These days, more and more people in their 50s and 60s are taking up horse riding. For some riders, it’s the very first time they’ve got in the saddle. For others, it’s the first time they’ve ridden since childhood.

Whether you always dreamed of riding a horse but never had the chance to try, or you were once into riding but life got in the way, the good news is that it’s not too late to get started.

Here’s everything you need to know about horse riding in your 50s, 60s, and beyond.

Have I left it too late to get into horse riding?

If you’re thinking about getting into horse riding but are worried you’ve left it too late, there’s good news. As long as you’re in reasonably good health, have enough spare time to ride regularly and can afford the necessary expenses, there’s no reason why you can’t enjoy horse riding later in life. The Queen was photographed riding a horse last year aged 94, so this is a pastime you can potentially enjoy for the next few decades!

Horse riding can also provide powerful benefits. The importance of building strength and balance becomes increasingly important as we get older, and horse riding is a good way to improve your balance and coordination. When you’re riding a horse, you have to remain upright, move in unison with your horse, and constantly move your arms and hands – all of which help you develop better balance and coordination.

Horse riders also need to have good core strength. When you’re riding, you need to continually engage your core to remain stable, so as long as your posture is correct you can improve your core strength without even realising you’re doing so. Riding also works your quads, hamstrings, and glutes, so this is a hobby that can improve your muscle tone and flexibility too.

It’s important, however, to remember that horse riding is a sport, and the fitter you are, the easier riding will be on your body (and, of course, the horse!)

If you need further convincing that you’re never too old to ride a horse, then check out the video below. Ninety-three-year-old Margaret still loves horse riding and feels strongly that age doesn’t matter. She isn’t alone either – this 99-year-old cowboy still takes part in local horse shows.

Health, safety, and injuries

No matter how old you are when you start riding, most people will experience some discomfort or muscle pain. There are some muscles inside your upper thigh that might hurt a lot after the first few times you ride, simply because they’re not used in the same way for other exercises. It’s also quite common to experience knee pain.

Some riders take paracetamol or ibuprofen before or after they ride to ease the pain of muscles. We may not think of horse riding in the same way we view other sports like running or weight-lifting, but riding is a real sport all the same, and taking care of your body is important – whether that’s managing your weight, improving your flexibility, or doing aerobic training.

Some health problems will affect the way you ride and how easy you find it. So if you suffer from arthritis, back problems, joint replacements, or other chronic health issues, it’s a good idea to discuss your riding goals with your doctor before you book yourself in for any lessons.

Falling off your horse is usually the biggest concern for riders, so it’s really important to take the necessary safety precautions. Safety equipment like helmets, stirrups, and chest protectors won’t stop you from falling off, but they’ll help protect you if you do.

The most vital piece of equipment you’ll need to purchase if you’re serious about getting into riding is an approved riding helmet. Some riding schools have helmets you can borrow if you’re just having a lesson to see if riding is for you, but in general, it’s always better to have your own, brand-new helmet that’s been professionally fitted. To find out more about the best types of riding helmets, you might want to read this article by Horse & Hound.

The most important thing you can do to protect against a fall, however, is to ride the right horse, stay calm and alert, and learn how to stop and dismount in an emergency.

Learning to ride a horse

So, how do you actually start learning to ride a horse? Just like any other skill, you’ll need to take lessons – but unlike some sports, this isn’t something you can do by yourself. You’ll need to go to a riding school and work with a riding instructor, and whether you choose to have private lessons or attend group classes is up to you (and your budget).

To find a riding school near you or a centre that provides lessons, head over to the British Horse Society. Once you’ve found some riding centres near you, you may want to visit a few so you can get a feel for the environment, meet the horses, and speak to the instructors. Finding the right school is important, as there are lots of different lessons, courses, and instructors out there. Riding requires time, money, and effort, so it’s key that you actually like your instructor and enjoy your lessons.

If you’re new to riding, then riding centres and schools will usually recommend that you start off with some one-to-one lessons, with the option to progress into group lessons once you feel more confident. Do bear in mind that when you arrange a lesson, you’ll need to state your height, weight, and any riding experience you have; as this helps the school find a suitable horse and plan appropriate lessons.

