A Look at Baby Boomers and their Equine Fascination
By Allison Trimble
With the baby boomers starting to retire, a large portion of the non-pro performance horse competitors are between 55 and 65. Many of these people are new to the sport. Most had some horse experience as kids, possibly throughout their lives, but raised families and worked. They are just now in the position to have both the time and the financial ability to participate. I have a client who came to me last summer that fits this profile. Sheryl Tregellas is 60 years old, retired, and showed for the first time at the NWRCHA Show in Eugene, Oregon. She is a pleasure to train, a great help around the barn, and an inspiration to people who want to get involved. I thought it would be interesting to share her journey with you.
Why are you interested in riding horses at age 60?
In 1963, my nagging finally got my father to buy me a nice safe grade horse. I had so much fun for years riding with the other neighborhood kids. As a retired person I wanted to again fill much of my time riding horses with others of the same mind.
Why are you taking riding lessons?
The skill level in the sport has far surpassed what existed in the 4H horse community when I rode. Not one horse then, where I grew up, could do a lead change until about 1968, when a few parents purchased the first professionally trained horses. Now as an adult, I want to be a better trained rider than I was as a kid, and ride horses that are far better trained than my childhood horses were. My most desired goal was to ride a horse doing a change of lead.
What concerns do you have as a Baby Boomer rider?
Boomers are realistic. We know that we are more likely to be hurt in a fall than younger riders. I shopped around for a trainer who was a winning competitor, had winning clients, and had safe but well trained horses for me to learn on. To reduce the risk of injury, I additionally preferred to ride a quieter horse than I might have chosen as a teenager. It’s a bummer, but as a group, we Boomers realize we are less capable physically than when we were younger. We are weaker. We have poorer balance. We are less flexible so can have difficulty even getting a foot up to the stirrup on a taller horse. We want to enjoy riding, but we don’t want to get hurt.
What advantages do Baby Boomer riders have?
Boomers were the Jane Fonda exercise fanatics. Many of us have exercised heavily beginning in the 1980s. Many of us are pretty fit, and most are more fit than the prior WWII generation. Most Boomer women worked since college and are retiring from good careers with pensions of their own. So we now have the time to ride, and many have the money to pay for the lessons and the trained horses of our dreams. I suspect that like me, many Boomers do not suffer pre-competition nerves because we ride for the fun of it. Riding is more for today’s enjoyment, rather than working for accomplishments that would logically be many years down the road. The young riders are the ones looking at a long future.
What have you seen of other Boomer riders?
I was thrilled to see so many Boomer women competitors at my first cowhorse show this spring. The women were dressed to the 9s, competing on their dream horse, and being coached by their trainers. It was a role reversal of what I, and certainly many of them, had been doing for years with our own kids and their sports. In my first reining show this spring, it was funny to me that my daughter videotaped me and Playboy in our class, as I had done for years for her in her competitions.
Do you feel self-conscious or uncomfortable riding with teenagers?
As the oldest person at the barn, I am seldom aware that I am granny age. The barn is a wonderful place to spend afternoons. The young riders are fun and full of life and hope for the future. Everyone helps each other at my trainer’s barn. She has developed a great riding atmosphere of top quality young riders. At my first horse show, I did have a little bit of concern that maybe I was a silly old lady to compete at the same show as the young riders. But I was helped constantly by those kids: given advice, checked on, encouraged, and tested on my pattern. They made sure I was where I should be and ready at the right time. When I am riding at my trainer’s barn with my young friends I feel young again. And I am so fortunate to ride my trainer’s fabulous horse, certainly the horse of my dreams.
Published July 2011 Issue