How Much Longer Do You Think You Can Do This?

WMEdgarAdvice“How much longer do you think you can do this?”

This week I received a blog request. You see, the reader is my age, 60, and she’s frustrated at being asked that question repeatedly. The reader’s friend tells her that she and her husband “should get rid of over 30 equines and their farm and all the work, and buy a motor home and travel and ‘have some fun’ for a change!”

Her friend is asking her when she’s going to grow out of her horse phase. Isn’t that cute?

I guess I can understand the question. Some of my family retired to the Snowbird lifestyle. Most were farmers who dreamed of retirement. My parents resided in Space 924 in a Mesa, Arizona, trailer park and they loved the lifestyle back in the day. When I visited them, I couldn’t help but wonder, “How much longer do you think you can do this?”

It should be common knowledge; work is in the eye of the beholder. Sometimes visitors to my farm start by saying it looks like a lot of work. I used to kind of survey the place with them, trying to see what they were looking at. I get a bit literal, from time to time. In the end, our biggest passions are usually a lot of work, if you think to use that word. Anything can be work (or play) if you call it that. Some of us think mucking on a fine day with semi-well-intentioned long-ears help is about as much fun as anyone is due.

I am going to be truthful; there are things I have stopped doing. I don’t climb on horses I don’t know anymore. My herd depends on me. I’m proof that at a certain age, at least some of us grow some common sense, but it’s only because my life is so precious to me now. I’ve also worked with some of the most challenging horses I’ve known recently–horses whose complexity would have evaded me when I was younger. It’s a trade-off.

I notice retirement, or even vacations, work best when the place you travel to is better than your day-to-day life at home. For lots of us who have made our home-barn a haven, travel loses its appeal. Especially if our friends are grazers, instead of card players.

Dear Reader, in a tone reminiscent of your mother, “I’m worried about the friends you spend time with, Dear.”

Can I tell you about my new friends? Last fall, here in Colorado there was a horrible horse abuse case. Many concerned horse owners showed up at a town-hall meeting with authorities to talk about what could be done.

I planned on going early but got distracted and lost time mucking. When I looked at my watch, I bolted into the house, changed out of my pajamas, and slapped a cap on my head. I arrived just in time and once the session was open to questions, I stood in line at the microphone. It was a long line–we all had something to say.

From that vantage point I looked around the room and saw many women of a certain age. They wore jeans and frankly, everybody’s hair looked about like mine. We wore sturdy shoes and were women of passion. We talked with conviction about horse welfare, to people who were younger than us and held positions of power. It was a sunny day; when we were younger we might have gone riding instead of standing up and insisting that reporting horse abuse be taken more seriously. But then, women of a certain age have had more time with horses; we have more to be grateful for.

This week that abuse case is in court. Although there was international outrage over this case, although thousands of people voiced concern, there are a handful of us who have been to court most days. We are women of a certain age. We wiggle in our seats uncomfortably–through hours of testimony. Our backs get stiff, not from throwing hay and moving bags of grain, but by sitting still with no sunlight. Our backs get stiff from what we are hearing and seeing.

But we aren’t there because we’re old and have nothing better to do with our time. We work, our time is valuable, but we’ve also learned to prioritize time into freedom. We owe a debt to the horses in our lives; we will keep doing what we do.

At the end of the court day, we don’t linger, chatting over drinks. We rush home to decompress in our barns. We look at our old horses, our rescues, and our good working horses, and promise them–Never! As we pick up muck forks, our breathing slows and angry shoulders go slack. There’s some sort of universal balance struck between human emotional excrement and the actual muck created by horses.

Dear Reader, I thought I would write a witty call to arms for us gray mares. It didn’t turn out that way. You said you do hoof work, rehabilitating and rescuing horses. You are a woman of a certain age so I’m not telling you anything new. But I’ve seen way too many nasty photos this week in court and my humor has gone flat.

“How much longer do you think you can do this?”

I pray that we never give up thinking we can do this. Or any other thing that our conscience says needs doing. And eventually, when they pry that muck fork out of our cold, dead hands–we go to a place where our horses graze in knee-high grass and no one questions our intentions or abilities.

Anna Blake, Infinity Farm.

Anna Blake

0 thoughts on “How Much Longer Do You Think You Can Do This?”

  1. I’m 63 years old and just starting…. how long will I continue? No clue.. I’ll let you know after I’ve accomplished what I set out to learn….

