horse, the constant engagement of leg muscles for balance, control, and communication with the horse leads to stronger, more defined quads, hamstrings, and calves. This not only improves your riding posture and effectiveness but also contributes to overall leg strength and endurance, making activities like climbing stairs or hiking feel easier.

Off the horse, this increased muscle tone translates into better support for your joints, improved metabolism, and a more balanced physique. Regular riding, coupled with complementary exercises such as squats and lunges, can maximize these benefits, enhancing your physical health and boosting your confidence in and out of the saddle.


Riding regularly also promotes flexibility. From mounting to adjusting your posture during a trot, each movement stretches and flexes various muscle groups, contributing to a more flexible and limber body. However if you are not flexible remember it is a process. I have had students, friends and myself at times get hip cramps at times.

It helps to warm up yourself while your horse warms up at the walk. Doing some easy stretches on horse. It could help to also do some stretches before you get on. The more limber and supple you are the easier it is to move with the horse, keep your balance, and your posture.

RELATED BLOG POST>> 7 Pre-Ride Equestrian Stretches That Will Improve Your Riding

The Mental Health Benefits

Beyond the physical, horseback riding offers a sanctuary for mental health improvement.

  • Reduces Stress and Anxiety
  • Enhances Mood and Well-being
  • Building Confidence and Self-Esteem
  • Feeling of Accomplishment

Reduces Stress and Anxiety

The rhythmic motion of riding and the connection with an animal can be incredibly therapeutic, offering a unique way to reduce stress and anxiety. A study based on a 4-week horseback riding program found significantly improved anxiety and depression in children with ADHD.

I have ADHD, I am a homemaker, Stay At Home Mom and I Homeschool to name a few. I can get really burnt out, stressed and overwhelmed. I feel the benefits when I go to the barn whether I ride or not. I usually feel so much calmer when I come home and almost refreshed.

Horses and riding have been my escape from these things [anxiety, depression, overwhelm] most of my life.

RELATED BLOG POST>> 7 Reasons Moms Should Horseback Ride As A Hobby!

Enhances Mood and Well-being

The emotional high from a good ride is unmatched. You can find many riders on platforms like Reddit and Quora, or in Facebook groups and equestrian forums echo this sentiment, describing feelings of refreshment, happiness, and accomplishment post-ride. Scientific research backs this up, showing riding’s positive effects on mood and well-being.

Here is a quote from a study done on mood and well being based on recreational riding and being in outdoors:

“We found significantly higher nature relatedness, significantly higher overall wellbeing and a significantly better mood rating in recreational horseback riders compared to people without pets and similar scores compared to dog owners.”

Schwarzmüller-Erber, G., Stummer, H., Maier, M., & Kundi, M. (2020). Nature Relatedness of Recreational Horseback Riders and Its Association with Mood and Wellbeing.

Building Confidence and Self-Esteem

Mastering new riding skills and achieving goals can significantly boost your confidence and self-esteem.

Overcoming challenges and seeing tangible progress in my riding abilities has been one of the most rewarding aspects of this journey.

Also I had really low self esteem and confidence growing up. I was the quiet kid unless we talked about horses, I am sure many can relate.

Horse and riding really opened me up and gave me a purpose and passion.

I noticed the biggest change in me as far as confidence and self esteem when I was a teenager and I had started teaching riding lessons. But even before that it made a difference. Sometimes I wonder where I would be without horses and riding.

Feeling of Accomplishment

Achieving riding milestones, no matter how small, fosters a profound sense of accomplishment. Whether it’s nailing a new combination of jumps or simply developing a better bond with a horse, these achievements are incredibly fulfilling.

I don’t want to make it like our worth is based on what we accomplish, because I believe we all have worth no matter what, but there is something about perservering, overcoming and accomplishing something that is very encouraging and uplifting.

The Social Benefits

Horseback riding isn’t just a solo adventure; it’s a ticket to a vibrant community.

