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Is Going Back To Riding Really Worth It?

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    Is Going Back To Riding Really Worth It?

    I WAS an experienced rider in both disciplines. I have packing crates of trophies and ribbons. I own 5 horses, 9 saddles, dozens of bridles and enough tack to be called a hoarder. The last time I sat on a horse was 2014.

    I still have the horse, he is a now 14 y/o grey Canadian Sport horse, a green as grass 17.2 hand lovely, sweet horse, who is not for sale and not for me. He is an exceptionally expensive giant pasture puff.

    In 2014 I was working crazy hours, had previously been unloaded because Gigantor did not like being told what to do in open areas. I recovered from the wreck with a lot of fear and residual back pain. I researched and finally settled on a trainer. All was explained, he went, rave reviews came back, he was bomb proof, he was excelling. I took weekly lessons in the arena (for me to deal with my fear), those went well. He was ready to go home to hack quietly in the pasture. I came with the trailer, took a final lesson. I rode him out to bridal path for a cool down walk. We were out of the arena about 5 steps when I asked very nicely to walk near the driveway, one second later I was seeing stars. Concussion, broken collar bone, 4 broken ribs, 2 herniated discs, cracked vertebrae and a torn rotator cuff. Many apologies ensued. Bring him back, leave him longer, whatever. I would not have been able to ride for months anyway. He came home and has never seen a saddle since. For the first year the thought of riding made me nauseous. Then came the explanations of: “I have been so busy” or “all my guys are retired” The last few years people ask, “What kind of riding do you do?” I answer “You can ride them? Who knew”?

    I am 51, I ache a lot. I have spent the last 15 years building my business, building my farm, helping my husband build his business. Now, we have COVID and my business has slowed down. I have the rarest of things, time. I always promised myself when my business leveled out, I would go back and take lessons, get control of the fear. Learn to enjoy riding again, ride for joy and fellowship not for resale or competition, or just do any riding activity that strikes my fancy.

    So that backstory brings me to my point. Is it worth it?
    Do instructors really want students like me with my stiffness, aches, pains and fears?
    How do I find a program that will work for a rider who has no clear focus on where her return to riding would take her?
    Do I want to reenter the world of barn drama?
    Can I control my own competitive brain and just ride for the joy of it?
    Will I be teachable at this point? I always was teachable, but you know “old dogs”

    I am within 20 miles of FENCE, this big wonderful horse world of Tryon and Landrum is right on my doorstep. I have spent so much time working since I moved here that I recently realized that I know nothing of and no one from the area to even ask.

    Recommendations would be wonderful, personal experiences with this kind of thing even better. I have been an avid COTH stalker for years. I want to thank so many of you for the wise advice you have given me over the years. You may not know you had but, it was very much appreciated. I guess I kind of decided that if I wanted to get the skinny, this old ostrich had to take her head out of the sand.

    I can speak to my experience, back to "serious" riding at 43. I rode as a kid, but never had the resources to be serious about it, no matter how much I wanted. By 25 my horse was a lame pasture pet, though I spent years trying to bring her sound. I took lessons sporadically if I could find a barn that had school horses but it never stuck.

    3 years ago the mare finally gave up the ghost. Within 6 months I was on the hunt for another horse. Found one, but spent 18 month to afraid to do anything with him. I still remember forcing myself to ride him in a snowstorm on new years day because I just had to get over the (unfounded) fear.

    Then I realized... I'm a grown up. I have a good job. I have a bit of disposable income. I can finally pursue those dreams. So I am. And I hit on a lovely trainer who is SO patient with me. I was up front about being a chicken and she's been great. Pushes when I need it and makes sure I'm good. She's my age (i think this is key, she needs to get being a middle aged mom) and has been very successful in the past and is proving to be a very good teacher.

    So, all that to say... yes, it's worth it. I'm happier than I've been in a long, long time. Horses are my thing, my key to happy, and I can finally prioritize it.


