…and other laments of a midlife horsewoman
If you have a chance to hang around with other midlife horsewomen, you may hear them moaning about this somewhat frequently, (which is comforting in a “Misery Loves Company” kind of way); but, if you don’t spend a lot of time with other prime-time riders, various aches and pains can be disconcerting… and embarrassing.
Let me jump in right here and say that none of this is intended to be medical advice or to suggest treatment or diagnosis for any discomfort you may be experiencing. Always check with your health care professional before starting new forms of exercise.
OK, now that we have that out of the way, let’s look at some of the issues we face as returning horsewomen.
Well, this never hurt before…
I don’t know about you, but I don’t remember ever being sore after a ride when I was a kid. Well, there was that one time I got kicked in the crotch the night before a show… that definitely made for a pretty uncomfortable day in the saddle… but I digress.
When we’re young, we’re more likely to be flexible, to have a greater degree of cardiovascular stamina, to have better balance, and to lead a generally more active life. Obviously, this is one of those sweeping generalities that everyone advises against, but you get my point.
So the realization that riding can hurt can be sobering; however, pain isn’t the only physical issue we experience when we return to riding as midlifers. (Oh yay, there’s more?!?) Loss of flexibility, especially in our backs, hips, and knees can seriously impact our comfort level when we start riding again. And if pain and stiffness weren’t enough to send you in search of the nearest bottle of wine, let’s not forget about balance.
According to Healthinaging.org, nearly 8 million adults of all ages in the United States report balance disorders each year. About one-third of the older population reports difficulty with balance or walking; the numbers increase significantly after age 75. All in all, almost 40% of older adults are affected.
In case you haven’t noticed, good balance is key – for you and your horse to enjoy comfortable rides. A balanced rider is easier for a horse to carry in a balanced way. The rider’s balance can even have more of an impact than her weight on a horse’s ability to safely and comfortably lug a human around its back. This is not to say that you get a free pass if you’re seriously obese but can stand on one leg for a count of 10 without toppling over, but that’s a discussion for you to have with your doctor (and your vet.)
Funny, I don’t remember feeling (fill in the blank)…
After a break of several years, (or decades), getting back into the saddle can bring great joy, immediately followed by the shocking realization that this feels nothing like it did when you were younger. What happened to that old adage about riding a bicycle – you never forget? Isn’t that supposed to apply to riding horses, too? Evidently, one of the times you fell on your head when you were 10 caused just enough of a concussion to erase all memories of the downsides of riding; and you’re now discovering:
- The distance between the ground and the saddle has doubled since you were last on a horse
- Sitting trot is an exercise developed by the devil himself
- Any attempt to perform the above-mentioned sitting trot makes you feel you’re about to get a black eye and/or a concussion from your breasts bouncing around and smacking you in the face
- The speed of canter has increased exponentially since you last rode
It stinks to have to face the fact that we didn’t retain all the skills (and fitness) we had when we were kids; but, there is a way forward!
And I’ll share that with you next Monday. Until then, love your horse, love your life, and love yourself.
Little girls and horses. There’s some kind of magic in that combination. Whether the little girl ever gets to ride real horses, or makes do with her My Little Ponies and reading (and re-reading) every horse book she can find in her library, it’s a passion that often doesn’t subside as the years go by.
Fast forward fifteen, or twenty years, or more. Here is the little girl, all grown up. Still loving horses, but maybe life hasn’t offered her the chance to own one. The obligations of family and work and being a grown up have extracted their toll, but no longer will that voice inside be denied. The dream becomes reality, the little girl finally has her horse, and they live happily ever after.
It would be wonderful if life could replicate some of our favorite fairy tales. OK, maybe not the wicked witches and hateful step sisters, but happily ever after would be nice. Sadly, what happens to a lot of women when they finally get their dream horse is that the reality doesn’t quite live up to the dream.
Whether it’s a hectic schedule, training challenges, or guilt over spending time away from family and responsibilities – there are many factors that can derail our journey to happily ever after.
Whatever the cause, when spending time with her horse becomes something that produces stress, guilt or fear; our heroine often doesn’t know where to turn. Her instructor may help with her riding, but what about all the other facets of her life? Many instructors aren’t prepared to take on the challenges their students face outside the lesson. Her horsey friends may be willing to help, but many of them could be facing the same issues; and, while misery may love company, simply complaining to each other over a glass of wine isn’t going to lead to any lasting improvements.
Help is at Hand
Our heroine is the woman I had in mind when I started this blog. As an internationally certified riding instructor, I’ve worked with a lot of women like her for over 30 years. Women who remembered how much they always wanted to ride when their kids started taking lessons, or who had some free time when the kids grew up and finally decided to start riding. Some of the women just took lessons, others had finally made the leap and found their dream horse.
I’ve always loved working with these women, (who are all heroines in my eyes). The come to the barn with a passion to achieve their dream. While they may struggle with fear, a negative body image, or a lack of confidence in their ability to learn a new skill, that passion supported them and carried them forward.
I loved developing and sharing exercises to help my students overcome challenges, both physical and mental. I loved providing a supportive atmosphere so these women could start to live that dream. Allowing themselves to finally live a dream they’d had for so long. Challenging themselves in new ways – and succeeding. Conquering fear. Developing a partnership with an animal that outweighed them by half a ton.
But whatever their challenges and victories, one thing all of these women had in common, was that it wasn’t just about the riding. Their successes followed these women when they left my barn. I began to realize that my lessons were empowering women in the barn, and beyond.
I hope that this blog will become a place where you can come to find support, answers to questions, lessons about your relationship with your horse (and ultimately, yourself), and a sense of community.
Here are a few of the things I’ll be covering in upcoming posts:
- Why awareness is important and how you can develop yours
- How your level of self-confidence influences the level of trust between you and your horse (and how to improve it)
- The Three C’s of Communication (Clarity, Congruence and Consistency)
Please join me each Monday to read more about how you can Find Yourself on a Horse. Have comments or questions? Please feel free to leave them in the comments below and I’ll be happy to chat with you about them.