Horse Listening 50+ Rider
Credit: NBanaszak Photography

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.

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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)
  • balance
  • core strength
  • general mobility (both fine and gross motor skills)
  • emotional health
  • mental health
  • socialization
  • 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.

Pick well!

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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  1. I am 62 years young. I started seriously riding at 50. My first horse wouldn’t get out of his own way but was perfect for me at that time. My next horse and still is mine was well ahead of me and I had many challenges ahead (I still do). She is extremely talented and very forward. In hindsight, she was to much horse for me at the time I bought her. Now we are working together. Still there are some discussions her and I have but I wouldn’t trade her for the world. She will never be a just sit on her and hang out but that is ok with me. My instructor has gotten us to communicate willing with earch other.

  2. I’m 77 and have ridden for 40 years. Needless to say, I LIVE to ride. So during our tropical summers, when the horses take a break, I spend time in the air conditioned house doing stretching, bending, strengthening and relaxation exercises. It takes more exercise time every year to prevent the “October pains”. But, oh my, it is worth every minute!

  3. As a 64 year old rider, I heartily concur with this article! I rode throughout most my youth till about 19. I wasn’t a horse owner then, I just road stable mounts and friend’s horses as often as I could. Fast forward to age 46 and my husband tells me to buy a horse because I always had wanted one, and I did. I have three now and my husband start riding too. We love to go to horse camps and trail ride as often as we can. I believe it does keep you agile and young in spirit. It is my plan to keep climbing on my wonderful Jubilee, Duke, or Gentry until I can’t for some reason…God forbid that day.

  4. Absolutely great article……….as a 66 year young rider I found it filled with great advice and commonsense information that is easy to digest.

  5. Took my first lesson at age 50. Bought my own horse at age 58. Hr was 14 then. Now he is 28 and I am days away from 72. We still ride in the arena, trail ride and enjoy each other. He is calm and very forgiving and my dear friend. I take a lesson, weather permitting, once a week on a mid teen QH mare. I’m still learning and plan to ride as long as I am able and I’ll ride my horse, who is very healthy and sound, as long as he is able.

  6. Some inspiring comment – I have just turned 60 and was thinking I might be getting too old for this! Now I’m starting to realise otherwise!!

  7. Rode seriously until I was 20 (showed, fox hunted, Pony Club); took a 40 year break. Rescued an OTTB. Am now 66 and she and I are just beginning to mesh (she had some health issues due to racing). Riding is so different now. Approach is so different, too. No more jumping for me. Walk, trot, a little canter. Trails. Love barn culture, stacking bales, mucking, aisle sweeping, grooming. When I ride I always wear a crash vest and a helmet (was dumped in Feb in an indoor – horse triple spooked and I landed flat on my back – indoor footing was super soft so I got up and was a little sore – and that’s why I bought my vest). I met a guy today and his wife’s mom is 85 and still riding!

  8. Still riding at 77 – it’s a big part of who I am. Rode as a teenager, had my own horse until birth of 2nd son and got back into horses in my 30’s. Will ride as long as I’m able but now ride slower and on a TW horse that is easier on my back.

  9. Love your stuff horse listening. Have ridden off and on my whole life and took up eventing around the age of 40 and obtained my horse coaching qualifications as well. I now coach older riders, nervous, returning riders etc and really enjoy helping people😊👍🐴💜 In my early fifties now.

  10. I rode as a youngster and also took ballet. My parents told me to pick one, as they couldn’t afford both, I picked dance. At the age of 60, 3 mos after a hip replacement, I fulfilled my dream and bought me a horse. We both needed lessons, as I hadn’t ridden in 45 years, and all she knew was “go really fast, no brakes or steering”, even tho she was about 17. I found a wonderful trainer and our education is on going. One suggestion I would make for an older person thinking about getting a horse, is go gaited!!! My horse is a TWH and is smooth as silk, no trotting involved!!!! Much easier on the old bones..

  11. I rode as child and off and on until college. Fast forward to 48, when I finally got my 1st horse! I’m 55 now, and having that wonderful gelding and the perfect mare I have now has gotten me through being treated for ovarian cancer. It’s part of what’s kept me going! Horses forever 😊

  12. I started riding at 65. It has been a dream of mine since I was 6. My daughter in law started me with lessons, now I’m taking lessons with an excellent professional rider and instructor. Its been three years, and I’ve loved every second of it.

  13. You bet we are out here. I am 66 and whipping for our fox hunt club three times a week. Galloping and jumping hard for two to three hours. Life is great here in Kentucky. Club members age range from six years old on their ponies to an 85 year old past huntsman. Horses don’t care how old the person is but only if they are caring sensitive riders and willing to have fun with their equine partners. And what fun we have chasing hounds and so do the horses. No one counts age years but how many hunting seasons we have the privilege to ride in. Life is good here in Kentucky

  14. A ‘returner’ at 51 (after hip replacement surgery prevented me riding for a while) I agree with everything that you say. It’s wonderful to be back and riding has worked wonders in rebuilding my physical (and mental) strength after 18 months of walking with a stick! Go oldies!

  15. I am 86 putting a lot of peand rode until a year and a half ago when I needed a knee replacement. Have done a little of everything since I was 13, but for the last 40 years it was dressage. Horses and riding are an obsession for me. Fortunately I have been lucky enough to have some nice horses (not necessarily expensive) pver the years. I was a lower level dressage judge for 30 years and like to think I may have helped a few people. May have made some mistakes along the way, but tried to be helpful. I still watch my college classmate who is 88 at her weekly lesson, and I still learn something new all the time. Keep up the great blogs, Kathy. You are putting a lot of people on the right path!

  16. This is perfect! I’m 57 and got back into riding a few years ago and will never give it up again! It completes me!

  17. Well, this is encouraging! I turned 80 a month and a half ago, the doc who did my hip replacement surgery said it would be OK for me to ride a horse, so I had my first ever lesson a week ago. (Seems safer than riding a bicycle in traffic!) A fun way to get fresh air and exercise (especially when the Jersey weather cooperates!). Lucy

    1. I would love for Lucy to come ride with me. I’m 77 and my artificial hip and knees are a big help. And in South Carolina we can ride all winter. Come on down! Carol

  18. Fabulous tips, Horse Listening. As someone who coaches (mostly) women in their 50’s and 60’s, I would only add that for those who rode when they were younger, it’s important to let go of expecting to ride the same as you did then. Our bodies change. Our reflexes slow down. Our willingness to take risks decreases while the fear factor may increase for some of us. Enjoy wherever you are now. Otherwise, what’s the point, right?