The COVID-19 pandemic is reviving interest in horseback riding. In the past year, as gyms closed down and people were left with limited options for physical activities, many signed up to learn how to ride.
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Horseback riding is one of the few physical activities that are done exclusively outdoors. It also does not create instances where two people will accidentally come in close contact with each other. That is why horseback riding is a fairly low-risk activity but football and basketball can lead to infection. Even with a guide in tow, they can keep a safe distance away from the rider and they can continue to wear a mask.
Assessing the Risk of Infection When Horseback Riding
However, people can, understandably, feel apprehensive about the supposed safety of horseback riding during the pandemic. Yes, it is an outdoor sport but unless you are a pro, you likely do not have your own horse nor the right sporting equipment for it.
Most, especially those who have only started learning, are borrowing sporting equipment. What if it has already been used by someone who had the virus?
It is still advisable to get your own sporting equipment, including horse tacks and saddles, if you can and if you have the intention of participating in this physical activity regularly. However, using shared sporting equipment should not be a problem.
Researchers from Europe conducted a study to gauge the risk of infection from shared sporting equipment. They tested 10 items, including a tennis ball, cricket gloves, and, of course, saddles. They discovered that the possibility of transmission from using these items is low. Contagion is more likely to happen during interactions between players before, during, and after a game.
Still, it would give riders peace of mind by regularly applying alcohol-based hand sanitizer throughout the activity. Even if you managed to touch a contaminated surface, the hand sanitizer will kill it off and prevent it from entering your body.
Moreover, scientific evidence suggests that fomites can inactivate the virus that causes COVID-19 within minutes.
Celebrities Try Horseback Riding
Celebrities are also seeing the fun of horseback riding and using it as an opportunity to get out in the sun.
Tessa Thompson, star of Thor: Ragnarok, was seen riding a horse this year. People Magazine reported that the actor was all smiles as she took lessons in Australia’s Centennial Park. She is currently in the Land from Down Under with co-stars Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Karen Gillan, and Chris Pratt to film Thor: Love and Thunder.
More recently, reality television star Kendall Jenner was photographed on a horseback riding excursion in Malibu. The social media influencer has been riding since she was in middle school.
Supermodel-turned-cookbook author Chrissy Teigen bought a horse and has been taking horseback riding this year. She said that she took up the hobby after her therapist suggested that she does something for herself to improve her mental health.
The Mental Health Benefits of Horseback Riding
Teigen may be on the right track when she decided to pursue horseback riding to benefit her mental health. Animals have been proven to provide humans with generous compassion without judgment, especially through a difficult time. Many people emptied animal shelters last year to have companions and to give emotional support during lockdowns.
Horses, in particular, are aiding in the treatment of those who are experiencing mental health distress. Equine-assisted psychotherapy teaches responsibility, self-confidence, and emotional regulation. Those who participate in the treatment feed, groom, and lead a horse. All are done under the supervision of a mental health professional.
Equine therapy is used for the management of addiction, anxiety, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Keeping Safe While on the Trail
Despite the relatively low risk of infection when horseback riding, riders should still take extra precautions. They should maintain a safe distance away from other riders outside of their households. If possible, take the trail less traveled, but only if you know the area very well.
You should also bring your own reusable drinking water and snacks to the trail. You also avoid using public hitching posts to tie your horse at the trailhead if possible.
Most importantly, wear a mask. The mask will protect you from the virus. Moreover, it will also prevent you from inhaling dust while on the trail.
Horseback riding is a great physical activity during the pandemic. It is low-risk, but riders should still be careful and always follow minimum health standards to further minimize the possibility of catching and spreading COVID-19.