Last Updated on December 8, 2021
Many people wonder if horseback riding is exercise, and if so, how many calories do you burn riding a horse? The answers may surprise you!
Does Horseback Riding Burn Calories?
If you have ever ridden a horse, no doubt you already know the answer to this question is yes! While many people believe that riding involves “just sitting there”, riders know that even a relaxed trail ride for a beginner is sure to leave their muscles sore.
Riding involves a lot of core strength to balance your seat, and a substantial amount of leg muscle to clearly communicate with your horse. It takes work, time, energy, and yes calories, to build yourself up to be able to stay aboard your horse and to progress to higher levels of riding.
Does Horse Back Riding Qualify as Exercise?
In 2011, The British Horse Society carried out a study to see if horseback riding could be considered exercise. They found that riding activities provided a good level of cardiovascular exercise. Their study also determined that riding expended enough energy to be classified as a “moderate-intensity” exercise.
If you ever take a horseback riding lesson, you will notice that there is plenty of time taken for breaks, to catch your breath, and to relax before you continue on. Many view horseback riding as a great way to get some exercise and to get their body moving.
How Many Calories Can You Burn While Horseback Riding?
Just like different types of exercise may be more or less strenuous, the different disciplines of horseback riding can be more or less taxing on the body. We broke down different riding activities that will burn different amounts of calories in this quick guide for you. These calculations are assuming the person is an average of 150 pounds and is riding at this intensity for a full hour.
Horseback riding at a walk for an hour is not surprisingly the most easy-going form of riding exercise. This would include trail riding or a beginner lesson. For an hour of riding at the walk, a person could burn around 270 calories. Still not bad for a relaxing activity!
Next, we have horseback riding at the trot. For a full hour of trotting, a person could burn up to 415 calories. This breaks down to about 6 or 7 calories per minute of trotting. The trot doesn’t seem overly intense from an outside perspective. However, anyone who has learned to post the trot or just try to stay in balance can attest to the fact that the trot can be very physically demanding!
Horseback riding at a canter for a full hour can burn 523 calories. Of course, it’s not common for anyone to keep up these gaits for an hour straight. But based on these calculations you can determine how many calories you may have burned during your ride.
Do Different Riding Disciplines Burn Different Calories?
Each horseback riding discipline uses different muscles, balancing, and movements. So it makes sense that each discipline has a different level of activity. Here are some common riding styles and how many calories you may be burning doing each one.
The rodeo covers a vast assortment of riding sports, but the intensity of it means that a considerable amount of effort is exerted. At a moderate effort, rodeo sport can burn around 390 calories per hour. At a high intensity though, more than 500 calories per hour may be burned! You would need to swim vigorously for 30 minutes in order to burn the same amount of calories.
Jockeys who are riding during a race may burn as many as 523 calories per hour. Most races only last a few minutes though, so they would have to ride at this speed often through the day to accomplish this many calories burned.
Polo is known as a fast-based and intense horseback riding sport. For a full hour of playing polo, a rider could expect to burn 573 calories.
Jumping is one of the most popular riding disciplines today. It comes in as the equestrian sport with the highest amount of calories a rider may burn at 644 calories per hour. You would have to jump rope for 40-50 minutes straight to burn the same amount of calories.
Other Ways You May Be Burning Calories Around the Barn
Horseback riding isn’t the only horse-related activity that can burn a lot of energy. Horse people aren’t strangers to hard work, and keeping up with chores around the barn is a workout in itself. One hour of doing chores like feeding, watering, and picking out stalls can burn around 300 calories.
Getting a job as a groom may be a good option too if you are wanting to skip days at the gym. For an hour of tacking up, or harnessing and unharnessing a horse, 322 calories could be burned.
Next time your horse comes in from the field covered in mud, think of it as an opportunity to get a workout in. The most strenuous non-riding horse-related activity is grooming, brushing, and generally cleaning your horse. You could burn an average of 523 calories an hour getting your horse clean and shiny. You would have to run at a pace of 6 miles per hour for 45 minutes straight to burn the same amount of calories.
Horseback Riding – A Very Active Sport
Next time you come back from the barn feeling exhausted, or someone makes a comment that horseback riding doesn’t seem like a real sport, keep in mind how much energy you are actually spending while working with your horse. Riding is extremely beneficial for keeping your body toned, muscles built, and core engaged.
Not only does it have physical benefits, but The British Horse Society study mentioned earlier also comments on how horseback riding can help us emotionally. Any kind of physical activity can give us energy, improve our mood, and reduce stress and anxiety. However, riding horses, in particular, can help people develop confidence and higher self-esteem. The study determined that “horseback riding stimulated mainly positive psychological feelings, with reducing depression by 30% as well as lowering the chance of dementia by 30%.”
Horseback riding is indeed a very healthy sport to consider taking up for your overall health.
Next up, learn if Marshmallows are Made From Horse Hooves?