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Many people would argue that football is one of the toughest sports in the world. Athletes need to have impeccable cardiovascular health in order to withstand the tense season and many matches where they run for more than 90 minutes.

On the other hand, we have horse riding, where most people don’t really understand the amount of work it takes to become a professional jockey. Horse races might last for a couple of minutes, but the preparation process of jockeys, and the two minutes of action pose some really difficult physical challenges for the athletes.

So, on a professional level, each sport has its own difficulties. For example, jockeys need to stay in constant shape with a strict diet, and they have a full-body workout. On the other hand, football players have a more packed calendar of matches, which may be more physically demanding.

But what about normal people? Which of these two activities gives you a better workout? Is it casual horse riding or kicking the ball with some friends?

Let’s find out. 

Women warm up for soccer

The Physical Workout

Horse Riding

Horse riding might look pretty and relaxing and most people think that the horse is doing all the heavy lifting. But those who tried horse riding would argue otherwise. 

Even when we are not talking about professional jockeys that attend the Belmont Stakes, who go through the incredibly tough preparation process, horse riding as a leisure activity can also be difficult.

If you want to see the top Belmont Stakes contenders, check out the link below:

This is a full-body workout and a test even for the fittest people in the world. Here’s why: 

  • Core Strength: Keeping balanced on a horse requires a strong core. You’re constantly engaging your abs and back muscles.

  • Leg Power: Your legs do a lot more than just dangle. From posting in the saddle to controlling the horse with your thighs, they’re always at work.

  • Upper Body: Holding the reins, maintaining posture, and even the simple act of staying upright work your arms and shoulders.

  • Riders can burn up to 250 calories per hour during a casual ride and significantly more in more intense sessions like jumping or dressage.

Horses in a race


Over the years, football became synonymous with cardiovascular fitness. Why? Well, let's look at a football game. Athletes could run constantly for half an hour even more without taking a single break. It’s like running a marathon. Plus, they are sprinting and making quick direction changes, which requires a lot of muscle work.

Here’s why football is a demanding activity: 

  • Cardio: An average footballer runs about 7 miles in a game. That’s a lot of cardio, leading to improved heart health and stamina.

  • Leg Strength: Kicking, running, and tackling build strong quads, hamstrings, and calves.

  • Agility and Coordination: Quick direction changes and dribbling require excellent coordination and agility.

  • Team Dynamics: Working with a team adds a social element, which is great for mental health.

  • A 90-minute game can burn upwards of 1500 calories, depending on your position and activity level.

Man training for football

Mental and Emotional Benefits and Challenges

Horse Riding

Being around horses can be incredibly therapeutic. Plus, relaxing rides through nature allows you to breathe all the fresh air and observe all the beauty around you. However, we shouldn’t forget that we are handling huge animals on a rough terrain. 

Being able to control your emotions is really important in horse riding. This is also a more dangerous activity than football since you don’t really know how the horse would react at all times. In other words, people should have strong mental health just so they can create that bond between them and the horse.

Here are all the mental benefits of horse riding: 

  • Stress Relief: The rhythmic motion of riding and the outdoors can reduce stress and anxiety.

  • Responsibility and Patience: Taking care of a horse teaches responsibility, patience, and empathy.

  • Focus and Discipline: Riding demands concentration and discipline, which can translate into other areas of life.


Football is also a mental game, where you don’t appear as an individual but as a team. This means that trust, communication, and team tactics play a really important role. Just like horse riding, football also has some mental health benefits, such as:

  • Teamwork and Camaraderie: Playing in a team fosters a sense of community and belonging.

  • Competitive Spirit: The competitive nature of the game can teach resilience and determination.

  • Mental Agility: Quick decision-making on the field enhances cognitive functions.

Injury Risks

Horse Riding

Both sports come with some injury risks, but I think horse riding is a slightly more dangerous activity just because of the scope of the injuries.

  • Falls: Falling off a horse can result in serious injuries, from broken bones to concussions.

  • Repetitive Strain: Activities like grooming or lifting heavy tack can cause strain injuries.


Football is not without its risks, but they are usually less life-threatening:

  • Sprains and Strains: Ankle and knee injuries are common due to the high-impact nature of the sport.

  • Collisions: Player collisions can lead to concussions and other serious injuries.

Accessibility and Cost

Horse Riding

Horse riding can be pricey:

  • Cost: Lessons, equipment, and boarding can add up quickly.

  • Accessibility: Not everyone has access to riding facilities, especially in urban areas.


Football is more accessible:

  • Cost: A ball and a pair of boots are all you need to start.

  • Availability: You can play almost anywhere, from parks to streets to professional fields.

Which One Wins?

So, which is better? It really depends on what you’re looking for. 

If you are looking for a full-body workout, then you should try horse riding. But not that casual rides that are relaxing. Once you get used to being around horses, you should look for more demanding challenges.

On the other hand, football is much better when it comes to cardiovascular fitness. On top of that, it is a social sport that brings many mental benefits to the table, and it is way more accessible than horse riding.

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