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Let's hear from older dressage riders.

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  • Let's hear from older dressage riders.

    I'm 58. I ride almost every day. I ride 1-3 horses a day when I ride. I have steadily made progress although slowly. I'm starting to think that I am stuck and that my progress as a rider is starting to stagnate. I had one of those lessons today which made me think that I've been doing so many things incorrectly that I need to completely start over. I ride with a trainer several times a week.

    Let's hear from older riders who feel they are making progress after 50. How many of you feel that you made significant progress after 55?

    Please tell me I'm not regressing.

  • #2
    I don't think a person can let a tough lesson get them down. It doesn't really matter in the larger scheme of things. You'll progress and improve overall, it's nothing to worry about.

    With dressage, it is hard to learn. It takes time. I think it takes an older person alot of time since their muscles may be stiffer and they may be more tense. I think the most important thing is to relax - one can't do that if one is worrying about how individual lessons went.


    • #3
      A lot depends on whether you start after 50 or not.

      I started a long time ago and already visited the highest levels, but even though I have I find there is still things I can improve upon or even find that I never came across before.

      Dressage should be more about the journey than the end goal, but the goal should be there and looked at obtaining the best result under whatever circumstances you are working with.


      • #4
        My mom will be 59 next February. She didn't start riding until she was in her 40's and up until that point she was TERRIFIED of horses. When I started lessons and made it clear that the horses were something I wanted to stick with, she decided to take some lessons also. She knew that eventually she and my Dad would need to get me a horse, and she wanted to be safe around it. She rode two of my old event horses after I'd retired them from competition, and really started making progress. Unfortunately, her next two horses were just not very good matches for her, and she lost a lot of confidence. When the time came to admit that we needed to find her something else to ride, the solution was surprisingly simple. I had a 17.0 hand Percheron/TB gelding who had started to develop arthritis in his hocks. Needless to say, he was not going to hold up to the eventing that I was wanting to do.... but it turns out he makes the perfect dressage schoolmaster for my Mom. Over the past 2 years, she has really learned to "ride" instead of just being a passenger. She now is very competitive at Training level and has an absolute blast going to the shows and showing off her handsome boy!! It has definitely been a roller coaster ride for her, but I think that's just horses in general, no matter what age you are. It sounds as though you're stuck in a rut, and I know how frustrating that can be. Have you considered doing anything to "freshen" up your riding? Perhaps you and a friend could find a fun schooling show to go to, or check out upcoming clinics in your area. Have you tried taking your dressage work outside of the ring, either on the trail or in a big field? I'm always amazed at how much better my guy works outside. I hope everything works out for you, and good luck!!!!


        • #5

          I am finding it very hard to come back from several years of not riding. I am so stiff and weak and lacking in endurance. I do have good body memory and every once in a while I find the groove but lack the endurance to stay there. I will have to ride as often as you are...and will need to work up to a couple horses a day and 5 days a week or more...but I have a real job and chores at home.

          I have had enough good moments that I want to get it back. I also have had new moments where I have picked up something that now makes more sense because I have to struggle to make my way back I am asking questions like...where should I apply that aid...where should the OTHER body parts be. The OTHER body parts just WERE someplace before and now I am learning that they were likely in the WRONG place sometimes and I have a better chance of doing it really right now. This is because I am old and whiney and ask WHY...I learn new things. SO the body deterioration stinks...it hurts and I have body parts out of control at times but my brain is enjoying the intellectual part of dressage as I break it down and reassemble how to ride.

          The very best part though is my horses...they are SO much BETTER than the horses I rode before. They are the best I can afford, not WHAT I can afford. A nice horse IS worth the sacrifice of saving and doing without to save more. My Irish Draughts are perfect amateur horses for me. I can afford to use a trainer and I love watching my horses advance rapidly not because she is a better rider than I but because she is so much more disciplined than I am. It is inspiring.

          So being 52 is just about too late for me because I have let the physical self deteriorate and now I want my physical self BACK to enjoy what I can now afford. You know I can't forget to add that I am in a WONDERFUL barn full of us old coots...some even older...they have their old wonderfully cared for horses too. It is a wonderful environment except for the somewhat troubling delema of enjoying TALKING more than I enjoy riding in a 90 degree day...maybe tomorrow. PatO


          • #6
            Originally posted by ~Freedom~ View Post
            A lot depends on whether you start after 50 or not.

            I started a long time ago and already visited the highest levels, but even though I have I find there is still things I can improve upon or even find that I never came across before.

