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WHY HORSES

Ask “Why horses?” and you, too, will say, “Why not!”

Ask “Why horses?” of anyone with horses in their life, and you’re likely to receive the answer, “Why not!” The more complete answer is a lengthy list of all the ways horses can enhance life.
Let anyone who thinks the horse’s days of helping humankind are past visit a therapeutic riding center, a summer pony camp, or a busy show barn when adult amateurs are riding after work. Then, it’s clear that horses play important roles today, just different roles than in the past.

Horses Enhance Life

There is a lengthy list of all the ways horses can enhance life. They connect us to our past and nature, provide companionship and recreation, serve as therapy animals for those with physical, emotional and mental challenges, and create community.

Horses and Riders

It might look like riders are just sitting on top of their horses, looking elegant and accomplished, but it takes dedication to learning, practicing, and perfecting their skills to give that impression. Riding horses is an art and a science, but it is exercise, as well – sometimes lots of exercise.

Horses and Children

Life lessons from stable to trail to show ring lays a solid foundation for the future for young equestrians. Whether horses remain in their lives throughout their lives, or not, the lessons they learn with horses accompany them into adulthood.

Horses and Therapy

Equine assisted therapy programs are growing around the country and the world, and for good reason. Horses are tremendously giving partners in helping children and adults with challenges of all types, from children on the autism spectrum to veterans struggling with PTSD, and many, many others.

Horses Enhance Life

Ask “Why horses?” of anyone with horses in their life, and you’re likely to receive the answer, “Why not!” The more complete answer is a lengthy list of all the ways horses can enhance life.

There’s the connection to our past, for one. For centuries, horses were humans’ companions in daily life, providing transportation for commercial and personal purposes, horsepower for all manner of work, and recreation during leisure hours. Back then, they were the ATVs and SUVs of daily life.

Horses have new roles to play today, however. They provide companionship and recreation, from the backyard pet or retired horse, to competition horses, trail horses, and more. Therapy horses of all kinds make life better for countless families whose children may have physical, mental or emotional challenges, and for veterans dealing with the wounds of war, both visible and hidden from sight.

Horses bring us closer to nature, as well. Whether that’s a neighborhood trail ride of experienced equestrians, or an urban school class visiting the local riding academy for an introduction to horses, time spent in nature with horses is always time well spent.

In addition, horses create community. Bonding with fellow trail riders, supporting stable mates at a competition, or trading vacation horse care with a friend, the relationships forged between people who share their love of horses can dig deep roots and last a lifetime.

Horses and Riders

It might look like riders are just sitting on top of their horses, looking elegant and accomplished, but it takes dedication to learning, practicing, and perfecting their skills to give that impression. Riding horses is an art and a science, but it is exercise, as well – sometimes lots of exercise. According to a study published in the Journal of Exercise Science, riding for 45 minutes at walk, trot and canter can burn up to 200 calories, and more strenuous riding can burn up to 7 calories a minute.

But the physical benefits of riding are not limited just to calorie burning. There’s evidence to support riders’ claims that horseback exercise increases cardio fitness, strength, and flexibility, as well as better reflexes, balance and coordination.

Time spent with horses – whether riding, grooming or just hanging out with horses – provides psychological benefits, as well. There’s a good reason that the old saying attributed to Winston Churchill, “There is something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a man,” is so often quoted – it’s true.

Equestrian pursuits provide stress relief that’s a complete contrast to the high stress, high stakes lifestyle so prevalent today. Even an hour of barn time or saddle time gives riders a mental break and a change to reconnect with something they love, an opportunity to recharge their mental batteries.

There’s also the social side of life with horses, be it the camaraderie of like-minded friends on a trail ride or the club gatherings for special events, the challenge of competition among friends on the show circuit or discovering a shared love of horses among strangers in a different country. The social connection among horse people turns strangers into friends and can create bonds to last a lifetime.

Horses and Children

It’s a classic scenario: Little girl reads Black Beauty, or National Velvet, or Misty of Chincoteague, or Cloud … and nothing will do but she has to go to the pony ride, go to horse camp, then get a pony, then get a horse, then go to a show. There’s something about the outside of a horse that’s very good for the development of a child.

Learning to handle a horse teaches children about responsibility, about setting and reinforcing boundaries, and helps them develop confidence and self-esteem. Through riding lessons, they develop body awareness and self-esteem, and discover that even though their horse is many times their own size, they can learn how to communicate with it, set goals for their skills and those of their horse.

Plus, working around the barn with other kids, and sharing lessons, develops interpersonal and socialization skills. Even for the shyest children, there’s something about being around horses that brings them out of themselves. Happily, the emotional bond with their horses fulfills the universal need to love and be loved in return. It’s not uncommon for children to call their horses their best friends.

Life lessons from stable to trail to show ring lays a solid foundation for the future for young equestrians. Whether horses remain in their lives throughout their lives, or not, the lessons they learn with horses accompany them into adulthood.

Horses and Therapy

Equine assisted therapy programs are growing around the country and the world, and for good reason. Horses are tremendously giving partners in helping children and adults with challenges of all types, from children on the autism spectrum to veterans struggling with PTSD, and many, many others.

Riders have long said that time spent with horses is their therapy, but this is therapy for real. Program participants may ride under supervision, or simply sit on a horse, or just be around the horses. Some programs specialize in serving a particular community, such as children with physical handicaps. Others may focus on veterans programs, or children with behavioral issues. The larger programs offer an array of programs that address a variety of therapeutic needs.

What all these programs have in common is the power of the horse to reach hearts, heal spirits and transform lives. The rocking motion of a horse simply walking along imitates the same motion of a person, and a young rider who cannot walk on his own feels the movement and laughs with delight. The stroke of a hand along a horse’s silky, warm neck begins a relationship for an autistic child who has difficulty even relating to family. The camaraderie of riding with other vets builds a rapport among others suffering the trauma of war provides a moment of respite that may lead to more lasting peace with the past.

Let anyone who thinks the horse’s days of helping humankind are past visit a therapeutic riding center, a summer pony camp, or a busy show barn when adult amateurs are riding after work. Then, it’s clear that horses play important roles today, just different roles than in the past.

“There is something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a man.”

~Winston Churchill

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