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xxBarry Godden 03-07-2012 05:37 AM

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 ????

GreySorrel 03-07-2012 07:24 AM

I read that article about the 70 year old and thought BRAVO to you and your accomplishments and all you do and have done and will continue to do. Hard work and determination, as well as dedication.

I am not quite to the senior years just yet. I do ride and while my favorite trail horse, a QH, is 20, he still is what many consider hot and definitely keeps you on your toes and thinking. I know that the woman I have met, some of them still ride bareback while many others blink and look at you like you have grown a 2nd eye on your forehead. This is especially nice when it is cold out, I keep warm because the horse is warm and I still get their exercise in as well as my own.

I think for me, falling and breaking something is my worst fear. My back isn't the best anymore, 8 years ago I ruptured a disc in my lower back and while it was rather painful, it wasn't as debilitating as the doctor thought it was upon looking at the MRI and cat scan. I have some minor aches and pains but nothing that will keep me from doing what needs to be done. I help my husband each year load and stack our hay, we go through about 1200 or so bales a year. I also try to watch my weight and get exercise too, that plays a key on age and longevity, but most importantly, it does play a huge key for my horses as well.

I can hope to be riding into my 70's...thank you for the posting.

Cacowgirl 03-07-2012 09:56 AM

Horseback riding is great exercise, & like you said, it keeps the core strong & I believe that contributes to much better health & the ability to keep going & take care of ourselves, too. Also, the grooming & care of horse & stable is even more exercise,plus being outdoors, which I think is important. i always enjoy reading your posts & hope you can find a "gentleman's" mount so you can still ride some.

iridehorses 03-07-2012 10:25 AM

Although I'm not quite your age, Barry, I'm pretty close at 65. I've ridden my own horses for the past 30+ years and others before that. I spend my time in the saddle now as a pleasure rider on different trails. In my younger days I showed horses on cows and did some jumping earlier then that. I've taken my share of wrecks (and probably other's shares as well). I'm ridding with 3 compressed fractured vertebrae and 2 herniated discs not counting the multiple rib fractures and concussions. I was never a cautious rider.

I had surgery last year for a brain tumor that kept me off my horse for a few months - and found out recently that I have 2 more that need to be dealt with latter this year - on top of a stent in my heart that was put in back in August last year.

I have no plans of stopping. I have a mare now who can be ridden every day or once per month and is basically the same horse. Although she is not for a beginner, she is a real lady under saddle for a confident rider. This is a horse that I hope to have until I have to give it up. She is only turning 15 next month so I feel I have a lot more time yet.

I, too, used to scuba dive and I still ride motorcycles. I may be 65 but I'm often taken for someone in my late 40's/early 50's. I try to live up to that. I hope I'm in your spirits when I reach your age.

xxBarry Godden 03-07-2012 12:15 PM

Ageing is very much a state of mind. Sometimes I look in the mirror and ask myself who is that 'Grey Hair' looking back? The thing about a horse is the age of the rider doesn't matter to it it is the softness of the hands and the tone of voice which count.

IRH: - sorry to hear about the lodgers in your head. One of my nephews had a serious problem 2.5 years ago. He had a rough time with the treatment at the beginning but recently he got his driving licence back and now comes to Pilates classes with me to improve his posture. It is amazing what modern medicine can do.


kitten_Val 03-07-2012 12:18 PM

70+++... Why not? :D

I went to one guy in my area training/breeding/competing cutting horses for years. He's in his 70th, had knee replacement, back something replacement, and bunch of other issues. Still gets on horse, works them every other day, and competes. Doctors can't believe it, but he does. So as long as you have a strong will, you just do it.

gary78bronco 03-07-2012 02:41 PM

My uncle rides almost daily. Looking around for cows and anything else he sees fit. He is 85.

tinyliny 03-07-2012 03:01 PM

I am so glad to hear of folks riding into their 70's. I want to join your club, someday. I can already feel the challenge involved at mid 50's, so knowing that it can be done makes me realize that if I don't get there it'll either be unavoidable bad luck, or more likely, my own darn laziness!

netty83 03-07-2012 03:18 PM

I don't have anything to add to this post seen as i'm only 28 but i just wanted to say i'm glad you revealed you enjoy writing as i really enjoy reading your posts they are very well written. Have you ever had anything published Barry?

xxBarry Godden 03-07-2012 03:38 PM

Netty, thank you for the compliment. The publishing industry is currently being turned upside down by the march of Amazon. In this laptop which I am using there is the making of four books maybe even five but as yet none will reach the bookshop shelves. I might have to decide one day whether to consider working with one of the e-book publishers but as yet I have not made any plans.

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