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The Seven Stages of Aging on Horseback

By Cindy Hale

Monday, January 31, 2011

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Aging on Horseback
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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.

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.

State 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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Vicki    Coldwater, MI

2/16/2014 4:06:53 PM

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...

Lyla    Mona, UT

2/14/2014 7:03:54 PM

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!!!

Deborah    Chambersburg, PA

2/14/2014 6:23:06 PM

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.

Beth Blay    Cornville, AZ

2/14/2014 6:00:50 PM

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!!!

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