Research Update: Energy Expenditure During Horseback Riding

This study highlights the importance of horseback riding as a viable tool to support health through physical activity.
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Despite the fact that horseback riding is a popular sport, there is little information available on horseback riding as a physical activity. The objective of this experiment, conducted at Texas A&M University was to quantify energy expenditure of participants during three riding tests: a 45-minute walk-trot-canter ride, a reining pattern ride and a cutting simulation ride while wearing a telemetric gas analyzer.

Average metabolic equivalents of task and heart rate responses were greater for riders during the long trot portion of the walk-trot-canter and cutting rides compared to the overall walk-trot-canter ride. 

When the walk-trot-canter ride was evaluated by gait, average metabolic equivalents of task increased as gait speed increased. 

Riders engaged in cutting and reining experienced more intense exercise in short durations, while walk-trot-canter riders has a greater overall total energy expenditure due to the duration of the activity. 

Interestingly, all three riding activities were similar in peak metabolic output compared to activities like jogging and playing soccer and rugby.

This study highlights the importance of horseback riding as a viable tool to support health through physical activity. As gait speed increased, so did the intensity of work output by the rider, suggesting it is possible for health benefits to be achieved through horseback riding, particularly if riding at the more intense gaits. 

For more information on this research, the abstract can be accessed from the Journal of Equine Veterinary Science.

Summarized by Krishona Martinson, PhD, University of Minnesota Extension.

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