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Raise your hand along with me all you horse-loving Baby Boomers who have had the thought, ever fleeting as it may have been, how much longer will I be able to swing my stiff leg over the saddle and enjoy a day of trail riding? I see you out there, and I share your pain!
As we aging horse folks know, it is becoming ever difficult to perform some of the tasks we have done with our horses for many years.
We have aching joints and stiff fingers; our gripping strength is not as strong as it once was.
Our hips, knees, backs, and shoulders hurt.
We are slower to tack up because our fingers hurt.
Grooming our horse is no longer enjoyable because of carpal tunnel or arthritis.
Mounting from the ground is impossible because we have had back surgeries.
Riding long hours is excruciatingly painful because we have no cartilage in our knee.
Saddles are too heavy or bulky to sling onto our horse’s back when our shoulders have limited range of motion from arthritis or rotator cuff damage.
Face it, we are a walking toothache!
Do we have to give up our beloved horses and the joy of saddling up early in the morning and riding all day? Absolutely not! As with other marketing industries catering to the needs of our aging generation, the makers of equine aids are joining in.
Oster markets ergonomic grooming tools that are easier to grip and maneuver. While they cost a little more than basic grooming implements, they are well worth the investment as they make the job easier for those suffering from arthritis, neuropathy, or stiffness in their fingers and hands.
You may need to change out saddles, switching to one that is lighter and features components that reduce strain on your back, hips, knees, and ankles.
The saddle needs to fit you. As much as you would love to keep your 15” barrel saddle, it may be time to move into a 16” seat. The cantle should be higher than the pommel. This will center your shoulders, hips, and ankles and keep you balanced in the saddle.
Ergonomic stirrups, or EZ Stirrups, are a dream for those with knee issues. The wider, padded stirrup swivels to accommodate movement of your leg to a more comfortable position while keeping your foot centered to not only alleviate pain in your knees, but also your back.
There are several brands of ergonomic stirrups available. With the use of any stirrup, make sure your stirrup leathers aren’t too long, as this will place greater strain on your knees and back.
One-piece rope reins are easier to grip than flat, two piece leather or braided reins for those suffering with hand pain or gripping issues. Riding gloves may also assist with ease of gripping and keeping your reins in hand.
Mounting blocks can be your new best friend and alleviate great consternation in trying to get yourself in the saddle. There is no shame in using a mounting block, and once you get used to it you will ask yourself why you didn’t get one earlier.
While all of these gidgets and gadgets will reduce our pain when taking care of and enjoying our horses, the most important step is what we can do for ourselves: Stay fit! Trail riding can be very exerting and taxing on an aging body. Keeping your fitness level up will allow you to enjoy your horse and the trails for many years to come.
By: Darlene M. Cox