With owning a trail riding facility and instructing clinics and lessons, I encounter the same dilemma faced by many aging riders. They compare the rider they once were to the rider they are now. This comes to me in conversations as fear, anger, and pure frustration towards themselves. It is as if they are ashamed that they can no longer fill their own shoes.
Here’s the deal, what you are feeling is completely normal and is part of the ugly truth about aging or dealing with regaining confidence. A fall for some of my clients would result in catastrophic damage. When you start talking about hips breaking, fear sets in. Fear is not always a bad thing; in fact it could be what saves your life and extends your time in the saddle.
Rather than dwelling about not being the rider you once were, let’s try a shift in your thought process. Think about what you CAN do. I once had an older trail rider friend say to me that the perfect horse is one with one hoof on the trail and one hoof in the grave. Let those problem mules and the crazy ones go to someone else. Let them prove something. You have absolutely nothing to prove. Life is not a competition. There is no shame in owning an older less fancy mule that has proved itself time and time again. You “can’t ride papers” and you “can’t ride pretty”, but you can just ride!
Here are a few suggestions to help keep you healthy and riding:
- Join a saddle club, buy lesson packages, or connect with others someway. Choose people that want to go the same pace as you. Riding in a small group is safer for everyone in the small group.
- Pay for a 30 or 60 day tune up when your equine is coming out of winter. It is easier to spend the money for a tune up than on doctor bills. Be proactive rather than reactive.
- Spend the money on a good mule. Sure there are deals out there. Ask to keep the mule for 2 weeks or pay to keep the mule at their site but come ride it with the previous owner for a few weeks.
Is it sad that the rider you use to be is gone? You bet it is, but it doesn’t mean your equine time is not worthwhile and it doesn’t mean you are not worthwhile. Tears, fears, and extreme anxiety are keeping many people from throwing a leg over. Please realize that you are not alone and no one that truly cares about you is ever going to make fun of you.
I am 40 years old and I know for a fact that one day I will hire someone to do the exact things I am doing now with my horses and mules. It will not make me a failure; it will just be where I am in my journey with my mules and horses. No shame, just fact. And when my time comes that I can no longer throw a leg over, I will sit my mule loving butt in a wagon. Aging is not for the weak, and my love for horses and mules is strong. Being okay with not being the rider you once were is healthy for your hearth and soul. Good judgement comes from experience and experience comes from bad judgement. You are now to the point of good judgement from the experience you gained in the past. Ride smart so you can keep riding!