Prevention is better than cure. Riding is dangerous. Minimise the risk of having that fall that takes your confidence away. Always ride with a helmet. Just because you are experienced and riding your trusted old timer, don’t think you can leave your helmet at home. Don’t be a hero and get on a tense horse. Use your experience and your intuition; you don’t have to prove anything to anyone. Be prudent and do some groundwork or lunge him first. If you don’t really know how to use groundwork exercises to get a horse focused and relaxed, find someone who can teach you to do this.
I find it’s really helpful to once again spend the time off the horse teaching him to yield the quarters, to be soft in his body, to be relaxed, and to approach unfamiliar objects, so I have these tools at my disposal and I can use them to sort something out from the safety of the ground if necessary. There is a huge amount you can teach him from the ground. Skilful lunging can help him be more stable in the contact and so easier to ride, as well as teach him to manage himself over cavalettis and small jumps. You can help him develop balance and collection on the lunge as well.
If you want to read more you can find my article on the middle-aged rider here. I noticed that back then I mentioned not being able to ride a wider horse due to a hip injury. Well, I fixed that by having the offending hip replaced with a shiny new titanium one more than a decade ago. I had a short break from riding, got stuck into Pilates and physio and came back better than I had been for years.
Overall, I think that as you get older you need to keep being smarter about things. You have experience and can in some ways predict the future better because of it. So be smart and use time off the horse wisely to be able to keep enjoying your riding. Have a supportive team of people around you. A good coach, physio, and alternate rider if needed, use your doctors; whomever you need. Set goals that you can achieve and enjoy, don’t waste time comparing yourself to your younger self or those other young ones around you. Get a safe and reliable horse who suits the job you want to do and plan for the future. Take responsibility to be the change you need. Use your riding to help you age well and have fun.
Read more by Dr Kerry Mack:
Building Better Relationships – Equestrian Life, January 2021 issue
Whipping Up Controversy – Equestrian Life, December 2020 issue
The Importance of a Trusting Relationship – Equestrian Life, November 2020 issue
Welcome to Kindergarten for Foals – Equestrian Life, October 2020 issue
The Carrot or the Liquorice? Positive Reinforcement – Equestrian Life, September 2020 issue
Submission or Stress? Something to Chew On – Equestrian Life, August 2020 issue
A Relaxed Horse is a Happy Horse – Equestrian Life, July 2020 issue
The Literate Horse Rider – Equestrian Life, June 2020 issue
Why Horses Love Ingrid Klimke – Equestrian Life, May 2020 issue