      Your are blessed in the area you're in, for sure if you DO choose to get back into'll have a lot of options. I'm going to start right off with saying if you have the $$$, 'instructors' (trainers) will not mind your fears and aches and pains. I'm sorry, but that's the truth. Its a business. If you pay for their time and like and respect them it will work! I personally? say find the trainer and the barn you would enjoy riding at. Drama is only there if you get involved in it. Certainly, find one you feel suits you and has less drama etc...but to drive in, park your car, get your horse and have supervised lesson/training and turn arogund and go home sounds to me like the best thing to start with. A friend of mine (we're both 62...but shes one of those who will always look 23...not me!) anyway. We both rode as teens together, then when our girls were born, we were great show moms and loved it all ! I encouraged her to just get back to it again---and she's having a blast. A barn she loves, lessons that lead to a partial yearly lease, horse she can feel safe enough, but still challenged on, and even has now (in just a couple years) gone from schooling shows, to state, to regional, and rode at the National level....she DID work hard, but she found a barn she could if she wanted to, or didn't have to....the difference was what $$ she wanted to spend, really. She loves her barn and the relationship she has with this horse, but none of the stress and never ending responsibilities. She has fun with the barn ladies, enjoys the younger girls, and goes back home after her barn time. I'd try that route with what you've been thru to find your happy again. Go from there if you want more.
      "Indecision may or may not be my problem"
      --Jimmy Buffett


        Why do you want to get back on the horse? What are your aims and ambitions? What is your motivation? What does your family think? You ask some questions but this a time of reflection and change for everyone.

        If it is because you feel your expensive, green, giant powder puff needs a job, ask yourself if there are other ways to deal with him. I have a lot of friends who own horses, or bits of horses, that professional riders compete. They get to go to watch and contribute to the bills (eventing and racing sydicates) - and yes, it can be pretty exciting to see your youngster win his first event. Your horse, doubtless, is perfectly happy eating in the sunshine without being bothered too much by his human. Maybe get someone else to ride, such as a young person trying to break into professional ranks, especially as there are competition facilities locally.

        If it is because you want to reclaim the joy of riding a happy horse who is enjoying himself as much as you are... well, that might be something worth investing time on. I recently climbed on board for a hack through some lovely countryside after 6 months off for Covid19 and the pleasure was soul deep.

        If you want to get back into a competitive arena, something less expensive and risky than a horse might be a consideration or try an entirely new equestrian discipline. Everyone's idea of enjoyable competition or even activity changes as we age. At 16, my ideal horse was 16.3 TB leaping things, now, at a slightly battered 60 years old, it is a 15.2 cob and I prefer not to leave the ground.

        If it is to overcome fear, a perfectly valid motive, perhaps find a way to do it without using your pasture puff, ideally with a trainer (or a helpful someone) who is skilled in working with adults overcoming issues. Dealling with fear takes time and full confidence in your trainer and horse. It is a very personal journey.

        On the other hand, leave your horse in the pasture and take up yoga, Pilates, Thai Chi or any other means to deal with the aches and pains that horses inflict on us foolish humans. It is a fortunate opportunity in which to make choices and start off on a new journey or return to familiar old paths. Enjoy it, what ever you decide to do. Good luck.
        "Good young horses are bred, but good advanced horses are trained" Sam Griffiths


          Original Poster

          Great Replies so far and many THANKS!

          Willesdon- I think it is because I just miss the feel of being on a horse, I dream about it more and more. As for my grey horse, he and I are not right for each other, I accepted that a while ago. He can stand around and eat his head off for another 15 years and we will be just fine. I have 4 other horses who are 20 +++ and they are all living large on the farm tab so what is one more. I can say I am DONE selling horses. I might lend one out for the right supervised situation but they will all be buried here. As for other interests, LIKE yoga, HATE pilates, Thai Chi was just weird to me I guess. I do enjoy Shooting Trap, Overlanding and Camping and my Convertible Classic Car.

