Tuesday, Apr. 16, 2024

Celebrating A Lifetime Sport

From the age of 6 onward, I was a competitive springboard diver, spending countless hours at the pool practicing before and after school (often in the dark), weight training and traveling to distant states to compete.

My coaches were dedicated to molding us into elite athletes. And while they were incredibly supportive and kind, what I remember most about these years was the pressure to excel before it was “too late.”
PUBLISHED
WORDS BY

ADVERTISEMENT

From the age of 6 onward, I was a competitive springboard diver, spending countless hours at the pool practicing before and after school (often in the dark), weight training and traveling to distant states to compete.

My coaches were dedicated to molding us into elite athletes. And while they were incredibly supportive and kind, what I remember most about these years was the pressure to excel before it was “too late.”

Like gymnastics and figure skating, springboard diving is a sport of youth. You need incredible flexibility, strength, and perhaps most importantly, endless bravery to rise up the ranks. And if you didn’t reach certain milestones before you were a certain age, it was tough (or nearly impossible) to catch up.
 
Unlike diving, my development as a young rider wasn’t hampered by age. Throughout my life I’ve improved as a rider. Yes, I was braver in my teens and 20s, but now I’ve developed a better feel. Time—and riding hundreds of horses—has allowed me to mature as a rider and understand what I’m feeling underneath me.

Even though riding isn’t considered a true “lifetime sport” as is bowling, golf, hunting and fishing, for instance, perhaps it should be. Riding is a sport that a person can partici-pate in over the course of a lifetime. Young riders may begin with aspirations of national championships and even the Olympics, but older riders may simply enjoy lower level sports, foxhunt and trail ride while acquiring new skills and remaining physically active.

Two champions at the Washington International (p. 8) are perfect examples of riding as a lifetime sport. Maria Takacs, the grand amateur-owner hunter champion, and Tracey Weinberg, the amateur-owner jumper champion, both have spent their lives in the show ring and as older amateurs have achieved their dreams.
 
Maria competed for decades in the hunters and finally, in her late 30s, she’s earned tricolors at the fall indoor shows. She shows us how a lifetime of equestrian education and commitment pays off, and just because you reach a certain age without achieving your goals doesn’t mean you should give up on your dreams.

ADVERTISEMENT

Despite putting her riding on hold for a career and family, she’s returned to the ring riding better than ever. Maria is a true motivator for every equestrian who hasn’t yet reached that next milestone but still hopes to do so.

Likewise, Tracey was an established and successful amateur hunter rider when, at age 46, having never competed a jumper, she switched disciplines. Over the past three years, she made new goals, acquired new skills and this year made her debut in the grand prix ranks. Her tricolor at Washington is a testament to the fact that it’s never too late to achieve your objectives.

Tracey admitted the transition year was especially hard, but she kept forging ahead. “It’s like with anything, in business or sport or life, if there’s something that you aspire to the road will never be straight,” she said. “There will always be turns and twists in that road, and you have to be able to get through. See it as a journey and work through your mistakes.”

Getting older does have certain drawbacks, however, and I’ll admit that the NSAIDs are more often on the counter than in the medicine cabinet, but age isn’t preventing me from further aspirations. I may have more realistic expectations than I had in my 20s, yet each small step achieved—and, as Tracey said, the journey taken on the way there—is something to celebrate.

Tricia Booker

Categories:

ADVERTISEMENT

EXPLORE MORE

Follow us on

Sections

Copyright © 2024 The Chronicle of the Horse