  • Builds Community and Friendships
  • Teaches Responsibility and Empathy
  • Leadership Skills

Builds Community and Friendships

Some of my closest friendships have been forged in the barn. One of my students, a coworkers and a fellow horse lover have become some of my best friends. The equestrian community is tight-knit, offering a sense of belonging and support that’s hard to find elsewhere.

It is a group of people where with the love of horses you always have something to relate to and talk about. There are those like in all walks of life that are not the friendliest, but you will find many opportunities to meet people you really connect with and may turn into lasting friendships.

Teaches Responsibility and Empathy

Caring for a horse teaches you to think beyond yourself, fostering empathy and responsibility. This aspect is particularly beneficial for young riders, shaping them into more compassionate, accountable individuals.

When you are working with and handling horses you often have to imagine their perspective and how they are thinking or feeling in order to respond, lead, ride and train them effectively. This can transfer in everyday life, interacting with others, you are more able to understand others perspectives because you are already practicing it every time you work with the horses.

Horses require a lot of responsibility from being responsible of where the horse goes and at what speed under saddle to getting the horse ready properly before your ride and taking care of your horse and equipment after you ride. And that.. is just the riding part of horses. Owning and caring daily for a horse is a whole other level of responsibility.

Horse riding can show someone what they are capable of as far as hard work and responsibility.

Leadership Skills

Leading a horse, both literally and figuratively, can enhance your leadership qualities. Making decisions and working together with your equine partner develops confidence in your ability to guide and influence positively.

I always tell my beginner students you can’t just sit there and let the horse take over. You need to be the leader. You can be a team with the horse and work together but you are still the one to make the decisions and reinforce those decisions. These skills can teach you how to be a leader in the real world as well.

The Educational Benefits

Horseback riding is a journey of continuous learning and personal growth.

  • Encourages Lifelong Learning
  • Develops Problem-Solving Skills

Encourages Lifelong Learning

The equestrian world is vast, offering endless opportunities for education and improvement. My journey has been filled with learning, from mastering riding techniques to understanding horse care and behavior.

If there is one thing I have learned about horses, riding and the equestrian world. It is that there is always more for you to learn, or improve, so be open to learning more on any aspect of horses. This can also be applied to the rest of your life.

Develops Problem-Solving Skills

Each horse is unique, requiring a tailored approach to training and communication. This has sharpened my problem-solving skills, making me more adaptable and resourceful in and out of the saddle.

I have learned through challenges with horse behavior, riding and training that there is a way you just need to figure it out what works. I have also noticed I have applied this thinking to my life outside horses as well but it originated through overcoming obstacles with horses.

Poll: What Benefit of Horseback Riding Are You Most Interested In?

Share your opinion with all of us!

Video On The Benefits Of Horse Riding

Here is a video from The List TV Show, showcasing and talking about the Health Benefits of Horse Riding.

Coming to our Dismount

Horseback riding offers a wealth of benefits, touching on physical health, mental well-being, social connections, and continuous learning. For me, it’s been a journey of personal growth, overcoming challenges, friendship, and countless joyful moments.

I encourage you to share your experiences or the benefits you’ve discovered through horseback riding in the comments below.

Join The Joyful Equestrian Newsletter

If you're intrigued by the equestrian lifestyle and eager to learn more, join our newsletter! You'll receive updates on new blog posts, journal entries, free printables, and much more.

Disclaimer Notice: Please be aware that horseback riding and related equestrian activities carry inherent risks. The advice and experiences shared on this blog are for informational purposes only and are not a substitute for professional training or advice. Ensure your safety and that of your horse by wearing appropriate gear, practicing safe horse handling, and consulting with certified equestrian professionals. Remember, each horse is unique, and techniques may vary accordingly. Always prioritize safety, respect, and patience in your equestrian endeavors.

Kacey Cleary Administrator
Kacey has been an equestrian since 1998. She was a working student at several eventing and dressage barns. She has owned horses, leased horses, and trained horses. Kacey received an A.S. in Equine Industries from UMass Amherst, where she rode on the dressage team. She was certified with the ARIA and is licensed to teach riding in MA. She has been a barn manager and has run her own horse farm.
follow me