How To Find The Energy To Stick With Horses As You Age Up
By Nikki Alvin-Smith
Keeping up an active horse lifestyle does become more difficult as the senior years creep in and stamina levels diminish. There are other facets of life that can also deplete a horse loving human’s ability to find the motivation to get out to the barn or bother saddling up and taking a ride or keep going around the competition circuit.
Owning a horse is a sincere responsibility and leaving it without a job to do or without regular human interaction by simply parking it at livery is not fair on the horse or the barn owner. If you are not utilizing your horse or horses anymore, maybe it is time to consider moving them along to another horse lover who will offer them a more fulfilling existence.
That being said, there are many reasons that folks lack the drive to get out and work with their horses. And many can be temporary.
These may include depression. Whether depression is caused by seasonal influences; financial or emotional stress; loss of a horse; illness and injury to horse or human; boredom and burn out; or issues with a lack of confidence, the key to getting back your ‘get up and go’ is to self-examine the reasons behind it and to put into action a method to resolve the issue(s).
Usually it is a confluence of a variety of factors can attribute to a change in the horse owner’s horse care habits and follow through with equestrian endeavors. Here are some methods and ideas of ways to figure out what is holding you at a halt and slowing you down in your horse loving lifestyle and ways to resolve and address them.
You Are Never Too Old
Re-discovering a passion for horses later in life after the responsibilities of work and career, raising a family or caring for other relatives have stopped being the time-consuming tasks they once were, is a commonplace event for many horse folks.
During the many clinics I have given and continue to give during my equestrian career, I can personally attest that it is never too late to get back to horses. I have taught many riders of vintage years. In some instances perhaps senior riders exhibit slightly lower confidence levels in the saddle than their younger cohorts, but most still do a brilliant job. I’ve noticed that riding empowers them with a great sense of self-achievement and relevance. It truly is never too late to get back to horses. I am very grateful to have been able to help them rediscover the heart of themselves.
Form A New Connection
If you don’t currently own a horse then getting back into their realm is the best way to get your enthusiasm back. Visiting a local riding stable for lessons, volunteering your help at a horse rescue or reconnecting with old friends that are still active in the horse world are all good ways to get back into the swing of it all.
Get A Riding Buddy
It’s not uncommon for vintage riders to find themselves left with just one horse in the backyard that they have owned for eons but has aged alongside them, while other horses once part of their backyard herd have passed away. It is hard to motivate yourself to go out and ride alone.
Consider taking on a boarder in part exchange for helping out with chores (especially useful to have extra help if you find chores like stacking hay and bales of shavings is difficult). Having a riding buddy offers a companionship that will help you keep to a riding schedule and make the trail riding or ring work more enjoyable. Of course given you pick the right person!
Another workable solution to avoid riding alone and to keep you on track in the saddle is to have a local trainer come in to boost your confidence, keep your horse fit and obedient, and give you a weekly lesson. Don’t be shy to implement this option. It is not uncommon for people to need help now and then, and there are many trainers out there that would appreciate the business and be happy to help you on your journey.
Consider Downsizing Your Horses In Size and Numbers
If you lack the stamina to get the barn chores done never mind the energy left to get back to riding, it may be you simply have too many horses. Similarly you may have horses you own that you are fond of, but for one reason or another you are put off riding. Perhaps they are too temperamental, too big or too intimidating for you to ride at this stage of your life.
Evaluate the horse or horses you have and determine if you should downsize perhaps not just the number of horses you own and care for, but also the size of your primary riding horse.
It may be that at this point in your life, riding is beyond your physical scope and that even an upgrade your horse’s level of training wouldn’t mean you would be happy to get back in the saddle. Again, this is not an unusual occurrence for horse folks. But don’t let it mean an end to enjoying your passion of being around horses.
In this case consider opting for enjoying the emotional benefits of horse ownership without the stress of riding being in the equation. Miniature horses, donkeys and mules, ponies and smaller Equus horse breeds all offer companionship without the need to be overwhelmed with the larger equine. This cuts down on many aspects of horse care. The workload is reduced as the Equus may not require riding, and expenses and work to supply forage and bedding etc. are reduced.
A new horse purchase can also offer a good option to rekindle your interest and motivation to ride. No-one likes to go out to their barn to face riding a horse that intimidates them. For every horse there is a rider. Don’t be shy to admit that perhaps the horse standing in front of you is not the best one for you right now and that you are not his best owner. A fresh start with a suitable horse can alleviate a lot of worry and bring pleasure back to your time in the saddle.
Change Your Horse Care Method
Financial strain can be extremely stressful, so managing it and optimizing how you keep your horses is always a good idea.
Stabled horses necessarily require a lot of handling and mucking out. Consider options of providing in/out turnout, with Dutch door access to individual paddocks; adding run-in shed shelter where the animal can be left out at pasture more of the time (hopefully with some equine companionship); or move your horse from backyard living altogether and put him at livery.
If you need help keeping your horse fit at livery consider a half-lease option from someone you trust at the barn or if you have an arena or access to trails to ride on from home, offer a half-lease of the horse(s) on your property.
Try Something New
A fresh perspective on horses can also come from switching up riding disciplines. Or even forgo riding at all and taking up carriage driving or working to provide a service animal to others and starting a whole new chapter to your life with horses.
There are many options to choose from and most horses can be trained to a different discipline at the lower levels of that discipline quite easily. If you need help seek an experienced trainer to help you accomplish the task. It is always best to resource help from the most learned person you can afford when you are starting out, as this can save you much time and wrong turns in your quest to achieve competence in the new endeavor.
Get Fit and Healthy
The funny thing about most horse people is that if they are sick or ill they will battle through it until it becomes absolutely clear that medical help is needed. Meantime, if their horse sneezes or looks slightly ‘off-color’ or look off lameness wise, the vet and all manner of medical attention will be paid immediately.
We spend much time worrying about the weight and fitness of our horses throughout their lives. But what about us and all our aches and pains, weight gain or loss, and hormonal changes? Are we truly paying attention to our own needs and putting them in front of our habitual life of caring for others?
Look for new, fun ways to increase your level of exercise and try and also reduce or reformat what and when you eat. There truly is no other way to elevate your level of fitness and overall health. Consult with your doctor for the go ahead to get back ‘on the horse’ if you have suffered a major medical setback. For most of us, it is simply a change of lifestyle habit we need. We are literally and figuratively standing in our own way to getting fitter.
There are many pleasurable and productive methods to improving fitness levels. Consider how standing in the center of a ring and longing or free longing a horse, will start a good process of increasing fitness for both you and your horse even before you get in the saddle. Or think outside the horses and take up a swimming class or start taking a walk every morning with a neighbor or buddy to improve your fitness level.
Remember That Old Adage
You don’t have to be Albert Einstein or Henry Ford (both credited with this saying) to appreciate the wisdom of the profound message in the quote,
“If you keep doing the same things, you'll end up getting the same results”
Make a new plan and stick to it! You’ll be surprised how putting your one foot in front of the other, will soon have you back enjoying your love of working around horses in short order.