            Dressage should be more about the journey than the end goal, but the goal should be there and looked at obtaining the best result under whatever circumstances you are working with.
            i agree, i also think not in my case personally but when people ride when they get like think to much, about falling off as when older you dont tend to bounce like when you was a kid you kinda break,so that and the what if's so blocks there mind from moviing on further in what they are doing at that time..so going out keeps you focused as much as it does the horse so you wont think about the what if's or only's

            i am in the camp of dont think to much and justdo, get out there and enjoy the horses
            sometimes horses themselves can become bored with xyz if you continue to do xyz and dont let up-- horses also need time out------ ie go for hack rather than school school school, i often find i can get more out of a horse in a relaxed atmostphere as in hack with no pressure on the horse at all to keep him focused, as i trend school outside ring

            enviroments and beleive it or not the horse actuallly learns better, and sinks in quicker
            i can do say for exsamples schoulder in, down a nice quite country lane just as much as i can do them in a school, the lane is often longer than a a school, so you use that as an advantage to hold it longer.. or if he doesnt get relax and enjoy for a tad and ask again
            further down the lane-- make use of what you have around you as well


            • Original Poster

              I rode as a kid and started again in my early 40's. It's not easy but I keep trying. Lately I just feel that at my level I can't seem to improve. I keep having lightbulb moments that tell me I should have figured out something 10 years ago.
              Then I feel like I've wasted years doing something incorrectly.

              I'm starting to feel guilty spending the money on lessons, clinics etc. I'm doing as much as I can with my horses and for a change everyone is sound and going well. I'm thinking of quitting and finding some younger riders to ride my own horses so that they stay in work. I couldn't bear to part with my horses but I just think that with the few medical issues that I have myself that I am just spinning my wheels trying to continue.

              I was hoping to hear from lots of older riders who feel that they continued at a reasonable level after 55. That would give me some hope but I seem to be the oldest by far at the clinics I attend. I sort of feel like I need to graduate to the role of making the gourmet food for everyone else and hanging it up.

              Come on, chime in and tell me your success stories.


              • #8
                I think 'stuck' is something that can happen at any age. The difference when you are older is that you are more likely to respond to it intellectually, rather than emotionally, and think/plan your way through it.

                Since you ride 'every day' and ride '1-3 horses' when you do ride, I would assess that your issues are not those of physical conditioning / strength. I think the most telling thing in your post is:

                I'm starting to think that I am stuck and that my progress as a rider is starting to stagnate. I had one of those lessons today which made me think that I've been doing so many things incorrectly that I need to completely start over. I ride with a trainer several times a week.
                This suggests that it might be time to branch out to other trainers, clinic sessions, or more reading and experimenting on your own. I'm not saying that your trainer is doing a poor job, but that students and teachers fall into patterns and routines -- the teacher says the same words over and over; the student hears and interprets them the same way each time; yet, the issue is something that a different set of eyes / words could identify and solve with different words, different exercises, creating one of those 'light bulb' moments.

                Your regular riding schedule also gives you opportunities to ride with 'mindfulness' and awareness of what you and the horse are doing -- you can learn a great deal on your own time if you ride with exquisite attention to every detail of the ride: where are your legs and hands? where is the weight of your seat bones? is the horse straight and even in both reins? Sometimes we ride on auto-pilot and fall into comfortable habits without even noticing. Attention to every little detail of a ride can help to break that cycle.

                "Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit."
                - Desiderata, (c) Max Ehrman, 1926


                • #9
                  Sneaking up on 60 here... My biggest hurdle to "progress" was to embrace that I am older, my body does things differently that the "youngsters" simply don't comprehend, thus I absolutely must take things in my own timeframe. For me it's not a matter of just going out on a hack or doing something different to liven things up, but rather taking pride in what I can do. Being able to trot six times around the arena is monumental...and exhausting. Trotting six minutes is a long distant memory of what I used to be able to do back when I was a youngster, before I used up time and energy getting through life.

                  In clinics around here I find that over the last 10 years (since I began focusing on such things) the "youngsters" are growing older and are now having the same complaints I had 10 years ago. I feel a bit like I'm blazing trails for them or something...but only because those riders in their 60's now have mostly retired to more southern climates and aren't in the clinics here, so I'm one of the "old people" now. They, too, are coming to find that even the regular movements of riding take on a unique hue of how to be achieved simply because the body isn't quite as limber, isn't quite as consistently strong, and isn't nearly as capable of dealing with extremes of temperature as it once was. Also many are taking Lasix, so having potties nearby is of great importance. (How many of you thought of that one? Forget the gourmet food... where's the loo?)