  2. Here, here! I love Charles de Kunffy’s video about how young and how old to be riding. There is no age that is too old if you are capable. Many’s the tale of the aged fox hunter hoisted upon his hunter by either companions or block and tackle. 🙂

  3. My favorite quote: We don’t stop playing because we grow old. We grow old because we stop playing. When you have a passion for your work, it’s play

  4. OK, you got me with this one!! (You have with most of your others as well.) I am 71, 15 horses on the place 9 months of the year and 9 through the summer, and my daughter asks the same thing. I simply can’t imagine living anywhere else! I can’t imagine being old enough to need enough outside care to not be with horses.

    Thanks for putting into such eloquence what’s been going on with me. I must get over there for a lesson and a chat or two this summer!

    Cheers! and have a great day, Anna. Barb

    Barb Young

    Quality horse boarding and retirement

    on the Western Slope

    Equine and pet photography

    Significant stock collection

  5. I am 61 come next month and kept asking myself how long have I got before this lifelong passion has to be put aside. Then I realized that I am at present feeling almost the same as I did when I was younger save for a little difficulty getting that leg up as far when getting off. Thankfully my pair dont mind me sliding down instead of leaping off. I dont want to go traveling or play golf or anything else. I only want to hang out with my special equine friends that make me laugh, have fun, unwind and generally relax.Then I saw a picture online of an 84 year old lady competing in barrel racing. My spirits lifted so now I see no reason to worry about this anymore. I love your blogs and this one really went home. Thanks again. I also love that quote about playing and growing old soooo true.

  6. Thank you Anna, if you gave hit the nail on the head right on. So many have voiced these things to me in my family; they would voice that my husband should do more, me less. My horses have kept me active, sane, intelligent, organized, independent and unselfish for 62 years. I’m 66 and not stopping now

  7. Thank You Anna for writing this! There are people in my life that are asking me the same question! Not many people in my circle get it! They just can’t seem to understand what it is about me and “those horses”. It’s sure nice to read that I’m not alone! You have a great way of putting into words the thoughts and dreams of my heart! You are a gift!❤️

  8. This blog is spot on! At 67 – still working to pay for our 7 horses – I am reminded daily that “retirement” is on the horizon. The perfect retirement for me will be when I get to sit on one of my farm benches and look at the clean stalls I cleaned, the horses grazing on pasture I mowed and the chickens and turkeys walking by. The 20 and 30 year olds I work with just can’t understand it, and always say my vacations are not “real” vacations because I stay home when off. This horse “thing” just doesn’t go away for me either and I pray I’ll remain healthy enough to continue this for years to come. I also have modified some of my activities due to the age changes….but like others on the blog thank those 4 legged family members who have given me more than I could ever have asked for.

  9. I started riding at 65. How much longer? At this rate, for a long time yet! Now volunteer at the yard two days a week. Have never been happier, healthier, stronger. Just love those horses.

  10. I am 66 and my husband used to look at my little barn and dream of what he will do with it “when I don’t want to do this anymore”. Silly man. I don’t even comment, I just smile, and he knows it will always be a horse barn. No point in making plans for its next life. So now he is building his own building. I love what you write about mucking. It is my favorite time of day with my equine friends. I followed your lead this spring and put a shedding blade and a towel in my pocket so I can groom them when they come up to visit with me and they have shed out so much faster this year. More in time with the changing season. My little barn is my piece of heaven on earth. Your writing has made it even more wonderful. Thank you for giving me an opportunity to experience it ever more deeply.

  11. Thank you for reminding this young (bay) mare that horses are their own reward. My old black mare thanks you too.

  12. I just love your spirit and your perspective on life and horses! I share your articles with my barn sisters all the time!

    Doing something you are passionate about is not work and I hope I never stop being passionate!

