You Will Be Still Riding When You're 50?!

Ok, it is my birthday today and I turned 31. Hip hip hooray – actually, I do not care. Birthday Smirththday – people you do not even know congratulating on Facebook, people you do know (but who obviously do not know you well enough to know that you hate it) hugging you…what an awful day.

Yesterday, just one day before I turned old, Magdalena was asking me during a coffee break at work when we were talking about life plans with a newly mum: YOU WILL STILL BE RIDING WHEN YOU’RE 50?!


For her, it was pretty obvious that my focus in life will change soon (so, today) as I am now old. Or: old enough. But honestly, you are equestrian for life! And I am an AA only! It might be true for professional downhill skiers to end their career at my age. High risk sports might call for an early end of the career as well as sportsmen who have been training for their whole life and simply become tired around their Thierties (believe me, 30 somethings are way more tired than 20 somethings). Or they have other plans (I can hear you call family from the far back!). Or they have enough money. One Austrian ski flyer recently resigned because he does not feel motivated anymore and wants to finish his study and give motivational speeches for a living. Some other ski pros here in Austria make remarkable after sports careers in the testimonial area – you can see their faces in ads in print and on TV.

But coming back to myself. I am not a pro. Thus, I do not have to resign because I was training for my whole life already and possibly reached all my goals already. I also cannot quit because I earned enough money already because on the one hand, we as adult amateurs do not earn money and on the other hand, horse poor is not just a phrase. Being a motivation trainer – yeah, could do that but who would take me serious without having won an Olympic medal first (everybody who knows what fighting your inner demons in the morning to get up KNOWS that we are the true motivation heroes!).

So what are the reasons for quitting left? Family? Well, no, there is tons of amateurs and even professionals out there who have a family – it is just a matter of time management (all Ammy riders say YEAH – because that IS how we even manage to ride!). Second, age. Serious?! I have just started riding when I was 10. So, I have been riding for 21 years now. Stopping to ride aged 50 would mean that HALF OF MY RIDING LIFE IS ALREADY OVER! You must be kidding! I just started to understand the basic principles of dressage. I SIMPLY CANNOT stop riding in 19 years from now. By then, I will be just experienced enough to ride a proper third level maybe?! Who knows! But it can definitely not be the end of my riding life!

And now the question: DOES IT HAVE TO BE? I am pretty sure, not. Obviously, there are some sports that can be easily (of course, it depends…) when you are what they call now best ager (who cares, you are old by then, get along with that). Golf is maybe the most popular one. Probably more popular than mountain bike downhill or Stratospheric Jumps (well done, Mr Baumgartner – another famous Austrian, did you know that?).

Horse back riding? It depends. I would probably not like to do the rodeo when I am 60 or 70, but dressage should be possible. Here is for example Rosalie and Jack doing dressage. Rosalie is 70, Jack 30 and look how happy they are! Rosalie used to ride as a kid, too and eventually made it back to the dressage arena for what is called a Century Club Ride at a schooling show in Michigan. Guess what? She even won her class. I simply love the picture of her halt at X and salute. (


In 2012, the oldest athlete was a Dressage Rider! Back then 71-year old Japanese equestrian Hiroshi Hoketsu competed in London after already being the oldest Olympian to compete in the Beijing Olympics. ( and


You think that a) you either ride dressage or b) have been riding your whole life already to be in the saddle when being older? No! There is even two examples I found in endurance sports and eventing or show jumping. Meet Julie Suhr, a 76-year old endurance rider. In the article I am referring too, she commits that some things have changed during her rider’s life but with some adjustments, she is able to do what she loves (

Endurance seems to me already a challenge, but what can you say to this back then 73-year old eventer Judy Owens? (

Hugo Simon is one of Austria’s well known equestrians and he is still competing in show jumping at he age of 73! (


Sometimes, people quit to ride but can never be really cured of being a horse person. Audrey, aged 83 when this article was written, made her way back to the saddle when almost blind already.

And there is even people who want to ride their whole life and finally make it. Despite the fact that she was already 89, The Murphy was granted her wish to ride a horse (


And if everything fails due to whatever reason: you are never too old to ride a wooden horse:


Even if you cannot compete anymore at a certain age, you can still be around horses and enjoy. So, sorry, Magdalena, no, there is no end of a riders life at the age of 50! I want to be an old horsewoman one day:

When I Am An Old Horsewoman
I shall wear turquoise and diamonds,
And a straw hat that doesn’t suit me
And I shall spend my social security on
white wine and carrots,
And sit in my alleyway of my barn
And listen to my horses breathe.

I will sneak out in the middle of a summer night
And ride the old bay gelding, 
Across the moonstruck meadow 
If my old bones will allow 
And when people come to call, I will smile and nod 
As I walk past the gardens to the barn 
and show instead the flowers growing 
inside stalls fresh-lined with straw. 
I will shovel and sweat and wear hay in my hair
as if it were a jewel 

And I will be an embarrassment to ALL 
Who will not yet have found the peace in being free 
to have a horse as a best friend
A friend who waits at midnight hour
With muzzle and nicker and patient eyes
For the kind of woman I will be

When I am old.

Patty Barnhart

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