- Debbie Juniewicz Contributing Writer
Reins in hand, sitting tall in the saddle, whether it’s a gentle walk or an invigorating canter, horseback riding is a partnership that provides fun as well as fitness.
“In terms of the outdoor experience, it’s like bike riding or kayaking with the added component of working with another being,” said Katherine Berg, riding center manager at the Carriage Hill MetroPark Riding Center. “There’s really nothing like it.”
Berg got hooked on riding as a student at Earlham College after taking a class at the school’s equestrian center as an extracurricular option.
“I’ve always loved animals, I really enjoy taking care of them. I love the riding, too, but caring for them gives you a different perspective,” Berg said. “The bond you can form with an animal is so special.
“And horses are just such majestic, amazing creatures and they have such big hearts.”
Berg’s love of those majestic creatures resulted in her acquisition of Flash – a thoroughbred who was being retired from the Earlham program – when she graduated from college. Now, Berg shares her love of horses with those young and old who want to experience riding.
While the horses definitely do their share of the work, riding has several physical benefits for those in the saddle as well.
“It definitely builds core strength and also helps with balance, flexibility and coordination,” Berg said. “Depending on the type of riding, there could also be some cardio and, over time, there will also be muscle toning.”
The benefits extend beyond physical fitness, as Berg notes that horseback riding helps with developing patience and building confidence. Over time, riders also build a rapport with their horse, learning cues and body language and developing ways to communicate effectively.
Horseback riding can also be a relaxing experience – a time to unwind, enjoy nature and de-stress.
Trail rides at the Carriage Hill Riding Center are geared toward beginners and are open to eager equestrians ages 8 and older.
“We’ve found that children 8 and older are generally more mature, their motor skills are more developed and they are more responsible,” Berg said.
From 8 to 80, Berg has seen riders of all ages enjoy the experience.
“We have people in their 70s and 80s taking lessons, there aren’t many people who can’t do this,” she said. “Sometimes, people with back problems have some challenges, but the trail rides are definitely geared toward beginners.”
Little ones can also get a feel for the saddle with pony rides. And those who want to continue their equestrian experience can register for summer camps or lessons.