Riding at 70+++
Over on another thread, they marvel at a 70+ year old Japanese man competing in the Olympics at dressage - one of the more sophisticated specialities in horse riding. After all that man could easily be a great grandfather. So as to give you all hope and a goal in life, I will confess that I was still riding actively when I was 72. My wife was riding until four months ago at the age of 67 when she broke her leg and a bone in her ankle whilst walking the dog. I think it unlikely that she will ride again largely because she simply doesn’t want to. She is now swimming and will in due course go back to line dancing. She has never really been an avid rider. Her enjoyment came largely from keeping the horses back when we owned land.
Personally there is no reason why I physically cannot ride, providing I have access to a calm horse which my sparky mare has not been of late. Luckily I have largely recovered from the aftermath of a bad fall from my previous cob when I was 69 However there is little encouragement from my friends and family to ride a horse although I am actively involved in exercising her. In fact what impacts most on my ability to ride presently are the side effects of pills which I have to take for prostate health issues. I still attend Pilates classes but lack of riding has weakened my physical fitness level especially around the lower back and the abdominal areas. Realistically I can no longer charge about on horseback as once I did.
Thinking back over my life, I have asked myself what has enabled me to be able to ride into my seventies. What immediately comes to mind is that I have managed to live three score years and ten. I was born in London before WW2 and I survived it. I worked in London for almost 25 years and travelled into central London on public transport without catching any fatal diseases nor being involved in any horrendous accidents. Later in my forties I travelled the world by air without incident and without catching any germs beyond gastric issues and the occasional dose of flu. I have driven a car tens of thousands of miles a year since I was 18 without serious injury. I learned to fly a private plane and to scuba dive in the English Channel without harming myself beyond acquiring tinnitus. Cancer, heart attacks, strokes, mental illness and neurological ailments have passed me by - so far. I have indeed been lucky. If I had been standing in the wrong place at the wrong time I might be dead. As it is I can still walk upright and see and hear where I am going. If I were to be left alone in life, I could still take care of myself without assistance Perhaps it is my responsibility to the dogs, the horse and my writing which keeps me going.
So what are the key factors which enable a horse rider to continue riding? Firstly it is undoubtedly necessary to have acquired a secure seat in the saddle. I write ‘secure’ not ‘stylish‘. Secondly one has to have testosterone (or I suppose oestrogen) to enjoy the buzz. Physical fitness around the centre core: the abdomen, the lower back, the thighs, the crutch is a must. An acquired knowledge of the ways of the horse and its careful handling keeps one out of trouble. Easy access to a rural environment makes the sport more interesting. To keep a horse is an expensive hobby but somehow I have managed to be able to afford to do so.
I cannot say I have ever been competitive and I have no need to prove I am better especially at the expense of my horse’s labours. I ride for pleasure especially the companionship of the willing horse. I see little pleasure in a horse jumping for my personal aggrandisement. I have chased after packs of hounds and I have ridden long distance trail rides at home and overseas. Noone would call me a cautious rider But without a doubt what has spurred me on to ride in later years has been the love of a horse. In my life, there have been three horses of my own and two belonging to others who have found an indelible niche in my mind. I have fond memories of them all for between them, they have given me some of the happiest days in my life. I am reluctant to give the sport up, even though sensible discretion would say perhaps I ought to. I only wish I could do it all over again.
I sense there are a few more members of the Forum who are pensioners like me. You must have similar emotions and lots of memories of times well spent with honest horses ????