Horse Riding Benefits for Weight Loss

Horse Riding Benefits for Weight Loss

Horse riding benefits for weight loss are well known. So much so, weight loss through horse riding was promoted by the British Equestrian Federation in their campaign, Trot to be Trim. But what are those riding benefits for weight loss and how can riders achieve them successfully? 

Horse Riding and Weight Loss

Weight loss can be successfully achieved through horse riding. In 2011, the British Horse Society carried out a studied and observed that horse riding can burn enough energy to be classed as moderate intensity exercise. They found that an hour of schooling on a horse, or group horse riding lesson can burn up to 360 calories - that’s the equivalent energy expenditure to a one-hour bike ride at 10mph.

The study also looked into associated equestrian activities, such as mucking out, and further suggested that these could also be classes as moderate exercise too.

However, riders must consider the intensity of exercise for weight loss benefits.

To increase energy expenditure, faster selected gaits during riding should be chosen. This increases speed and complexity of rider co-ordination, and therefore calories burnt. Further, faster riding gaits have shown to increase enjoyment during horse riding. Enjoyment is directly linked to exercise sustainability, therefore trot, canter, and even gallop work may be the answer for keeping off unwanted weight.

Not only can horse riding be good for weight loss, but it can also help build and tone muscles too. Core and quadricep muscles are majoritively used within riding. The repetitive action of riding, in order to follow the horse’s movement, leads to a progressive overload. Inducing a progressive overload increases muscle strength and stamina, and therefore performance in the saddle. As muscle requires more energy per pound than fat, this is also beneficial for keeping body fat percentage down.

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Benefits of Weight Loss for Horse Riders

There are numerous benefits of weight loss for horse riders. Some benefits of weight loss for riders include;

  • Reduced joint strain.
  • Improved cardiovascular health.
  • Increased horse performance.
  • Reduced fatigue.

Joint strain can be majorly influenced by a rider’s weight. Joint strain can lead to pain, injury and subsequently, reduced development for both horse and rider.

When increased loads go through joints, it increases the pressure on the structures holding them in place. Although, these structures can withstand day-to-day activities, repetitive movements as seen when riding, alongside additional weight, can accelerate natural wear-and-tear of the joints.

Cardiovascular health also massively benefits from horse riding. Cardiovascular health benefits come partly from weight loss, with high body fat percentages increasing pressure on the heart to pump blood around the body. However, horse riding can also be classed as cardio. Taking the heart rate up above its usual rate can help the organ cope better and become more efficient at rest!

In addition, rider weight can affect horse performance and comfort. Research presented at the 2018 National Equine Forum suggested that high rider to horse body weight ratios could induce temporary lameness and discomfort. They observed that the heavier the rider compared to the weight of the horse, the more discomfort behaviours the horse displayed. For some horses, this could result in resorting to dangerous behaviours, injuring themselves or the rider.

Fatigue can also be onset early during ridden sessions for both horse and rider, when riders are at higher weights. The increased weight carriage means that horses and riders have to work harder than their lighter counterparts to achieve the same result. Lighter combinations may be able to move faster for longer, increasing performance outcomes. Both rider and horse fatigue can also predispose to falls and mistakes. Therefore, avoiding early onset of fatigue may help to reduce risk of injury. 

Tips for Losing Weight Whilst Horse Riding

Losing weight whilst horse riding can be easily achieved with some help from other lifestyle modifications.

Alongside horse riding, it is recommended that riders increase their total daily energy expenditure, otherwise known as TDEE. TDEE is the energy used outside of intentional exercise. Increasing TDEE is normally achieved through small lifestyle changes, such as taking the stairs or parking cars further away for shop entrances. It is an easy way to incorporate exercise, without having to put additional time aside.

Increasing protein intake could also help riders lose weight. A high protein diet has been suggested to help reduce hunger hormones and increase satiety after meals and snacks, keeping you fuller for longer. In addition, it is suggested that protein has a higher thermic effect than other food groups. This means that when protein is being digested, calories are being lost due to heat production created during it's breakdown. Increasing protein intake helps to maintain muscle mass whilst losing weight too.

Finally, increasing riding intensity can have a great effect on horse and rider fitness, as well as weight loss. Trotting has a high metabolic demand on riders. This means that working in trot needs a lot of energy. A better pace for the inexperienced or unfit horses, increasing time spent in trot can help riders burn calories and therefore shed weight.

How Can Pilot Help Horse Riders Lose Weight?

If you're looking for an easy way to ensure weight loss and not sacrifice nutrition, Pilot Recover offers a high protein and high energy way to get everything you need in a meal. All in a low calorie, yet highly tasty shake.

Replacing one meal a day with Pilot's Recover Shake can help you slim down faster than ever, especially when combined with moderate exercise and regular horse riding!