When starting out horse riding, it’s normal to be excited about improving and to want to progress as fast as possible. After all, when we imagine ourselves horse riding we probably picture ourselves cantering gracefully around fields rather than practising basic balancing skills! But learning to ride takes time, and it’s important not to rush. When you’re just starting out, it’s crucial to ride at a level where you feel safe and confident.

We’re all different, and some people naturally take to riding much quicker than others. How long it takes you to ride proficiently will depend on your level of fitness and coordination – as well as how much time you’re willing to spend on riding. Generally speaking, the average adult will need around 10 private lessons before they’re able to walk, halt, trot, canter, and steer.

Tips for new riders

So, if you’re sure you’d like to start horse riding, what else do you need to know before you head to a riding centre and saddle up?

1. Ride the right horse

Picking the right horse can make or break your riding experience, and it’s key to find a horse that will enjoy being ridden in the way you want to ride. Building a good relationship with the horse you ride is vital, and if you’re a beginner, you might want to pick an older, more experienced horse who’s comfortable being ridden by new people.

And of course, if you’re thinking of buying a horse, this becomes even more important. Young horses usually need to be ridden every day, and often need training. They also are going through their own learning experiences, and it’s natural for them to buck and rear. If you’re thinking about buying a horse, always remember that it’s a huge responsibility and commitment – and it’s important to do plenty of research and speak to experts before making any decisions.

To find out more about choosing the right horse, have a read of this article by Blue Cross.

2. Work on your overall fitness

Horse riding is a form of fitness, and it should be taken just as seriously as other forms of exercise. You do need a basic level of fitness to ride, so if you don’t feel physically fit, it’s a good idea to take some time to work on your overall fitness before beginning classes.

Try to do some forms of exercise that get your heart rate up at least a few times each week, even if it’s just brisk walking. Taking steps to improve your strength and balance is also really beneficial.

Before you start riding, it’s also important to be honest about your fitness and any possible physical limitations you might have. If you’re worried about anything, be sure to communicate this with your riding instructor.

3. Invest in the right gear

There’s no getting around it: riding isn’t a cheap sport. While most people won’t be in the position to buy their own horse, buying the right gear also isn’t cheap, and neither are lessons.

However, it’s essential to get the right gear if you know you’ll be carrying on with riding. A helmet that fits well and meets safety standards is the most important piece of gear you’ll need, but you’ll also need to invest in a decent pair of riding boots, comfy riding clothes, and possibly riding gloves too.

You may also want to think about wearing a body protector until you feel more comfortable riding. These are designed to absorb the impact from a fall and can make you feel more confident, which can in turn improve your riding. To find out more about choosing the right safety gear, check out this article by Horse & Hound.

4. Listen to your body

While it’s normal to feel aches and pains when starting horse riding, take care to listen to your body. If you feel any recurring pains or strains, it’s important to tell your instructor, even if that means slowing down your lessons.

No matter how keen you are to progress, it’s not worth pushing your body too far, and it’s important to give yourself time to recover.

5. Embrace the social aspect

Even if you want to enjoy horse riding by yourself, and see it as an opportunity to enjoy some quiet solitude, it’s helpful to try to embrace the social aspect of riding as much as possible too.

You might like riding alone, but riding schools and barns are places where lasting friendships can be made. There are more people riding horses later in life these days than ever before, and meeting other riders is a great way to make new friends, as well as learn more about riding and pick up helpful tips and tricks.

6. Take your time

The beauty of learning to ride later in life is that it probably isn’t a spur of the moment decision or something you’ve been pushed into. Chances are, it’ll be something you’re keen to get stuck into and turn into a hobby. But however keen you are, it’s important to take the time to learn all you need to know about riding in the right way.

Planning and paying for regular lessons requires time, money, and commitment – though with that said, there’s also no rush. So take your time, and above all, enjoy it!

Final thoughts...

There are many benefits to horse riding – and learning to ride as an older adult actually makes a lot of sense. It’s a great way to keep busy, meet new people, and stay active. Plus, one of the bonuses of learning in your 50s and 60s is that you might have more time (and money) to dedicate to learning properly.

There are plenty of people in their 50s, 60s (and beyond) out there who are only just starting out, so if you’re keen to start riding, don’t let your age put you off. It’s never too late to start horse riding, and you might find that you develop a lasting, lifelong passion – as well as a beautiful bond with your horse.