Horse riding builds character and promotes social development, European research suggests.
A study commissioned by the German Equestrian Federation investigated what character elements were engendered through horse riding.
The study involved 411 riders aged 14 to 65, 91% of whom were women and 9% male.
For comparison, the researchers surveyed 402 non-riders who collectively met the same gender distribution, age and income bands of the riding group.
They all participated via an online tool.
Riders, it was found, were generally more determined, enthusiastic, structured and balanced than their non-riding counterparts. They also showed greater leadership, were more assertive and competitive, and demonstrated greater resilience.
“We have always been convinced of the positive impact of the horse on the development of children and adolescents, because it corresponds to our experiences and observations,” the federation’s secretary general, Soenke Lauterbach, said.
The federation commissioned the study because it wanted to find out if that anecdotal evidence was borne out in a study, he said.
Equestrian associations and clubs now had solid arguments on the personal character-building benefits of riding, he said.
The results, he said, were especially interesting for parents who wanted to find a meaningful sport for their children. Most parents wanted their children to follow a healthy pursuit that helped them develop as individuals.
Clear interpersonal differences were found between riders and non-riders.
“The close contact with the animal requires a high degree of empathy and sensitivity to the subtle body language of horses,” Lauterbach said.
“This especially benefits young people.
“The horse is not only a friend to whom they can tell their concerns and needs, but they can also learn from him ‘for life’.”