Horse riding, also known as equestrianism, is simply the sport of riding a horse. The sport has been around for centuries and remains very popular in countries like Australia, the United States, the United Kingdom, and numerous European and Asian countries.
Horse Riding Styles
Within the sport, there are two major horse riding styles, which are the English and Western riding styles.
Both styles have differences and similarities, but the most obvious difference is the tack worn by the horse.
Western saddles are heavier and larger than the English saddle because they are designed to spread the weight of the rider more evenly over a large area of the back of the horse. The Western saddles make it easier to ride for long periods of time.
The English saddle is much smaller and lighter than the Western saddle because the saddle is designed to give the rider closer contact with the back of the horse.
When it comes to riding, the major difference between the Western and English style is that the English riding style gives the rider direct contact with the horse’s mouth using reins. The reins also serve as aids to speed up the horse and guide it in the right direction.
The Western style allows the rider to guide the horse with little or no contact by using the rider’s weight, seat, and neck-reigning to provide the horse with aid.
The rider’s position is the same with both English and Western styles. The rider is required to sit straight and tall, without leaning forward or backward. The legs of the rider should also hang freely against the horse’s side, and the arms relaxed against the sides.
English riding requires the rider to take the reins in each hand, while Western riding requires the rider to take both reins in one hand while the other hand falls naturally on their side or on their thigh.
Types of Horse Riding
There are many different types of horse riding using both the English and Western styles. The three most popular English styles are also Olympic events and are listed below.
Show Jumping: This is when a rider rides a horse through an obstacle course in which the horse has to make a series of jumps over fences while being timed. The rider who makes all the jumps without knocking a fence down in the fastest time wins.
Dressage: This doesn’t require the horses to jump, but the horses in dressage events must be very obedient. The horse and rider have to follow a sequence of movements including straight lines and circles, changes in direction and pace, as well as lateral movements.
The rider and horse are judged on the submission and obedience of the horse to its rider’s aids, accuracy, straightness, and presence, as well as correctness.
Cross Country: This is similar to show jumping because it requires the horse to jump, but that is where the similarities end. Cross Country requires the horse to run at a high speed over solid obstacles like logs, water, stone walls, and ditches. The course is also very long and takes about 10 minutes to complete during the Olympics.
Now that we have discussed the horse riding types that are Olympic events, it’s time to take a look at the other horse riding styles that aren’t featured in the Olympics.
Western Pleasure: This is a type of horse riding in which the horses are shown in a group performing changes of direction and gait as requested by the judge. The horses are judged on their style, movement, and appearance.
Barrel Racing: This requires the horse and rider to an arena at high speed and navigate a pattern of three barrels. They have to turn tightly around each barrel, avoid hitting the barrels. The fastest time wins the race.
Roping Events: A rider has to follow a steer and lasso it while riding at high speed. The rider then has to bring his horse to a stop and tie the steer’s leg up. The fastest rider to do so wins.
Trail Riding: This entails riding a horse on a trail, forest roads, or bridle paths. However, the horse shouldn’t be ridden on roads used by cars. Trail rides can be any distance, they can be short trips or long distance trips that take days to complete. Trail riding can be done for fun or as an equestrian competition.
Benefits of Horse Riding
Horse riding has many benefits, some of which include:
Core Strength: Since horse riding requires riders to use specific muscles to stay in certain positions, it improves the rider’s postural strength.
Balance and Coordination: When riding a horse, staying balanced becomes harder when the horse starts to move faster, and after a while, a rider develops coordination skills to move their body with the horse and balance the horse.
Increased Muscle Tone: When riding a horse, a rider’s core muscles get stronger, particularly the inner thighs and pelvic muscles, which get the most workout while riding a horse.
Improved Mental Health: There are a lot of mental benefits to horse riding because there is a confidence that comes with being able to handle and interact with a horse. A lot of people have also said they find horse riding to be a relaxing and calming experience.