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Discipline: LD/Endurance, CMO, Trail Rider, Cartoonist, Writer, Co-Director/ Green Bean Endurance

December 21, 2011

Distance Riding After Fifty

If there is one thing about the sport of distance riding that appeals to me is the flexibility it offers for the age of the competitor. I know this first hand because I did not attempt the sport until I was fifty years old. Is beginning this sport a wee bit more difficult at this age vs. twenty, thirty, or even forty? Probably so if you are a typical middle aged woman (with kids, grandkids, job, life, and horses). But people of all ages flourish in the sport and love every minute of it! You are likely a very busy person who has always dreamed of getting involved, but has doubts of actually being able to do it. I say you can! You just need to align your goals and expectations with your life. Make them realistic and small in the beginning. Just get in there and get started! It isn’t the competition that will likely get into your way as that is an easily enough planned weekend or weekends. What you will need scheduled into your already busy life are the conditioning rides required in order to compete. But it is not only possible, but quite doable with some mental flexibility. The other things you will have to look at hard are your own physical fitness, and your capability of riding a horse relaxed, balanced, and forward for twenty five or more miles. This assumes your horse is already where it needs to be both physically (no health issues, basic fitness) and mentally (does not have any screws loose that need fixing and will stall you out). So identify you and your horse’s baselines, pick out a conditioning plan and get started!

Here is the middle aged “mama” excuse list:

• My horse is not an Arabian. Well…big whoopers. If he is healthy, sound, and been around the block a few times (trail savy), you can set a goal to finish slowly once and hang a lovely ride photo on your wall, or you can even get lofty with your dream by trying to do as many finishes you can each year. Either is a goal to be proud of. He may not be the fastest, but he's your's.  Enjoy him.  I have seen Morgans, Appaloosa, Tennessee Walkers, TB's, Standardbreds, Fox Trotters, ponies (yes ponies!), mules, even a quarter horse.

• My horse is to old. Horse pucky! Well, maybe. There are horses that compete well into their twenties in the distance sports. The key is to take it easy, gradually ease into the sport and see what happens. If your horse has no chronic health issues, give an LD a try.  My first LD ride was on my then eighteen year old mare.  She placed eleventh, and it was a tough ride.  She was beautifully fit after a summer of training.

• I’ll look silly. I’m too fat, my hair is grey. Get in line sister! I wear zebra tights and a stretchy t-shirt! Nobody notices me . Besides that you are going to mash a helmet on your head and nobody will actually see the hair. Get over yourself. Everyone finishes with dirt, and dust, and horse sweat on them, doesn’t that sound fun? It is!

• I’m not very fit. Better work on that one! Walk some hills while you are conditioning your horse. The horse will like it, and you won’t huff and puff as much. When you can ride a posting trot for 20 miles you will find a fitness you didn’t know you had.

• I can’t afford it. Well, only you can answer that, but let me tell you people say it is much cheaper than showing a horse. You don’t need expensive clothes, or tack. You just want to be comfortable and have a comfortable horse. If you know another rider, maybe they will ride share to lower the fuel costs. I am by far not in an encouraging economic bracket. But I make choices so that I can ride my horse. Your choice might be to end each summer or start each spring with a distance ride. Maybe that is goal enough. Make it a family affair / camping experience, a little mini-vacation to somewhere. I know where I like to spend my free time.

  • The big one is I'm too old. Well how old are you? The top mileage person in the midwest is in his mid to late 70's. He rides hell bent to leather. Now go saddle up, and suck up those excuses.  Life is for living and enjoying, whatever age you happen to be.  Top age I've witnessed so far I think was 80?  I bet if his horse died he'd show up next spring, with a new one.  I know when I saw him come into the check on his arab I was humbled, and had to blink back some tears.  It was like  *fist pump* YES!  I'm especially excited when one of the grey hairs come flying past with a huge smile plastered on their face.  Now that is living people!  Get out there and kick up some dust! 
If you would like more information on endurance riding, limited distance, and how to condition, follow the links at the top of my blog, or go to the AERC website.  You are truly as young as your heart lets you be! Come ride with us.  


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