Horsekeeper: CYNTHIA RANKIN, 50-something-year-old clinical psychologist
Hometown: St. Johnsbury, Vermont
Horses: Percheron/Quarter Horse cross, 6 years old; Quarter Horse, 20 years old
Sport: Trail riding, hopes to event at Beginner Novice
Setup: Barn and several acres of pasture plus hundreds of acres of trails
Challenges: Northeast Vermont's winter weather; scarcity of shows and difficulty of getting together with other widely-scattered riders; daily time commitment of home horsekeeping; in summer, the region's infamous black flies.
Strategies: Cynthia and her husband Geoffrey (the Quarter Horse is his ride) began riding in their fifties--"I call it the adult onset of Equinitis!" she says--and have since re-allocated their leisure time from camping and travel to horses. (The sale of their fold-out camper helped fund the purchase of a horse trailer.)
They have enough land in pasture that their horses require only modest amounts of hay--about 300 bales total--during the warm-weather months. The barn roof's deep overhang on one side provides a run-in shed, so the horses rarely have to be stalled. Such bedding as they need can be bought from a local sawmill for $7 a truckload, which lasts for months.
Because they're not competing, the only expense they incur from using their horses is fuel for trailering to other locations for trail riding.
The Rankins dodge the worst of winter by shifting their horses to a local breeding farm with an indoor arena that accepts boarders for $400 monthly. At that barn Cynthia, who hopes to begin eventing at Beginner Novice soon, can share dressage lessons with another boarder. "My own interest is more in the competency than in the competing."
As president of the recently-established Catamount Chapter of Old People's Riding Club (OPRC), Cynthia is interested in testing her riding against the proficiency levels recognized by the club. "I have a goal of making it through C-3." The club's $30 annual dues are an investment in helping the area's riders--many of whom don't have rigs to haul their horses to group
activities--feel less isolated. The club also makes it easier to share money-saving tips. "Folks up here are pretty resourceful." Some club members have sewn their own riding clothes and horsewear, or have made barn items such as insulated buckets.
For accounts of how almost a dozen amateurs nationwide fit horses into their lives, see "Horsekeeping in These Times--How We Pull It Off" in the September 2004 issue of Practical Horseman.