Quite often, to the point that every equestrian feels like throwing something, people close-mindedly claim that “horseback riding isn’t a sport” or “the horse does everything for you.” This is a common misconception among those who don’t ride horses.
However, what they don’t realize is that the rider needs to do all the heavy lifting. Horses can’t read the rider’s mind and they definitely don’t care to jump a jump, or gallop around a barrel, or smash into other horses so the polo rider can get the ball.
Riders not only have to communicate that to a horse, who isn’t exactly fluent in any human language, but they also must convince the horse that what the rider wants needs to happen. The rider must also do that, while having a steady “feel of the horses mouth” (a slight pull on the reins so the rider feels weight from the horse’s head). However, horses’ heads can weigh over 100 pounds depending on the whole weight of the horse (sometimes over 1000 pounds).
Horses do not make riding easy at all. They have a mind of their own and if they think something is scary, usually a squirrel or plastic bag, they will gallop out of there. Some horses will make the rider feel the full weight. I have been on a horse several times in which he decides it would be much better to gallop 10 mph or more and not stop. While that may seem fun, it can actually be very terrifying as one feels out of control, especially if you can’t get the horse to stop. The bits can only do so much.
Horses can also buck, rear, jump, turn, or throw their rider off. Why? Because they are natural prey animals. These behaviors are their natural responses to whatever they think is danger. It is up to the rider’s serious leg, arm, and even core muscles to stay on and bring the horse back to its normal demeanor. Imagine mechanical bulls, known to be immensely hard and tiring. Sometimes, riding a horse can take as much out of the rider as one who has tried his or her luck at the bull ride.
Time to Get Technical
If that’s not convincing enough, let’s analyze the definition of sport: “an activity involving physical exertion and skill in which an individual or team competes against another or others for entertainment” (Oxford Dictionaries).
Is horseback riding an activity? Yes. Does it involve physical exertion? Certainly. Do you need skill? Of course! You don’t just kick it to go and pull the reins in the direction you want. You have to convince the horse through body movements and signals that it should go this way or that way. Lastly, do individuals or teams compete against another or others for entertainment? You bet! Their are horse shows for the individuals and horse polo is a great example of a team sport.
Horseback riding fits all the criteria a sport entails. Before judging equestrians, know that every time they get on a horse, they sometimes work harder than any other athlete does. Equestrians have thighs of steel to prove it.
In conclusion, horseback riding is a sport, and you should riding a horse before creating your own opinions. Who knows? Maybe you’ll be joining us equestrians in our love of riding these crazy but incredible animals.