If you've ever watched someone on a horse that's ambling down the trail, you may think you're looking at the picture of relaxation.
The rider has nothing better to do than sit back and let the horse do all the work, right?
Wrong. Climb up on a horse for yourself and let your muscles tell you the real story.
The muscles of your back, legs, thighs, shoulders and abdominal area will get a workout that a novice might not expect. Your internal organs get a good massaging, which improves digestion and liver performance.
People who spend most of their time in a wheelchair can particularly benefit from all this action, according to an article on About.com.
You may be surprised to learn that all that sitting is credited with burning five calories a minute for a woman who weighs 150 pounds, according to Dr. Pamela Peeke, author of "Body For Life for Women". If you ride faster or longer, the number of calories increases accordingly.
If you also take care of your horse, you know that carting a saddle and other equipment around, cleaning up a stable and moving bales of hay from one place to another can burn calories and tone muscles, as well as enhance your bone density.
Mentally, there is a significant learning curve to learning your way around a horse. Initially, your cognitive focus will probably be preoccupied with staying on. There's lots more to learn as your relationship with your horse or horses progresses.
All that exercise is good as long as you follow safety precautions. Be sure to get a good helmet. An equestrian helmet certified by the ASTM/SEI is made to take greater impact at the back of the head, since that is the area most likely to get hurt in a riding accident.
ASTM is the American Society for Testing and Materials. SEI is the Safety Equipment Institute.
Don't skimp on footwear. This is not the time to wear flip-flops or running shoes you bought on sale.
Stirrups require boots with heels. To keep those heels from getting caught and causing a dragging accident invest in safety stirrups like peacock stirrups or break away stirrups.