          Ayrabz- You have a point there, $$$ is a factor, I have some comfort but am unwilling to hand it over for false courtesy. I agree it will be about find the right instructor/barn scenario. After all this time my thoughts have distilled into not just finding the right barn but also the right succession of horses to get my confidence back. as it seems your friend has done. This can be accomplished with schoolies and strategic leases, I did it as Junior and I can do it again. Hubby has also stated "This means another horse, I nodded, he sighed" I am thinking at the end I may want a Mr. Done It Guy that maybe has issues that don't lend well to the serious showing world, but would like a hunter pace, local show or *gasp* hilltopping with the local hounds.

          Peshness- When you described your New Years Day ride, I can so relate...Horses are my happy place, I am blessed with them right out the backdoor and they are my comedians, confidants and wonderful business advisors.


            I haven't ridden much since we moved to GA and I brought my horse home. I had plans... but a series of family emergencies derailed them and then I just never got back into it, and now the horse is almost 30. So a couple of years ago, I pre-bought my 50th birthday present: a yearling Connemara pony. He'll come home next year when he's three and the adventure will begin. (I'll do the groundwork, then he's going to a trainer. I've never started a young horse and I no longer bounce.) I am looking forward to finding a professional to put a competition record on him -- at long last, I can be "the owner" and go to shows and fuss over him without the stress of competing.

            Once he's home and settled I am going to look for a been-there-done-that older horse, and go to every horsemanship, classical riding, working equitation, and whatever else sounds like a fun clinic I can find within a couple of hours' drive. And go on trail rides with the local saddle club.

            So I'm right there with you. I'm not 'comfortable' enough to have a horse in full training at a fancy barn, but I can afford to hire help when I need it. I also have several eventing professionals nearby and Poplar Place just down the road. SO looking forward to getting past the virus restrictions and getting a vaccine or whatever science comes up with to help us get back to normal.

            If you want to ride again, DO IT. Find someone with school horses and see how you feel. If you spend an entire lesson walking on a lunge line, who cares? It doesn't matter what you could do in the past. One of my favorite trainers says "work with the horse you have today" and that applies to us humans too. As long as you find the right coach, you'll be fine.
            ... with Patrick and Henry


              Same as you, green horses in the paddock, working a full time job with 2 hours overtime every day. The difference was I stopped riding because I walked out to find my riding horse dead one morning. The next week I lost my first horse well over 30 yo to old age.

              I was grieving.

              Like you years past and I was afraid even though I hadn't had a fall.

              I started going and have weekly lessons on school horses. I would walk for most of the lesson to build up to trot. Then build up to trot and canter. It took 6 to 9 months when I could just start riding without worry.

              I started lunging the 2 horses at home and the rest they say is history.

              For you I would say start lunging your horse now. Proper lunging with side reins. Go and have lessons on school horses. Let yourself heal.

              When you can ride the school horses with no worry, and only then, make the decision of if you are going to get on your own horse or sell and buy a horse you can ride immediately.
              It is better to ride 5 minutes a day than it is to ride 35 minutes on a Sunday.


                Original Poster

                wsmoak- Haha, no longer bounce is an understatement! Wishing you luck right back with your pony project! You have it exactly, I want to just go and do any riding activity that interests me. I just find it funny that I now need the packer I used to make...

                I have actually narrowed down to 2 barns out of dozens around here. One is close, very well respected, highly reviewed and has a younger ,highly qualified instructor who has reportedly a wonderful teaching style and manner. A little more pricey and show oriented but a couple of nice lease horses listed.

                The other is farther from home, out of the the immediate area of Tryon, older experienced instructor with a similar background to mine. The barn schedule offers groups and private lessons and their outing schedule looks more varied. They also have a couple interesting horses for sale or lease.

                So that brings me to the next questions:

                Do I call or email? Then do I go take a look or just schedule a lesson?


