Perhaps you've always wanted a horse and now, finally you are lucky enough to have both the time and money to make your dream come true. Or perhaps, you once were a horse owner or rider and 'life got in the way', and you're now ready to re-enter the horse world. There's a lot to consider when deciding to learn to ride, or own a horse. And for many of us, one thing we might question is, am I too old to ride/own a horse?
Chances are if you can afford the time and money required to own a horse, and are in reasonably good health, the answer to that question is no! There's no reason why those of us in our 40s, 50s, 60s and beyond shouldn't enjoy horses if we want to. I grew up in the horse world, have been riding since before I was born and was raised at a stable that offered boarding, training and lessons. Now entering my sixth decade I have no intention of stopping. But even if you haven't had the same sort of background as myself, there's no reason that you too can't enjoy as many aspects of the horse world as you'd like to.
You'll do both yourself and your horse a big favor by being reasonably fit. Riding is a sport, and the more fit you are, the easier it will be. The strength, balance, body awareness and agility it takes to do many other sports will help you as you learn to ride and care for a horse. Even if you haven't run a 5k or hit the gym in a while, or maybe never, you can still start learning to ride. Just plan to go slowly, and be patient with yourself.
If you've decided to learn to ride the first step is to buy an approved riding helmet. You will also want safe boots and comfortable pants. Then, go out and find a good coach, one that understand the particular needs of an older rider. A good coach will challenge you, without overwhelming you. Riding should be fun, and if it is uncomfortable, intimidating or otherwise unpleasant something needs to change. Perhaps you only need to talk to your coach about what you're experiencing, or perhaps you'll need to find a new coach.
Whether young or old, most people will feel some muscle strain when they first start riding. There are a few muscles along the inside of your upper leg that will feel extremely sore for the first little while. That's because these muscles aren't used in the same way for other activities. Knee pain is also common. It's something I try to deny as I age, but it does take longer to recover from muscle soreness now than it did when I was younger. Some older riders take acetaminophen or ibuprofen before they ride—some take it after. Again, horseback riding is a sport, so it's not unreasonable to prepare and take care of yourself like an athlete as much as your are able—including weight, flexibility and aerobic training, and a team of practitioners that can help you post-ride like massage therapists, chiropractors and physiotherapists. Even a hot bath with epsom salts can ease post ride soreness.
If you're dealing with something like arthritis, back problems, joint replacements or other health issues, these are going to affect how you ride. It's wise to discuss your riding plans with your doctor, who will no doubt look at you like you're crazy (which you are, but it's the good crazy). But know that lots of folks, including myself ride despite the aches and pains that come with age. Balance, strength and agility may be affected by age but most of us believe we're better off riding than not.
Falling off is a big worry. Those of us who rode as youngsters know that we could fall off and bounce right back on again. But I can attest to the fact that the ground has hardened up a lot in the last thirty years (something I blame entirely on something to do with the soil and not my age). Hitting the dirt now is very unappealing. Falling off is always a possibility when you ride. But you can reduce the chances by riding the right horse, staying in control, learning emergency dismounts and stops and staying alert. Safety equipment won't prevent a fall, but it will help protect you if you do. Helmets, safety stirrups, boots, and chest protectors will help you feel more confident.
Horseback riding isn't just for the young. With the right horse, coach and attitude it is something you can enjoy well into your senior years. For inspiration here are links to just a few examples of people who aren't giving up what they love because of a date on the calendar.