I know you're out there.
In fact, I know there are more of you (us) than ever before.
It seems like more and more middle-aged people are able to maintain their health, finances and activity level enough to own, ride and care for horses well into their 50s, 60s and beyond.
Some people are coming to horses for the first time. Maybe it was a lifelong dream, or wishful thinking that is finally coming to fruition.
Others have been "in horses" since they were young children, and were among the lucky ones who have a long history of enjoying every avenue that horse riding has to offer: riding lessons, ownership, showing, trail riding, special tricks and performances (musical riding, anyone?) and so much more. Many of their lifelong friends are likely of the horse-loving variety.
Both types want to keep riding. They want to keep showing up at the barn, savoring the ambiance and environment that it has to offer. Most of all, they want to spend time with the horses themselves.
People often ask me what they need to do if they are older riders. Is anything particularly different for the over 50 crowd?
Well, sure. And, not really.
Because after all, a horse is a horse of course, of course!
If you look at the guidelines for people as they age, you'll see that horses and horse riding meet all of our "grown-up" needs. I'm no doctor, but I can tell you that being involved in horses maintains and maybe even improves many areas of our lives, such as:
- general muscle strength (lifting, pushing, pulling)
- core strength
- general mobility (both fine and gross motor skills)
- emotional health
- mental health
- lifelong learning
Walk through any riding facility and you'll likely find children, teenagers, adults, "grown-ups" and every age in between. Age has little meaning to a horse. They respond similarly to all of us.
However, there are some things you might want to consider if you're in the "grown-up" category (although honestly, I'd give these same recommendations for children and new horse riders of any age).
Pick the right horse
I can't stress this point enough. The horse you ride/buy can make or break your experience - never mind your body! Know your strengths and limitations, and find the horse that will enjoy what you want to get out of riding. This might mean that you'd pick a more experienced, possibly older, but likely much more forgiving horse that will be happy to do whatever you want to do - whether it be a good grooming, a riding lesson, a trail ride on a nice day, or just hang out under a tree enjoying a nibble on some grass.
Stay away from horses that need more attention or require more athletic ability that you are able to provide. Younger horses may need to be ridden every day. They may need training by a professional. They may go through learning stages of their own, which might include bucks/rears/spins and whatever else a horse could do under difference circumstances.
Ride at your level
You might think riding at your level is common sense, but many people try to push themselves far outside of their comfort zone, for various reasons. As an older rider, you should constantly challenge yourself to keep developing new skills and "feels," but make sure that you are riding at a level that you can be safe and confident.
Take lessons to keep developing your skills
This is not to say that you should be content with maintaining the status quo. Learning to ride is a life-long quest and you can absolutely continue working on your aids, balance, coordination and timing. Keep setting goals and working toward personal bests. Realize that goals might take longer to achieve, but keep at it!
Finding a good instructor is even more important for someone who has no prior riding experience. There is no replacement for honest guidance and a safe learning environment and horse.
Take more walk breaks
This is a recommendation I'd give to "grown-up' riders as well as young children and anyone new to riding. Walk breaks give both you and your horse some time to catch breath, regroup, let the muscles relax for a moment, and allow some rest between more demanding work.
Use these moments to work on stretchy walks, lateral work at the walk, halts and then transition out of the halt, any sidepass/turn on the haunches/backup practice. Walk over poles, back around a pylon, work on inside leg to outside rein (bend)... the possibilities are endless! When you're ready, move back into the trot and canter.
Listen to your body
Well, here, I'm referring to the aches and occasional creaks the ol' body might complain about. Seriously, though, if you feel a recurring ache, or a new strain, be sure to listen. There is absolutely no reason to push the body to a point of disrepair and discomfort.
Take it easier, change what you're doing, or get off altogether and look forward to riding the next time. Getting hurt, even from something like a repetitive strain injury, is not worth the extra few minutes you can keep riding. Give the body time to recover.
Enjoy the social aspect
For many of us, interacting with fellow horse lovers is an essential part of the whole horse "experience." The barn is where friendships are made. Enjoy spending that extra time with your friends even while you're grooming or tacking up your horse. You might not notice - but your horse likely enjoys your chat time with your friends as much as you do!
All this to say, if you want to ride horses, your age doesn't really matter! Get out there, get active, and enjoy the companionship of this very special animal.
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The Best Of The Best From Horse Listening!
2016 was our fifth anniversary, and we commemorated the event by compiling the top 20 most popular articles from the blog, covering topics such as:
- rider position (hands, seat, legs, elbows, upper body)
- improvement of the rider's aids (kicking, inside rein, outside rein)
- and more!
Read more here:
Riding Should Be fun, Right? The only thing you have to keep in mind is how you define fun at different points in your riding career.
Your Horse Is How Old?? 7 Tips To Ride For Longevity: Here are some "accommodations" I put into place for the horses as they aged. Some of these ideas might work for your horse as well.
Ode To The Stretchy Trot: Counting the ways I love the stretchy trot!
42 Ways to Learn, Play and Grow With Your Horse: Horses give to us in countless ways. We play, learn and grow with them, making horseback riding not merely a sport (which it truly is, like no other), but so much more.
Good Day For A Little Horseplay: Snort, snort, snort, SNORT! My gelding couldn’t tell me in any clearer terms how much he was enjoying the moment.