How riding benefits your health

Equestrians have improved muscle tone, balance and posture according to French researchers.

A study from France suggests that riding may enhance your balance when you’re on the ground.

For their study, researchers at the Université Paris Sud and Groupe Voltaire—Forestier Sellier chose 10 female professional dressage riders and 12 women who did not ride.

A woman riding a horse in a ring, with western tack.
Study data showed that riders had better mediolateral postural (side-to-side) stability than non-riders.

The women, who were all roughly the same height and body type, were asked to undergo a series of balance tests in which they stood atop a mobile pressure-sensitive platform that could detect even small shifts in weight, orientation and stability.

The women were asked to remove their shoes and stand with their hands at their sides on the platform while it presented three different conditions: still, seesawing from side to side (mediolateral instability) or seesawing back to front (anteroposterior instability).

For one half of the tests the platform was bare, and for the other it was covered with a layer of dense foam that reduced the tactile feedback the women received through their feet. They were also asked to repeat the test series with their eyes open and then closed.

The data showed that the riders had better mediolateral postural (side-to-side) stability than did the non-riders. Also, the riders were less reliant on their vision to maintain anteroposterior (back-to-front) stability and they were more stable than were non- riders when a layer of foam covered the platform.

The researchers conclude that “horseback riding could help developing particular proprioceptive abilities on standing posture as well as better postural muscle tone during particular bipodal dynamic perturbations.”

In other words, your time in the saddle could help you develop particular proprioceptive abilities when you’re on the ground.

Reference: “Balance control during stance: A comparison between horseback riding athletes and non-athletes,” PLOS One, February 2019

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