                  3 yrs older than you, just a month ago accepted my 24 yo OTTB was officially retired, started taking lessons on schoolies. Having a BLAST! best thing I've done for myself in ages. My confidence & skills are returning in leaps and bounds. My OTTB was good but had a serious spook if not in steady work. Before her, had my nerve seriously rattled several times - took years to accept I was ill mounted, having been the one that could ride 'anything' back in the day. But thank goodness, finally swallowed my pride & accepted that my nerve (and body) just were not what they were in my 30's. But now, I'm past that, and in past weeks have ridden lesson horses of all breeds from 17.1 to 14 hands, and I am having nothing but FUN. It helps that I know & trust trainer from way back, & have a large selection of schoolies to ride. May get around to half leasing one of them, but for at least a few years I don't want to buy another. This is my chance to try different things and see what I want to do in my next decade of riding. So my vote is, totally worth it!! If you find a good lesson barn, a trainer you trust,and stay open minded. Blessed are the lesson horses!


                    Yes, it is worth it.

                    I had horses, I finally had land, and a drunk driver plowed into me head on. I hurt too much to ride for years (I tried multiple times.) Then I healed but riding was still out--super exhaustion. Turned out that the car wreck had triggered my MS. I sort of gave up riding.

                    Finally I realized I was dying inside, it just was not enough to take care of my elderly horses. I started riding again. There were ups and downs (the first lady lost her stable (rented) and disappeared.) I kept on trying to find someone. Found a local stable directory, I called the stable closest to me with all my particulars (MS, exhaustion, weakness, lack of endurance, etc.) and I ended up on the best horse I'd ever ridden. This lady also adores Arabians, teaches hunt seat, and most of her students are girls.

                    Over 10 years later I am still riding there. I help her with the horses that get dumped at her stable, horses with problems that I can help with at the walk and trot (I haven't cantered in years and I can no longer jump.)

                    I can only ride 30 minutes at a time, if I'm lucky I do that three times a week. My MS really messed up my riding--I have bad balance problems, proprioceptive problems, I have a hand tremor, and I get exhausted easily (6 strides of a canter and I am ready to lie down for the rest of the day from exhaustion.) I am heavier than her normal little girl riders but the horses can deal with that, 30 minutes is not too long for them. I really, really miss trail riding, galloping and jumping. I get bored just riding in the ring all the time. But I just can't do any more than what I am doing now.

                    It turns out I am quite good at getting through to horses in their twenties that never got properly trained, especially with contact. I can get into their heads, I know what I am doing, how to do it, when to say NO, and when to praise the horse to the skies.

                    The horses I ride tend to improve. By riding the horses I keep myself strong enough so that I can still walk on my own feet (I had worn out an electric wheelchair and never replaced it.)

                    If I did not ride I'd be crippled in a nursing home, of no use to anybody or myself.

                    At least for me it IS really worth it to ride even stuck in the riding ring forever.


                      Original Poster

                      Suzie - That is tough! My condolences!

                      Well I know that the grey is not the right horse for me too athletic, too spooky. Not for sale but not for me to ride. Did I waste him, YES, I admit it, I did. He is 14. If you ask him I bet he would think that his blessed life of all food, no work is perfectly fine. He would request more time in the grass pasture and an on-demand peppermint dispenser.

                      Now, I think the next step is try some lessons and see if I can find the right instructor.


                        It is amazing how we change.

                        We start off wanting a horse that will take us to the Olympics.

                        In the end we only care that the horse is sound and safe to ride.
                        It is better to ride 5 minutes a day than it is to ride 35 minutes on a Sunday.


                          It sounds like you are craving this, so I would say yes, it will be worth it, though there may be times where it feels like it isn't. The right horse makes ALL the difference. If you are shopping, you don't need to go for a deadhead necessarily, but do not compromise on a good brain and unflappable personality. Alert but calm in all situations is what you want. Find something you could take anywhere without having to worry about whether he can "deal" with it. Then you can ride for the joy of it, and decide later to compete if you want, or hilltop, or whatever - if the mind is good enough, you can figure the rest out as you go.

                          I've never been a brave rider, but spent my teen years riding green arabs and occasionally re-breaking psychologically messed up "rescues" for my employer. So I learned to handle a *lot* of crap, despite my fear, but never had a horse I could describe as trustworthy until many many years later. I could not fathom jumping more than crossrails, or going on a trail ride as a relaxing activity instead of a training activity, or hacking on a road.

