Why I ride
Buying a young horse at the age of 66 may not sound like a good idea. But it has turned out to be one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
When my 26-yearold gelding, Zeke, died 15 years ago, I believed my on-again, off-again equestrian life was over. But as it turned out, I just couldn’t stay away from horses. And so I bought Ria, a young Thoroughbred-Percheron cross.
It wasn’t a decision I made lightly. At 66, I was way past the expiry date for serious riding. My finances were limited. My barn and fence needed repairs. And all my former horsey buddies had either stopped riding or disappeared from my life. It was neither logical nor practical for me to get involved with horses again, let alone own one.
I bought Ria anyway, well aware of the physical risks, financial drain and the emotional roller coaster that riding has always meant for me. She was sound, with good feet, a shiny black coat and a quiet eye. I boarded her at a nearby stable that offered me the security of an indoor arena.
Everything scared me in those first months. For starters, catching and bringing Ria in from the paddock was an ordeal. She didn’t like to leave the herd. Once in her stall, she would not stand still for grooming. I fumbled with cold, arthritic fingers trying to tack her up. I rode with a death grip and Ria spooked at every excuse, stiff with anxiety. I simply did not have the confidence I once had or skills to show up every day as her leader, her “safe place.”
The severe winter weather didn’t help, nor did the canvas covering the arena, which snapped and groaned in the wind. In snow or rain, frozen bits slid off its sides, and even the most seasoned horses spooked. Ria was distressed every time we entered, and her fear transferred to me, which I, in turn, fed back to her.
So why, I asked myself, was I doing this? But then I’d think, this is my last chance. I can do this.
I had always loved horses, but somehow, my equestrian aspirations had never quite gelled. Like many girls, I wanted more than anything to ride, but buying a horse was out of the question for my parents. When I was 14, I managed to pay for lessons with money saved from babysitting. Much to my chagrin, I was allowed off the longe line only a few times in my three months of weekly