I bought my first horse at the age of 54, after a 30 year absence from riding. I didn’t ride very much as a youth, but when I had the opportunity to get on a horse, I rode as every child does…with no skill, just complete abandon and no fear. Somehow in the course of 30 years, that all changed.
Timmy was a 6 year old Holsteiner/Thoroughbred gelding who was pretty green when I bought him, but had a very calm demeanor and lovely gaits. I was totally smitten with him and couldn’t wait to start riding lessons.
I decided to give dressage a whirl, since at 54, my childish abandon had also grown up and flown the coop. I didn’t think jumping or galloping cross country were smart starting points, but dressage looked pretty easy. I found a trainer and found out just how wrong I was!
Just learning to post a trot convinced me that the solid timing and balance that once made me a good athlete had somehow left me. My trainer was a believer is the old German dressage methods. Consequently, she drilled Timmy and I until we could sit solidly, with quiet hands and a steady leg. My same-age friends thought I was crazy to be riding horses, and didn’t understand my attraction to sweating, mucking stalls and sore muscles. As a result, my circle of friends changed rather rapidly, and I found I was spending almost all of my free time with “twenty-somethings”.
Fast forward 5 years, and I have survived two pretty good injuries and breaking up with my first trainer. My 3 closest friends are in their 20s. Who would have ever seen that coming? My horse is now 11 years old, and still the love of my life. I have become physically stronger from riding 4-5 times a week and he is a better horse for it. My 27 yr old trainer of 2+ years is a 4 star event rider who doesn’t know the meaning of hot, cold, tired or sore. She thrives on competing and pushes all her students to do their best. I have learned some valuable life lessons along the way:
1. It’s never too late to improve your fitness. I can carry tack, muck stalls, hitch up a trailer and ride without having to take pain pills and soak in a tub afterwards.
2. Old dogs CAN learn new tricks! We can learn from those younger than we are. Their excitement, drive and endless energy serve as a constant inspiration to me. They are willing teachers to those willing to learn—and my horse knowledge has increased exponentially.
3. We can teach those younger than we are. Patience comes with age and there is value to stepping back to see the big picture sometimes. Life lessons can be passed along.
4. As skills improve, we are more likely to push ourselves out of our comfort zones. I started showing in low level dressage 5 months after I bought Timmy and we have many ribbons to show for it. This year, I learned how to two point and did my first jumping competition. We took home a blue ribbon for our efforts.
My life has become rich and full because of my riding. I am in better physical shape than I was 30 years ago and I can hang with the best of the 20 year olds! My vocabulary now includes words like piaffe, oxer, martingale, ROLEX and flying changes. I have trotted into a Fountain of Youth and if you give me a few more years (and lessons) I may try it at a full gallop! I think Timmy would like eventing!!