Riding horses when you’re “of a certain age” can be a bit unnerving but we do it because we love it. We find a way to mitigate our physical limitation and shut down that voice in our heads trying to psych us out. Yes, it’s a long way to the ground. Yes, the ground is hard. I’m riding anyway!
Of course not all WARHorses ride and that’s cool. WARHorses drive, some of us are breeders and others are tickled spending time around horses, feet firmly planted to the ground. Today we are sharing a few inspirational snippets about people who are happiest with their butts in the saddle.
He Took Up Riding in his 50’s
Walt Gervais took up riding when he was in his mid 50’s. When he retired, he went to work for veteran eventer, Denny Emerson at Tamarack Hill Farm. Walt lived in an apartment above the barn and started riding.
19 years later, he won his first novice event in cross country. By age 70 he moved to training level and at 72 he had moved up to preliminary jumping 3’7” cross country. His favorite ride, Sail on Simcoe, was known to be strong on the cross-country course and that suited Walt just fine.
“Walt really loved that horse,” David O’Brien, Sail on Simcoe’s owner said. “He so appreciated what he was doing and truly enjoyed himself. It was a joy to watch.”
When he was nearly 80, Walt had heart bypass surgery which ended his riding adventures. Walt passed away in 2009 at age 87.
She’s Not a Dang Tie Bar
In 2012 Victoria Lambert wrote that her nearly blind, 83-year-old mother, Audrey, started riding horses again. Victoria, a re-rider herself, 30 years back in the saddle, was starting to compete in dressage. Her young daughter, bitten by the horse bug, was taking weekly lessons. The family was spending a lot of time at the barn and Audrey often came along to reminisce and lend a hand.
One day a trainer happened to mention that the stable offered riding for disabled and invited Audrey for a spin. That’s all it took. Now three generations of women share their passion for horses and enjoy time riding together.
“I can die falling off a horse or in front of daytime television,” Audrey explains. “And I know which way I’d rather go.”
Pull Up Your Big Boy/Girl Pants
Their moto is “No prerequisites for this bunch! 40 years and older is all that is required”. The National Senior Pro Rodeo Association (NSPRA) organizes events around the United States and Canada for “older ladies and gents” who enjoy rodeo competition.
Rodeos are organized by age groups, 40’s, 50’s, 60’s and 68+ and include nine sanctioned events: Team Roping, Steer Wrestling, Saddle Bronc, Ribbon Roping, Ladies Breakaway Roping, Ladies Barrel Racing, Calf Roping, Bull Riding, and Bareback.
At any rodeo, you’re likely to meet Jesse Marshall Jr, 79-year-old cowboy and his horse TNT. They’ve competed in over a dozen NSPRA rodeos each year for the last 25 years. Last month the duo rode in several events in Wickenburg, Arizona. Jesse is a calf roper and knows just how to throw a lasso, in his second run, he roped the calf in 14 seconds. Jesse appreciates the rush he gets from roping and riding a good horse. He likes to win, too.
“It’s a great thing for us that love to compete,” he said. “And, I guess, hear our name called once in a while.”
If you’re looking for a little more out of your saddle time, and you’ve got your game on, the NSPRA might be for you. Whatever your style of riding, we hope you enjoy a little saddle time this weekend. Have fun and be safe.
Edited from the Following Resources: http://thehorseaholic.com/72-year-old-man-competes-in-preliminary-eventing-jumping-37-cross-country/#, http://www.chronofhorse.com/article/walter-gervais, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/lifestyle/9489389/Back-in-the-saddle-83-year-old-Audrey-takes-up-horse-riding-again.html, https://cowboylifestylenetwork.com/category/articles/rodeo/nspra/, http://archive.azcentral.com/community/swvalley/articles/20130126rodeo-senior-competitors-show-skills.html
Photography Courtesy: Walt Gervais photo 1995 by Cindy Arendt. Jesse Marshall photo courtesy Mark Henle/The Republic. Rodeo images from NSPRA.