Beginning riding, or returning to riding, later in life has its challenges. You’re starting, or returning to, a sport where you must be in control of your own body, and the body of a large animal who will outsmart you every chance they get. One wrong move and you can fall, and a bruised ego is the best case scenario. Not only did I return to riding in my mid-twenties after a very long gap in lessons, I also started riding at a barn with no other adult riders beyond the trainer. Just me and many very young, very brave riders who are way more accomplished than I’ll probably ever be.

But this isn’t a bad thing.

Being an adult rider surrounded by younger riders can be equally intimidating and inspiring. Many are too young to be afraid of falling, of their horses taking off on them, of worrying about proper anything if they’re just starting out. They’re there because they love horses, they want to be around them, and will do anything to feel that freedom of being on the back of a horse. The others — the competitors — work hard, push themselves and their horses, to learn how to be better riders, to do better at competitions, to make their families and their trainers proud. This isn’t some after-school hobby for the most dedicated of the young riders. And this doesn’t have to be an after-work hobby for you.

The downsides to being the only adult is that, yes, my ability to really connect with my fellow riders, or make friends with them, is limited. It’s harder to feel like I’m improving when it takes me longer to grasp a new concept. The horses are happy because I’m more aware of my hands and legs, but it also makes me a more timid rider, too aware of those who might’ve been pulling on my lesson horse’s face earlier that day.

To combat all of this, I share the ring with my fellow riders during my lessons. We laugh, joke, and learn from each other. Just because there is an age gap between us doesn’t mean there is a wall between what we can teach one another. And slowly, that wall is being broken down. There is no such thing as too old or too young to be riding horses, to be improving, to be learning. I watch the lessons of my fellow riders and learn from their fearlessness, from their form, from the way they don’t let one small mistake change the tone of their entire ride.

Sequestering yourself to only riding with one type of rider, and one age group, will only hinder your growth. Branch out, be brave, learn from those around you.