The Seven Stages of Aging on Horseback

A love of horses doesn't go away just because we get older. But the way we ride (and fall) does change a bit.

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About once a week I trail ride with my good friend Debbie. We showed horses together for many years, and I’m really enjoying introducing her to the more laid back experience of trail riding. So when she called to cancel this week, I was surprised. Then she explained that she’d taken a tumble off her gelding while riding in the arena, and needed to take it easy for a few days. We were both disappointed, and together we lamented how our bodies just don’t withstand the insult of getting tossed from the saddle anymore.

“Let’s face it,” I told Debbie. “We’re getting older. When we fall off we don’t bounce.”

Indeed. Though we used to consider falling off just another aspect of horsemanship, nowadays we see it as something we’d really like to avoid. It has nothing to do with fear and everything to do with a loss of elasticity that occurs to human bodies on the other side of thirty. Yet because we’re horse crazy women we continue to ride, leading the non-horsey folks around us to think we’re suffering from some kind of dementia. So that you can understand this concept better—or maybe prepare yourself—here’s a little chart that explains it all.

Seven Stages

The Seven Stages of Aging on Horseback

  • Stage I: Fall off pony. Bounce. Laugh. Climb back on. Repeat.
  • Stage II: Fall off horse. Run after horse, cussing. Climb back on by shimmying up horse’s neck. Ride until sundown.
  • Stage III: Fall off horse. Use sleeve of shirt to stanch bleeding. Have friend help you get back on horse. Take two Advil and apply ice packs when you get home. Ride next day.
  • Stage IV: Fall off horse. Refuse advice to call ambulance; drive self to urgent care clinic. Entertain nursing staff with tales of previous daredevil stunts on horseback. Back to riding before cast comes off.
  • Stage V: Fall off horse. Temporarily forget name of horse and name of husband. Flirt shamelessly with paramedics when they arrive. Spend week in hospital while titanium pins are screwed in place. Start riding again before doctor gives official okay.
  • Stage VI: Fall off horse. Fail to see any humor when hunky paramedic says, “You again?” Gain firsthand knowledge of advances in medical technology thanks to stint in ICU. Convince self that permanent limp isn’t that noticeable. Promise husband you’ll give up riding. One week later purchase older, slower, shorter horse.
  • Stage VII: Slip off horse. Relieved when artificial joints and implanted medical devices seem unaffected. Tell husband that scrapes and bruises are due to gardening accident. Pretend you don’t see husband roll his eyes and mutter as he walks away. Give apple to horse.

Trust me. Despite a lack of bounce-ability, aging on horseback isn’t so bad, as long as you know what lies ahead. And as long as you keep your sense of humor.

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36 COMMENTS

  1. OMG! What does it say about me that I sooooo identify with every single stage?
    Excellent run down of a life spent on horseback. Couldn’t agree more with your assessment.

  2. So true, my last instructor got body slammed by a yearling thoroughbred and flew about 10 feet up and 20 feet back, her husband saw the whole thing from the kitchen window.She didn’t bounce, she splatted. As my mom told me,” Somedays your the windsheild, other days your the bug.”

  3. I can’t belive that a 100 year old man was riding in the snow. My 80 year old friend and her 20 year old horse can beat us in a race. Elmer Bandit was endurance racing at 38…
    This is my inspiration!
    My 22 year old horse can still compete, almost too fiesty! And I have decided to breed my mare and break and train the baby myself. [please pray for me] Let see, I,ll be 50 when the baby is old enough to break, 2 years of silly…
    I thank everyone of my riding buddys who are 20 plus years older than I am and still going strong!

  4. Thank you Cindy for this blog. After reading it I think I am between stage 4 and 5. I am looking forward to many more years of riding enjoyment with my girls (horses) and my many friends who are also 50 and over.

  5. This is so funny and so true! I can still remember stages I and II. I think I am stuck at stage IV. Is that a good or bad thing?

  6. Hilarious blog and so true. I’m between stages 5 and 6. At 55, my favorite line These titanium ankles ROCK! Also moved on to slower, lower horse.

  7. THANKS FOR ALL THE COMMENTS. I’M GLAD I HIT A FUNNY BONE… WHILE TRYING TO AVOID ACTUALLY BREAKING ANY BONES! PERSONALLY, I BELIEVE I’VE LIVED THROUGH ALL SEVEN STAGES. *SIGH*

  8. Hey, quit flirting with my husband! He’s the paramedic. =0) Cute post! . . . I’m really enjoying your blog! Thanks for enlightening and entertaining!

  9. Started riding at age 55 and at age 57 fell off an 18.2 hand Clydesdale when he bolted while I was mounting him. We had ridden before with no problems. Turned out he had a bad tooth. my surgery is done and Once the Dentist is done with him we will ride again.

  10. Absolutely love this and am so thankful that I have not had to endure all those falls. I am 67 and just started riding at age 62. I have a fantastic horse who at age 8 has taken me on all sorts of trails, goat paths, mountain meadows and has been completely trustworthy and a great companion. I am thrilled to be having this experience thru the later years of my life and intend to never give it up!

