Considerations for Older Riders

When the horse bug has bitten, it doesn’t matter how old you are. Here are some considerations for the older rider, to help you enjoy riding safe from injury.

“If you have it, it is for life. It is a disease for which there is no cure. You will go on riding even after they have to haul you onto a comfortable, wise old cob, with feet like inverted buckets and a back like a fireside chair.” — Monica Dickens

There have been many discussions in the forum over the years, about older riders. So just who are these people that continue riding, or even start riding, well into their golden years?

In many cases, they are people who rode as children and teenagers, but took a break when college, career and family commandeered their time.

In other cases, they began to get interested when their own children started lessons, or got their first horse.

It’s not unheard of for people to continue riding well into their 70’s. Consider the oldest ever female Olympic competitor, Mrs. Lorna Johnstone, who at age 70 placed twelfth in dressage in the Munich Olympics in 1972. An exception perhaps, but certainly something to inspire us as we grow older.

What sorts of things should older riders keep in mind when deciding to take up riding, or to continue in a sport they began as a teenager?

  • The most important consideration is health issues. Conditions such as arthritis, back and knee injuries etc. can all have a negative effect on a rider’s position and effectiveness in the saddle. Talk to your doctor if you have any concerns that riding may aggravate an old injury, or compromise your safety in any way.
  • Simply getting on may challenge the less agile rider. However, with the right choice of horse, and judicious use of a mounting block this obstacle is easily overcome.
  • Gaited horses are very popular among older riders. Tennessee Walking Horses, Missouri Foxtrotters and Paso Finos are highly rated for their smooth gaits that don’t jiggle older bones, and for their placid natures.
  • Whatever breed of horse is chosen, temperament and training should be high on the list of criteria. One rider speaks of his 16-year-old ranch “working” quarterhorse who had spent his whole life earning his living. “He just exudes that been there, done that, attitude. It? makes him a dream to ride.”
  • The older rider who used to jump as a teenager may decide to take up a more sedate activity. Dressage is popular for older riders, as is trail riding. Trail associations are a good place to get information about challenging trails, and the companionship of having other riders to ride with makes it a good social activity too.So don’t let advancing age put you off from riding.

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