                  It's not that the progress is impossible to achieve, but the progress of our older bodies is different from the progress of the young and limber. We have many years of muscle memory--both good and bad--to work with. I find that it takes me a gazillion times to get a cue down well because I tend to forget how it's done. I have to make it automatic before I've learned it. That's different from my younger years when I'd just do as I was told. Now I want to understand WHY it's that way, why it's that order, what to expect with each nuance of it, how does one tell if it's good or could be better, and ... what was that order again? Leg where? The trainer here is young, but very good, and she one day was working with me on some ground work. She was telling me to "lean forward this way" before I took a step. I looked at her skinny self and said, "Honey, I'm old and top heavy. If I lean forward like that I will either fall over or f@rt." Sad thing is, I was being honest. Had to find a different way to achieve the effect we were after, which we did.

                  But the most biggest thing I have found is to celebrate that finally, FINALLY, I can do things on my own schedule, as I want to, because, dang it, I'm old enough and have earned the privilage of doing so. I don't have to try to live life according to the youngsters' views of how riding life should be. The "Just Do It" mentality doesn't apply here. "I Did It My Way" does.



                  • #10
                    I have really tried to ride at least 4 days a week this summer. I rode a lot but in a different discipline (20s..polo and a little hunting) HAD horses but did not ride much in my 30s (focused on kid and family stuff and bred/raised horses to sell) and now that my kid is 10 and old enough to entertain herself well I have finally gotten back to riding regularly in the past year. Ha ha. The one filly I ended up keeping for myself as a riding horse ended up being the most difficult horse I have raised. I sold all the easy ones..the hot and reactive one is the one I ended up with as a keeper (and that was not intentional that she end up a reactive one!!!). In a weird sort of way she is good for me though. I have found that she behaves a lot better when ridden a lot (that being at least 5 days a week). Between work, family stuff and rain/heat I can't always manage 5 to 7 days a week (would be best for her) but have been able to manage 4. Anyway, the good thing is that I DO get stiff and take longer to warm up myself at the now 4th decade mark. Riding regularly does a lot for keeping me limber!! I really do think I need to take up a formal stretching program in this decade though.
                    Providence Farm


                    • #11
                      You can probably achieve a happier frame of mind by adjusting your expectations. What is it that you regard as progress?If you are aiming for the Olympics, then happiness is going to be difficult. If your goal is to enjoy your horse then "advancing" may not be so necessary. There is nobody to keep score other than you and your horse. If you are both enjoying your time together, you have achieved a lot. You have to ask yourself what it is that you want and are you going about it in the right way. It seems that the horsey culture expects certain things of us; like lessons from a trainer, what we expect as "progress", going to shows etc, etc. Is all that really necessary? I am much happier riding my horse across the countryside than anything else. I never take a lesson nowadays and enter shows if I feel like it. NO PRESSURE and I enjoy my horses a lot more than I ever did before.
                      ... _. ._ .._. .._


                      • #12
                        It takes a tremendous amount of drive and dedication to the sport to continue riding and progressing into old age. That's why you see so few people on the Vintage/Masters list of USDF that are riding at the higher levels. When the going gets tough, the tough get going.

                        I also get lightbulb moments and am frustrated that I am just now 'getting it' at this late age. The most frustration is that the older one gets, the less time to achieve your goals, if your goals are other than pleasure riding.

                        Just take a look at the physical condition of most 60 year old women.....not riders........just older women? People tend to allow themselves to get out of shape and just let old age take hold.

                        I hate the stigma attached to old aged women that ride. If I went to a clinic, for sure I'd be the oldest rider, but I'll bet I'd surprise them all with my stamina.


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by redhorse5 View Post
                          I rode as a kid and started again in my early 40's. It's not easy but I keep trying. Lately I just feel that at my level I can't seem to improve. I keep having lightbulb moments that tell me I should have figured out something 10 years ago.
                          Then I feel like I've wasted years doing something incorrectly.
                          What you need to do is remind yourself how hard this is, and that there is a reason the lightbulb moment didn't come 10 years ago. Something you've figured out in the meantime allowed you that moment. I think you're actually going through a time of intense improvement, but letting it discourage you.

                          I agree with whoever said that it's the breaks from riding that do us in.


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by redhorse5 View Post
                            I'm 58. I ride almost every day. I ride 1-3 horses a day when I ride. I have steadily made progress although slowly. I'm starting to think that I am stuck and that my progress as a rider is starting to stagnate. I had one of those lessons today which made me think that I've been doing so many things incorrectly that I need to completely start over. I ride with a trainer several times a week.

