They say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, but most of us know that to be false. The same applies to those of us who have been horse lovers from the time that we could walk and talk. We learn about horses, learn to be around horses, learn to ride and we get to that comfortable point where our knowledge seems like “enough”. Can we teach an old rider new tricks?
Growing up – in the height of my show career – it felt as if I had learned just about everything that there was to learn about horses. Sure, there are always new techniques, new treatments, new feed supplements, new products, etc., that we will always “learn” about, but when it came to horses in general, there was a time that I felt as if I had pretty much seen it all; it felt as though I naturally reacted to situations appropriately. I thought I knew what I needed to know and what I wanted to do and be in the horse world, but things change, and I’ve changed.
Teaching An Old Rider New Tricks
I spoke with several of my “horse friends” about this topic and their thoughts on this very idea. Here’s what they had to say.
Dawn – Arroyo Grande, CA
“I’ve gone through phases in my life with horses. There was a time when I knew everything, and then there was a time when I knew nothing. I got out of the ‘horse world’ for a while and decided about five years ago to ‘get back on the horse’ again when I bought my gelding, ‘Jake’. Even though I hadn’t been into things for a while, I felt like I knew exactly what I wanted when I bought Jake. I knew what to look for, what I planned to do, the type of horse that I needed to get me there, and I went out and found him. Now, five years later, what was supposed to be my older rider Dressage horse has turned into my full time Competitive Trail Horse – go figure.
Jake was born and bred for Dressage, and I had never really ridden outside of the arena, but after a few years together, and some pretty interesting experiences that weren’t great for either of us, it was pretty obvious that Jake and I wanted to do something different. So, I took this Warmblood, threw a western saddle on him and started taking lessons in something completely different from what I grew up with. I learned all sorts of new things, and so did my horse. These last few years have actually been the highlight of my ‘horse life’.”
Meri – Escondido, CA
“Wow, great question. I think that we never really stop learning when it comes to horses. I started riding seriously when I was about fifteen and kept at it well into my thirties. I quit for a few years, lost my mare and thought that was the end of my life with horses, but then my new mare came along out of the blue and suddenly I was back to riding again. I realized all the things I knew were a great foundation, but like anything that’s worth doing, you have to keep practicing and stay on your toes.
Funny story… My mare, Bella, is pretty bomb proof. I joke that I could put a kid on her backwards and tell her to go to the store and buy milk and she’d do it. The other day I was in the barn with her and it was pouring rain. I just came to get her out of her stall for a few minutes, tidy her up and tidy her stall up. I was walking back from the tack room with a brush and I guess I must have been just outside of her peripheral vision when I came up beside her, because she jumped forward, broke one of cross ties and I almost had a serious accident on my hands. That mare has never pulled back or done anything like that in her life. Truthfully, I wasn’t paying attention. I should have been talking to her and come up more slowly before I just put my hands on her. It wasn’t that I didn’t ‘know’ what to do, but she taught me that I need to be more considerate of her space. So, I guess this old rider did learn something that day.”
Tammy – Santa Ynez, CA
“I started out as a western rider to the core. I actually used to make fun of the girls who wore those tight pants and tall boots. I was a snob, which is funny, because we used to say English riders were snobs. Well, a couple years ago I actually rode in a Dressage saddle for the first time. A friend of mine guilted me into it and I finally got on her gelding at the end of one of her lessons. In fifteen minutes I was hooked! I found myself asking her if I could ride him every so often, and then I bought a Dressage saddle for my gelding, which turned out to be a mistake – he’s a Quarter Horse without an ounce of talent in that area.
Anyway, I still have my gelding and ride him as my second horse, my husband rides him now too, but I bought the cutest little Friesan cross mare and started taking Dressage lessons. Talk about learning new things…I’ve learned so much in the last couple of years, and, yes, I wear tight pants and tall boots now!”
Cindy – Arroyo Grande, CA
“I’ve been an arena girl my whole life. I’ve shown Arabians, been to Nationals and Scottsdale, had a pretty successful horse life. Last year, I just lost the drive to do it. I thought I was done with horses; it was too expensive, took too much time and I guess I just wasn’t as into it anymore. I was actually thinking about selling my mare for a while, until one of my friends talked me into going with her on a horse camping trip. She does ‘Ride and Tie’ and a lot of pretty heavy trail riding all over California. We went out to Montana de Oro and took an easy little ride on one of the trails, and I thought I was going to hate it, but I loved it. It seriously invigorated me and totally changed my mindset on horses.
I don’t want to show anymore, but I still want horses in my life. I sold all my show gear and bought a living quarters horse trailer, and now I spend my time riding where there are no fences around me. I learned something completely new about myself and horses and I’m 45 years old!”
Cover Photo Credit: Sharon Jantzen