“Are you still riding?”
The question was so unexpected that I wondered if I’d heard it correctly. The look on my former boss’s face confirmed that I wasn’t losing my marbles – she really did wonder if I’d hung up my boots.
Indignantly, I rattled off the things I’d been doing, from backing a young pony to jump training. Afterwards, I realised she didn’t mean it as an insult - we hadn’t met since she resigned as editor from a magazine I write for. And OK, most of my contemporaries are concentrating on their grandchildren and ponies rather than on their own riding.
I had a big birthday this year and a horse dealer friend told me I’d officially reached Game Old Bird status. I’ve decided to take it as a compliment.
Without thinking about it, I’ve adapted my riding regime from that I followed as a 20-something, when I was jumping what now look like huge fences and would happily get on anything. Now, I get my kicks from improving horses’ flatwork and jumping smaller courses than the ones I tackled in my twenties.
By the way, the horse in the picture below was called Mad Max. He once took me over a five foot three kissing gate because he preferred not to wait and go through it. I loved him, but thank heavens I had him when I was young enough and brave enough to enjoy him.
I'm not as supple or as quick to react as I was 20 years ago, but in some ways I’m a better rider. I’ve built up a library of exercises and techniques and I’ve become more patient and tolerant. I’ve written more than 30 books on horses – I always say I was a child author when I wrote my first – but I know that whilst hopefully, they help people, every horse is different. Training principles are important, but it’s the way you apply them that counts.
So far, no one’s asked me when I’m going to give up writing. I reckon I’ve got another 20 books left in me, so as long as the ideas keep coming, I’ll keep hitting the keyboard.
When I’m not riding, of course!