Are You Ready for Horse Ownership? 3 Considerations

First time horse owner

You’ve waited all your life for this. All those years wishing for a horse when you were a kid. Although, the best you ever got was the occasional ride on your friend’s pony or a few riding lessons at summer camp.

Now, your life is finally settled (or as settled as it’ll ever be), and you’re ready for horse ownership!

Or are you?

There are a lot of moving parts to horse ownership. If your head doesn’t join forces with your heart on this decision, it could end up being your worst nightmare instead of the realization of your fondest dream.

No two paths to horse ownership are the same; however, all of them have a few major details in common:

  1. Safety
  2. Suitability
  3. Sustainability

I’ll go over each one, but remember, you know your story best.

Think of these categories as jumping off points to conversations you should be having with your family, a knowledgeable and trusted person who knows a lot about horses, and yourself.

It’s vital that you ask yourself the hard questions and don’t go into this secretly holding onto the ideal horse of your dreams from when you were 11. The Black Stallion books are great, but not such a great map to horse ownership for us midlife folks.

Remember, pretty is as pretty does. So let’s start at the beginning:

Safety

Although we all say we’re going to be safe, this is one place where your head definitely needs to take the lead. You may remember riding as a kid cantering through the field bareback on your friends’ horses. Falling off never seemed to be an issue. You fell off, you got back on and kept going.

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but we don’t bounce like that anymore. I’ve got great bones but osteoporosis is rearing its ugly head in my life. I also know that my soon-to-be 60-year-old body takes longer to heal than my 12-year-old body of long ago.

If you’re a beginner or even intermediate rider, you want a horse that’s been there, done that, and gotten the saddle pad. First horses not only need to be safe to ride, but excellent ground manners should also be a priority. You’ll spend maybe 20 percent of the time with your horse actually riding – the rest of the time will be feeding, grooming, tacking up, and holding the horse for the vet or farrier.

Safety is critical. The selection of a horse includes where to keep your horse as well as riding feasibility. You may have a 100-acre ranch which is perfect for horses, but if the nearest neighbor is miles away that presents a safety issue. If you’re riding alone, no around is around to scrape you up off the ground, if you fall.

The other crucial piece of the safety puzzle is your horse handling knowledge. If you’ve never cared for a horse on your own, it might be better to board the horse where there are experienced horse people you like and trust to help you figure out how this whole horse ownership thing goes.

Better yet, talk to your local 4H Horse Program Leader, United States Pony Club Leader, an equine vet or high school Vo-Ag program head. There are plenty of places to get yourself comfortable handling different horses in various situations before your horse is actually delivered to you.

Suitability

Suitability is a component of safety, but suitability touches on whether you (and your new horse) enjoy the time you spend together.

If you’re a timid rider that doesn’t want a horse that’s very quick off the leg, a horse that’s been running barrels for the last 8 years might not be your best bet. Think about the job you’re “hiring” your horse for.

What are some qualities that are really important? If you’re 5’0″ in your cowboy boots, you might prefer something 15.2 or under. If you want to do 3-day eventing, you want a horse that has some experience jumping. And the big caveat here, please, please don’t get hung up on the color, markings or breed.

Before you answer a single ad, make a list of “must-have”, “would-be-nice”, and “oh, Hell no!” characteristics. Some people don’t mind a horse that weaves because the horse will be living out most of the time; while for others, weaving would be a complete deal breaker. By having this list, you’ll be able to save time and effort by only trying out horses you know fit the “job description” you’ve created.

Sustainability

Sustainability, in this case, means what is it going to take to keep your new horse happy, healthy, and able to do his job.

That barrel horse mentioned above may no longer be up to running barrels, but if calm enough, might be a great trail horse. A horse that’s been eventing at Prelim but is getting a bit old for the job could be the perfect partner for you to take in the Baby Novice division if you are new to eventing.

Sometimes the almost-perfect horse needs bar shoes or a joint supplement. Specialty shoeing, supplements, and injections all add to the upkeep costs, which is another item for consideration.

Once you’ve found a likely equine partner, make sure the vet that does the pre-purchase exam for you knows what type of riding you’re planning with the horse. Ask about any special upkeep the vet feels the horse may need. By taking the time to do your homework upfront, you’re giving yourself, and your horse, a good foundation for a long and happy partnership.

