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At what age should you stop riding a horse?

There is no definitive age at which someone must stop riding horses. Many factors go into determining when it’s time to retire from riding, including physical ability, reaction time, confidence, and personal preference. With proper precautions, people can continue riding well into old age if they remain fit and flexible enough. This article explores the considerations around when to stop riding horses and provides advice on how to continue riding safely into mature adulthood.

Physical Ability

Riding requires physical strength, balance, coordination, and flexibility to mount, control the horse, and perform various riding activities. As people age, arthritis, muscle loss, and other conditions can impact the physical abilities needed for riding. While age affects everyone differently, here are some general guidelines on physical changes to be aware of:

Balance and Coordination

Balance starts declining around age 40. Slower reflexes and worsening vision can also impair coordination. This makes it harder to mount the horse, stay centered while riding, quickly regain balance if unseated, and control the horse. Riders may need to use mounting blocks, adjust stirrups higher, adopt smaller horses, and stick to low-impact riding like walking to compensate.


Flexibility decreases with age, making it harder to swing your leg over to mount, easily get into proper riding position, or absorb the horse’s movements. Stretching routines before/after riding can maintain flexibility. Other options include using taller horses or mounts with training aids (like linked reins) to assist mounting.

Muscle Tone and Strength

Muscles weaken over time, particularly in the core and legs which are essential for riding. This can make it difficult to maintain proper riding posture, steer the horse, or withstand trotting/cantering. Building muscle through exercise and adopting gaited horses with smoother gaits can help compensate.

Weight Gain

Many people gain weight as they age, even if muscle mass decreases. The added pounds put more strain on joints and the back, while making mounting and balance more challenging. Maintaining a healthy weight through diet and exercise improves riding comfort and safety.

Bone Density

Osteoporosis and other bone density losses occur with age, increasing fracture risk from falls. Protective gear like helmets and vests provide padding from impact. Riders can also stick to quiet, steady horses and avoid fast gaits or jumps to reduce chances of falls.

Reaction Time

Quick reactions are essential for controlling an unpredictable horse. But starting around age 25, reaction times gradually decline. With aging, it may take longer to respond to a horse spooking, bolting, stumbling, etc. Riding alert but steady horses in controlled environments can help mitigate risks. But fast reflexes still serve riders well in case of emergencies.


Even experienced riders can lose confidence in their skills as they age or go through health changes. Some may avoid riding due to fear of injury from falls. It’s important not to push beyond one’s comfort zone. But if skills permit, building confidence gradually can allow continued riding enjoyment. Small goals like walking a quiet horse or taking a few private lessons can help overcome anxiety.


While many equestrians ride well into old age, others simply lose interest in the activity over time as their lifestyle and priorities change. Listening to your body and being honest about your enthusiasm for riding helps determine when to transition out. There’s no shame in moving on when you no longer get fulfillment from the sport.


Previous injuries, especially from riding falls, can make continuing to ride difficult, unsafe or unenjoyable. Issues like chronic back pain, bad knees, hip replacements, etc. may rule out riding. Riders need to weigh risks of re-injury against their riding goals. Non-riding horse activities like groundwork, grooming or volunteering at a therapeutic riding center can provide alternative ways to be involved.

Medical Conditions

Various age-related medical conditions may indicate stopping riding. For example, significant loss of vision, hearing, or cognition due to dementia create safety issues. Severe arthritis, osteoporosis, loss of limb function, or paralysis can also physically prevent riding. However, conditions don’t necessarily mean automatic retirement if they can be managed safely. For instance, hearing aids or restricted riding environments can compensate for some hearing loss.


The expenses of horse ownership and riding add up. As people enter retirement, fixed incomes may not allow indulging an expensive hobby. Financial constraints shouldn’t jeopardize basic needs. But downsizing to leasing, lessons, or group riding can provide more affordable options to continue involvement on a budget.

Lifestyle Changes

Evolving family or work obligations may reduce time for riding. Becoming a grandparent or having greater caregiving duties are common reasons adults decrease participation. Relocating to a setting without horse access or taking on more travel also hinders regular riding. Flexible boarding, transportation assistance from family, or scheduling adjustments can sometimes accommodate lifestyle shifts to allow continuity.

Tips for Continuing to Ride Safely

For those still able and eager to ride into mature adulthood, several precautions allow maximizing safety and enjoyment:

Annual Physicals

Yearly check-ups help identify emerging issues like joint degeneration or cardiac problems that could impact riding fitness and safety. Doctors can recommend restrictions, therapy, assistive equipment, or exercises to support continued involvement.

Protective Gear

Helmets, padded vests, gloves, and proper footwear reduce injury risk from falls at any age. Gear should fit comfortably and not restrict movement. Regular replacement ensures effective protection.

Riding Lessons

Ongoing instruction sharpens skills, engages new riding muscles, and boosts confidence managing different horses. Instructors can observe physical changes and make technique adjustments for safer, more effective riding.

Restrict Intensity

Avoid exhausting, high-speed activities that require bursting strength like jumping courses or galloping. Stick to controlled light riding at slower paces to reduce chances of strain or imbalance related-mishaps.

Focus on Groundwork

When mounted riding isn’t feasible, groundwork like lungeing and liberty work can still interact with horses while building different skills. This provides an alternative way to be involved as physical abilities change.

Prioritize Fun Over Goals

Pressuring yourself to show, compete, or take on intense training may lead to frustration or risk if your body can’t meet demands. Instead, focus on enjoyment and self-improvement rather than results. This maintains motivation while avoiding overexertion.

Adapt Equipment

Specialized saddles, whips, reins, and other gear can assist with limitations. For instance, mounting blocks ease climbing up, while balanced seats and knee rolls provide stability. Consult trainers to identify helpful aids.

When to Stop Completely

While riders can make adjustments to stay involved longer, certain circumstances do warrant fully retiring from riding:

– Medical provider advises stopping due to high injury risks
– No longer have physical strength/mobility to safely control horse
– Frequent falls or inability to use proper riding form
– Cannot afford costs or unable to access riding opportunities

Listening to your body and support team will indicate when it’s time to retire fully. This allows focusing energy on other fulfilling life activities.

Staying Involved After Retiring from Riding

For those ready to retire but wanting to maintain the horse connection, many non-riding options allow staying active in the equestrian community:

Groundwork and Grooming

Doing ground handling, lungeing, or round pen work provides close interaction without mounting. Grooming and tacking up satisfy hands-on horse time.

Administrative Roles

Offer office skills serving on boards or committees for barns, shows, clubs, etc. This contributes behind-the-scenes.


Share a lifetime of riding wisdom by hosting clinics, judging events, or mentoring. Use experience to develop the next generation.

Cheering on Others

Stay involved as a spectator, fan, or event volunteer. Attend competitions, clinics, races, etc. to support community.

Transporting Horses

Help trailer others’ horses to events if you can no longer compete yourself. Enjoy road trips supporting riders.

Equine Therapy

Work at a center facilitating horse therapy sessions if unable to ride yourself. Lead from the ground while helping others.

Writing or Photography

Capture the sport through words, photos, blogging, or books. Share angles gained from your history.


While aging inevitably impacts riding ability, people can often safely enjoy equestrian pursuits well into later life. Listening to your body, using appropriate precautions, and adjusting involvement based on changing capacity allow maximizing longevity in the sport. And for those needing to retire fully, opportunities still exist to meaningfully engage with the horse community off the saddle. With some guidance and creativity, passion for horses can continue regardless of age or physical limitations. The key is staying connected in a way that remains rewarding.