An individual weighing 180 pounds burns 154-772 calories per hour while riding a horse, depending on your weight, intensity, and type of activity.
Calories Burned with Outdoor Activities (weight: 175 lbs)
|Cycling or Biking
Horseback riding is an often overlooked activity in terms of the amount of energy it requires. Even riding at a slow speed can allow you to burn plenty of calories. Continue reading to find out exactly how many calories you can burn from horseback riding.
When you think of horseback riding, you may not think that it’s a sport that burns many calories. It requires you to not only ride the horse but control the animal’s movement and speed with maximum effectiveness.
Even though horseback riding has some significant costs associated with it, it is one of the most efficient forms of exercise in regards to calories burned per hour. Horseback riding requires a strong set of core muscles, balance, and physical strength.
Horseback riding also requires a commitment to learning how to communicate and ride with a horse to get the horse to obey your commands and act in the way you command the animal to act.
How To Use The Calculator
Using the calculator to determine how many calories you’ll burn while horseback riding is easy and only requires a few steps. To calculate the number of calories that you’ll burn, just input your weight and the time that you’ve spent or plan to spend horseback riding. Then select the type of activity you are doing and hit CALCULATE.
Using the calculator step-by-step:
- Choose your unit of measurement (pounds or kilograms)
- Enter your weight in the corresponding unit of measurement
- Find the specific horseback riding activity you are doing
- Enter the amount of time you are horseback riding for
- Hit CALCULATE
How the Calculator Works
Our calculator uses MET values to give you an accurate estimate of how many calories you can expect to burn while horseback riding and doing other activities. The higher the MET value, the more calories you will burn.
MET (Metabolic Equivalent of Task)
MET stands for metabolic equivalent of task, and MET values allow us to give you an estimated expenditure of energy for many different activities, such as doing various types of horseback riding-related activities.
A MET value is a ratio between the working metabolic rate and the resting metabolic rate , which is the rate of energy that is used relative to the duration of time spent doing activities like horseback riding.
So a MET value of 1 is the equivalent of the amount of energy you expend while at rest, and a MET value of 8 means you are expending 8 times as much energy compared to being at rest.
Almost all activities that you can think of have MET values assigned to them. Some activities with MET values are common, and some are not so common. For example, there are MET values assigned to activities like hunting, playing video games, and painting.
Most activities come with varying levels of intensity and have different MET values assigned to them. For instance, having a slow walk on horseback has a different MET value than horseback riding and jumping.
The formula that our horseback riding calculator uses to determine the number of calories burned per minute is (MET x bodyweight in Kg x 3.5) ÷ 200.
A person weighing 180 pounds will burn approximately 326 calories per hour from horseback riding at a walking pace for the horse. This activity has a MET of 3.8, which means that it burns 3.8 times as many calories as you would at rest.
This is what the formula for calculating the calories burned while horseback riding will look like for a 180-pound individual at a MET value of 3.8.
- Calories burned (per minute) = (body weight in kg x MET x 5) ÷ 200
- Calories burned (per minute) = ( 81.64 x 8 x 3.5 ) ÷ 200
- Calories burned (per minute) = 43 calories x 60
- Calories burned (per hour) = 326 calories per hour
What about the calories you would burn at horseback racing? This type of horseback riding would involve full-speed riding styles that involve galloping at top horse speeds in order to win in a competition. This is one of the highest intensity of horseback riding that you can do and has a MET value of 7.3.
- Calories burned (per minute) = (body weight in kg x MET x 5) ÷ 200
- Calories burned (per minute) = ( 81.64 x 3 x 3.5 ) ÷ 200
- Calories burned (per minute) = 4 calories x 60
- Calories burned (per hour) = 624 calories per hour
Why Should You Do Horseback Riding?
Horseback riding is very difficult and requires a great deal of core strength. In order to control the horse and be able to direct it to go where you want to go, you need to have a strong and developed core.
People who ride horses regularly also need to have good balance. A horse can make sudden movements and stops and if you don’t have good balance it can be especially hard to stay upright on the horse if you are unfamiliar with the basic principles of horseback riding.
Since you need to activate your core while maintaining balance on the horse, it’s a great way to burn calories. Even if you are just riding at a pace where the horse is walking normally, you would still burn over three times the amount of calories you would at rest.
What Muscles Does Horseback Riding Work?
Horseback riding uses a variety of different muscles. One muscle group that this activity uses extensively is the lower body.
Your leg muscles (especially your hips and glute muscles) are essential for maintaining balance and flexibility while you ride. It is also important to have strong leg muscles for horseback riding because the stronger your legs are, the more support you provide to your back while riding.
Having strong hips and glutes is one of the best ways to make sure you succeed at a sport like horseback riding. Developing these muscles is also a good way to minimize possible injuries while riding.
Maintaining good posture is essential for success in horseback riding. The muscles in your spinal column as well as your lower back are vital shock absorbers that must be protected to prevent back injuries from horseback riding.
You may be surprised to hear that you also use your upper body while horseback riding. In order to give commands to the horse, you use your arms to direct the horse where to go and at what speeds to run.
Benefits of Horseback Riding
Although horseback riding is complicated and a bit more challenging than other forms of exercise, it is rewarding because of the many health benefits it provides.
No matter what type of horseback riding you’re doing, you can expect to burn plenty of calories. In addition to burning calories, some of the other benefits horseback riding provides include:
- Improved coordination
- Improved core strength and posture 
- Better flexibility
- Increased cardiovascular health
Horseback riding also has mental health benefits as well. Many equestrians develop relationships with their horses and treat them as pets. Horseback riding can provide a sense of well-being which can elevate your mood.
Horseback riding requires more equipment compared to other common forms of exercise such as running, biking, and swimming.
In addition to a horse, you need space for the horse to live such as a barn or a stable, and it would also help to have a large space of grassland for the horse to be able to roam freely and get exercise on its own.
There are other forms of equipment specific to the horse such as reigns, saddles, and bridles that enhance the horseback riding experience and are vital in order to control the horse while riding it. If you go to a business that offers horseback riding these types of equipment are usually provided by the horseback riding companies.
Frequently Asked Questions:
Can horseback riding be a workout?
Horseback riding is a great exercise that strengthens your core muscles, improves heart health, and works your leg and arm muscles. Riding a horse is one of the most efficient ways to get exercise, be productive, and have fun. This makes horseback riding a great exercise that people of all ages can participate in.
How can I strengthen my legs for horseback riding?
Having strength in your legs is extremely beneficial for horseback riding. The best way to build strength in your lower body is through strength training. Exercises like squats, deadlifts, and leg extensions will build strength in your legs which will make you a better horseback rider.
Can I lose weight by horseback riding?
Since you can burn plenty of calories from horseback riding, it’s a great way to lose weight while doing a fun activity. As long as you pair regular horseback riding with a balanced diet and stay in a caloric deficit, you can expect to lose weight while doing this activity.
Is horseback riding a low-impact exercise?
One of the main benefits of horseback riding is that it is great exercise without the taxing feel of other forms of exercise like running and jogging. This makes horseback riding that much more enjoyable since you’re getting a great workout without the feeling of exerting a great deal of energy.
The Bottom Line
Horseback riding is one of the best ways to burn calories by doing a fun activity that doesn’t feel like exercise. It can be challenging at first, but if you participate in exercises to improve your core and lower body, you will find that horseback riding will get easier as you practice it more often.
- Jetté, M., Sidney, K., & Blümchen, G. (1990). Metabolic equivalents (METS) in exercise testing, exercise prescription, and evaluation of functional capacity. Clinical cardiology, 13(8), 555–565. https://doi.org/10.1002/clc.4960130809