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Feeling down? Saddle up!

George Maragos | Interrobang | Lifestyles | January 8th, 2018

When thinking of ways to stay fit one may consider gym memberships and diets. However, horseback riding can be an interesting way to stay active and maintain your physical and mental health.

Meagan McLauchlin, a Fanshawe business student started the Fanshawe equestrian club, which according to the club charter, “is a place to connect horseback riders and horse enthusiasts in the College”.

The equestrian club started in the fall semester of 2016 and had their first club day in January 2017.

“We’ve got a lot of people interested,” McLauchlin said. Claire Nicol, a student in Fanshawe’s social service worker program said, “I did know Fanshawe had an equestrian club and I was interested in joining.”

“When meeting with the club we watch movies and live feeds from horseback riding events. It’s a way for people that are interested in horses to communicate,” McLauchlin said.

According to McLauchlin, she has developed a relationship with local stables to introduce groups of students to horses for a small fee.

“Not everyone’s comfortable around horses right away to take a lesson,” McLauchlin said.

McLauchlin described the introduction to horses.

“It would show riders how to tack up, groom a horse, and the proper way to lead the horse. This allows riders to get comfortable on the ground before starting to ride. There’s a lot of stable management and safety,” McLauchlin said.

“Just have fun and enjoy,” is the advice Alison Meeuse, Fanshawe business student and equestrian club member said for, riders starting out.

Even for the experienced rider there can be benefits to lessons. “Training is never finished, you’re always training and you can always improve. Riding other horses is valuable; every horse can teach you something,” Nicol explained.

According to McLauchlin, while in the club, participants will be in a group, be able to use their equipment and ride for an hour. The horses would then need to be cooled down, while their equipment is taken off put away. According to Nicol, in the past, students had to pay for multiple riding lessons upfront.

McLauchlin explained the reasoning behind this cost method. “That was to protect the price from increasing for the rest of the group. This year we will be doing a pay per lesson system since our numbers have gone up,” McLauchlin said.

According to McLauchlin, the equestrian club will be competing this year in the Ontario Colligate Equestrian Association (OCEA), a student run riding circuit starting the fi rst week of October.

“Horseback riding is a lot of work. Everyone thinks that the horse does all the work,” McLauchlin said.

To Meeuse, there are benefits to the sport and it has helped her stay in shape along the way.

“Horseback riding is a very physical sport that most equestrians make look simply graceful and easy,” Meeuse said. “It has kept me physically fit, working every muscle group. You’re mainly using your arms, abs, and glutes.”

Nicol shared the same sentiments about the activity.

"The physical benefits of horseback riding is much more than core strength. It improves your posture too. Balance is everything when you’re riding a horse,” Nicol said.

There are also therapeutic and meditative benefits horseback riding carries out.

“They're many things to think about when you’re riding, but riding is all you’re thinking about,” McLauchlin said.

Meeuse went further to explain the health benefits of horseback riding.

“You can receive equine assisted therapy, horses are very calming and understanding. Creating a bond between yourself and a horse is something rare; not many people experience how horses can help with anxiety, depression, and can teach many life lessons as well,” Meeuse explained.

McLauchlin detailed her experience volunteering with the Equestrian Association for the Disabled.

“They help you get on the horse with whatever mounting you need. There’s a machine that will lift you out of your wheel chair, and they have a person that will walk alongside the rider. It gives them the feeling that they’re walking.” McLauchlin said. Nicol shared positive thoughts about the sport.

"I find it so valuable to be able to communicate with an animal. People use dogs for therapy and horses are like that. Doing things in the barn and being out in nature is very calming, there’s something therapeutic about it. Even brushing your horse is therapeutic and just doing things like that can change your day,” Nicol said.

The equestrian club is run by equestrians within the college, but you don’t need a horse to be a member of the club, anyone can join.
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