One of the joys in my life is matching riders of a certain age with appropriate horses of a certain age. Both have so much left to give in their lives, but need a partner of equal potential and suitability to enjoy each other. Neither can be too high strung, too athletic, or too demanding for the other. A perfect match means a longer, happier life for both!
Author’s note ~ Debra DeAngelo’s look of unbridled joy from riding again after 33 years says it all. I’m so proud my little Mustang, Tim, could give her so much joy.
The obsessive love of horses is not just for girls anymore.
The Brakke Consulting Survey found the average horse owner is a married female, between the ages of 35 and 54. With 69.7 million Baby Boomers out there, middle age has now been described between the ages of 40 and 65. Many of those Baby Boomers are very active, athletic, financially sound, educated and ready to ride. There are those newly coming to riding later in life, and those returning to their true love after career and family have taken less of a focus.
There are many professional equestrians of a certain age, none more current than two Olympians in the 2016 games in Rio; Mary Hanna, 61, from Australia, and Phillip Dutton, 52, from the US.
Most returning riders had a strong attachment to horses in their younger life. If they were like me, they lived and breathed for their horse time. I actually kept my saddle in my bedroom and sat on it to read and do homework. I would have ridden all day if allowed.
Now that we’re older, we are acutely aware we’re not stronger than the horse, and we know we’re not as fit as we used to be in our younger years, so we start to use our brains to communicate with the horse. Building a relationship and partnership with our horse has become far more important than winning a ribbon or beating a time.
The 2015 AHP Equine Industry Survey found the majority of horse owners view their horses as family members, companions, partners, and/or best friends.
We have more empathy for the horse than we did when we were younger, and are in search of peace, companionship, and contentment the horse can provide.
“When you’re younger, you ride with 90% physical and 10% mental. But if you could learn how to use 90% mental and 10% physical you’d be better off.” ~ Buck Branaman
Horses of a certain age
Horses are living longer due to improved veterinary care, nutrition, dietary supplements, dental care, and hoof care. The average lifespan of a horse today is 25 – 33 years, give or take. Some horses are serviceably sound and active well into their late 20’s. The horse’s vocation has gone from a supporting member of society (farm labor, transportation, etc.) to a cherished family member, companion, partner, friend. Horses who can no longer perform at the higher levels still can have a job calmly walking down the trail or riding in the arena with a returning or beginning rider.
Benefits of horses of a certain age:
- Been there done that. Easy going, very little causes the horse concern. They stand tied, load in the trailer, are polite and kind.
- Well trained. With a well trained horse, the rider can concentrate on managing their own riding, rather than worrying about the horse.
- They want to go at our pace. They may have a few creaks and stiffness, but hey, so do we!
Not least of all, they love to be loved. At this age, who doesn’t?
- Humility: Life has taught us to be humble. We know that we don’t know, and know how to study and learn.
- Sense of community and social connection
- Physical fitness
- Sense of achievement: returning to riding at a certain age can be daunting, both physically and mentally. Challenging yourself and achieving small goals provides a lift no other drug can.
- Sense of humor! Horses are funny if you let them be. Stopping to watch them and interact with them at their pace will give you some amazing surprises.
Things to do with your horse other than riding
If you happen to be unable to ride at this point in your life, or you’re working your way into riding again, there are plenty of activities to do with your horse that don’t include actually climbing on.
Perhaps you were previously highly athletic and competitive, but looking for a lower level of athleticism for competition – and it’s out there!
Although industry future growth is often focused on the younger riders, there is still a place in the tack room for horses and riders of a certain age.
It’s never too late to do something amazing! Cheers! Sarah