How Horses Make Humans Healthier June 28 2015 6 Comments

If you're a horse rider, you certainly know that horses make you happier. But did you know that they also make us healthier? From the natural high feeling you get after a ride, to the surprising number of calories burned in a day at the barn, riding and working with horses has astounding impacts on our health. Let's take a look at a few of the ways that horses are good for humans.

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Horses Increase Our Empathy

One of the most surprising things that horses do for us is that they literally make us better people, by increasing our empathy. The science behind this is pretty amazing. As humans, our feelings of empathy are linked to a brain chemical called oxytocin. Interaction with all animals increases our oxytocin levels, but this is particularly true of horses, because they're so dependent on our training. As any riders know, working with a horse so they understand our verbal and physical cues isn't just a process of training your horse, it's a mutual process where you learn to understand each other. And that fills your brain with natural chemical goodness.

Of course this isn't the only good chemical that your brain releases to say "good job" when you're done riding. In the same way as runners experience a natural "high" after a run, riders experience a "riders high" thanks to the endorphin release that follows a ride.

Riding is an Awesome Workout

Anyone who's gone full wet-noodle at the end of a tough ride knows this, but it's surprising just how amazing riding is as a workout. In terms of cardiovascular and calorie burning benefits, riding at a canter does twice as much as going for a brisk walk. Oh, and it's also literally a full-body workout.

Riding is Great for our Self-Esteem

Many equestrians really fall in love with the sport when they need it most. Often, that's during (or just before) adolescence, a time when our self-esteem tends to be at its lowest. Riding, caring for horses, and the social environment provided by a barn has been shown to improve self-esteem significantly, and reduce levels of the stress hormone cortisol.

What do you think, do horses actually make us healthier? And did we miss any ways that horses improve our mental or physical health? Let us know in the comments below or over on Facebook.