Horseback Riding and Frame of Mind
The mental benefits of horseback riding are numerous. The psychological value of therapeutic riding is well-established for emotional disorders such as PTSD and Autism. So, it’s only natural that all levels of equestrian participation can provide relaxation, focus, discipline, trust, socialization, and mood enhancement. In a survey of 2,650 amateur and professional riders, all participants mentioned the positive impact on mental health, and approximately two thirds gave the highest possible rating to the statement, “Horseback riding improves my disposition.” (Ewa Malchrowicz-Mo´sko, Intl. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2020, 17, 3736)
One of the main reasons for the mental benefits of riding is the relationship that develops between humans and horses. These large, friendly, loyal, social, and intelligent beings have been helpers to Humankind for thousands of years. Also, recreational horseback riding has a natural rhythm that brings about feelings of relaxation for the rider. This is further enriched by being in the open air, and experiencing nature even if it’s at a subconscious level. In fact, scientific studies have shown that riding horses raises the body’s levels of serotonin and stimulates the frontal cortex which controls reasoning and emotion.
Competitive riding has additional mental benefits of setting goals and tackling personal challenges while learning to communicate with your horse, overcome obstacles and execute physically demanding movements. This is also achieved while enjoying the mood-enhancing effects of riding, and developing relationships with people and horses.
So, get on a horse if you haven’t already, and you’ll soon see why riders insist that riding gives them an emotional lift.
Charles T. “Chad” Price, MD
Pediatric Orthopedic Surgeon, Ret.
Former Clinical Prof. FSU Medical School, Orlando