Loving Horses —
Midlife and Beyond
The realities of starting out with horses…when you’re getting older.
All horse lovers are welcome, whether or not they are riding. Learn about finding an instructor, fitness, finances, medical issues for older women that affect our riding, living on the road with a horse, buying a horse (or not), planning for the care of our horses when we are gone, dealing with unsupportive partners and family, how older folks think and learn.
I'm Fran Severn
I’ve been a freelance writer and broadcaster, growing up in the city but determined to have horses in my life. After earning my degree in Mass Communications, I worked in broadcast news in Louisville, Kentucky, where she covered the Kentucky Derby and events at the Kentucky Horse Park, produced equine-focused features, and finally bought her first horse.
Riders Of A Certain Age
Here you will find information and links about products, services, and references on the subjects covered in the book. This is updated regularly as new information and products appear and others disappear from the market.
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Frequently Asked Questions
These are questions that we are regularly asked when starting out. If there is anything that we’ve missed, have a look at the resources. We hope to cover everything that you need to know when starting out or making sure that you have everything covered.
It’s easy to say that it is never too old to start riding. We are the most physically fit, active, and healthy ‘senior’ generation ever. We participate in adventures and experiences that our parents could never have even considered, much less done. And we do it without thinking that it is extraordinary. So deciding to climb into the saddle has very little to do with age. The Riders of a Certain Age Facebook community has members who boast about taking their first lessons as a 65th birthday present. Riders in their 70s are common. Queen Elizabeth routinely hacks out and she is in her 90s. The US Dressage Federation has a “Century Club” for horse and rider partnerships with a combined age of over 100.
What does matter is your level of fitness and your physical abilities. Work on getting limber, improving your balance, and building stamina. Many women ride after hip and knee replacements and cope with other physical annoyances. Make sure that your instructor knows your issues so that she can structure your lessons around them.
Talk to your primary physician about your plans. You may well be told that you are too old to do this and that it is dangerous. And as much as we like to think otherwise, riding is a risky sport and a fall or a kick at our age is harder to recover from, so her concerns are valid.
If you decide that riding is not safe, you can still be involved with horses in many other ways. Concentrate on groundwork and learn ‘in hand’ jumping and dressage. Stroll on a trail with your horse on a lead line. Volunteer at a rescue or riding school. They always appreciate enthusiastic helpers. Learn the art of driving, which is enjoying renewed interest.
The bottom line is that you are never too old to be involved with horses.
Certainly. In fact, if you are brand new to horses and riding, don’t rush to buy one. It’s much better to start by taking lessons and riding a calm, reliable, easy-going school horse. He’ll be patient and friendly and very willing to teach you what he knows. As your riding skills improve, your instructor will have you ride horses that are more advanced. You will learn how different horses move and think. You’ll begin to decide what kind of horse you want to own or ride regularly. Your instructor will be evaluating you, of course, and can make suggestions when you decide to start your horse shopping adventure.
If you are lucky, your riding stable has a community. Not all of them have many ‘older’ riders, though, and that can be frustrating. Some stables actively encourage older riders and hold after-lesson gatherings, group trail rides, and carpools to audit clinics.
Social media can help, too. Check to see if there is a local or regional riding or equestrian group. See what activities are happening. Feed stores often have bulletin board that post flyers about upcoming events. Join local riding clubs. Attend shows, even as a spectator. Even better, introduce yourself to the organizers and offer to help. It is always difficult when you are new and don’t know anyone. But horse people love to find other horse people.
That depends on the limitation. Always visit your primary physician to get her opinions and advice. Often, you’ll be told that riding is not a good idea. That’s a valid concern because riding is a risky activity.
For most of us, the biggest challenges are age-related: stiffness, coordination, balance, and stamina. We must be aware of protecting bad knees, more fragile bones, side-effects of medications, and deteriorating hips. Working with physical therapists, Pilates instructors, osteopaths and chiropractors, taking Yoga classes, and developing a daily fitness routine are all solid ways to improve our health and deal with age-related physical issues.
When riding, it is important to let your instructor know about any problems. She cannot adapt your lessons to compensate for them if she doesn’t know they exist.
As you begin, you’ll be paying for very little except lessons. You’ll need proper riding gear – boots, safety helmet, gloves, and breeches (for English). Your riding school will provide the tack for the horse. The cost of lessons varies greatly. A stable that teaches general riding for fun and small competitions will charge far less than a barn with a strong competitive focus or a program with a well-known clinician. Many stables offer a discount if you buy a package of lessons.
If you decide to buy a horse, that’s another story! Horses themselves are not particularly expensive in the grand scheme of things. It’s the cost of board, feed, veterinarian, farrier, tack, lessons, saddle fitting, dentist, blankets, coolers, grooming supplies, saddle pads, treats, fly spray, and treats that drain your bank account. And if you decide to compete or invest in serious training, the numbers keep climbing!
If you Google “My husband hates my horses,” you will get almost 30-million hits! It is one of the most common complaints heard from women riders.
There are a lot of reasons, according to relationship experts. Some of it is jealousy and insecurity. Your spouse is now competing with a challenger for your time and attention. This is most common when your partner doesn’t have his own interests.
If your partner is close to retirement age, this is an unsettling time. For many people, their jobs and careers are their identity. If that’s going away and you are involved in something that is not familiar and it populated by strangers, that’s a scary situation.
Trying to get him involved is always the best solution. If he decides to ride, life is wonderful. If not, have a heart-to-heart conversation. Tell him how much this means to you and that after years of taking care of everyone else’s needs, it’s now your time to do what you want. Explain that riding is cheaper than therapy (or a divorce!). Try to make compromises. Invite your horse friends and spouses to parties with your non-horse friends and expand your social circle. Offer to swap out activities. You’ll spend one weekend doing what he wants and have the next weekend for yourself.
Often the complaints are symptoms of a deeper problem with your relationship. If there’s no compromise, consider counseling. Living with constant pressure and criticism can kill a relationship
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