It’s never too late to pick up a new hobby!
One of the great things about horseback riding is it can be done at any age. From 5 to 55 and beyond, horseback riding has positive health and wellness benefits for everyone.
You don’t have to stop your equestrian activities as you get older, you just need to take some extra precautions for safe and productive rides. And if you are interested in starting to ride later in life, this article will have some key advice for fun, safe adventures in the saddle.
Horseback Riding for the Elderly
The biomechanics of riding a horse has great benefits for senior citizens. Your muscles are stretched and worked when riding, which allows you to gain strength and flexibility at the same time.
On top of the physical benefits, riding and caring for a horse is beneficial for mental and emotional health as well.
Ageless Benefits of Riding
Riding generally equates to time spent outdoors, exercise, and a break from your phone/screens. Vitamin D deficiency can be a problem at any age, but when you ride, you are outside absorbing this important vitamin from the sun.
Furthermore, it has been proven that riding can lower your blood pressure (heart.org) and help you relax.
What is the best horse for older riders?
The best horse for older riders would be a safe horse that has “been there/done that” or sometimes referred to as a “schoolmaster.”
You don’t want to get on a younger horse that is green and spooking at every imaginary monster around the corner!
If you are looking to purchase a horse, I recommend working with a trainer and having them help you find a good match. Your trainer will know your riding ability and has the skillset to identify quality horses that would help you stay safe and have fun.
The Risks of Horseback Riding
Equestrian activities do carry a risk of injury. After all, we are fragile beings compared to the 1000+ lbs animals we are working with. On the ground, you run the risk of being kicked or bitten, and in the saddle, there is the chance of a fall.
With proper training, supervision, and protective gear, this risk is minimal—you should be able to stay safe both in and out of the saddle.
We highly recommend working with a trained professional when you begin your riding journey. Not only will they have the knowledge to help you become a good rider, but most professional programs also offer lessons on horses that are trained to work with beginners.
What do you need to ride a horse for the first time?
If you are brand new to riding lessons, you don’t have to go out and buy an entire riding outfit before your first lesson.
Equestrian apparel can be expensive and, if you aren’t sure if this is something you’d want to continue, here are a few items I recommend you wear to your first lesson:
- Leggings or jeans with no inside seam
- Shoes with a heel (cowboy boots, combat boots)
- A comfortable, well-fitted shirt
- Athletic sports bras encouraged
*The helmet MUST be an equestrian helmet and not a bike helmet. Riding helmets have different standards for certification as the impact they protect you from is different. Your helmet must be ASTM/SEI certified. To learn more about why certifications are important and the types of safety certifications for equestrian helmets, check out this article from Riding Warehouse.
If you know this riding something you want to pursue, here are some clothing options I would recommend:
- Riding tights
- Sun shirt
- Paddock boots (I prefer Ariat for strong foot and ankle support)
- Riding helmet
Senior-Specific Horseback Riding
Age should not be a barrier to riding horses, and riding can be beneficial for anyone at any age! From simple trail rides with friends to competitions, there are options for every rider at every age.
Sarcopenia (muscle loss) is a real threat to our aging bodies—a sedentary lifestyle can lead to 5% of muscle loss every decade over 30.
When you’re riding horses, you are maintaining and building strength in muscles you may otherwise not use. Check out this 93-year-old woman who is still actively riding horses!
Are there special classes for senior riders at horse shows?
A lot of local circuits and schooling shows offer classes specifically for adults. In my area, there are options like the “Silver Stirrup” division which is for riders 50+.
In many disciplines, there also are divisions subdivided by age ranges.
Are there horseback riding programs that target seniors?
A lot of therapeutic riding programs have options for senior citizens to join in classes.
In fact, PATH International, the leading certification program for therapeutic riding centers, states that over 100 of their certified programs offer an option for senior citizens.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Is horseback riding good for seniors?
Riding horses can help improve your strength, flexibility, and help maintain a healthy heart! So, it is a great option for senior citizens. Also, getting out of the horse, making new friends, and maintaining social circles is important at any age.
In a recent study, senior citizens who rode experienced positive changes in their mental health as well.
Q: Is 70 too old to ride horses?
Q: Is 60 too old to learn to ride a horse?
Nope! Learning a new skill like horseback riding at 60 is completely achievable. And you’re definitely not too old to ride, there are even 60-year-olds competing at the Olympics!
Andrew Hoy was the oldest Australian Olympian in 2021 and Mary Hanna was 66 when she competed in Tokyo. I saw Margie Goldstein-Engle (age 64) compete in the Split Rock Grand Prix, and she placed 4th.
Q: Who is the oldest person to ride a horse?
Though there isn’t an official Guinness World record holder for the oldest equestrian, there are many reports of people well into their 90s still riding!
Check out this 99-year-old cowboy:
Horseback riding is a great form of exercise at any age. While riding horses comes with some risks, they can be mitigated. If you have any doubts, reach out and speak to a local trainer or therapeutic riding center and they will be able to recommend a place or program for you to start your riding journey!
P.S. Enjoy this article? Trot on over to:
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