Dia Moya interviews 73-year-old active event rider Judy Owens, who firmly believes “There is no age limit for eventing.”
[Photos by Judy's husband Gary Owens]
Too Old For That… Never
Every so often, as age impaired riders, our equestrian pursuits cause friends and family to ask “Aren’t you too old for that?”
At my last event I met a fit, feisty and fierce 73 year old who has no plans to hang up her tack anytime soon. Judy Owens, from Columbia, Missouri, is that rider and she certainly can be an inspiration to us all. I met her at the Mill Creek Pony Club Horse Trials where she was a fellow competitor in the Beginner Novice Division.
“I am 73, but I try not to act like an old lady,” she answered to my opening question, which predictably was “How old are you?”
Judy did not ride as a child, but was always interested in horses. When she got out on her own she learned to ride and entered her first event in 1969. “My first event was at training level,” she said, “because back then that was the lowest they offered.”
Judy stayed at training level for most of her career, doing a couple of prelims and then as she got older and the divisions were created, dropping down to novice and then to beginner novice.
“I’ll do beginner novice for the rest of my life, no more training,” she said. “As long as he (her horse) is sound and capable we will be there.”
According to Judy, having the right horse is one of the biggest reasons she is still in the saddle. Her current horse, Springcliff Grand Command, nicknamed “Rocky,” is that kind of horse. Rocky is a Morgan and Judy really champions that breed. She explained that the calm and confident Rocky is also low maintenance: “He stays fat on no grain, and has never worn a shoe.”
Judy bought the attractive bay as a coming three-year-old as a 60th birthday present to herself. She had him started under saddle by somebody else but Judy was the one that took the gelding to his first real competitive outing, a combined test at Lake St. Louis.
“Rocky had to look as the cross rails that he hadn’t seen before, but when I took him in the two-foot division with the same jumps, he jumped them all and won the class, finishing on his dressage score,” she said. After that Judy’s trainer worked on Rocky’s jumping and took him through his first couple years of eventing.
In addition to the right horse Judy recommends having a good trainer/lesson person to keep you riding safely and correctly. Also, in her eyes, a person needs to stay fit and active in all aspects of their life. In addition to riding and caring for her horse, the active equestrian works three days a week, does Pilates once a week, goes to the gym a couple times a week and wedges gardening in between all the other activities.
“I’ve never been a sit-around person,” she said. “But I would rather do anything outside, before I do anything inside.”
She admitted that genetics do have something to do with her longevity in the saddle. “My mother was out weeding her garden at age 90,” Judy said.
Plus, Judy has never had a weight problem (she does say that after age 62 things did settle just a bit). Her willowy build is most likely because, as she so emphatically put it, “I don’t eat crap!”
That means so no fast food, no trans fats and she recommends reading labels while grocery shopping to eliminate as many harmful additives as possible. “I do like desserts,” she added, “but mostly I make my own.”
In her riding career, the only thing that slowed down the equestrian was a hip replacement back in 2010. Judy only consented to the surgery in the first place because she couldn’t throw her leg over her horse’s back. Judy is contemplating having the other hip done, but if she does it, she will schedule the operation for the off season.
So you can see that the question, “Aren’t you too old for that?” never crosses Judy Owens’ mind. And she basically proved it when she ended our talk with this statement: “There is no age limit for eventing.”
Many of you might be wondering how Judy did at Longview. Well, she could have ended up in the ribbons if she had not jumped a novice fence on her cross county run. I am guessing the novice jump looked more fun than the BN one. Judy explained, “ It was the last jump and was the one right in front of me.”