  13. Anna, love your comments about aging. When horses are a part of who you are, and you are lucky enough physically to make it work, and you have learned some things about how to remain safe around horses, I say go for it! I am 73 and have ridden since 4th grade, with some lapses along the way. In retirement, I am able to indulge and study and have no agenda with training and partnership with my horse…..gratitude is a wonderful thing to frame your life with, no matter your age……

  14. Thank You…for putting into word, what so many of us feel/experience. I’ve been “retired” for 5 years…..and have no plans of leaving my muck boots behind. This is an amazing life…I love traveling from my back door down to the barn:)

  15. Dear Anna Blake, I love you. Or at least your blog. I too am a woman of a certain age. Your blog musing allow me to believe that we would be friends in real life. Your words often bring me to tears, or elicit a smile or a nod of recognition. I just wanted to know I appreciate you. Barb Rex 50 yr old horse crazy girl Canada Date: Fri, 29 May 2015 12:44:28 +0000 To:

  16. Thank you, Anna. Just had this conversation with my 70 something friend this week. I’m 69, and I’m pretty sure I will just drop in my muck boots some day. My only fear is that my horses will outlive me. We’ve got to have a plan for them.

  17. Right on – Anna! Made a visit to my former barn last week & cleaned the weeds off my horses grave & around “his” pear tree! There aren’t many horses there that know me anymore, but stopped & visited with the 3 that still are living the good life! Hadnt been up there in a while, but it was good to see a couple of my friends (and the equine ones). Will probably visit more often now. I was told there were grooming & riding opportunities and need to get some plant food for Chico’s tree (he LOVED pears). Have to admit most days I feel the same as always – even at 77! This blog has gotten to be more like socializing at the barn which is a great feeling.

  18. Perfectly said, Anna, and thank you for voicing so eloquently what most of us “of a certain age” were thinking!
    The ONLY thing that will make me stop is my own body when it finally betrays my heart and mind.

  19. Amen, Anna Blake! Being a woman of a certain age, 60, and having finally brought to fruition my childhood dream of having horses in my life, has been one of the most remarkable experiences imaginable. Hard work, passion, challenges, endless learning, and a kind of soothing peace and great companions are the reward. With that came the responsibility to give back and I am dedicated to putting an end to slaughtering our horses for human consumption. I will not rest until it is over. And when it is over, I will not rest until we’ve got programs in place to help them thousands of horses that find themselves in need. Thank you for your words.

  20. I am on the lower end of 70, have had horses at our own place for over 25 years when we had more than 4 at a boarding/training barn & two mares in foal. Have owned horses for over 65 years – can’t imagine life without them & being able to look out my windows & watch all of my large 4-legged critters. Is it work ? Yes. Is it play? Yes. Am I tired at the end of the day ? Yes But I do some of my best thinking mucking out stalls, feeding, grooming, riding or cleaning paddocks & it’s a “good tired” when we go to bed. Plan on doing this until they carry me out feet first probably w/manure fork or reins in my hands. Have told my husband that I will go “kicking & screaming” back to city life – Fortunately, he agrees wholeheartedly with me !!!

  21. Anna, while i am not in my 60s yet, I am 45 and disabled. But I am out at the barn every morning mucking my OTTBs stall, scrubbing his water buckets and measuring his grain and hay out for the evening feed. My husband thought that when my body started failing me, that I would walk away from my horse. But instead I have clung to him more. I am the youngest owner in the barn. The barn owner is in his 80s. The other trainers in their 60s and 70s. But we are there every day. Rain, snow, sleet or high heat and humidity taking care of the animals that we took into our lives. It’s just what “we” horsemen and horsewomen, do. And I will be around them til I am gone.

  22. Thank you for a meaningful blog post. I’m almost 70, was born on a farm where my dad farmed with draft horses. When I was 11 months old, he started putting my older brother and me on them daily as they were eating and drinking. Both of us were hooked and have had horses our whole adult lives through hard financial times and otherwise. I was in a car crash last winter breaking my legs, kneecap and foot. During my convalescence, I decided that I would probably have to let go of the horses in my life. When I was finally able to hobble out to the pasture on my crutches for the first time in 10 weeks, my herd leader was soooo comforting and gentle that I nearly cried. Since then he has been even more amazing than he was before which was already quite awesome. I will hang on to this lifestyle as long as I can breathe I hope. And I will just have to miss those travels to wherever knowing that what is right here every day feeds my soul.

  23. Hi Anna, your blogs are always a great read, thank you. When I was 13 I went for classical lessons with Molly Gibson or Mrs G as we called her, she was 92 years old and rode up to 4 horses a day! She rode in her slippers (she found boots too uncomfortable) with her stirrups softly wrapped up. I watched her ride passage,piaffe canter pirouettes and much more,she rode so quietly you never saw her move but the horses just danced for her. She told me to always ride with my mind and the horse would hear me. She was awe inspiring. I now ride out with mum a few days a week and she is 67.

