Equestrian Longevity (Book Excerpt)

If you ask any equestrian who has been fortunate enough to grow up and grow old in the company of horses, she'll tell you what you may already know: Horses can enrich a woman's existence at every stage of her life.

Having shared my entire life with horses, I have no doubt they've made me a better, stronger person than I might have been otherwise. When I was a girl, horses gave me a reason to dream and a passion to pursue. Along with my parents, they were my earliest teachers, and from them I learned important lessons about love and loyalty, respect and responsibility. Horses enticed me to spend time outside and instilled in me a deep appreciation for the beauty and wonder of nature.

Growing up with horses, I learned that excuses never substitute for earnest effort and hard work and that practice and repetition of any skill lead to competence and confidence. Although I was bolstered by my successes and humbled by my failures, I came to realize that both are temporary and tomorrow is another day.

During my teenage years, horses gave me a direction in life. They helped me realize that having a purpose was more important than being popular and that true beauty was more about attitude than appearance. Having learned to hold my ground with thousand-pound horses, I never had any problems handling 150-pound adolescent boys, no matter how irresistible they fancied themselves.

Riding for Life


Syndicated columnist and physician Rallie McAllister offers women riders the tools they need to get maximum enjoyment through healthy lifestyle choices.

 An equestrian herself, McAllister includes real-life examples of women who have overcome challenges, including physical and financial, to pursue their riding dreams. McAllister also includes the "Riding for Life Diet" and "Riding for Life Fitness Program" to help start women riders on their way to a happier and healthier way of life--both in and out of the saddle.

Purchase a copy of Riding for Life at ExclusivelyEquine.com.

Growing up on a farm prepared me for the realities of childbirth and the responsibilities of motherhood. After caring for a couple dozen horses and managing a 30-stall barn, taking care of a few kids and a three-bedroom house didn't seem so daunting.

Over the past decade I've spent far more time and energy raising children than riding horses, but I wouldn't change a minute of it. Now that my boys are growing up and becoming more independent, I find I've come full circle. With more time on my hands, horses give me a reason to dream and a passion to pursue. They entice me to spend time outside, where I can appreciate the beauty and wonder of nature. Riding keeps me physically strong and mentally alert. It gives me an opportunity to engage in lifelong learning and master a skill. As I grow older, I suspect that my relationship with horses will take on a deeper meaning with each passing year. Horses are the keepers of my memories, and they hold the history of my life.

No matter what your age or stage of life, it is never too early or too late to seek out the company of horses. I hope you will never let anyone--including yourself--tell you that you are too old to enjoy a relationship with a horse or that you've missed your chance to become a horsewoman. Even if you're returning to horses after a decades-long detour or even if you didn't discover your love for horses until later in life, it's never too late to pursue your passion and chase your dreams.

The Longevity Factor

The good news is that you probably have far more time to devote to your dreams than you might think. As a woman, you've got an excellent chance of enjoying a very long life--longer than your grandparents or even your parents. These days, women in the United States and in other developed countries have a greater life expectancy than ever before. In 1960, for example, the average American was 30 years old and could expect to live another 44 years. In 2000 the average American was considerably older, 35, and still could expect to live an additional 44 years.

These numbers are important because when you consider how old you are, what matters most is not necessarily the number of years you have already lived but rather the number of years that still lie before you. While the odds of enjoying a long and healthy life are definitely in your favor, longevity is guaranteed to no one, and it should never be taken for granted. The better care you take of yourself, the longer you're likely to live. If you're blessed with good genes and good health, and if you practice good habits, it's not unrealistic to look forward to celebrating birthdays well into your 90s.

As longevity continues to increase, women are staying relatively younger for longer. You may have heard it said that 50 is the new 40, and in terms of how young you feel and the number of meaningful, productive years that still lie before you, the statement is generally true. By the same token, 60 is the new 50; 70 is the new 60; and so on. This means you can continue to experience good health and maintain an active lifestyle well into your "golden" years, riding horses and engaging in other physically challenging pursuits once considered impossible -- or at least inadvisable -- for older women.

To take full advantage of these bonus years, you have to manage your physical health carefully and keep your body in good shape. It's also important to have the right mindset ahead of time, one that accepts growing older as a natural part of life. In spite of our nation's passionate love affair with youth, aging is not a disease nor is it a disability.

If you live long enough, you will eventually grow old, and if you're like most women, you probably find this reality far more desirable than the alternative. If you stay healthy as you age, you can continue to enjoy the company of horses just as much as you did in your younger years.

How healthy you are as a mature adult depends, to a large extent, on the health-related decisions you've made, the behaviors you've practiced, the habits you've acquired--and those you've avoided--over the course of your life. If your decisions, behaviors, and habits have been less than ideal in the past, don't despair. The human body is exceptionally forgiving and incredibly resilient. Making simple, positive changes in your diet, activity level, and attitude can improve your health dramatically at virtually any age.

One of the greatest benefits of taking good care of your health is that the positive effects tend to snowball. When you eat more nutritious foods and focus on improving your level of fitness, you'll become stronger and more energetic. Your moods will improve, and you'll become more optimistic. You'll find yourself searching for new ways to tweak your diet and step up your level of activity. The better you feel--both physically and emotionally--the more likely you'll be to take on new challenges, accomplish your goals, and realize your dreams. Regardless of your age, it's never too late to start making changes that will impact your life in positive ways. It is never too late to take the first step toward a future filled with horses, happiness, and good health.

About the Author

Rallie McAllister, MD

Rallie McAllister, MD, grew up on a horse farm in Tennessee, and has raised and trained horses all of her life. She now lives in Lexington, Ky., on a horse farm with her husband and three sons. In addition to her practice of emergency and corporate medicine, she is a syndicated columnist (Your Health by Dr. Rallie McAllister), and the author of four health-realted books, including Riding For Life, published by Eclipse Press and available at www.ExclusivelyEquine.com or by calling 800/582-5604.

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