Street to Stable Column Two Point with Darby Bonomi, PhD - Too Old to Ride?

I am pleased to share my experience and expertise with our community in a regular feature column for

Recently one of my clients exclaimed, “maybe I’m just too old to be doing this.” This person is not old by any means; her comment emerged from her sense of guilt for enjoying the horses so much and wanting to continue to show ‘at her age.’ I wanted to exclaim—what, too old? Are you kidding me? (She’s at least a decade younger than I am!)

Riding—and showing, for those of us who love it—provides some of the most joyful, satisfying and therapeutic times of our lives.


But I find that this woman’s feeling is not uncommon among amateur riders I work with. It’s curious—amateurs—in whatever discipline or level—are the most passionate and devoted riders I know. They care deeply about their time at the barn, whether it’s in the saddle or on the ground. Their riding enlivens them and brings tremendous pleasure outside of their work and family lives.

And yet, so many of them feel so guilty.

What are amateurs guilty of?

Some riders talk about feeling bad about the resources (time, money, energy) devoted to the horses that ‘take away’ from family time. True, horses do take over, but most of the riders I know have supportive families who are grateful that their family members have something in their lives they enjoy so much.

Others, like my client above, experience the joy that we all felt as kids—and somehow believe that they should give that up, as if it’s silly or frivolous to pursue our sport with such gusto as adults. Do middle aged amateur marathoners, triathletes or tennis players feel this way too? I don’t believe so, or at least I don’t hear about it so much.

I think amateur riders are guilty of having too much fun. It’s just too pleasurable to be allowed. Riding makes you feel like your pony girl self—free, powerful, joyful. And, if you have a wonderful relationship with your horse, there is that love and gratitude for this beautiful animal who is generous and kind and gives back to you in the most amazing ways. If you’re a rider, you know what I’m talking about.

So, my advice? Ride. Go to the barn. Pursue your passion. Enjoy every moment and hold onto gratitude, not guilt. Not only will you feel full of yourself (yes, that is a good thing), but you’ll also be a better person when you’re not at the barn. Vitamin H* is essential for us amateurs.

*Thank you, Diane Wilcox

Special thanks to Wide Oxers Photography for the beautiful featured photo