How can you tell your horse is going through menopause? Here are some of the symptoms: His rider is usually a woman somewhere in her forties or older. Well, I guess there is just that one symptom really.
Still, when horses go through menopause, it’s a frightening experience. As hormone levels start bouncing up and down, symptoms can be overwhelming. Although the horse doesn’t experience the same night sweats, hot flashes, urinary issues, joint pain, skin dryness, and bone loss as his rider might, he does share the same emotional symptoms.
Common emotional symptoms of (peri)menopause are depression, anxiety, mood swings, reduced self-esteem, rage, irritability, crying easily and feeling overwhelmed. I confess, there have been times in my life that this would be considered a normal day at the barn. Keep riding.
And while I am getting the bad news out-of-the-way: Perimenopause symptoms typically continue throughout a woman’s monthly cycle and do not disappear once she gets her period. They are also much more erratic, unpredictable and intense. So much so that many women feel they are losing control or as if they are going crazy. (from Perimenopause and the Emotional Rollercoaster .byMeaning menopause is like PMS but it doesn’t go away for a few years. Keep riding.
Is Equine Menopause real? Yes. Does your horse suffer from these symptoms? Yes, he catches them from you.
I will leave the medical part to people who know more. The part that concerns me is this: At this point in our riding lives–because of hormonal changes–some of us lose confidence. It’s tied into emotions, fueled by hormonal changes that are real, not hypochondria. We don’t need to punish ourselves, any more than a migraine sufferer punishes themselves for getting a migraine. I remind you–lots of people had a fear of horses their whole lives. You did not. Keep riding.
The part that really drives me crazy, or should I say, menopausal, is that our culture tells us that feelings of anxiety–like vulnerability, fear, or even being timid are signs of weakness–which makes it the fault of the victim. Let’s be clear: It isn’t our fault and we are not victims.
Some of us stop riding–we break our own hearts with a quiet dismount. Some of us get a young, hot horse and act like balding middle-aged men in Corvettes. We each have our own path.
We may be old gray mares to some, but years have given us wisdom and that’s a good trade, especially where horses are concerned.
For some of us of a certain age, our taste in partners has changed. At one point in our lives we might have loved a whiskey-drinking, bank-robbing bad boy on a motorcycle and then at another point in life, the charms of a computer programmer cannot be over-stated. Don’t be embarrassed, brag about it!
It’s true with horses too. Maybe now is the time for a mid-life gelding who doesn’t want to jump anymore. No shame, keep riding.
How to deal with the emotional concerns that are part of menopause? Health professionals recommend exercise and eating healthy. That’s what they recommend for most everything. Along with seeking emotional support from friends and family–I think horses fall into that category.
And also they encourage having a creative outlet or hobby that fosters a sense of achievement. This is the part that is tricky in the barn. Horses are a fantastic creative outlet–way more rewarding to most of us than crochet will ever be, but achievement is a subjective thing.
Maybe it’s time to be as kind to yourself, as you are to your horse–who I remind you, goes through menopause with you. If you are not young enough to ride stupid anymore, that’s good news. Ride smarter, not stronger. Work on relationship–it has always been women’s best skill. Use your age-given wisdom to negotiate a peaceful path with subtle cues. Leave the pulling and jerking to hormone-driven youth. Buy yourself a purple saddle pad and post this Old Horsewoman poem on the barn door. But know the truth–in some ways, you are capable of riding better now than ever.
Wisdom comes with a better understanding of patience, the most important skill a rider can have. Young skin, white breeches and all the elite training in the world will never take the place of patience to a horse. A post-menopausal old gray mare in the saddle is a gift to a horse. And what do you have to lose at this age? The barn door is flung open to ride your own ride.
And a last bit of advice from a trainer: For crying out loud, stop apologizing for not wanting to get bucked off. I hear this all the time from clients, as if the best riders pray for unplanned air-time. Not wanting to get bucked off might be the most rational thing you have said since you bought your first horse. Brag about it–what’s the point of surviving everything before menopause, if we are going to get stupid now? Wear a helmet, but keep riding.
Anna Blake, Infinity Farm.
(with no apology to my vast male audience, all 11 of you, for talk of ‘lady’ things. Pretending you’ve cleared menopause would make your horses happy, too.)