So, what’s on your list of “must-have”, “would-be-nice”, and “oh, Hell no!” characteristics?

Come on over to the Riders on the Far Side (of 40) forum and let me know!

 

 

Penny Hawes is empowering women in the stable and beyond.

click to view Penny’s full bio

 

 

When you change the way you look at things…

Mental power

American philosopher and self-help author Dr. Wayne Dyer once said (actually, I think he said it a lot), “When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.”

As midlife riders, a lot goes into how we look at things. We have a gift that the young’uns riding circles around us don’t have – perspective or mental power.

Think back to the first time you rode, the first time you cantered, jumped, went cross-country, fell off, rode in a show or sat a buck. Before that first time, we couldn’t really process the idea of those experiences. Our imaginations have the habit of going to the farthest ends of the spectrum. The show is going to be amazing, the buck is going to make you fall off, and the fall will end up breaking something important… like your neck.

Horse shows, rides, canters, bucks, and falls are part of the great tapestry that is our horsey life.
What does your tapestry of horse life look like?

Now think about your 20th show, your umteenth buck, and your… how many times have you fallen off? You get the picture. Instead of being magical experiences rivaling a Disney extravaganza, shows are events which deplete our bank accounts, necessitate very early rising, and make you wonder what sadist decided dressage riders should wear white breeches (seriously??).

It’s not that shows themselves are necessarily that different (OK, they’re pretty different, but work with me here), it’s just that we’ve changed the way we look at them. We realize that, in the grand scheme of things, shows, rides, canters, bucks, and falls are part of the great tapestry that is our horsey life.

Of course, the flip-side of this perspective is that, as adults, we have a lot more riding on the line.

We may have survived numerous falls as a kid, but we never spent those interminable nano-seconds before we hit the ground thinking… “Crap, I have a presentation tomorrow”, or, “Crap, I still have to go grocery shopping – I’m going to be filthy” or, “Crap, have I paid my health insurance premium??”

Back to Dr. Dyer. The trick here is to rein in our catastrophizing just a bit and change the way we look at things.

Yes, shows cost money, but we show by choice, and we’re damned fortunate to be able to participate. Yup, sometimes our horses buck and we fall, and sometimes we fall when our horses haven’t done anything wrong. The ground does seem a heckuva lot harder than it did when we were teenagers. Although, how many people would gladly take the fall in exchange for the privilege of riding?

When we stop for a moment and ground ourselves in gratitude, the things we look at really do change. Remember just how lucky we are to have horses in our lives. So the next time you get to show, bring your child-like wonder with you. And, cue the pixie dust because the magic awaits!

Now, please take a moment to join me at the Riders from the Far Side (of 40) forums to introduce yourself and your horse. Let’s connect because I appreciate that you’re here.

 

 

Penny Hawes is empowering women in the stable and beyond.

click to view Penny’s full bio

 

 

Riding with an Attitude of Gratitude: Adulting

Horseback rides of our youth

If you spend any time on social media, you’ll have seen memes about adulting.

Millennials (and even some of us mid-lifers) are finding that being a grown up really sucks sometimes. Riding with attitude of gratitudeWe have work we don’t feel like doing, choices we don’t feel like making, and aches and pains we don’t feel like… well, feeling!

Whatever happened to the carefree days of our youth in the saddle?

Want the truth?

It was all a lie.

OK, to clarify, I’m not one of those people who run around insisting that the world is flat or that the moon landing was a hoax (please – if you’re a flat-earther or conspiracy theory zealot – don’t flood Horse Authority’s social media with complaints! (The opinions written here don’t necessarily reflect the views and opinions yadda, yadda…)

So, what, exactly do I mean by saying our carefree youth was all a lie?

I mean it probably didn’t happen the way we choose to remember it. For all the glorious trail rides on perfect spring days with birds singing and flowers blooming, there were at least two days of barn chores where we slogged through ankle-deep mud pushing an overloaded wheelbarrow. The truth is we just hoped we wouldn’t end up either dumping the wheelbarrow on ourselves before we reached the muck heap!

For every perfect pleasure class, there was the missed lead (right in front of the judge, of course), and those favorite riding boots of yours probably caused a few blisters before they became your favorites.

All of this is actually going somewhere, for instance, adulting definitely has its benefits… Don’t forget our friend wisdom. Remember, you don’t get it out of a book.

