Late Bloomer

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For those of you who feel your competitive lifespan as a rider should last about as long as that of a football player, or maybe even an Olympic gymnast, we have two words for you: Ian Millar.

Canadian Millar last month rode in Hong Kong in his ninth Olympic Games. That does more than just set a longevity record for equestrians. Millar is now tied for the most ever Games by any Olympian.

But the 2008 Games meant much more to Millar than just continuing an Ironman feat, since he also helped Canada win its first Olympic equestrian medal since 1976, a silver in team jumping. Millar rode the anchor round on In Style, providing the fault-free ride his team needed to keep pace with the Americans who eventually won gold.

And, at age 61, it’s also the first time Millar’s won an Olympic medal as well. Talk about your late bloomers.

So, how does Millar keep the competitive fires burning' For one thing, he’s lean and fit. For another, he makes long-range plans. Even before he stepped into the ring in Hong Kong, he was talking about the 2012 Games in London:

”I have the horse picked out,” Millar said. ”His name is Redefin. You have to plan that far ahead.”

Millar’s first Games were in Munich in 1972. If it weren’t for the boycott year in 1980, he’d have 10 Games appearances by now. And if he makes it to London, the record is sure to be his, since the only other athlete with nine Games to his credit, an Austrian sailor, retired after 1996.

”It’s the same rush and excitement,” said Millar of his first Games in 1972 and his ninth in 2008.

J. Michael Plumb competed in seven Olympics from 1960 at age 20 through 1992 at age 52. He’s now in the Olympic Hall of Fame.

There are a lot of valid reasons why some of us may feel we have to give up competing or even riding at all as we get older. We have family or professional obligations. Health problems can develop. Circumstances lure us into an urban landscape. Financial considerations arise. We may worry more about getting hurt.

But if the mind is willing, the body can be as well. Riding isn’t just for the young. It helps you feel healthier at any age because it’s great exercise and it gets you out into the fresh air and sunshine. It keeps your mind active and surrounds you with interesting people from all stages in life.

Don’t let anyone tell you that you’re too old for riding. If you want to go on into your 60s, 70s and beyond, take heed to Millar as he looks forward to his tenth Olympic Games:

”Age doesn’t matter unless it matters to you.”

-Margaret Freeman