Reality often gets in the way of childhood dreams. Thoughts of a life with horses are shoved into the closets of our minds as we follow "sensible" career paths or marry and raise families.
But those dreams are never forgotten. If your desire is strong enough, at some point in your life you'll find yourself with enough time and resources to begin riding--or take up where you left off when life got in the way.
I had a 10-year career in horses right after college--training and showing, and coaching young riders. I gave it up to get serious about making a living, but I missed it. I missed grooming a horse, and feeling his strong muscles relax under my touch. I missed asking a young horse to do something new and having him willingly respond because he trusted me. I missed our unspoken communication, the human-horse bond that defies explanation. I missed the sights and smells of the stable, and horse talk with fellow riders.
Eventually, the time came when nothing stood between me and a life with horses . . . but a few things had changed. I was no longer in my 20s, and no longer agile and fearless. Climbing on young, skittish horses no longer appealed. My reflexes weren't sharp enough, and a fall could mean serious injury. Even an hour-long trail ride left me stiff and sore.
But I wanted to ride. All I needed was a plan. I dearly wish I'd had access to Melinda Folse's The Smart Woman's Guide to Midlife Horses. Ladies, this book has advice on every aspect of this mid-life adventure, from getting fit to choosing where, when and how to ride--and how to do it within your budget.
Offering horses as both metaphor and solution to the natural malaise that often rears its head just about the time we blow out that "midlife" birthday candle, this is the book that will help women ask (and answer), "What about my dreams?" and "Is it my turn yet?" and "If not now, when?" and best of all, "If now, how?"
Yes, you can do it--and do it now. It's never too late to ride or compete, if that's your dream. Seventy-year-old Jan Worthington is an Olympic level rider in endurance, a sport in which each horse-and-rider pair must cover 100 miles of challenging terrain in 24 hours. She's phenomenal, and there are riders like her in many sports.
However, like the majority of horse people, you may want to find the right equine companion for trail riding with friends. Maybe you'll be happy to just canter around a ring in control and without fear! Folse's message is this: set goals within your physical limitations, and that bring you joy rather than angst.
Ready to dust off your dreams? Order The Smart Woman's Guide to Midlife Horses, by Melinda Folse, published by Traflagar Square Books (horseandriderbooks.com) from the Equine Network's HorseBooksEtc., $22.95 plus shipping. Order an extra copy for a friend!