Yes, we have work we may not want to do sometimes, but the paycheck from that work buys your next set of tires for the truck or shoes for your horse. The choices we don’t feel like making are simply the flip-side of the fact that we get to make choices! No parents or teachers are setting our rules – it’s all up to us. And while that can be one heckuva burden sometimes, it’s a hard-earned benefit of being an adult.

Oh, and those pains? Just remember the first few days in those favorite boots and be thankful for the pains that can be treated with BioFreeze and a hot bath.

Please take a moment to join me at the Riders from the Far Side (of 40) forums to introduce yourself and your horse. Let’s connect because I appreciate that you’re here. As equestrians, let’s celebrate our gratitude together!

 

 

Penny Hawes is empowering women in the stable and beyond.

click to view Penny’s full bio

 

3 Things Every Midlife Rider Should Be Grateful For

In the last post, we talked a bit about adulting. As much as we might be sick and tired of having to make grown-up decisions (I don’t know about you, but I’d be happy if I never had to decide what to cook for dinner again!), the flip-side is that we get to make grown-up decisions. An example is deciding the time we spend with our horses is more important to us than, say, going to lunch with our mother-in-law.

In this post, we take a look at wisdom versus intelligence, and why we should be grateful for both.

Intelligence

According to Dictionary.com, intelligence is:

The capacity for learning, reasoning, understanding, and similar forms of mental activity; aptitude in grasping truths, relationships, facts, meanings, etc.

I tend to think of intelligence as the kind of smarts that got you through school with good grades on your report card. It ushered you successfully through a job interview or two and deals with facts – it’s your “brain smarts”.

Whether you’re getting back into horses after an absence of a decade or three, just entering the world of horse ownership, or have had horses your entire life, there is a myriad of things you’ll need to learn or understand with your intelligence. Things like evaluating a feeding program, keeping your farrier, deworming, and vaccination schedules straight, and learning new riding or horsemanship skills.

Intelligence is something which allows us to relate to concrete things. It is how we understand and relate to things of substance.

Wisdom

Again taking Dictionary.com’s meaning of Wisdom:

The quality or state of being wise; knowledge of what is true or right coupled with just judgment as to action; sagacity, discernment, or insight.

With wisdom, we’re dealing with a totally different type of knowing. Wisdom is typically gleaned from real-life experience. Wisdom gives us the capacity to step back from a situation and read it from our heart, our gut, our intuition.

While some of the young’uns at the barn may have you beat when it comes to jumping courses, you’re more likely to find wisdom in a 50-year-old than a 15-year-old. Wisdom opens our hearts and allows us to see the nuances which would go unnoticed if we approached our horses just with our intelligence.

Wisdom is what prompts us to pick up the phone and call the vet when we know something’s not quite right, but can’t quantify it in simple readings of vital signs. Much of what wisdom relates to is the unseen, the un-measurable.

Intelligence is knowing that a tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is knowing enough not to add one to fruit salad.

If you’re particularly right-brained, (often left-handed people are right-brained – we depend as much on our intuition as our intellect), you’re more likely to tap into your wisdom on a regular basis. Fortunately, we can learn to flex our wisdom muscle, but often our thinking brain (the intelligence part) is used running the show and doesn’t want to be quiet long enough for our knowing brain (the wisdom part) to chime in.

Here’s an exercise that will help.

– Stand quietly next to your horse, either in his stall or outside with a halter and lead rope on (him, not you). Note his manner. Is he looking around for his buddies, trying to drag you to the nearest patch of grass, or just standing quietly with you?

– Take a deep breath and exhale slowly, concentrating on allowing your shoulders to relax.

– Put one hand flat on his neck, and continue with slow, even breaths. The aim here is to turn down your mental busyness a bit so that you can connect with him on an intuitive level.

– Stand with him for a minute or two – the time is less important than the relaxation.

– Notice his reaction to your conscious relaxation. Does he become less “looky”? Does he drop his head, lick his lips, or sigh? Take note of the feeling you had in your body that led up to his relaxation, and file it away.

– “Practice” that way of being a couple of times a day – stuck in traffic – just take a few breaths and see if your shoulders gradually relax. (Note: this will NOT clear up a traffic jam, just make it easier for you to cope with one.)

What we’re looking for with this exercise is the development of “body wisdom” – a feeling of calm that allows us to be with a situation or experience without being overwhelmed by it or feeling the need to avoid it.