  11. I seem to have skipped a couple of these stages. I’m 66 and have been riding all my life, so I AM more careful now. The biggest difference is I don’t ride alone any more.

  12. I must be working on stage #7 or higher !!! But still getting out there and trying to ride like I could when I was a teenager. I won’t quit until it takes a crane to get me on my horse. Has anyone ever trained a horse to lie down for a rider to mount?????????

  13. I’m 70 now and walked my horse up to meet neighbor horse.She put electric fence in and we both got shocked ,I used the one rein stop and she went spinning ,I went in the road ,she took off and stepped a little on my leg ,the neighbors called my husband and 911, had a broken pelvis , and a hematoma the size of a cantaloupe on leg , they did emergency surgery and then I got MRSA in leg , down for 5 mos. 5 leg surgeries later ,they said I’m too old to ride, I have always wore helmet and a bull riders vest ,cause I have a pacemaker ,tthis was 3 yrs ago,and I’m still riding ,One Dr said go for it ! I am loving just trail riding and training my hQuarter horse for Western Pleasure shows. The class is called Older than Dirt !i have a big hole in my leg as a reminder.

  14. Marion, Julie and Patti, you three made me laugh! I am number 5, pushing 60, and getting ready for an 1150-mile ride! Keep on keepin’ on, seasoned riders!

  15. I laughed and said to myself, “This is so true!” I am at stage VII right now myself. But I am much more cautious nowadays since my bones break much easier than they used to. I’m in my 60’s.

  16. I missed all of the early stages, as I was 57 when I began riding. However, I have already ridden with an almost healed dislocated shoulder and fractured humerus. The only injury was getting off in a “safer” way. It almost delayed my knee replacement, but the new knee is 2 weeks old. The ice pack is strapped on, physio continues, and as soon as possible, I will have my first ride as a partially rebuilt nana.

  17. I’m approaching 72 and identify with the 7 stages…been there, done that. I’m still riding trail but it is not quiet trail that I prize! Seeing the Grand Canyon from the back of my horse, riding the sands on Oregon Beaches, etc. That is living!!!

  18. I’m 63 years young and I’m about to donate my wonderful gelding to a therapy riding club but I refuse to get rid of my good western saddle ’cause you never know…another great may be waiting for me.

  19. I have to agree with Julie from Fl. I am approaching 74 yrs and have ridden all my life. I will have to say I have missed all the stages, I realize the dangers in riding and take it much easier. I have also kept myself in excellent coniditon so i can mount my little Arab gelding easier. I do a large amt of warm up on the ground with him and find out what side of the correl he woke up on. BIG fan of ground work, almost like it more than riding. I am sticking to trail riding and preparing to go to Central Idaho for a group backcountry trip.. Can’t wait!!!

  20. I just turned 65 last week whatever that should mean… I’m running on my second pacemaker, a new hip and knee. OH yeah and three compressed disks (almost forgot that). My riding friend has two new knees. If you don’t mind, it don’t matter…

  21. I am 64 years old and up until two years ago had not been on a horse for 50 years. Our retirement found us in a part of Panama that is horse and cow country so deicded to try horses again…we now have 5 Peruvian horses with us on our 2.5 acre finca….we take care of the horses and ride most days for 1-2 hours and I believe I have died and gone to heaven…fortunately my body still works well. Have ended up on the ground several times due to my inattention however no damage other than bruises. The horses keep me entertained and happy and I will continue riding until my body won’t let me.

  22. I am new to riding, own 7 horses, selling 2, have jumped off horse duh because he started playing in the back tank. Season, March, cold long walk back to house, Cham
    Need clothes went right back on him. Silly rider #1.

  23. I love this!! it never gets old. as a 61 yr old rider who’s been riding since age 12, I can surely relate. as my neurosurgeon said before putting titanium in my neck, “You women with your horses are just like abused wives! it’s NEVER the horses fault!” 😀

  24. Yep! Bout says it all! I’m in my forties and have been riding since I was six. I have fractured my neck, fractured my lower back and spiral broke my ring finger all at different times and all with the same horse, still own her, still ride her, still love her but I really really hate the thought of hitting the ground now .??????

  25. As a rider in my late fifties, I can appreciate the 7 steps! Since I started really riding in my forties, it seems I have skipped a couple steps. Fortunatley, I haven’t reached steps 5,6,or 7. I am very familiar with 3 and 4 though. I must say it has been worth every ouch,limp, and dislocation.

  26. I have to laugh at this. I had a bad fall in April (first in 15 years), and I am between stages 4 and 5. Stage 4 walked back to the trailer (really, shouldn’t have). Stage 5 getting the plate and screws now as the bone pieces did not heal. But, I see myself in other stages as well… perhaps slow healing needs to be on the list?

  27. O.k. I was lmao reading this becsuse I can identify with each step. I’m on late 70s am not riding any morenot because of age or fear but lack of a horse. I started riding at 6 and was falling off dtill in late 60s. Then moved. Thete are lots of horses around my stea but I don’t know people and kind
    of feel it’s been several years sooo if opportunity comes up will probably try again. Have had s couple of bad falls gractured skull, broken pelvis and lots of no biggy falls and ki ks etc.all woryh it hope I get at least one more time to ride

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