I came across Health Benefits of Riding in the UK, a report by the British Horse Society, which discussed among other things the gender of most horse riders.
As a female rider, I was pleased to have it confirmed that I'm ‘normal’ in the horse world, and that our sport benefits us as we get older :)
45 Is the New 16
While it is not ground-breaking news that most riders are women or that many older women are still riding or coming into the sport, the statistics do make for interesting reading.
93% of those who responded to the questionnaire were women, and 49% of those were women of 45 or above. (The UK national average is 37%)
The report notes that equestrianism is the only sport with this female age profile. Most sports are for younger women.
When asked whether they had ridden 12 times or more within the past month, the highest percentage were within the 16-24 year old category. No surprises there.
However, more than 50% in the 45-64 age range and 65-74 age range of women had ridden 12 times or more in the past four weeks.
This frequency only starts to drop off in the 75+ age group. A fact which I am quick to tell my husband, who vainly hopes that I’ll soon stop ‘this horse business.’ I’m in the 45-64 age range, and keep telling him that I intend to ride well into my 80s.
Which reminds me, I do want to read that book Still Riding at 80 by Helen Hills, in which she interviews twenty elder riders and drivers and was riding herself as at publication. It has 4.5 star reviews, so clearly resonates with many older horse people!
Horses = Poverty & Health & Happiness
Some of the survey respondents were adamant that riding improves their physical and mental well-being.
I love this quote from one lady:
“I am a fit 76 years and I am sure that as well as keeping me poor, (horses) help to keep me fit and happy. I can’t imagine life without them.”
I think she echoes the sentiments of all of us!
Another lady is 79 years old and has had her 29 year old horse for 21 years. She describes how he is a ‘great joy’ to her and that she ‘always feels happier after a ride.’
Horse Riding = Social Opportunities
The survey mentions that Age UK reports how the odds are double, that those over 65 years old spend 21 plus hours a day by themselves. Depression and illness are the inevitable results of such a lonely and isolated existence.
According to the questionnaire respondents, horse riding ‘may contribute to maintaining kinship and social networks among older participants and potentially avoiding isolation and loneliness.’
I’m inclined to say that there’s no maybe about it! I’ve had to move from country to country a great deal in my life, following my husband’s job. If it hadn’t been for my horses, even at a much younger age I would have felt isolated and lonely.
Horse riding provides an instant network of like-minded friends from all walks of life, with the common goal of enjoying their sport. Most of my best friends are fellow riders.
Equestrianism keeps the body fit, the mind active (there’s no slacking when you’re on a horse!) and creates common bonds with other riders. Mentally and physically, horse riding is so beneficial that it’s no wonder many women continue the sport well into their later years.
Horses are my big obsession, and I'm constantly striving to get better, smarter and more in harmony with my equine buddy, Cruz Bay.
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