Thousands of children and young people are learning to ride in lesson programs and competing in shows all around the world. These younger riders, however, can learn valuable lessons from senior riders who are busy riding, owning, and showing horses.
The horses, for one.
Barb and Scarlet. Photo: Lauren Mueller
Barb Anderson, from Minnesota, owns two beautiful Morgan horses, Wilson and Scarlet. Barb’s riding looks elegant and effortless, though any rider knows that appearing effortless is actually the result of a lot of work.
Barb had always dreamed of riding and owning horses, but it didn’t happen early in life for her. It wasn’t until several of her children were leaving the nest and heading off to college that she made her dream come true. She now rides several times a week at Hardwood Creek Farm in Minnesota and competes on the Morgan show circuit.
Harriet Goodpaster is another senior rider at Hardwood Creek. She only began riding regularly after watching her daughter ride and being a self-proclaimed “show mom.”
Once Harriet started getting on a horse during her daughter’s lessons, her own interest took off. Riding soon became a favorite bonding activity for Harriet and her daughter, and Harriet’s natural ability began to shine through.
Harriet and Boston. Photo: Lauren Mueller
Harriet didn’t buy a horse for herself until she was in her sixties. She now owns a handsome Morgan, Boston, her “dream horse.” Though modest about her ability and achievements, she’s had success in a variety of classes on the Morgan show circuit.
The Barn Family
The relationships they have formed with other horse lovers is another aspect of riding that keeps Barb and Harriet coming back for more. Harriet and Barb enjoy friendships with riders of all ages, and with their trainers, the Wick family of Hardwood Creek Farm.
“Riding brings people from all areas and interests together,” Harriet explains. “It’s a team effort and that’s what makes it even more rewarding.”
“I also enjoy watching the young girls ride and…grow into skilled equestrians, learning so much more quickly and beautifully than their older friends,” notes Barb. “It is so much fun to cheer each other on in our shared effort to each do the best we can with our horses.” That shared passion for horses can unite people from all ages and walks of life.
Harriet and Boston. Photo by Howard Schatzberg
Staying Active through Riding
On top of the emotional rewards, riding regularly is a fun way to stay fit and focused. Both ladies say that riding gives them energy and helps them feel strong physically. After all, it takes strength and balance to maneuver a 1,000-pound animal, not to mention the endurance and skill required to do it well.
Barb says that the challenges inherent in riding are part of the fun.
“It is the joy of always working to better communicate with this beautiful and powerful animal,” she explains. “To have him move freely and happily in response to my aids. It is just totally engaging.”
It’s true–you must be focused on the task at hand when riding, and the arena is one place where life concerns can be tabled for a bit.
“When at the barn, everything else drops away: time, other concerns,” Barb reflects. “It is all in the moment.”
Barb and Wilson. Photo by Howard Schatzberg
Clearly, the positive emotional and physical impact of riding hooks people for life. Barb and Harriet are outstanding reminders that age is simply a number. Their experiences can inspire others to discover the joy of horses throughout their lives.
As Harriet says, “anytime is a good time to start.” It’s never too late to get in the saddle.
Julia Arnold is a writer living in
Minnesota with her husband and two young children. She has always loved
horses and is thrilled to have officially rejoined the horse world as an
adult. She rides whenever she can at Hardwood Creek Farm in Hugo,
Minnesota. You can follow her adventures in riding and parenting on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest.