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Thoughts on 60 years in the saddle

By Leslie Potter

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

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I took my first riding lesson at age 8. While I’ve never seen a statistical analysis of when American kids start riding horses, I’d say that’s probably around average, if you factor out those lucky individuals born into horsey families and rode before they can remember. What’s unusual about me—and those of you reading this, too—is that I didn’t stop riding.

Something about horses attracts kids between the ages of roughly seven and 11, but for most, it doesn’t last. Kids are prone to whims. I mean, my horse-craziness was interrupted by about three years of pursuing a new dream of winning an Olympic medal in figure skating (spoiler alert: that didn’t pan out for me.) But it does seem like horses attract vast swaths of kids (girls, mostly) for a short but intense obsession, and then the majority of them fade out.

Then there are those who ride religiously throughout their school years, but then fizzle as adulthood casts its shadow and career, family and financial obligations take priority over equestrian pursuits.

Denny Emerson, one of America’s greatest three-day event riders, recently posted the following on his facebook page, reflecting on his own 60+ years of riding.

Denny Emerson's Facebook

Personally, I think the third and fourth points are the hardest to control. Sometimes the career paths that would bring in the income to support an equestrian lifestyle are also the ones that take up all the free time you might have to actually ride. Some of us make big sacrifices so we don’t have to stop riding, but I don’t think that turning down career advancements simply so that you can have time to ride or live in a horse-friendly location is the best choice for everyone. Assuming you don’t have a horse-related career, juggling your equestrian life with your work life can be quite a balancing act.

What do you think of Denny’s list? Are there other things that get in the way of longevity as a rider, or do you think that if you have the passion, you’ll find a way to keep riding? Click “Submit a Comment” below and let me know what you think.

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Reader Comments

Louann    Eagle, WI

5/23/2013 5:03:18 PM

I've also been riding since I was 8 or 9 and now am 61 years old. A few years ago I had a stroke and laid in a hospital bed for a month. I had just finished training a 3 yr. old colt and started riding him and figured that was all done and I was finished riding. To make a long story short, I decided I had to recover and try it again. 6 yrs. later, I am leasing a horse and riding once a week. Just couldn't cut something I loved so much out of my life. Once my left leg could get to the stirrup, I was up. It's been a gift to saddle up and head out to the trails and woods near the boarding stable.

cowgirl    not telling, OH

1/16/2013 2:12:15 PM

i am one of the lucky kids who rode before 2. i didnt own a horse an tell age 8. i am now 12 and still the same horse crazy kid. (exept bigger LOL)
my friends (14-17) say things like "yah i used to be horse crazy it just kind of wares off." then they smile and say" by the time your 13 and 14 youll not care as much"/ wanna bet? my 13th birthday is in a week. hahahahaha

B    None, CO

10/21/2012 8:28:17 PM

I think this is a very accurate list. The only thing that I could think of to add, would be the fear factor. It seems like plenty of riders, especially those over the middle-age hump, get into a riding accident, or just fear that they will, and if they can't push through it, it dissuades them from involvement with horses. I think having a degree of fearlessness and confidence, though not recklessness of course, can be important to have in order to hang in.
For me the biggest issues are everything except 1 and 2 on the list, and they are enough to prevent me from horse involvement completely. I do trust that one or several will change in the near future however, and as long as I have 1 and 2 in my favor, there is hope.
Though it would be awesome to be one of those kids who was riding since they were four...

Galadriel    Lothlorien, ME

10/13/2012 11:24:01 PM

I think there is a difference with someone having a passion for horses as opposed to an obsession. An obsession can turn into a passion or fade away. A passion is there with you for life. Whether you like it or not!

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