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How Many Calories Do We Burn While Riding?

March 3, 2024

By: Meghan Slaughter, BS Animal Science, Master of Kinesiology Candidate

          Every rider has heard it at some point. “Horseback riding isn’t exercise. The horse does all the work!” Of course, this isn’t true at all, and scientists have measured exactly how hard riders work while on horseback. Western-style flatwork burns 4 calories per minute (Cal/min)(1), while English-style flatwork burns 5 Cal/min (2). Different sports burn different numbers of calories, as seen in the table below.


          The number of calories burned during a ride will vary based on other factors in addition to sport discipline. Riding faster speeds and faster gaits will use more energy than riding slower ones, so riders will burn more calories if they spend more time in canter or extended trot (1-2,4-5). Research also suggests that riding a lazy or lethargic horse burns more calories than riding a spirited or even-tempered horse (4). Most research on calorie use during riding has been limited to lower-level, recreational riders, so it is currently unknown how many calories are burned by riders during upper-level riding movements.

          Current health recommendations state that the general population should burn around 1000 calories per week through physical activity to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and other health issues (6). Depending on riding discipline, a person would therefore need to ride around 120 to 250 minutes per week in order to meet physical activity recommendations through riding alone. However, many other barn- and horse-related activities also burn calories. Mucking stalls and grooming horses can also be effective ways to meet weekly physical activity recommendations (2). Generally, a person that rides at least 4 times per week and engages in typical barn chores should easily meet the recommendations for weekly physical activity.



1. O’Reilly, C., Zoller, J., Sigler, D., Vogelsang, M., Sawyer, J., & Fluckey, J. (2021). Rider energy expenditure during high intensity horse activity. J Equine Vet Sci, 102(1), e103463.

2. Beale, L., Maxwell, N.S., Gibson, O.R., Twomey, R., Taylor, B., & Church, A. (2015). Oxygen cost of recreational horse-riding in females. J Phys Act Health, 12(6), 808-813.

3. Roberts, M., Shearman, J., & Marlin, D. (2010). A comparison of the metabolic cost of the three phases of the one-day event in female collegiate riders. Comp Exerc Physiol, 6(3), 129-135.

4. Devienne, M.F., & Guezennec, C.Y. (2000). Energy expenditure of horse riding. Eur J Appl Physiol, 82(5), 499-503.

5. Sainas, G., Melis, S., Corona, F., Loi, A., Ghiani, G., Milia, R., Tocco, F., Marongiu, E., & Crisafulli, A. (2016). Cardio-metabolic responses during horse riding at three different speeds. Eur J Appl Physiol, 116(10), 1985-1992.

6. Garber, C.E., Blissmer, B., Deschenes, M.R., Franklin, B.A., Lamonte, M.J., Lee, I., Nieman, D.C., & Swain, D.P. (2011). American College of Sports Medicine position stand. Quantity and quality of exercise for developing and maintaining cardiorespiratory, musculoskeletal, and neuromotor fitness in apparently health adults: guidance for prescribing exercise. Med Sci Sport Exerc, 43(7): 1334-1359.

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