The purpose of this study was to characterize the physiological demands of a riding session comprising different types of recreational horse riding in females.
Sixteen female recreational riders (aged 17 to 54 years) completed an incremental cycle ergometer exercise test to determine peak oxygen consumption (VO2peak) and a 45-minute riding session based upon a British Horse Society Stage 2 riding lesson (including walking, trotting, cantering and work without stirrups). Oxygen consumption (VO2), from which metabolic equivalent (MET) and energy expenditure values were derived, was measured throughout.
The mean VO2 requirement for trotting/cantering (18.4 ± 5.1 ml·kg-1·min-1; 52 ± 12% VO2peak; 5.3 ± 1.1 METs) was similar to walking/trotting (17.4 ± 5.1 ml·kg-1·min-1; 48 ± 13% VO2peak; 5.0 ± 1.5 METs) and significantly higher than for work without stirrups (14.2 ± 2.9 ml·kg-1·min-1; 41 ± 12% VO2peak; 4.2 ± 0.8 METs) (P = .001).
The oxygen cost of different activities typically performed in a recreational horse riding session meets the criteria for moderate intensity exercise (3-6 METs) in females, and trotting combined with cantering imposes the highest metabolic demand. Regular riding could contribute to the achievement of the public health recommendations for physical activity in this population.