Heels Down Magazine posted this article this past week on Facebook.
As someone that's trying to be "someone" in the horse world, this title made me click on it. There are loads of people that are "older" in all the horse sports and in fact, I would argue that the people that are here the longest, the most respected, and their horses tend to "like" them are the older people. Youth has many benefits, but one is not patience and the other isn't perseverance.
One of the things about being older is the obvious: life experiences.
It's simply, we have more experiences, but it depends on what you do with those. Many people are depressed about their lot in life, many haven't learned to keep on keeping on, many haven't really pushed themselves out of their comfort bubble. These are NOT the people you see around horses and especially not in a training or professional capacity that produce horses well or are able to sustain high level competition with happy horses and clients. I think especially if you are starting a journey to be a professional (like myself) at a later stage in your life you basically have to push aside the notion that your best days for this are behind you and to just say eff it and do the things. YoLo and all that.
Naturally the worry of being hurt, the cavalier attitudes, the desire to push and pull things into existence won't be there for an older professional seeking rider. You also don't bounce as well and by now are well aware of that. You have a family now probably (quite possibly a big reason you haven't pursued this path until now) and you realize how much they mean and/or depend on you. So you end up figuring out ways to manage that, question your life choices sometimes, and persevere anyhow.
IF you can make it past all those things, a big perk is that you now may (or may not) have some income (that you're about to set on fire and make your family doubt your sanity). You may or may not have access and relationships with people that DO have money and support you. You will/should have the confidence in yourself and your skills to represent yourself and program accurately. Additionally you should be able to say "no" in your daily life. You need to be able to self promote: look, act, talk, behave professionally. All these things make you so much better prepared to tackle this attempt at being professional and/or self employed.
Looking back , yes I wish I'd just gone and done the working student when I was in my 20s. I lacked the ability to use these words to my parents though and I lacked the willpower to follow this pathway when people shut me down with basic questions. These skills would not have made me even a good working student nor led me anywhere down the professional trainer pathway anyhow. The hardest thing about experience is that it takes time. You simply cannot get as much as experience in 3 months of a working student position versus riding over 15 years regularly and with self reflection. Now you might get more concentrated professional efforts in that working student time frame, but you won't be able to really use those on another horse or to teach people. You need the experience of applying it to many horses of many years. Your training plan will always be evolving (or should be). You have to be flexible, rigid, and humble all at the same time. Oh and a good business person.
No big deal.
While what I'm doing right now is a lot of highs and lows (sometimes in the same day), I believe in what I'm trying to do and on the days I doubt it, I look at the people that have chosen to help me, support me, and follow me and I know I'm doing something right. Learning to slog through the trenches to hopefully get to where I think we can be is a skill that I've learned over almost 40 years of disappointment and problem solving. It's not something to be depressed about but rather something to wear proudly as you would any scars and use that knowledge, grit, and determination.
Based on a super unscientific observation based on Facebook and bloggers, I feel like there are more people in their "nearly 40" or so age group that have done what they "should have" in their lives and kept on working horses as a hobby that are now moving away from these college based careers to follow their nutty crazy horse girl dreams. Honestly, ALL of them/us are focused, determined, and just killing it. All of us have gone from a beginner looking level to upper levels in a matter of years. It's just a matter of changing your focus and going for it.
It's just not something that youth allows for. Here's a bottle of Advil to all those older people trying to become horse (and/or dog) professionals!