Riding into Old Age ....
Some of us have been riding since we were toddlers; others with an affinity for horses have had to deny themselves the pleasure because of life circumstances. But the good news is that it’s never too late to start riding and getting up close and personal with horses. In fact, retirement – when there are fewer demands on your time – could be the perfect opportunity to saddle up and take on a horse hobby.
We all know that the Queen at 93 is still a regular rider, and every day on social media one comes across stories of men and women over 60 enjoying time in the saddle. So in an age when life expectancy is increasing all the time, it’s clearly possible to enjoy being an equestrian well into old age … but there are challenges to be met by older riders as well as benefits to be had.
The Benefits of Riding as you Age
As far as benefits go, horse riding is a sport so it keeps you fit – and the fitter you are the better equestrian you will be. Riding also keeps the brain active, simply because as any seasoned equestrian will tell you, you never stop learning. There’s nothing more mentally soothing or satisfying than interacting with a horse.
Don’t let aches and pains put you off – even people with disabilities ride successfully at any age. It can only improve your strength, balance, body awareness, agility and overall sense of well-being. (Although, of course, it’s wise to talk to your doctor about your fitness for riding, especially if you have conditions like arthritis, joint replacements, back problems or other chronic health issues).
As long as you are sensible and take due care riding is fun and healthy even at an advanced age. You may need a little help mounting up, and if you’re just starting to ride you’ll have some muscle soreness at the outset, but this can be managed and you’ll soon feel the benefits of spending time on horseback.
Tips for Older Riders
· Safety is important for all riders, young or old, but there are some special precautions to consider if you are “of an age” because if you do have a fall, the risk of injury is greater for older bodies, and recovery will be more difficult than it would for a younger person. Invest in the correct, well-fitting clothing and safety equipment. The first essential requirements are a professionally fitted, comfortable, good quality riding helmet and body protector. Protect your feet and ankles with a pair of good riding boots with a non-slip sole and get comfy in a pair of not-too-tight breeches. Function should come before fashion, but that’s not to say you can’t look confidently stylish when you ride out in your 80s!
· If you’re just starting to learn to ride as a senior citizen, you’ll need a riding instructor who is experienced in coaching older riders. Someone who will match you to a suitable steady mount and have the patience to take things slowly as you build up confidence. Choose your riding school with care; shy away from anywhere you feel intimidated or uncomfortable.
· Whether you are an experienced rider or a beginner, when you’re older you need to be realistic about what your limitations are. If you feel you can take on jumps, fine, give it a go, but you can enjoy riding without trying to measure up to the standards of top class eventers!
· Beyond the riding itself, try to keep yourself fit with some modest exercise to keep your core strength and flexibility up to par. There are plenty of practitioners who can help guide you in an exercise routine to suit your ability.
· Indulge yourself with all the most comfortable tack and riding gear you can find. A sturdy, steady mounting block will get you into the saddle, and there are all sorts of cushioning saddle pads available to prevent jarring. Little things like rubber-cushioned stirrup ironscan all improve your riding experience. Ask your local tack shop for advice on the most suitable comfort items for your needs.
· Find a like-minded peer or two to ride out with – someone who, like you, is riding for enjoyment and not aiming to achieve equestrian greatness.
Here at Totally Tack we have many customers who are still enjoying their riding, and we’re only too pleased to help them keep going! There are also some who’ve had to give up their passion through ill health but that doesn’t stop them still getting their fix of horses by visiting or helping in a yard or rescue centre, even if it’s just to be close to horses and inhale that glorious scent!