                          Of the last two horses I started, they've both been challenging on the flat for different reasons. The first dealt with anything new and tough by bucking, which I could deal with fine by that point, just was always something lurking in my mind when we were working. Not fun. But he loved to jump, so once we got past the newness of it, I got my first taste of what it meant to have a partnership with a SPORT horse that would take you to and over anything you pointed him at. I never fully trusted him, but maybe would have with a few extra months or years. His owner sold him to someone who said they felt they could trust him in any situation. I loved hearing that.

                          The second is my current horse. He's challenging because of his build, but his brain is spectacular. My confidence was broken through a training relationship that soured, and I was afraid I messed him up in the process. Turns out I haven't - we have some warts, but a partnership, and I feel always like I can *have fun* whenever I want to do something with him. He was supposed to be a resale project. I have kept him 4 years longer than I was supposed to, in part because I enjoy him so much.


                            Originally posted by View Post
                            Do I call or email? Then do I go take a look or just schedule a lesson?
                            In normal times I would call and ask to observe a lesson first. (I need to see their communication style. I will not pay to be screamed at unless I am doing something egregiously unsafe.) Or lurk at the warmup ring at a show and watch them coach their riders.

                            They may not be allowing visitors though, so you may just want to call and say you're interested in lessons, see if you can chat with them for a few minutes and then if they sound reasonably normal, schedule a get-to-know-you lesson on a school horse, realizing that you'll probably talk about your background and goals for a lot of the time.

                            Email may or may not work... it depends on their preferred method of communication. Some of them are on top of it or have an assistant handling it, some basically never read it and calling or texting is they only way you will ever get a reply.

                            Good luck!
                            ... with Patrick and Henry


                              Original Poster

                              Thanks strangewings "craving" is the perfect word. I also crave Reese's Peanut Butter Cups and that is not at all good for my butt. I had the horse, the "one" that was my true partner. He died at age 36, an Appendix Paint with a bad reputation and an Einstein brain. The first years were rocky but I was young and brave and he was ever so talented. There were several super horses after his retirement. The last a TB mare I raised but had to sell to keep the broodmares fed during the recession/drought in 2008. She and I hit it off right from the start. So if I like the lessons, like you say I might not need a dead head but something that has been there and is just ready for a little less pressure and a lot more pasture.

                              Susie- You are right there I made some really nice packers back in the day now I would like one back, lol.

                              Jackie- You are so brave! Good for you and your words are very inspiring. I just hope I can be as courageous as you on this new path.

                              Arcadien- I hope I am so lucky. You sound like you are indeed having a blast. I will admit to a bit of envy. I will be watching to see how your journey turns out. The problem is wanting another horse is a bad habit. There should be a 12 step program ( I would have my 7 year chip). The problem is the meeting would be held at the tack shop


                                You've had lovely replies and I'm glad you're considering a couple specific places.

                                I'm not an instructor, but if I were, it would not put me off at all to teach a mature, sensible re-rider with some fears and physical quirks. In fact, it would interest me.


                                  Yes it is worth it.

                                  No, it is not easy or straightforward.

                                  In our minds we're still invincible teens or twenties or thirties or something other than what we really are. Our bodies know this but our minds and our hearts refuse to accept the passage of time. Hearts and minds know that we're experienced, had a fair amount of success back in the day, and still hang out on COTH to stay current, to feel relevant, and to remember the fun stuff.

                                  But we are mostly baby-boomers, and we don't bounce. We can't afford to get hurt. We don't have the right horses, even if we have wonderful horses. So the years roll by, we look at our horses from the ground, and we become both sadder and more uncomfortable with our horse lives.

                                  My wish for people in this situation, which was me and is lots of us, is to consider aging down, not out, of the horse biz. Instead of selling our horses or not replacing them when they pass (they're old too!) think about what we CAN do with comfort and fun. We may have ridden the medals in our prime, but just riding for fun, while feeling safe, is a goal for many of us now. We used to scoff at breakaway stirrups and doubled up laughing over old women in inflatable vests, now... we check the fine print and figure out our size.

