Recently I read this in Horse Sport magazine.
How old is a woman of ‘a certain age’?
According to a 1995 column in the New York Times, “only a Nosy Parker would try and find out.” A joke, of course, but one from a (hopefully) bygone era when women felt pressured to be coy about their age. One thing is for certain — older women have considerable presence in the horse world today.
According to Fran Severn, author of the recently published Riders of a Certain Age: Your Go-To Guide for Loving Horses Mid-life and Beyond, riders over 40 are the fastest growing segment of the equestrian world, with those 65-plus seeing the biggest jump.
I can remember being 40.Now at 73 it is a receding memory however. But I can identify with the 65 plus group. What is my riding history? I started to ride at age 9 and rode until I was 19. Then university, life and lack of funds meant I stopped riding. I did not ride again for 30 years . I started back when my daughter started riding . I was 49. I have not stopped since apart from an involuntary stop at the moment due to having worn out my 20 year old replaced hip and new parts are required to be surgically put in.
Apparently fear is an issue for most older riders. I can honestly say I do not feel I have any major fears.. When I bought Biasini I was told he had a spook. I ascertained what kind of spook it was and felt that it was not a problem. In my time back riding I have had a fall off one horse(Not Biasini). Despite having had hip replacement surgery and my surgeon having told me it was “forbidden to fall off.” the fall did not result in any real damage to my at the time 60+ body.
I have had one of my coaches tell me that he felt that my experience as an eventer when I was a teenager and the “wild” riding I did then gave me a good seat for sticking on a horse. I think he may be right. I do know it helps me to not be fearful.
I have seen a number of women who have had very successful careers come to riding and not succeed as well as they felt they should. This may be not doing as well in competition as they had hoped or just not being able to advance up levels as fast as they want to . Many of the over 65 group of women ride in the discipline of dressage and there are those very clear and obvious “levels” from training right up to the FEI levels of Prix St. George, Intermediare and on to Grand Prix. Not every one aims to get to the Grand Prix. Realistically that is a very lofty goal. Some women suffer from frustration when then find out how much time and work and effort have to go into moving up the levels. Others take on the challenge in stride and move on with enjoyment.
It is my belief that the most important thing is to have a good coach and that coach must be well qualified and understand that they are teaching and training an older rider. I have been lucky enough to have a coach that does not mollycoddle me as an old woman but does push me to work hard and to give it the best go I can.
I have had people, who are not riders, ask why I am still taking lessons. “Don’t you already know how to ride?” they ask. I will explain to them that continuing to learn and to get help with my horse is of paramount importance.
Getting help from a good qualified coach is the answer to fear. They will teach you how to ride well and stay on your horse and they will help you to understand what your horse is doing and why they react to certain things the way they do.
Last of all it is important to get the right horse. This may not be the 17hh flashy fancy “dream” horse that will leave everyone gobsmacked. For those of us amatuer riders over 65 the flashy fancy horse may have too much energy and that impressive trot may not be comfortable. A horse that you can ride with confidence is what matters most. Again this is where a good coach who knows you as a rider can help you select the right horse.
For me riding is therapy and pure joy. I think that most of the over 65 riders would probably agree. I hope so. I have not read Fran Severn’s book and if I do I will be sure to post a review.
Riders of a Certain Age: Your Go-To Guide for Loving Horses Mid-life and Beyond, by Fran Severn
The featured photo, taken by Queca Franco, for this post is of me competing at White Fences in 2020 just before the Pandemic shut down all shows. I believe we were doing a pirouette in the Intermediare 1 Freestyle.
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