Horseback riding is one of few great American past-times still popular today and can be a great way to discover trails and other natural areas throughout the mountains. Taking a family trip to a stable and seeing children experience the thrill of riding a horse for the first time is a priceless moment. It’s gives them a way to connect with animals while learning a new skill, and it can be a great workout- only it’s not just a physical work out.

In a study published in February 2017, researchers were able to prove that riding horses improves the cognitive ability of children, making it a workout for the brain as well. To sum up their results, it was found that the vibrations produced by the horses while riding can activate the sympathetic nervous system, which enhances learning in children. This brain boost in cognitive ability relates to the brain-based skills of improved learning, memory, and problem-solving.

As previous studies have demonstrated the benefits of horseback riding with respect to enhancing physical health and the mental effects, a member of the research team, professor Mitsuaki Ohta said, “Few studies have addressed the effects of horseback riding on children and the mechanisms underlying how riding affects humans.”

The team’s conclusion was the result of conducting tests with the willing participation of 106 children from the ages of 10-12 in Sagamihara City, Japan. The testing included a simple test before and after riding, heart rate monitoring, and rapid fire computerized questions. While the majority of reactions led to the conclusion, results in other children can vary based on the horses or breeds as vibrations vary from horse to horse.

For more detailed information, you can take a look at the published study.