If you had asked me a few years ago, maybe even a few months ago, if I was ageist towards horses, I would absolutely have said yes. Four seemed too young, thirteen too old. I wanted my hunter prospect to be ready for a full workload, but of course able to continue doing said work for many years. Fast forward to now, and there’s been a massive reality check.

For one thing, no one cares about my show record anymore (I mean what is a show record anyway), and I’ll be just another 18-35 age group rider in the ring. To our very competitive junior riders, I am half dinosaur from the days of velvet caps and pull on boots.  I’m not only older than them (strike one), but also horseless (strike two). My current riding prospects are far and few between; I know that, and most days I’m accepting of it. Back in a lesson program I love, I find myself on horses who are taking a step down from the big stuff. No one expects much from them, except to ask that they not stomp the lunge line lesson kids into the earth. But still, I was nervous for my lessons. Was I going to break the cute little old man horse? What happens to adult amateur horseless riders after they smoosh lesson horses? Asking for a friend of course…

But I’ve been wow-ed and humbled by the lessons and wisdom these stately gentlemen have taught me this summer. Maybe the jumps were a bit smaller, but the lessons were technical, intense and taught me that regardless of the horse, the rider must always be an active partner.  Just because they know how to do it, doesn’t mean it will happen. Quite the opposite really. I probably should learn to keep a horse straight, because otherwise I’ll end up standing in the middle of the arena totally embarrassed. Or how important steering can be, when my schoolie just simply trotted me right out of the ring. Point taken gentlemen.

After I figured out (the hard way) that you still have actively ride, I realized that I had a much more shameful secret. I worried that other riders at our barn might laugh at me and my grouchy grey toddling around the arena, but later felt totally ashamed of even thinking that, especially when he came to my rescue in an ugly jump situation and saved both our hides. I mean no one knows self-preservation like an older school horse. 

While I am excited for the next horse down the road, having these schoolies in my life has lessened my urgency and broadened my horizon as far as what will be on my need list. Each horse is different and will bring a new world of lessons down the road – but I should not discount the lessons I am learning in the meantime. 

Written by HJU Blogger Contestant Genny Macy