Connectedness to nature and nature contact can provide many benefits to humans, like stress reduction, recovery from illness, and increased positive emotions. Likewise, recreational horseback riding is a widespread sports activity with the potential to enhance physical and psychological health. Yet, the influence of connectedness to nature on the wellbeing of older aged recreational horseback riders has not been investigated so far. The aim of the present study therefore was to explore the relationship between nature relatedness and physical, psychological and social wellbeing and happiness. The study sample was composed of Austrian recreational horseback riders aged 45 years and older, who were compared with dog owners and people without pets (n = 178). We found significantly higher nature relatedness, significantly higher overall wellbeing and a significantly better mood rating in recreational horseback riders compared to people without pets and similar scores compared to dog owners. Physical wellbeing is correlated with overall nature relatedness in horseback riders and dog owners, but no correlation was found in people without pets. A structural equation model shows a direct relationship between nature relatedness and mood in horseback riders and an indirect relationship through pet attachment in dog owners. The results suggest the activity with horses and dogs in nature environments is a source of wellbeing, enjoyment, self-confidence and social contacts.
Keywords: dog walking; mood; nature relatedness; recreational horseback riding; subjective wellbeing.