Headed by Dennis Sigler, a professor at Texas A&M University, the study examined the various styles of riding and its overall affect on bodily functions like oxygen consumption, heart rate, carbon dioxide production and respiratory frequency. The three riding tests were:
- A 45-minute ride that involved walking, trotting and cantering
- A cutting pattern, with the 20 test subjects each wearing a telemetric gas analyzer
- A reining pattern, in which the rider merely guides and not controls the horse directly
The study found that the 45-minute walk, trot and canter can burn up to 200 calories. Some extensive regimens, namely those involving extended trotting, can burn up to 400 calories. Meanwhile, cutting and reining led to more energy expenditure and greater heart rate responses. In fact, both cutting and reining can burn up to seven calories per minute. It should be noted, however, that these routines often don’t last longer than five minutes, as HorseandRider.com notes. However, there is data within the study that demonstrates that more intense gaits, like the long trot and canter, have benefits that can be accumulated even through weekly riding exercises.
There’s still plenty of research to be done, though. But for now, researchers say they have a fairly realistic, albeit slightly novel, understanding of what each exercise can provide. Sigler said the study has gone a long way in validating riding as a true exercise option, especially for those who can’t undertake more standardized exercise regimens.
“Some [people] have joints that just can’t stand a jog, but if they can ride a horse and burn 400 calories a day, that’s significant,” he told AgriLife Today. “Horseback riding is also an excellent way to beat childhood obesity. And we haven’t even measured the therapeutic aspect of horseback riding.”
Where does horseback riding rank?
Perhaps one of the simplest ways to understand just how effective riding can be is to do a general comparison. The following is part of an extensive list of various sports and the average number of calories burned per hour (via CalorieLab):
- Basketball, pickup – 340 calories
- Flag football – 476 calories
- Frisbee – 136 calories
- General gymnastics – 204 calories
- Ice hockey – 476 calories
- Skateboarding – 272 calories
- Tennis – 476 calories
Horses can benefit, too
It’s not just humans who enjoy riding as a workout. Writing for TheHorse.com, horse expert Shannon Pratt-Phillips explained that horses can experience various health benefits through regular exercise. Primarily, exercise can aid in further developing a horse’s bones and muscles, allowing them to run stronger and more efficiently. Added muscle mass, according to some studies, has also proven to bolster insulin sensitivity; in turn, this can help the horse avoid complications with diabetes. Horses also need to burn calories because unneeded weight can damage their heart and lungs. Additionally, a well-exercised horse is a happier horse, according to ForAnEquine.com. Horses who have this outlet to burn excess energy are often less anxious and better able to handle stress. Horses and their trainer/breeder often bond during these rides, forming crucial emotional connections that can help lengthen life spans and promote effective communication, among other things.
The importance of supplements
For a horse to undergo any long-term riding regimen, it’s going to need the right kind of supplemental support. As you’re building a horse’s muscle with regular rides, JC’s X-Tie Up™ promotes healthy muscle function. For a more general supplement, Ultra Fire™ features 12 vitamins and 11 minerals/salts that promote hydration, better energy efficiency and more durable muscles. Finally, Vitamin B1 Blend is also an excellent source of calcium, which promotes healthy bone growth and thiamine, an essential nutrient that protects the heart and promotes better immunity.