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COLUMN: Horse trail riding a great activity often overlooked by seniors (VIDEO)

Clifford Crandall Jr.
Sentinel columnist
Posted 9/25/22

Howdy, today’s suggestion is horse trail riding. Check out the VIDEO in the media gallery.

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COLUMN: Horse trail riding a great activity often overlooked by seniors (VIDEO)


Howdy, today’s suggestion is horse trail riding.

I am not talking about open range riding which takes you through uncharted woods and galloping in the open fields. You should have a few years of horse experience and skill to be able to appreciate the activity and challenges associated with open range riding.

Rather I am suggesting that you, with no experience or familiarity with horses, try trail riding. No, you will not fall off the horse.

This activity is overlooked by many seniors. If you have a lower back problem you may want to pass on this because of the stride of the horse over the time of an hour or longer ride. Otherwise, it’s great.

Most riding stables are very relaxed, and the horses are basically retired like you and follow the trail and the guide in a nonchalant walk. Every stable I have ever been to has steps for you to use to get up on the horse, and the steps are also there for you to get off at the end of the ride.

It’s at the end of the ride when you may need them the most, as your legs have been slightly bowed out for a while and getting them to move the way you want will take a minute. This activity can be done year-round, and it brings quiet and calm to you within a few minutes.

In the summer and spring, the smell of greenery and growth all around you is extremely refreshing. In the fall the changing of the leaves and the general slowing down of nature itself helps you slow down.

There are times that the trail guides may get a little carried away talking too much, attempting to help you understand what you’re seeing or riding past. Being placed in the middle of the trail group normally keeps you out of range of participating in the discussion. Alternately, if you want to learn more about the surrounding countryside or chat along the route, you may want to be placed near the front or back trail guide.

Once you’re in the saddle have the stirrups set so that your legs have a slight bend at the knee. If you push down with your feet and lock your legs, you will be able to lift your butt off the saddle.

Also, there’s more than one way to hold the reins, but they are all straight forward and not difficult. Each stable has its preference based on how the horses have been trained. Envision yourself sitting on the back of a beautiful horse and literally surveying everything around you with a feeling of being in charge without having to do anything.

The saddle will be comfortable and if you took the time before the group sets off to have your stirrup straps set for you, then your legs will stay comfortable up or down hills. The horses like to be softly petted or stroked, the hard or firm whacking pets you will see done by some riders is not actually appreciated by the horse but unfortunately, they do not speak and cannot tell you that.

I wear gloves when I ride in the fall because the horses are getting their winter coat and your hands end up with a film or wax-like feel. Not a big deal, any time of the year you’re going to wash your hands afterward anyway.

Not all stables have a place for you to wash your hands afterwards, so my wife and I bring a bottle of water and a towel and wash our hands at the car before we drive home. You should wear comfortable clothes, sneakers or cowboy boots, very little if any jewelry, bug spray, sunglasses and sunscreen on a very sunny day, and bring a few carrots for your horse at the end of the ride. For you first-timers, an hour to an hour and a half will do just fine. More than that and your butt will be sore and walking afterwards will be a little uncomfortable.

Keep in Mind – “Do not seek to follow in the footsteps of the wise; seek what they sought.” (Basho)

Clifford Crandall Jr., 75, is founder and grandmaster of the American Martial Arts Institute, 8382 Seneca Turnpike in New Hartford. He has produced a monthly column and video series, “Still Alive and Kicking,” promoting life-enhancing activities for seniors.


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