If you’ve never ridden a horse before, you may find the whole idea a little scary. After all, horses are large creatures that are constantly in “prey” mode- it doesn’t take much to make some horses get skittery- especially if you’re already nervous or panicking.

While it may look like riders simply sit on the back of the horse and let it do all the work, this is completely wrong. It takes skill to ride a horse well, however there’s no reason why you can’t learn to do just that.

Here are some of the benefits you’ll get from horse riding:

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You’ll improve physically

Riding helps you develop coordination and balance, since the movements you cue the horse with require you to be aware of your body. It also uses many more muscles than you may think- including the shoulder, abdominal, back, and leg muscles. Since riding also doesn’t only depend on strength, you’ll find that your flexibility increases as you use them for stability. As you begin riding for the first time, you’ll find that you may have sore inner thigh muscles, but it will quickly become stronger and more stretched.

When you’re riding at a walk, you’ll find that your internal organs are stimulated, aiding digestion and liver function and making it a great therapy option for people who are disabled. You’re also burning around 5 calories a minute, and since people of all ages can ride horses, you’ll find that it’s a sport and fun activity that you can do well into your golden years.

It’s great for your mental health

You may find that just staying on and steering the horse is challenging when you first begin, but as this becomes easier you’ll enjoy many different learning opportunities. Lifelong learning can often help you prevent memory loss as you get older, since your brain needs to be continually exercised in order to stay young. Riding is a great way to keep yourself learning, as there’s always something new to pick up or a different challenge to solve in the horse/rider relationship.

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Your emotional wellbeing will improve

Many people find both solace and companionship while they’re working and hanging out with their horse. Sure, riding can be challenging and sometimes even frustrating, however most people will also find it relaxing (at least most of the time), and “horsey people” are a great bunch of people who are always happy to give advice and get together for a ride or lesson.

Before you know it, you’ll have a strong connection with your favourite horse, and may even find yourself buying one yourself one day. This relationship is a strong one, and there are few things more fun than opening up into a canter as you explore a new forest or ride down a deserted beach.

If you’re hoping to learn to ride, you’re going to need some professional horse riding lessons- at least until you’ve got the hang of the basics. From there, the horse riding world is your oyster.