Why take up Horse Riding?
January is upon us again. It is a time for resolutions, for planning and for many it is a time for self-improvement. We hear so much in the media and from the world health organisation about the National obesity problem and about the need to help people to get and stay active. With all of the outdoor hobbies and sports to choose from – why horse riding?
While most sports will involve the development of and improvement of coordination and balance, there are few that challenge and utilise both as much as horse riding. Learning to ride a horse involves both hand eye co-ordination, hand and leg co-ordination, seat and leg co-ordination and the use of the rider’s entire body. Riders must learn to balance and organise themselves at speed while on board a live animal. Daunting as that might sound to the complete beginner, rest assured a good riding school horse has the ideal temperament to assist you while you learn over time to do this. As riders spend more time around horses, it is not just the riding itself that will improve fitness and activity – yard work and grooming are great for getting your muscles working.
With more and more people spending their day either at school, at college or at a desk and then sat driving or waiting in traffic, it is often more than just a physical outlet that people need to relax and unwind after a busy day. Horses, like dogs are emotive animals. Riding a horse is more than just a sport or exercise – it is the ability to bond and build a partnership with an animal. As such horses can often provide a form of therapy and escapism for riders allowing them to get away from their busy lifestyle and their problems – horse riding rarely stops at the end of a riding lesson and riders begin to get to know and to take some care of the horses after their session.
It is a social sport and one that is ideal for meeting like-minded people and forming friendships (I met most of my best friends through a mutual love of horses). In fact, ask anyone you know who has a horse how much time they spend at the yard and how much of that is actually on the horse!
With children, horse riding can help to teach responsibility and accountability as they learn over time how to look after an animal and the importance of taking care of them daily as well as understanding how animals learn and think. As an old internet meme says – if you teach your child to love horses they will never have the money or time for getting themselves into trouble!
I always say that I have horses because they are cheaper than the bail money and therapy I would need if I had to go without and still deal with the stress of being a grown adult. It is a love of horses that has seen me through the most difficult times in my life. When the mornings and evenings are dark, it is raining, you are tired and the weather is cold it is hard to be motivated. It is our passion for horses that gets us riders and owners out of the house on those days no matter how cold or wet or miserable it is outside. Besides, no matter how bad a day you have had, nothing makes everything feel better like feeling like you can fly over a fence, feeling a horse’s nose nuzzle your neck or simply having a chat with a like-minded friend.
Horse riding is often incorrectly perceived as an elitist or expensive sport. This doesn’t have to be the case at all – anyone can learn to ride and can enjoy spending time with horses. Lessons usually cost from €25 for a group session. For beginners, most centres provide hats of the required standard free of charge. This means that all you need to start is some comfortable tracksuit bottoms or thick leggings, warm long sleeved tops and some boots with a heel (wellies or outdoor boots). A list of approved riding centres in Ireland can be found at www.aire.ie
What people say about riding at Dunbyrne Equestrian…
Michael Monaghan – “I have been attending Dunbyrne Equestrian riding school for a few months now and would highly recommend it to anybody. The facilities are excellent – two arenas, all weather track and lovely cross country for hacking. There is a nice selection of well looked after horses. I am on my way to becoming a proficient rider thanks to the wonderful instructor Michelle. It is one thing to be able to ride but it is another to learn to ride correctly. My overall wellbeing has improved also from being outside in the fresh air and being around animals. I am trying something new and getting physically fit at the same time. It sure beats being stuck in the gym – I wish I started horse riding years ago.”
Nicola Burke – “I started horse riding at the age of 21 I honestly thought it was more of a thing that you had to do from a young age. I started out in the riding school going the odd time and really enjoyed it, sometimes the instructor would do a little dressage test at the end of a session and I thought this is something I could do. In November 2015 I got a horse on a share agreement, she was difficult and constantly challenged me but she changed me as a person and certainly as a rider. The thing is when I started riding I was overweight, lacking confidence and my mental health was deteriorating. Horses were my medicine, when I put my foot in the stirrup I learned to leave all negativity on the ground for that hour it was just me and the horse, for that hour I felt free. I fell in love with equestrianism, I haven’t had a panic attack in two years and I’ve lost over two stone. I’m a stronger, healthier person physically and mentally and I have horses to thank for that, I’ve also met some amazing people along the way and made great friends.”
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Article by Lorna Keogh.