I was in the 8th grade when my mom turned forty. A couple of years before, at the end of my 5thgrade year, we had moved out of the city to an island in Puget Sound. On a small two and a half acre hobby farm Mom transformed from urbanite to country denizen, planting a garden, learning to haul her daughter around to horse shows and riding lessons, tending a flock of chickens and all the other sundry things that rural life involves. The year she turned forty, Mom entered what I tend to think of as her "real" life -- now that my brother and I were less dependent, she had more time and energy to invest in the things she wanted to do.
It started out with a daily walk and a few friends who were also interested in getting in better shape. Before long she was race walking over 3 miles a day, entering 5K and then 10K events. By the time I headed off to college what had begun as a daily walk had turned into overnight mountain hikes in the Olympics. When my Mom was in her fifties she had better looking legs than most women a quarter of her age, and she had the stamina to match those muscles.
Since then she's slowed down some, but not much, not by most standards. She takes Zumba classes a couple of times a week and when she's not Zumba-ing she goes for walks or works out to videos.
Thanks to my mom I've grown up with a terrific example of the benefits not only of exercise, but of taking the time to do what you enjoy.
When I bought my midlife horses five years ago I think one of the last things I expected to ever be doing was to ride in a horse show again. My years of circling a ring were a long time ago. The last few years have been more about enjoying my horse, but what I've found is that enjoying my horse naturally leads me to wanting both my horse and I to grow in what we can do together.
We progressed from general trail riding to mounted orienteering, then last summer we started working at cow sorting and re-learning how to ride english - and we started jumping. Whenever I can I take my horse to clinics and events that I think will help both of us improve what we already know and find new things to try. With the encouragement of a couple of my friends, this past weekend I entered my first horse show in almost thirty years.
I didn't go with any pretense of thinking I'd win a bunch of ribbons. For one, it was a schooling show, which is a much more relaxed environment than a straight-up show. You can use training aids and you don't require formal show clothing. Because Bugs had never been in a horse show environment I thought it would be a great learning experience for him - and it was.
I was so damn proud of that horse. He's a big, energetic boy, very forward and all GO. I usually have to wear him out a little bit before he can become smooth and relaxed. Saturday was no exception, but we had a great judge and he was very generous with providing feedback and suggestions. We entered eight classes - and came home with eight ribbons. Even a first place ribbon, but I take no pride in winning the Novice Western Horse class with only three riders, one of them about seven years old on a Bashkir Curly horse named Peaches.
I do take pride in how far my horse and I have come together. He teaches me and I teach him, and together we are having great adventures. I'm way closer to fifty than I am to forty anymore, but thanks to my Mom I know that I'm really just in the early part of my adventure years. Mom knew it before I did -- there is no age limit on discovering something you love to do.
Many of the women I encounter on the trail and at clinics and other events are my age and older. Some have been riding their whole lives; some discovered riding after their kids grew up and are getting as much time in the saddle as they can. One woman who I met at a clinic is in her 70's, still active and still riding. I want to be that person -- the one where all the kids on the trail ride go home and tell their friends about: There was this lady on the ride that was like 90 years old.
When I pulled in to the horse show on Saturday morning, just me and my horse, I felt a little out of place. I didn't know anyone there. SG would be arriving later. My friend Debbie was nowhere in sight. I filled out my entry form, paid my fee, got my number and put the final grooming touches on my horse. While I was standing outside waiting for my first class to be called, who should drive up but Mom.
How apropos that the first person to show up and offer support at my first show since the late 1980's was the woman who taught me that life begins in your forties.
Thanks, Mom. I love you so much.