Bet on It

(“. . . the price you pay . . .”)

Older riders “get” this. Younger ones not so much. In a riff on the old Death and Taxes bromide, a gambler when asked about an athlete’s battle with the inevitable passage of time advised, “Take Nature and give the points.”

When you are young, you have no reason to appreciate what it means to get old. You may define yourself by your successes, and the price you pay in labor and dedication and pain are just part of the game you play.

But it’s okay to admit to yourself “Been there, done that.” At some point the internal fires that push you to compete just don’t burn that hot anymore, and it’s appropriate and normal to redefine your goals.

When I was 30, it didn’t occur to me that at some point I would just hurt all the time. Eventually you get tired of it. Like almost every rider, I know what it’s like to hit the ground. I’d like to think I’m done with that, but whether I am or not, there’s no need to tempt fate. When you don’t bounce so well, injuries can be a lot more than an inconvenience. Ruth Klimke once revealed to a mutual friend that her husband, Reiner, was a bit afraid of the last stallion he rode internationally. And you might remember that Klimke was not just a dressage rider of renown but had also ridden on the German three day team and had completed in jumping at the international level. His “guts” could never be doubted.

It is said that “Old age and treachery will beat youth and exuberance.” Picture the wily veteran who can paint the corners of the plate and not just try to blow every pitch past the hitters. If you are of a certain age, think Greg Maddux.

But let’s face it— you learn, you understand more, you communicate better with your horse, but evidently your physical skills diminish. It doesn’t mean give up or stop riding, but your expectations are allowed to change. If you are a realist, you won’t even feel bad about it.