  24. All of the above is the same for me too! NO golf, no motor home, no travel passport filling up, and no desire to go. I very much appreciate stumbling across these comments. Apparently I have many “sister of the heart” out their. 🙂

  25. Love your writings, you have the great ability to put into words how we feel, a talent I do not have. Glad I took the time a little while back to respond to your cowboy comment because that is how I became a FB friend, I really enjoy your blogs, keep up the good work. I am now off to my favorite place – my barn- nothing like the sound of my long ear telling me he is ready for his breakfast.

    • Thanks Kim, and I’m glad we chatted back and forth as well. We are all so much more alike than different…I think that is the biggest thing I learn, years later. And I’m out to my donkey too, another thing that’s universal! Thanks for the kind comment.

  26. Wow.. reading this blog and the comments has put tears in my eyes..We ARE out there.. all of us 60 plus women continuing in our quest to care for our equine friends.

    I was helping a 21 year old friend do an endurance ride last year. Most of the riders were 60+, amazingly fit, energetic, enthusiastic and down right amazing. It encouraged me to believe we can continue…they do need to work on recruiting some younger members I reminded them. 🙂

    Some people I find, plan their lives all the way to death. Selling their homes when it’s “time” to quit taking care of the yard, moving to Florida when it’s “time”. I watched my parents do that. When my mom quit golfing, her one true passion, because it was “time”, it was very sad. When my dad quit, he died soon after. How many old farmers can I count that died when they were “retired” into town away from their animals and only life they knew? many included my grandfather.

    I will plug along like you until life circumstances force me to change. My 21 year old boarder is in my will and is being groomed to take over this life. It’s the one thing I would recommend to think about that you didn’t mention. It’s important to have back ups when so many depend on us.
    Thank you for writing this.. I am posting and passing it along as so many don’t understand me.

  27. Amen! I have been telling people lately that ask me why I am not showing or competing anymore, that I am in a different place, I no longer have an agenda – a movement to perfect. I can honestly say that I am happier and at peace more often on my horse now than I ever was and I am sure he is too! When will I grow out of this phase….I hope never. I am 61 and don’t ever see a day that I will not have a horse in my life…I may not be riding but I will have horses. I will be that woman on her death bed that has the horse visit her before she crosses the bridge!
    I really enjoy your blog and cross post it often, hope that is okay!

    • I am always sad when people who train with positive methods don’t show, but for me, my show budget is spent on retired horses, so I can’t practice what I preach. Sometimes I think the skills that got me to upper level riding, are the skills I use most advocating for horses… so it goes. Life is a trail ride. Thanks for your comment.

  28. I am another one of those of ‘a certain age’ (65) but have been in this ‘horse phase’ since I was 5 yrs old. Just ask my sister who had to put up with my toy plastic horses and full equipted farms. My dream of owning my own horse didn’t become reality until last year at age 64 after I started taking riding lessons (part of my early retirement agenda) and my husband decided I ‘needed’ my own horse to practice on between lessons. I have been at the boarding barn every day since; my 19yr old gelding has sooo much to teach me LOL I will never outgrow this phase I’m in…I will just adjust my participation as age and health dictate – both his and mine ^_^ Thank you Anna for speaking so elegantly for us ‘of a certain age’ ^_*

  29. My good friend is 90 years old. Still riding occasionally, on good days. She gave up riding in a saddle a couple of years ago when she couldn’t swing her leg over the cantle. She’s my hero. 10 years ago she and a dozen other women built a large show barn together. Most of us were 50 and over, but some a bit younger. Shortly after the big barn was up and running, we encouraged her to move her last horses over there in the shadow of her suffering several falls on the ice. She would still have them in her yard if she could. We don’t give up until we have to. Yes, mucking in the evening sun has a calming effect on me. Serenity may be a good description. Who would choose to give that up? Horse passion isn’t a virus, it’s a way of life. We don’t get over it. In the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Riding a horse is not a gentle hobby, to be picked up and laid down like a game of solitaire. It is a grand passion. It seizes a person whole and once it has done so, he/she will have to accept that his life will be radically changed.”

    • One of my ALL TIME favorite quotes, we never quit. The barn sounds wonderful, and that’s how we do it. We stick together! Thanks Susie. (Your horses are beautiful, the photos lovely.)

  30. I love this, and it gets to a very basic truth, which is that for some of us, a life without horses in it is no life at all.

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