As we enter the new year, resolutions are made. Some of these resolutions are to make the new year a more active one – to possibly take our health more seriously. Within sport in Scotland there are always opportunities to get involved, to begin some physical activity or even volunteer in another way. Getting involved can support your mental and physical wellbeing. One way to benefit your mental and physical health is to get involved in equestrian activities.
There are clear physical benefits to horse riding and engaging in equestrian activities, but there are also psychological and social benefits of participating or volunteering in the sport.
Equestrian activites can be quite physical in nature. However, it’s not only the act of riding the horse which can be beneficial to your physical health. Many supportive activities of the sport, such as mucking out, which is the cleaning of the place where the horses stay, can be particularly strenuous and beneficial for physical health.
Hannah Hegarty, a member of Teen Ranch Scotland, said:
“Being involved with helping in equestrian activities, of course, helps physical health through having a fun way to exercise and get out and do something that helps not only yourself but others too.”
These supportive activities are also available to those who are only at the beginning of their equestrian journey and as such can be done by those who have little experience with horses. Offering potential physical wellbeing benefits to those who are looking to volunteer their time within the sport.
An impressive 93% of Riding for the Disabled Association (RDA) volunteers also claim to be physically active in some way when they volunteer, with the average volunteer claiming to spend over an hour walking per session.
As well as the physical benefits, a British Horse Society report has highlighted that being involved in equestrian activity can also be highly beneficial for individual’s mental health. This is due to the activities largely being outdoors, in contact with nature and getting to take in scenery and views.
Fiona Rawson, Education and Development Manager at horsescotland, highlighted:
“The benefits within equestrian aren’t just limited to riding horses; working with the horses and building the connection with the animal can also be hugely beneficial to your mental health”.
horsescotland promotes a variety of volunteering opportunities, as well as other ways to get involved across their website, newsletter, and social media channels, as well as their app where volunteers can find events happening in their area.
Hannah Hegarty highlighted why getting involved could be great for your mental health:
“Equestrian sports give a sense of accomplishment to individuals involved which improves mental health significantly. The idea of being able to successfully work with an animal that can’t verbally communicate with you gives a huge confidence boost and gives a sense of purpose. Also, the equestrian community gives a huge opportunity for family-like friendship which hugely benefits mental health”
A report published by the RDA highlighted that there are clear benefits of volunteering for mental health, supporting individuals to widen their perspective and be less inward focused. It also found that getting involved in equestrian activities provided opportunities for social interaction and a sense of purpose which had the potential to benefit mental health.
“Equestrianism is a community that relies heavily on volunteers. At many equestrian competitions we have more volunteers than competitors!” Fiona Rawson commented.
Kari, one of the volunteers at Teen Ranch Scotland, said “I get a great sense of well-being from helping others. Volunteering at the barn with the staff and horses has given me friendships and confidence - I feel very useful! I am more physically active and more able to tackle emotional and physical challenges.”