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How Many Calories Does Riding a Horse Burn?

How Many Calories Does Riding a Horse Burn?

We all know that spending time outdoors in the sunshine being active is good for you. Walking, swimming, hiking, running, or riding a bike are all common and popular ways of doing just that. Even working in the garden can be a wonderfully satisfying workout. But what about riding something that does most of the work for you? Even riding a motorcycle requires some physical exertion, but we wouldn’t exactly call it to exercise, would we? 

What about riding a horse? That’s a different story altogether. Riding a horse may not seem like a terrific fitness activity, but there is much more exertion required of the rider than we might think. Here, we will discuss why riding a horse is a much more health and fitness-oriented thing than one might suspect, and offer some compelling evidence to that end.

Certainly, riding a horse is not as physically demanding as running a mountain trail. But research has shown, and experienced riders will tell you, that riding a horse is exercise. But, if you were to try to do it to lose weight, or as an addition to a fitness routine, what kind of results can you expect?

The Health Benefits of Riding a Horse

In 2015, Dr. Dennis Sigler, a Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service horse specialist and professor in the department of animal science, along with a graduate student and three of his peers ran a study to discover the health benefits of riding horses. They published their research here, in the International Journal of Exercise Science.

They found that riding a horse does burn calories just as we suspected. The team’s observations confirm that while riding, the equestrian must stabilize her entire body from the feet to the legs, up through the core muscles of the torso, including the neck, shoulders, and arms. The researchers found that the heart rate was elevated for reasons of physical exertion as well as a response to the natural thrill of the activity.

The team also found that the harder the rider pushes her horse, the harder she must work as well. They concluded that speed combined with complex maneuvers offer the greatest level of exertion for the rider. Turning requires the rider to brace and respond, and the more rapidly the horse performs maneuvers, the more stabilization the rider must do.

Health Benefits of Horse Riding

How Many Calories Will You Burn?

According to their measurements, a rider can burn as much as 200 calories in 45 minutes by riding at a trot, walk, or canter. When their subjects increased the activity level to running, reining, and especially cutting (sharp turns), calories burned increased to as much as 7 per minute, for a maximum total of 420 calories per hour.

Comparing this to an hour of running reveals the real value of horseback riding for fitness. The average 180-pound runner will burn about 700 to 800 calories per hour. This means riding a horse is not an advanced workout, but it is an excellent addition to a serious fitness routine. More importantly, it is a fun and exciting low-impact fitness activity for anyone who wants to lose weight, or just get in shape without the drudgery of “working out.”

Why Horseback Riding is Good Exercise?

Riding a horse is a skill with a steep and compelling learning curve. It is safe to say that one does not just sit on a horse and command it to carry us to our destination the way we press down the gas pedal of a car. Here, we’ll discuss some of the mechanics of horseback riding and why it’s excellent for your health and fitness.

Horse Riding

Why Riding Horseback is Great Exercise?

Fitness gurus and expert equestrians alike agree that riding horses is not only a viable fitness activity but indeed, a very good one. The writer of the blog, HorseRacingSense.com, contends just as we initially guessed, that horseback riding is great for the core muscles. That is the muscles of the back, stomach, and flanks, which support the spine and form the foundation of our basic mechanical strength.

The writer argues that far beyond isolating the core muscles, balancing fast-twitch muscles all over the body are heavily engaged in the activity. This level of muscle engagement amounts to a cardiovascular workout since the rider will need to replace blood oxygen at a high rate. This means it’s good for your heart as well as your waistline and your overall muscle tone.

Of course, it must be mentioned that riding a horse is a thrill and a joy in and of itself. It is a beautiful way to combine the benefits of a wonderful hobby with those of routine fitness. In short, it’s great for your mind, body, and spirit – as well as for that of your equine friend!

Studies Support Horseback Riding for Fitness

A more recent study published in the United Kingdom supports all of the claims made by the Texas A & M study mentioned above as well as those of the expert rider and author of HorseRacingSense.com. But this study goes beyond the mere physical benefits of riding horseback.

The British research team contends that the sense of accomplishment, companionship, a sense of thrill and adventure, as well as the sheer joy of riding are all great benefits. They did not neglect the very important benefits for brain health. They explain that learning to ride creates enormous amounts of new neurological connections in the brain and that these new connections help to fend off conditions like Alzheimer’s disease and senile dementia. What’s more, they contend, learning to ride a horse is a deeply integrated activity, spanning many realms of experience and parts of the brain- making it especially protective against neurological deterioration in our senior years.

With all of these verifiable benefits, it’s impossible to escape the reality that horseback riding is a wonderful way to not just lose weight but to enhance the quality of life altogether.

Choosing the Right Gear

Horse Riding Gear

Anyone interested in horseback riding as a way to become fitter and to lose weight should be ready to take the activity seriously. It is not something to be done casually if it is to be done well. With special consideration to the fact that fast maneuvers are best for burning more calories, it will be important to have all the right gear and equipment.

Having the right riding equipment will make riding more comfortable and sustainable. More importantly, it will help protect the health and safety of the rider and the horse alike. There are many great resources for top-quality equestrian gear. They are a leading outfitter for riders with more than three decades of experience. They’ll be able to give you good advice as well as supply top-quality gear.

If you’re getting into riding for the first time, you can trust that this wonderful pastime will bring you many hours of joy and satisfaction. The great health benefits will be far from your mind as you form a bond with your horse and enjoy the thrill of the ride through nature.