Old and Still Riding

Oh yes, you can be scared and still know what you are doing. Just ask any of us over 50 who are still riding. There’s a lot you 20-somethings have coming — trust me. Not all of what you are doing now are you going to be doing THEN, when you get to where we are now. Oh, yes, the future, getting older, blah blah blah. Of course you are skeptical. Do you love horses and riding and eventing and are pretty sure you’ll be doing it your whole life? Good. Then read on.

Me - this summer. Photo by Jessica Snyder

Me this summer. Photo by Jessica Snyder

As we age, certain things happen to us. We still seem to ride the same way, but things often might feel a certain way to us but look pretty different to our coaches and instructors. Muscle memory is there. Posting the trot, once learned, is there — albeit you can be rusty if you haven’t actually posted the trot in a long while.

I went almost 10 years without riding at a point in my life, and while it felt wonderful to get back on a horse on a regular basis, I can’t be dishonest — it felt pretty weird not knowing my diagonals and having to look down and double check all the time. This from someone who rode over fences at a high level extensively in her 20s.

I have friends who also have been out of the saddle for a year or so at a time, some more. We all have that really serious conflict that goes on once the saddle is on, the horse is there, you’ve got her helmet on, all is ready — knowing we haven’t ridden for a long, long time — also knowing, inside, that our inner voice is screaming, “No! No! Scary! Scary! Hurt, hurt, pain, pain, don’t do it!” and our heart is saying, “screw that inner voice — you know you love this and you know you love that horse and I’m here to tell you just do it …” And you reach for the stirrup.

Me - equitation - a hundred years ago. Rabinksy Photo.

Me — equitation — a hundred years ago. Rabinksy photo.

Of all the courageous and difficult tasks in my life, getting back on ranks up there with the toughest. Not because it hurt, or the horse was bad, or I was particularly scared at the moment — it was more I was now realizing I am doing this thing because I love it and I want to come back to it and I don’t ever want to leave it again. You know you are changing your life.

It is a decision you make knowing the consequences of a fall or accident, knowing the pain and suffering that comes from a bad lesson or embarrassing competition attempt, a clinic over your head, the agony of  a lame horse, perhaps the loss of a horse, or other tough moment a life with horses brings. You don’t care. You just want to ride again. No matter what.