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The Senior Rider Survival Guide


We often hear of the challenges of senior horses, but very little is heard of the challenges that senior riders face. It is said that “age is just a number,” but when I begrudgingly turned 50 last year, I started to feel like 50 was more than just a number!

My name is Leslee and I’m a SmartPaker. I learned to ride Saddle Seat at a young age, showed Morgans growing up, and then showed Saddlebreds in college. As an adult, I dabbled in other disciplines like hunters and reining, and as a senior rider, I really enjoy dressage now.

Riding was always easy as a youngster; if I had an unplanned dismount, I dusted myself and hopped back on. Easy-peasy! Fast forward to today…and while I luckily haven’t hit the ground as of late (fingers crossed!), if I have a tough lesson or miss a training session, my senior physique certainly screams at me and leaves me hobbling in discomfort for a few days. This type of discomfort never happened as a youngster, and has me thinking, “If I fell off, would I bounce like I used to? Or would I crumple and break? And, should I be more safety conscious now that I am a golden oldie?”

The answer to that last question is yes, so I put together this senior survival guide to share my favorite protective gear with you!


Protect your noggin
Aging is hard enough on your gray matter – protect it! When I was younger back in the Dark Ages, I (like many riders) didn’t wear a helmet. But now I know that a helmet is a must and I wouldn’t dream of riding without one.

My go-to helmet is the Charles Owen AYR8, which is certified by SEI to ASTM F1163-15. This helmet has a low-profile design and twelve ventilation apertures to maximize air flow, keeping me nice and cool even though at mid-life I’m constantly hot. It also features a gently rounded brim that flatters the face and helps to hide all the pesky new lines that have taken up residence on my forehead. Finally, the super soft headband is embedded with high tech silver ions for antimicrobial protection which prevents helmet-funk.

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Be well-vested
Since we don’t bounce like we used to, a fabulous investment for the senior rider is a protective vest. I love the Point Two Soft Shell Air Vest. This vest is designed for the rider that wants the ultimate in protection, but also needs the elegance and discretion that show ring demands. Senior riders can look fabulous, fashionable, and have peace of mind when schooling, showing or trail riding in the Point Two Soft Air Vest!

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Get extra sticking power
Need a little more stick in your seat? A full seat breech can help senior riders be super sticky! My hands-down, all-time favorite full seat breech is the FITS All Season Original Full Seat Breeches-Pull On. Not only are these breeches the most comfortable breeches I have ever worn, but they are perfect for older riders. The Powernet ab panel and the Body Sculpt fabric are slimming and the EnergyRib fabric provides full coverage. If those features were not enough, the FITS All Season Microfibre fabric has both wicking and warming properties to keep you cool in the hot weather and insulate you in cold weather. And, the best part of this breech is the FITS patented PerforMAX™ full seat. The seat is perforated deerskin for total sticking power!

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Not a full seat breech rider? No worries! A little Sport Sit-Tite Spray can help keep the mid-life rider secure in the saddle. This spray provides a high degree of friction resistance, which helps one to feel secure but not stuck. Trying to sit a big trot or need to stabilize a shaky leg? Or just want a little more stick on a trail ride? The Sporty Sit-Tite Spray will give you a boost of confidence when in the saddle!

Sporty Sit-Tite Spray

 $17.95
(38 reviews)

Save your seat
Heading out for a nice hack or a long trail ride? If you’re planning on spending the day in the saddle and need a little extra support and comfort, the English Seat Saver is a fabulous way to reduce stress on an aging tuchus! It is made from 100% Australian Merino Wool and fits easily over an english saddle.

English Seat Saver

 $67.95
(29 reviews)

For Western golden oldies, the Cashel Western Tush Cush-Long will allow you to ride comfortably for hours! It helps protect the sciatic area, tailbone, and hips for a relaxing ride.

Combat gravity
Gravity loves mid-lifers! Add the bounce of a horse and well…you know what happens next.

To combat gravity rearing his ugly head, the Enell Sports Bra is the best defense! The Enell Sports Bra’s patented design eliminates bounce while providing superior support and comfort. Shoulder fatigue is reduced due the wide non-stretch straps, and the Naturexx® moisture management performance fabric wicks away moisture to keep you cool and comfortable during the most intense rides.

Enell® Sports Bra

 $64.00
(100 reviews)

Get hands on comfort
Hands feeling a little achey and stiff due to aging? Looking to give your hands some relief but also need a great grip on the reins? I highly recommend the Back on Track Therapeutic Riding Gloves! Back On Track products use a unique ceramic fabric that reflects your natural body warmth and creates a soothing infrared thermal heat. This aids in relieving inflammation and easing discomfort, making your riding experience comfortable!

And finally…
Whatever your style of riding and whatever your age, be safe and (most importantly) enjoy your ride!

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8 comments on “The Senior Rider Survival Guide
  1. Michelle Du Bois says:

    I love all the ideas you have presented. Thanks for the tips. However, my main concern has to do with my knee replacement and how much that will influence my seat and what can I do to protect it if I fall.

    • Mary Goldy says:

      I have double knee replacements. It’s made no difference in my riding ability. Just be careful dismounting. My horse has been trained to let me use the mounting block or fence to dismount as well.

    • Janice Hovey says:

      I have 2 full knee replacements, and there are no negative impacts due to them. There is a rehab period, but if you do the work you should obtain full range of motion. Then you work on rebuilding the leg strength. You do not need to “protect” the knee in any way. It’s titanium. If you think you have to “baby” it; that will affect you riding! I only jump 2’6″ because I have an old horse, but I ride 3 times a week, teach 2 times a week (little ones, so I’m always running), and help in the barm. Those knees were the best thing I ever did. By the way, I’m 64.

  2. Diane S. says:

    I’m a double hip replacement and ride more now than ever before!! I dubbed the friends I ride with as the ‘Titanium Club’, because so many of us have ‘parts’. I think we ride, because we now know how precious that time is. Are we safe???? You bettcha!! Our insides cost more than our outsides.
    I have had some falls, seems like you naturally protect that area…do a body check…then get back in the saddle. An 80+ year old, double knee replacement rider was the encourager to me to get back in the saddle! Remember ALWAYS ask your MD first!! Happy Trails!

  3. Rebecca daugherty says:

    Interesting article I appreciate ur thoughts. I am old school, do not wear a helmet or vest or knee or leg stuff wanna stick to the saddle?, wear shorts . I hav been riding 49 years now , every single ride is a what if and I kno the consequences, but still full speed I will go ❤️

  4. Darcy G says:

    I always wear my safety gear having begun riding as a middle aged lady. I just wish Smartpak made Senior Ultra for me, because it’s made all the difference for my steed!

  5. Julila Dominick says:

    this is very worthwhile information as I had to look at a couple of these items last year. I bought the tipperary vest for safety and love the gel fullseat breeches. The back on track gloves work well for my arthritis and ofcourse I have worn a helmet for many years. At 65 I want to still bounce back from a fall, and always need to keep an exercise program going.

  6. June H. says:

    I have had a hip replacement and at the age of 75 am still riding and jumping! I love it and so does my horse. Of course I would not think of riding without a helmet. Those other tips in the senior survival guide are great. I am going to try some of them.

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