                                  It's been quite a journey for me to return to riding. The heaviest decision I had to make was to set my ego aside and be realistic about what I was willing to spend, and what kind of ride I felt safe with. Fear is a very unwelcome co-pilot now, but nonetheless... it always rides with me. So I ended up having to accept that, as an older-and-wider-rider, I was not going to be jumping or doing other high-risk stuff.

                                  And then a miracle happened and I ended up with the time, money, trainer, horse, and dream all coming together at the same time, and my #BreyerHorseGirlFantasy happened a few years ago, with a breed of horse I didn't previously even know much about, doing new events, with new people. And it was wonderful.... better than any of my considerable horse adventures back in the day. Best of all, I knew I was living the dream as it unfolded.

                                  So yes, definitely worth it if you feel you want to, but don't force yourself to try to be what you were... instead look at what kind of riding experience really suits you now, and consider you might have a very different horse, barn, and adventure than you started out searching for.

                                  Good luck to everyone facing this conundrum. Try new things, take some lessons, explore your passion and see what the universe serves up for you.


                                    Original Poster

                                    Originally posted by wsmoak View Post

                                    In normal times I would call and ask to observe a lesson first. (I need to see their communication style. I will not pay to be screamed at unless I am doing something egregiously unsafe.) Or lurk at the warmup ring at a show and watch them coach their riders.

                                    They may not be allowing visitors though, so you may just want to call and say you're interested in lessons, see if you can chat with them for a few minutes and then if they sound reasonably normal, schedule a get-to-know-you lesson on a school horse, realizing that you'll probably talk about your background and goals for a lot of the time.

                                    Email may or may not work... it depends on their preferred method of communication. Some of them are on top of it or have an assistant handling it, some basically never read it and calling or texting is they only way you will ever get a reply.

                                    Good luck!
                                    Okay, I think I have decided to try the barn farther away with older instructor. I will give a call on Monday and see how it goes...

                                    I did buy a new helmet, a Trauma Void Lynx with Mips. I went and opened my helmet case to double check size and sitting on top of the others was the dented Charles Owen. I guess either hubby or I just put it back in there. Still dirty but wrapped in its bag with silica packets. Weird to see but maybe I will give it a burial and hope most of the fear goes with it.


                                      You would belong at my barn.

                                      We are a mixed group who ride because we like horses and like the sense of community. Sometimes my lessons are equal parts therapy and riding. We dabble in different things if people want to give them a try.

                                      I don't know how you find barns like this though; its just how my barn evolved.

                                      Good luck in your journey. I hope you find your place. I think the sport would benefit by focusing more on the sense of community and simple joy of horses vs the more competitive track.
                                      Freeing worms from cans everywhere!


                                        I used to teach riding and I have to say I really enjoyed teaching the older ladies who just wanted to enjoy their horses and become better/safer/more confident riders. It is more challenging than teaching someone who has show goals in a specific discipline, but my students and I enjoyed the little steps and the big ones.

                                        I am glad you are going to try the further barn first as I suspect there would be a good bit of pressure for you to show at the closer barn, especially if you were to lease a horse. I was going to strongly suggest you try the further barn before seeing you had already decided to do so.

                                        Having the opportunity to try a variety of things can only help you to find the area you wish to focus on for the next while. When I was first starting riding I was given a book on Endurance riding and thought I would like to do that. I watched the Olympics and thought I would like to do Eventing. I stumbled into dressage and discovered a deep fascination with the discipline. I did Hunters for a few years before returning to dressage, then did both dressage and eventing. In the last couple of years I met someone who does Endurance and have done a few rides (and teenage me was right ). You don't have to choose one. I enjoy riding the trails socially or in competition, and still love the Dressage training. My Dressage horse is also my Endurance horse, and I'm just enjoying riding him and getting better at both disciplines.

                                        Go have some fun, do what you are comfortable doing, and let those rides give you joy. Your fear will fade in its own time.