Benefits of Horse Ownership
There are many benefits to involvement with horses, for people of all ages.
Equine activities may encourage physical activity, for people of varying
abilities. For example, simply walking out to a barn, grooming a horse, lifting
a saddle and riding may provide more physical activity than many people
typically get, especially in our era of computers, television and more
sedentary lifestyles. For those who don’t want to ride, grooming a horse,
cleaning stalls or feeding may also encourage physical activity. When
people decide that they’d like to improve their riding skills, they may be
inspired to begin a non-horse related conditioning program as well.
When supervised by certified instructors, riders with disabilities may have
the chance to safely perform physical activities with the horse as a tool.
Early research is showing that riding a horse may provide physical benefits
for people with disabilities. At the same time, interacting with horses may
provide mental benefits as well.
Mental/Emotional/Social Benefits of Horse Ownership
There are a variety of mental benefits to equine activities, and we are at the
edge of a frontier of scientific research to actually quantify those benefits. In
the past several years, professional organizations have formed to share the
advantages of equine assisted activities with regard to mental health. At first
glance, however, most people involved with horse are instinctively aware
that there are social benefits, and that horses provide an outlet for stress
reduction, mood improvement and that equine activities may provide a type
of therapy much different from traditional means.
For people living alone, simply interacting with another living thing provides
a tremendous motivator and social benefit. Often, as people get involved
with equine activities, they gravitate toward people with similar interests.
There are literally thousands of clubs across the country that allow people
to come together to enjoy their animals and preferred activities. For more
information on these groups which serve the interests of people of all ages,
contact your state Horse Council.
Recent studies utilizing dogs and dolphins have shown that even limited
interaction with the animals may provide a decrease in blood pressure and
in the hormones associated with stress reactions. In our busy world, having
an outlet to manage day-to day stress can only be beneficial and for many,
horses provide that outlet. Physical exercise is a scientifically recognized
mediator of stress and it is clear that equine activities may provide exercise,
again highlighting the potential for equine activities to reduce stress.
Research has also shown that regular meditation may reduce stress
indicators such as blood pressure, heart rate and stress hormone levels.
While research investigating the role of horses in stress reduction still
needs to be done, there is a meditative quality to grooming or working with a
horse that may provide a similar benefit to meditation.
Most parents of teenage girls recognize that if their daughters are in a bad
mood, interaction with a horse will often improve that mood. While research
investigating the interaction between horses and mood improvement is
ongoing at Michigan State University, early indicators are that there is in fact
an improvement in Mood Inventory Scores of teenage girls after 15 minutes
of quiet interaction with a horse. There is no reason to believe that the
same would not be true in adults as well.
The Impact of Horses on Youth
Recent (2005-2006) surveys conducted by both the American Youth Horse
Council and Penn State University have found that equine activities develop
life skills such as decision making, communicating, problem solving, goal
setting and empathy. In the AYHC Study, a significant positive relationship
was found between total horsemanship skills development and life skills
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