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Horse Riding for Older Adults: Why It’s Never Too Late

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Written by Shelby Dennis

When is it too late to start horseback riding? 20, 30, 40, 50, 60… never?

The horse world is a place that allows for amazing connections with likeminded people and amazing animals. Unfortunately, our sport also comes with a certain amount of perceived exclusivity. Most commonly, this is due to the exorbitant costs associated with riding, training, and keeping horses in your life. Finances aren’t the only perceived barrier to entry, though.

Many people feel that unless they started their riding career at a young age, as many famous riders and competitors did, they’ve missed the boat.

The result? Wannabe equestrians often reach adulthood saddled with regrets. They wish they had started riding earlier, think they’re too old to start, and/or don’t know how to carve out time and money for horses now that they have adult responsibilities like children, mortgages, or school loans.

Age also deters many people who did ride as children but haven’t been on a horse in decades. They wonder if they’re too old to get back into the sport.

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Don’t let your age stop you from living out your horse dreams.

So, what do I have to say to aspiring equestrians who find themselves asking the age-old (pun intended) question:

Am I too old to start (or get back into) riding?

Read on to learn why being “too old to start riding” is a common myth, why learning as an older adult can be easier, and how our sport can (and should) be more accepting of riders of all ages.

Born With a Silver Stirrup (Or Not)

As someone who begun her riding journey at a very young age, I’m saddened to hear from so many adults who are apprehensive to begin.

It symbolizes an underlying fear of not fitting with riders who are younger or those of similar age who have more experience. I find it especially unacceptable that adults of any age may feel hesitant to ride for fear of judgment.

Luckily, once we collectively recognize age discrimination is an issue, we can work to change it.

Being able to ride at a young age is often reliant on the funds of your parents. Understandably, many families simply cannot swing the expenses of horseback riding. This is no fault of their own and no fault of the child. If you’re born into a family that can afford to support your passion, your path to the barn is easier.

If you’re not, however, your ability to ride as a child will be largely dependent on being able to work (hard) for your dream.

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Mom and Milo

Because many riders (especially those most visible on social media and at competitions) were born into good fortune, there can be a disconnect between them and those who were not so lucky. The result? A perception about the “right” age to begin one’s riding career.

When people speak about the “right” way to begin riding, it can cause those who cannot ride as children to write off the possibility of ever riding later in life.

We all need to take a step back, welcome riders of all ages with open arms, and ensure we aren’t perpetuating this myth.

To all those who feel out of place in the horse world or like there is an age barrier preventing you from entering it in the first place, rest assured the window of opportunity is always open.

New to horse riding, or getting back in the saddle after a long break? Check out our Guide to What to Wear Horseback Riding (With Pictures).

Learning Isn’t Linear

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My mom riding Milo (and loving it!)

To answer the burning question of whether you’re are too old to swing into the saddle, I can certainly tell you that you are not.

If you have the desire to ride and the means to do so, DO IT. Don’t let anyone or anything deter you. If riding is something that you are truly interested in, put the possibility of judgment aside and sign up for lessons.

Do not worry about other people who started earlier than you. Their path is entirely separate from yours.

Remember that learning is not a linear journey. Riders do not all progress at the same rate, nor is a person’s singular journey of riding always going to advance with the same rate of success.

Even those riders who started from the age of four upward have likely have taken a break at some point in their lives or had years where they were less involved. We can all learn from and inspire each other.

Learn how to deal with equestrian bullying, which can affect riders of any age.

Age IS Your Advantage

The other important thing to remember is that maturity increases your capacity to learn in many ways. I did not have the same learning ability, patience, or perspective as an adolescent that I have now in my adult years.

In the last couple of years alone, the amount of equestrian growth I have achieved is far more than that in my first several years of riding.

While you may feel behind other riders, starting to ride in your adult years allows you to catch up and learn at a more rapid pace than children.

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Don’t underestimate the wisdom you bring to the barn.

You have the means to be more objective about your riding, the concentration to watch other equestrians and emulate their skills, the ability to read and engage in critical thinking, and the wisdom to observe and learn from all-things-horsey in a far more advanced manner than a child.

Lessons are the best way to boost your skills. Check out our 13 Best Horseback Riding Boots for your Riding Lesson.

Inclusivity is a Team Effort

It is each up to all of us to encourage and support everyone who wants to fulfill their dreams of riding horses. They should be welcomed, not made to feel “less than” those who begun riding at an earlier age.

Judgement, comparisons, and age discrimination deserve no place in our sport. 

What does? Wisdom, perspective, and camaraderie. By bringing new adult riders into the fold, we can help others fulfill one of their deepest desires–to experience life alongside horses, as we’ve been blessed to do.

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We’re all on the same team. It’s time we start acting like it!

So, if you’re going to go out of your way to comment about a new rider’s age, let it be to applaud him or her for showing up. Let it be to offer a helping hand or word of encouragement.

Let it be to relive the excitement of your own horse-centric youth through those riders.

Photo Credit: Patricia Kelly

We need more inclusivity in the horse world, and we each have a part to play.

For example, many trainers tailor beginning riding programs to children. With a few small tweaks, they could welcome adult riders and provide opportunities to learn with their peers.

Age is Just a Number

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People of all ages can enjoy riding horses (Mom and Milo)

As someone who has been in the horse world a long time, I’ve met new riders of all different ages. Some started riding in their late teens, late twenties, or even in their 50s, 60s or 70s!

While you may not hear about them as often, there are new riders of all ages starting their equestrian journeys every day.

Every rider begins with the basics. Check out our step by step guide to How to Ride Horses for Beginners (Basics, Safety, Mistakes).

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You Are Not Alone

The key is to find a supportive community and riding environment that caters to your learning level and goals–and remembering not to compare yourself to others. (Easier said than done, I know.)

There will always be people above and below your skill level–that is simply a part of life.

Comparing yourself to others will only serve to dampen your spirits and make the possible seem impossible.

Driven and enthusiastic riders brighten the world no matter their age. Your love for horses, desire to learn something new, and window to chase your dreams is–in a word–timeless.

Life is short. Ride the horse!

If you remember nothing else from this blog, remember this: don’t let anyone or anything stop you from living the life you want to live. There are too many beautiful things that come from riding and being around horses to pass up this opportunity.

This applies to more than just riding, of course. Embarking on your learning adventure is always better than looking back with regrets.

As long as you have the desire to ride, a love for horses, and the ability to learn, you’re never too old to ride!

Happy Trails,

Shelby

If you’d like to follow our journey, you can find us:

On YouTube
Online at Milestone Equestrian
On Instagram
On Twitter

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About the author

Shelby Dennis

Shelby Dennis is a well known YouTube equestrian vlogger and horse trainer. She has over 17 years of experience with horses. From the Arabian circuit to hunter/jumper and exercising race horses, Shelby’s experience with different kinds of horses makes her a well-rounded horsewoman. Shelby attributes her history with horses to shaping the hardworking, patient and driven individual she is today.

Learn more at milestoneequestrian.com.