The other day I saw a meme on social media that read, “You’re never too old to say ‘horses’ when you drive past some horses.” There is something about the majesty of horses that is both calming and awe-inspiring. This duality allows horses to be great teachers and can help children grow and thrive. Ann Swinker, Ph.D., a professor of Animal Science at Penn State University found “Handling, riding, and caring for a horse or pony can develop a host of positive traits in a child, including responsibility, accountability, patience, level-headedness, empathy, kindness, and self-discipline.”
According to the American Heart Association, about one in three American kids and teens is overweight or obese. The physical benefits of horseback riding are numerous and varied. It is an activity that can improve balance and gross motor skills. Sitting up and moving on a horse enhances core strength and further enhances muscular development. Riding also develops fine motor skills, hand-eye coordination, and boosts the cardiovascular system.
Horseback riding improves learning by activating the sympathetic nervous system and increases memory. Riding also presents children with situations such as: getting around obstacles or dealing with uncertain settings, that require problem-solving and quick thinking. Focus and control are further developed the more children ride. For younger children, the simple task of counting ears, legs, and hoof-beats boost both learning and fun.
Spending time with animals can be an excellent activity for children of all ages. It teaches empathy, kindness, and treating others with a gentle hand. Horses can sense the feelings of those around them. A shy child may feel a little braver in the presence of the horse they pet or ride. Children not only learn to face their fears but also learn patience when dealing with a living creature.
According to Horse and Rider magazine: “Horses are the perfect antidote to today’s digital mania. Children are naturally attracted to horses, making them a welcome alternative to TV-watching, video-game-playing, social-media-obsessing, or just hanging out.” If you choose horseback riding as a regular activity for your child, they will eventually meet new friends. Children who ride horses achieve goals through hard work and determination, which in turn teaches responsibility and accountability. The adage of “get back on the horse” teaches children to face their fear and to keep trying.
Spending time with horses can be incredibly therapeutic for children with special needs. For those on the autism spectrum, horses facilitate an emotional connection while providing structure. Riding also offers sensory benefits in regards to speed, incline, and movement. Horses provide children struggling with behavioral issues by creating a safe space that calms aggressiveness, nervousness, and anxiety by allowing them to slow down and distress.
Local mom, Kimberly Alexander, stated “Alec (age 7) started riding lessons just before his 7th birthday at Wichita Riding Academy,Inc. They’ve been fantastic! He’s gained confidence and improved his motor skills. We really like that he’s learning important lessons about appreciating and taking care of animals.”
In our hectic and overstimulated world, we could all use an activity that slows us down and allows us to take in the scenery. Giving our children the opportunity to decompress and connect with something outside themselves is so rewarding.
Wichita Riding Academy is home to the largest riding program in the state. Offering lessons for beginners to world champions 7 days a week. Private lessons, Group lessons, Camps, Parties and much more! Visit www.wichitaridingacademy.com/book-online to see all of our riding options. We can't wait to see you!