Amateur Hour

Lessons in Aging from My 16-Year-Old Quarter Horse

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My horse is my extra-terrestrial, like in the movie E.T.

He has seasonal allergies, I have seasonal allergies! He has a touch of navicular; I have plantar fasciitis. He needs pads in his shoes, I wear pads in my shoes. He coughs when we canter, I have an asthma attack.

As we’ve gotten older, so has the pattern continued.

He is middle aged for a horse; I am middle aged for a horseback rider. He is a little rounder than some other horses, I am a little rounder than some other riders. His favorite time of day is dinner time, it’s always dinner time for me.

He likes long walks on the beach, afternoon naps in the sun, massages and rest, me too!

See, we are one! He is my E.T. and I am his Elliot!

In all seriousness, learning about my horses aging body has helped me to learn about my own. Understanding how a horse’s innate physicality limits their ability to perform, but not their willingness to try, has set me free. I have physical limitations, but that doesn’t mean I want to stop trying and the same holds true for my 16-year-old Quarter Horse, Truman. Feeling him try, work hard and listen to me, but sometimes still not be physically able to do what is asked of him, let me know that the same is actually true of me.

I am 46 years-old. I am five feet three inches and average weight just like Truman, but I am not an athlete. I don’t have beautiful, thin, long legs. I don’t look great in my breeches and I have asthma so I can’t canter for days.

I am, what I refer to as, an enjoyment rider and Truman is my enjoyment horse; we enjoy riding and spending time together and that’s ok.

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But, what has been so amazing to me lately is understanding his body mechanics. He has a tight neck, which benefits from daily massage. I can feel the knots and I watch has he licks and chews and releases when I rub them out, then after, I feel that relaxation in his gate. That’s amazing to me!

It’s just like my own back, when I relax and the knots are rubbed out, I am physically different, better. I think as riders sometimes we don’t always remember that horses are animals, made of muscles and tendons, and therefore are changing all the time and affected by temperature, tiredness, stress and the activities of the night or day before.

Taking the time to pay attention to Truman’s body, has taught me to take the time to pay attention to my own body. I am sore and tight and I need to address that and do stretches and work out my kinks just like I need to do for him.

In my younger years, I got to the barn, saddled up and rode. I didn’t stretch out myself or my horse. I guess maybe because I didn’t have to, but now, he is older, I am older and our bodies need more attention and care. It doesn’t make us weak, or unsound, or out of shape, it just means we are aging and we need a little more attention to maintain our health.

I’m grateful to be aging side by side with my horse. It has made me a better horse owner, a more aware rider and more relaxed middle-aged woman.


About the Author

Karena Garrity is a New England native and seasoned, professional, freelance writer who has been crafting articles about her passion for horses, for over two decades. When she is not at her computer, she can be found at Manes and Motions Therapeutic Riding Center caring for her best friend Truman; who recently joined the herd there.