Humans have a unique bond with horses; a connection that spans throughout history. More recently, science has helped us understand how deep that connection is. Horses are truly majestic animals, capable of many emotions. Equine-assisted therapy (EAT) has helped many people overcome trauma; the science has shown that being around horses can literally bring your heart rate down to a calming level.
Whether you’re horse-riding as a hobby or interested in competitive horse racing, here are some significant mental health benefits that come with being around horses:
1. Lowering Cortisol Levels
Horse-riding can lower your stress levels. In a 12-week study researchers found that teenagers who were taught how to ride and care for horses had significantly lower stress hormone levels throughout the day.
If you feel like you are under a lot of work-related pressure, consider horse riding as a new weekend hobby. You can improve your mental well-being thanks to endorphins released by your brains. And, the chance to spend some quality time in nature, will help you relax and get some much needed vitamin-D from being in the sun.
2. Improved Problem-Solving Skills
During horse-riding, you’re forced to make decisions during an adrenaline rush; you’re constantly making decisions about speed and direction, and need to be flexible and sharp enough to make adjustments at the drop of a hat.
As a result, horse-riding improves your alertness, your ability to solve problems, and to think quickly. No matter how calm horses are, they are still strong animals, and if you don’t stay alert, you may get hurt. If you make even a small mistake, you can find yourself falling off the horse.
3. Activates Sympathetic Nervous System for Memory Skills
Horse-riding can help improve your memory and learning skills. Interestingly, scientist found that the vibration produced by horses when ridden activates the part of your brain known as the sympathetic nervous system.
Horse-riding requires coordination and a lot of awareness, which engages the brain. The different aspects of balance, timing, and visual and spatial awareness are all required when you’re riding a horse, giving yourself not only a physical, but a great mental workout. The study was focused on young people, but this doesn’t mean older people don’t require engaging the brain when horse-riding!
4. Confidence Boost
Learning new things literally changes your brain, and of course, this applies when learning how to ride a horse. Once you learn something new, neuroplasticity rewires your brain. Learning any new skills will also boost your self-image. Give yourself a self-esteem boost and try learning horse-riding this weekend. It’s never too late to start!