 

Practice this exercise regularly and you’ll find you’re able to deal with challenging situations with your horse more calmly. Your horse, in turn, will be more responsive when you approach him on a wisdom level rather than an intellectual level.

Wisdom cuts through ego, fear, and distraction and can lead to a deeper understanding between you and your horse.

This can work with people, too, but it’s more challenging because you are then dealing with two eg0-centered beings. It’s much easier to show up congruently with a horse than another human. (Of course, that could be just me…)

Try to remember to show up for your horse from your wisdom brain, and you’ll be amazed at how much simpler your relationship can become. This isn’t a magic bullet that’s going to solve all misunderstandings, but it is a way of being that can deeply inform your relationship with your horse and the humans in your life – particularly yourself!

So, the next time you wonder how the kids at the barn actually remember a whole jumping course, just know that they won’t have your level of wisdom and intuition for at least another 20 years… which could just be long enough for us to memorize a jumping course.

Head over to the forums and join in the discussions in Riders from the Far Side (of 40).

 

 

 

Penny Hawes is empowering women in the stable and beyond.

click to view Penny’s full bio

 

 

 

It Sneaks up on You [Riding on Far Side of 40]

Celebrating you, ladies

It sneaks up on you.

First, it’s only the little things, like the new guy at the feed store carrying your grain out and putting it in the truck for you… and calling you Ma’am.

Or the breeches that you used to love now only come “low rise”. Whoever thought that was a good idea? And the moment you realize that your daughter is older than the models in your latest tack catalog, it all starts to spiral downward.

When did we, the Riders from the Far Side of 40, become marginalized? And why?

According to US Equestrian demographics, their average member has an annual income of $185,000, owns a home worth $600,000 and has an average net worth of $955,000.

You can’t honestly tell me that those figures reflect the “average” 20-something equestrian! Fear not horse friends, you are not forgotten!

Riders from the Far Side [of 40]

What this column is about

This column is all about you. About us, actually, as I’m firmly planted in our demographic (way closer to 60 than 40). I’m here to celebrate our strengths, help find ways to overcome our (hardly measurable) weaknesses and have a lot of fun along the way.

You can look forward to health care ideas from massage therapists and nutritionists (why should our horses get all the great care?), riding clothes that aren’t created for a size 00 (that’s really a thing!), and news and notes about fellow RotFS who are out there enjoying their horses, whether they can find an “age appropriate” model in their latest tack catalog or not.

Among all of the great information, you’ll also find stories that will inspire you, make you laugh, and even make you cry (although I prefer the laughing, myself).

What this column isn’t about

This column isn’t about bashing. That includes the aforementioned riders who happen to wear a size 00, no bashing of any particular style of riding, tack, or apparel.

This isn’t a place where we’re going to kvetch about how stiff our hips are, or how our instructors don’t understand us, or how good we “used to be”. While all of these may be genuine gripes, focusing on them doesn’t actually help (at least not after the first minute or two of feeling quite superior for still being able to ride with the deck so heavily stacked against us).

Yup, we’re older, stiffer, often heavier, and almost always surrounded by younger riders and instructors, but we also have a lot to bring to the (s)table and bring it we shall.

Mid-lifers, ReRiders, Adult Ammies…

Kudos all around

If you’re a mid-lifer or senior and you’re getting into riding for the first time, kudos to you. It takes real desire and determination to take up what can be a physically (and emotionally) challenging activity – especially if everyone around you keeps telling you in no uncertain terms that you’re completely insane – for your own good of course.

For those of us who have ridden since we were younger, there are still challenges. Our bodies don’t bounce quite as well as they used to, we’re likely to have more responsibilities than we did in our carefree youth, and while we may have more disposable income than we did in our 20s, we may also have family who would prefer we don’t spend it doing something that they don’t like, don’t understand, and don’t want to hear about.

What sets us apart, other than the age on our driver’s license, is the fact that we’ve been there, done that, and did, in fact, get the tee shirt. We are “old enough” to realize that communities are stronger than individuals, and that wisdom gained from experience is often more useful than intelligence gained from a book.

So, if you are one of us, the intrepid Riders from the Far Side [of 40] – tighten up your girth, my friend – it’s going to be quite a ride.

 

 

 

Penny Hawes is empowering women in the stable and beyond.

click to view Penny’s full bio