Ever olden days, horses were used for transportation.

Ever ridden a horse? Ever felt the wind whip through your hair as you galloped at full speed through an open field? If you have then you know the freeing feeling that goes along with it. The sensation of flying that encompasses you leaving you feeling liberated. But some have never experienced this incredible emotion. Some choose to look at horseback riders and laugh, they might even mumble something to themselves about a waste of time or money as well. They see horseback riding as a worthless hobby that falls on the list right under crocheting, but it is so much more than that.  Horses were not only vital to our survival in the past, they are also paving the way for the future. From the beginning of time horses have left their hoof prints in man’s history and they have been one of their most crucial tools. There are thousands of allusions to horses in Greek and Roman mythology, in these tales they are known for their beauty, loyalty, courage and speed. Throughout history, the horse has captivated us with their perfect fusion of gentleness and power. In the olden days, horses were used for transportation. They would have been the equivalent to the Mustangs and Camaros of today, for they were the fastest and most stylish forms of transportation. Only the rich owned them and could afford to use them. But they weren’t just useful and regarded highly way back when only 200 years ago these same horses were hitched up to covered wagons and trudged over hundreds of miles to bring our great-great-grandparents across the plains of America. Of course, we now have automobiles, and we no longer have a need for horses to transport us anywhere. But does that mean that they have lost their value just because we don’t necessarily need them for transportation like we used to? No, it does not. Horses are still a very useful for us today even if their job is not as extensive as it used to be. One of a horse’s many uses is through equine therapy or therapeutic riding. Equine therapy is by definition: the use of horses and equine-assisted activities in order to achieve goals that enhance physical, emotional, social, cognitive, behavioural and educational skills for people who have disabilities. It not only focuses on the therapeutic riding skills but also the development of a relationship between horse and rider. In therapeutic riding horses help mentally and physically disabled children achieve goals that they themselves, their parents, and their counsellors never thought they could reach. Equine therapy has helped the autistic to make connections that they wouldn’t have been able to otherwise. It has given legs to the child who was supposed to be confined to a wheelchair and has helped ease the pain and hurt that depression brings. There are hundreds of stories of children who were significantly helped just through riding a horse. For instance, there were two young brothers who were diagnosed with a disease called cerebral palsy and doctors told their parents that they would never be able to walk. After three years of equine therapy, both of them began to walk by themselves. Also, there was a young girl who had been diagnosed with another disease called Rett Syndrome, she had almost no muscle tone and yet learned to sit up in a saddle after just three months of riding a horse. Without this therapy, these children may have never been able to walk or sit up or do many of the other functions that over time they would gain as well. Without the horses that they rode month after month, year after year, they would have never been able to stand up by themselves. They would have been diagnosed, treated, and regarded as hopeless, but this did not happen because of horses. But equine therapy isn’t a horse’s only job, horseback riding can also be used for entertainment or enjoyment by means of sport. But how can it be a sport you ask, all the riders do is sit there right? The horse does all the work! It is statements like these that make the average rider want to throw that person on a horse and point them at a barrel pattern, send them on a twenty-five-mile trail ride, or make them go over a three-foot jump and see how they fare. So if it’s really so hard, why does it look so easy? To non-equestrians, this sport looks so effortless because the only exposure they’ve had to it was either through a TV screen, where the riders are so skilled they can make any horse look like it’s dancing, or they’ve been on some walking trail ride through the woods with their family on vacation. Where the horses are so broke they don’t even notice the humans on their backs anymore. What the average non-rider doesn’t see are the hours of practice, the sore muscles, bruising, and chafing not to mention the mental challenge that riders undergo to make it all look easy.But not only is it helpful to disabled children and an exciting sport, horseback riding is also a great form of exercise. Just riding a horse at a walk, the average 150-pound person will burn 171 calories per hour which is almost equal to the number of calories burned if that same person were to walk for an hour at two miles per hour. But walking isn’t a horse’s only speed, 441 calories are burned in an hour of trotting, and 549 calories are burned in an hour of galloping. Of course, it must be noted that most riders do not just ride, there is much more to caring for a horse than riding. There are hay bales and feed bags to be carried, stalls to be cleaned out and the horse has to be groomed. While horseback riding you’re also stimulating muscles in your abdominal region that are rarely ever used otherwise and you’re working on balance at the same time because hanging on for dear life while your 1,500-pound steed is galloping underneath you is not going to cut it. Riders must learn to balance which takes an incredible amount of strength giving horseback riders some of the strongest legs out of all athletes.In conclusion, although we don’t necessarily need horses for transportation anymore that does not mean they still are not useful and necessary. They have been able to reach some of the world’s most unreachable children through equine therapy, entertain people through the ages by means of sport, and allow us to shed a few pounds, tone our muscles and improve our balance through a fun form of exercise. Some people may laugh when the topic of horseback riding comes up or even make fun of the riders themselves, but it is only because they do not understand all of the benefits that horses can have. They are ignorant to the good horseback riding can bring. Because in riding a horse we borrow freedom. And as Benjamin Disraeli once said: “A canter is a cure for every evil.”