When we think about horse riding, we often think about the various equestrian disciplines and the world class athletes that compete at the top level of the sport all around the world. However, there are almost endless benefits that horses bring to our everyday lives and mental wellbeing that we sometimes don’t even recognise!
Alongside the numerous physical skills and fitness we develop from riding, horses teach us invaluable life skills that continue to help us throughout our lives. In this blog, Louise Fitton (Marketing & Events Manager at RFEC) explores the not so obvious skills we learn from horse riding…
In many life situations, it is easy to become frustrated or give up with something that doesn’t work out perfectly straight away. However, every horse rider learns from very early on, failure is inevitable. When it comes to horses you do not have the option to force things to get that instant result, riding is part of a process that grows and develops over time. It doesn’t matter how much you have prepared or hard you have practiced, at some point you are going to mess up a transition or knock a fence, circumstances change and these challenges are part of the sport. However, we continue to wipe down our jodhpurs, dust off the dirt and carry on!
Horse riding is a sport that certainly requires dedication. Even on your worst days, horse riding will teach you to remain determined and focused. It’s not always going to be perfect straight away, you have to push yourself and work hard for your end goal.
Horse riding teaches responsibility through riding but even more so through the care and management of horses. Our ‘Own a Pony’ days at RFEC are a great example of the all round responsibility required to care for a horse. Riders begin the day organising all the tasks needed to make sure their horse is happy and healthy all day, this is usually quite surprising to most riders who don’t realise how much is involved in owning a horse! From mucking out to grooming to feeding (never mind the actual exercise and schooling required to train and maintain a horse’s fitness) – riding is by no means the only responsibility for equestrians!
Horses may be big and strong, but they are highly sensitive animals that learn and react to the body language and emotions of their rider. There are many studies that have researched and proven horses’ ability to recognise and respond to a riders behaviour, suggesting they can understand our moods and even facial expressions.
But, can you recognise how your horse is feeling? Just like humans, every horse is different. A key skill we learn from riding is understanding when to push a horse that little bit more, but also knowing when to back off at the right time is key to developing a lasting relationship with your horse. Different horses respond differently in various situations, some thrive off a challenge and need more complex exercises to keep their mind active while others may thrive from a slower approach and need to take ‘baby steps’ to achieve that end goal. Each horse has different traits, they can get angry, upset or excited when learning, so adjust your approach and empathise with the horses’ character to have a successful ride.
The whole process of riding is non-verbal communication between horse and rider. There is a silent conversation that is constantly taking place between you and your horse when riding, whether that be through your position, seat or muscles, you are speaking to your horse in more ways than one. As your riding ability progresses, so does your communication skills with the horse. As you explore more ways to communicate with your horse, you can begin to ask more questions or try new challenges.
At RFEC, we have many riders join us that are unable to engage with classroom based learning or struggle with exams, we often find these riders develop an instant connection with horses and begin to express themselves and can communicate more effectively through riding.
As equestrians, we quickly come to terms with the fact that no job is beneath us. There is no rider that is too good to get dirt under their fingernails, skip out their stable or clean their tack. Riders also need to respect each other, in group riding lessons or competition environments, it is essential that riders work together to enjoy a productive lesson and successful ride.
Riders develop respect for horses and learn to be mindful of the needs and care of another being. This respect is a mutual relationship between the rider and their horse. Every rider needs to be confident of their horse care and riding skills to earn their horse’s respect, this can only be achieved when a rider truly demonstrates respect and empathy for their horse.
Find Louise on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/loufitton/
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