The Age Impaired Rider

Dia Moya is joining our team of columnists to represent a special demographic, which she refers to as “the age-impaired rider.” This week, Dia talks about Brett Favre and how there’s no shame in refusing to retire from the sport you love.

From Dia:

I like Brett Favre, a former  NFL quarterback, a Superbowl winner and a guy who looks hot in Wranglers (seriously love his jeans commercials, but what is not to love–salt and pepper hair, three-day stubble, and just enough wrinkles to think that someone like me could have a chance with someone like him). I also like him because he had a hard time retiring from the sport he loved. He took a lot of crap from fans and sportswriters alike for his multiple retirements (first in 2008, again in ’09 and ’10, and then for good in 2011). Many folks said he tarnished his legacy by sticking around too long, that he didn’t go out like a champion, but rather a washed-up, no-playing, back-up quarterback.

I feel for the guy, and have a similar situation. At age 50 I started thinking that maybe I should quit riding competitively.  I don’t ride at the high levels I used to. In fact when I rode in a 3’ jumper class last season, one of my daughter’s friends told me how surprised she was to see in me jump that high.  I graciously said thank you, but inside I was wondering how far I had fallen from the days when a friend and professional trainer labeled me as the kamikaze kid (never have been sure if that was a complement or criticism) and the days where I rode jumpers, eventers and raced over fences. I was fearless than, and that is soo not true now.

I know there are lots of folks older than 50 who still ride competitively and do very, very well. Look at Karen O’Conner, Margie Goldstein, Mark Todd and there was a dressage rider at the last Olympics who was in his 60s (Japan’s Hiroshi Hoketsu). But each and every rider has a different story and history, and different pressures and comfort levels. And for me  personally–well, I am an amateur rider (I sure you probably guessed that already), I do this sport for fun and relaxation, and so this gives me more freedom to say “ah, screw it” and put a big For Sale sign on the horse and saddle.

Anyway, after three paragraphs I am going to cut to the chase and let know you know the real point to this narrative. The thing is after a year of introspection, I did not quit riding. In fact I am back at it and having a blast. Once you put your mental house in order, get fit and get a plan you are totally free, to borrow a phrase, “get r’ done”. Just go have fun and ride. I am going to share the inspirations, stories and situations I have gone through, in hopes it helps keep other age-challenged riders in the saddle competitively. Some of the folks I draw inspiration from are not horse people, but they all offer insight that keep me, and hopefully you too, motivated.

I also plan on adding stories about some of the characters who make showing so much fun, as well as a few weird and wacky events I get to attend. So hang on, keep a light heart and don’t worry about tarnishing your legacy.

About Dia: I have ridden competitively since I was in grade school. Given my upbringing (also my current location) in Manhattan, Kansas, I consider it very lucky that I learned to ride English.  At that stage I didn’t care what saddle I was in as long as I was on the back of a horse. I went my first event when I was in college, and have evented off and on (sometimes seriously) ever since. I have competed to the preliminary level on my game old mare Flint Hills Floozie and have returned to the sport in the last year or two. In between I have competed at Quarter Horse Shows and done area hunter jumper stuff. I have team roped and volunteered with our local Pony Club.

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