                            Let's hear from older riders who feel they are making progress after 50. How many of you feel that you made significant progress after 55?

                            Please tell me I'm not regressing.
                            Shake it up a bit and ride with someone else for a different point of view.

                            One great thing about being in our age group is we usually are in a position where we have a bit of security and can make choices we may not have been able to afford previously. Remember, you do this for fun. When you are feeling badly, something needs to change to make it fun again.

                            I simply will not ride with someone who makes me feel bad, period. There are great trainers who are honest yet positive and can help you and your horses progress.

                            Yes, I am over 50 and feel I have made the most progress in the last 2 years, thanks to a really great, fun trainer and my wonderful horse. Riding is truely better than ever.

                            One more thought. Make sure you are not deficient in vitamins D and B12. And take your calcium.
                            Last edited by Carol O; Aug. 30, 2008, 05:40 PM. Reason: re-phrase


                            • Original Poster

                              Thanks so much for the responses. I have been riding with a greater variety of trainers. I think that's what makes it seem discouraging. I'm riding with a clinician who comes in once every month, a regular trainer who is local and another trainer who is more available on a weekly basis. I was riding with another trainer who really made me feel terrible about my riding and was really discouraged with her. Negativity is really hard to overcome.

                              Currently the trainers that are available to me are very much on the same page, however I find myself riding and saying to myself, "Why didn't someone tell me this 10 years ago?"

                              Now it seems too late to really change enough to make a difference. The other day one of them told me something that really made sense and I saw immediately that they were spot on. Then the next thought was Kyra K's paragraph in her book about how it takes 2000 repetitions to relearn something and I thought, "Crap, I won't even live that long."

                              I'm going to get up tomorrow and try again. I hope Ambrey is right that I am going through a period of improvement.


                              • #16
                                You haven't mentioned your horse. Is it ALL about you?
                                ... _. ._ .._. .._


                                • #17
                                  Originally posted by Equibrit View Post
                                  You haven't mentioned your horse. Is it ALL about you?
                                  Sometimes it is. Age is like that. The horse is doing fine, but the human body is getting in its way. Sometimes the human brain goes wonky, too.



                                  • #18
                                    Maybe too many cooks are doin' the broth? Pick the positive trainer(s), and have fun.

                                    I ride with a really fun trainer, and rarely am able to clinic rarely with the elite trainer she works with. They are both on the same page, but express things differently. I totally understand the ah-ha moments when suddenly something I have heard 5 million times suddenly makes sense, maybe because it was spoken differently. That is growth. Trusting the growth brings wisdom.

                                    Make a list of 10 things you have achieved with your horses. Not the glittery thing, but the meaningful things. Look at the list often, and then add to it.

                                    Put the negativity in the rear view mirror, and never look at that! I too have paid money to people who made me feel badly about my riding. Life is way too short for that.


                                    • #19
                                      Youth is wasted on the young! I'm soon 60 and I find that I am more complete as a rider. I cherish my time on my horses and love it. I would and will never quit riding unless they get the van and the straight jacket for me. I'm not in great shape, but I can ride. I can train. And, darn it I will continue till I am no longer around.

                                      I take clinics too and find I am nearly always the oldest person there. Ah-whipper snappers, beware, I have bad eyes too and need space____!
                                      ~Equine Jewelry~
                                      Used Saddles For Sale


                                      • Original Poster


                                        My horses are all pretty good actors. I don't really have any complaints. I have three good warmbloods. One who is too big for me but rarely even looks at anything, never gets strong, just a bit behind my leg if I don't watch him, one who is also a bit lazy but a nice schoolmaster (accident prone though) who did PSG and a third who is lovable but lacking a lot of talent. Then there's the sort of lame pony (a rescue), a big Perch (husband horse) and my old retired schoolmaster who is 31.

                                        I long for the old schoolmaster who is far past his prime. He was the easiest for me to ride but was deceptive in that he was almost too easy. Easy to sit. Easy to stay on the bit. And far too easy to get really nice tempi changes. I was lucky to have him. Now he is just a happy pasture pet. I actually feel like I have learned a lot more from the ones that aren't perfect. They challenge me every day. It's the day to day challenge that seems to make me feel like things are standing still and when I do have the lightbulb moments I fear I can't take advantage of them.

                                        I do think I will start taking one of them on trail rides and just hack them out for a change. Thanks for all the advice.