Horses are beneficial for our health

Put your child in the saddle and encourage other parents to do the same.

In today’s mostly electronic world, horses may be the missing link to the basic connection of mind and body. This is especially true with children. Horses teach important life skills to families and children. Children learn responsibility by caring for horses and develop basic muscle strength just by the activities that surround this fun activity.

Horseback riding gives proven aerobic exercise benefits as well as positive emotional support. Riding a horse gets children and adults out of the house and into the outdoors. Hefting saddles, feed and tack builds muscle strength and gives balance, coordination and flexibility to the rider. Confidence is earned every time a child or adult rides a horse. You have to marvel at the fact that a small child, sometimes no more than 80 pounds, can pilot a 1,000-pound animal with precision and finesse.

It’s a fact that riding horses increases muscle strength and balance by strengthening the body’s core and trunk muscles. These muscles are around the waist and lower back. These are the same muscles that help us sit up, walk, and give us balance so we don’t fall over while walking or sitting.

Riding horses increases leg strength, stamina and retrains the body and the brain. The movement of the horse beneath the rider actually forms new neuropathways in the rider’s brain, creating a new knowledge and way of doing things.

There has been much success with just riding a horse at the walk. The natural walking gait of a horse mimics the natural gait of a person, but without the foot impact on the ground of the person. This movement actually retrains the brain, helping people learn to walk again or build strength from back injuries that are stable, but need muscle tone and strength to improve.

Riding horses benefits those who want to fight Father Time, as well. Horseback riding builds strength and flexibility in the rider. If you take note of your strength and flexibility before you start riding and then assess yourself just 60 days later you will be amazed with your progress! Your endurance, hand-eye coordination, as well as flexibility and overall mental status will have improved.

A lot of riders find that riding horses benefits them as much as going to their chiropractor for an adjustment. The passive movement of the horse’s back, interacting and moving underneath the rider, loosens up their joints and stretches their muscles.

The other benefit of horses and youth is that when they are responsible for the care of a horse, they learn how to put another’s needs before their own. They realize that the horse needs to be fed and watered at a specific time and that the horse must be cooled down properly even before they can get a drink themselves. They learn by doing and by example.

Working with horses we find that the key attributes needed for success with them are: consistency, patience, dedication and education. These same attributes are also essential in school and life in general. When life starts pulling you in many different directions and adding stress, the lessons learned at the barn about prioritizing your time and organizational skills will suddenly take on new meaning and offer great benefit and comfort.

Most of all, just do it, get to the stable, put your child in the saddle and encourage other parents to do the same. Form lasting bonds and friendships with other horse minded families. Your health and family will be in a better place for it! Happy Trails!

LORI RICIGLIANO is a horse judge, trainer, riding instructor, equine photographer and clinician. She also hosts a weekly syndicated equine radio talk show “Hoof Beats with Lori”. Lori has held her horse judges license as a USEF / AHA — “R” rated licensed horse judge for more than 25 years and currently operates Ricigliano Farms Horse Training and Riding Academy near Kent, Minn. She can be reached by email or phone for any questions at 218- 557-8762 or riciglianofarms@gmail. com. Her website is www. RiciglianoFarms.com

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