Senior Riders Prove You Can Ride at Any Age

The love of horses withstands the test of time and we all dream of riding until we can no longer saddle up and gallop away, but partaking in such a dangerous sport can put a damper on those dreams as the years go on. For Deanna Ross, 67, Jill Truitt-Langan, 63, and Agnita Knott, 69, age is just a number to put down on their event entries—these three inspirational riders are proving that riding is a sport for all ages!


Jill Truitt-Langan can’t remember a time when she wasn’t riding—and she still does six days a week! As a child, Jill started officially riding at the age of 10 when her parents purchased a buckskin Quarter Horse for the family and began eventing years later. Flash-forward to now, the 63-year-old eventer is moving up to compete in Preliminary aboard her Thoroughbred, Code Name Allen, with hopes of riding in a one-star.

EJ: How did you get into riding?
Jill Truitt-Langan: It was genetic—I loved horses before I could understand that I loved horses. I remember nagging my father night after night to read me Pony Care from the library.

EJ: What is your inspiration to continue riding?
JTL: Every time that I finish a successful jumping session; school dressage; appreciate and enjoy nature on a casual relaxing trail ride; ride on the beach listening to the waves and the birds; walk out to the barn and my horses greet me; and of course, every time that I ride with my daughter and friends.

EJ: What has been your biggest achievement as an equestrian?
JTL: Watching my daughter become the great equestrian that she is.

EJ: What are your biggest challenges while riding?
JTL: Money is always a challenge when you want to ride competitively. But aside from the financial commitment, as a menopausal woman with thinning bones, I worry about breaking bones. I will continue to do what I do, hoping that if and when I do become dismounted, that nothing breaks—so far so good! To help with that, I always wear a protective vest when schooling cross-country, and I use my air vest when riding in an event.

EJ: Do you do any physical activities outside of riding?
JTL: I am an avid bike rider and will put in around 12 miles a ride on average two to three times a week when the weather is good. I have always weight lifted and continue to do so at least three days a week, and I jog during the nonwinter months just to have the concussion to help with bone health and to stay aerobically fit! I also work at my daughter’s farm, where we house our own horses that need to be worked and conditioned as well as the lesson horses for the farm that are always being taken out for trail rides or for schooling rides. So I typically ride two to three horses a day, five to six days a week, along with all of the normal barn duties associated with equine care.

EJ: Have you seen any differences in riding over the years? What would you change?
JTL: It was not until I was able to pursue the sport of eventing that I was introduced to rules or trends. The rules are the rules, and I think in the sport of eventing they have improved the sport. I like the trends in safety that continue to be developed, and it is great to see folks riding with their helmets on, but I think there is a lot to be said for wearing a protective vest. I can attest to the fact that there is far less trauma to the body when you hit the ground with a protective vest on than there is when you don’t wear one. I wish more folks, young and old, would take advantage of the equipment that is available to them no matter what discipline they choose.

EJ: What do you think is the best thing about riding as a senior?
JTL: That I have a passion that keeps me very active and I enjoy it! I never lack for something to do. I still run into people that I have not seen for some time and they always ask, “Do you still ride?” To which I answer, “Yes I do! And I’m still competing with the hopes of riding in a one-star!” Then I have to tell them what that means and they follow up with a very surprised, “Really??”

EJ: Do you have any advice for other riders who want to continue as a senior?
JTL: Women should get a fingerprint on their bone density before menopause, so they can understand after menopause whether or not they have bone-thinning issues—you need to benchmark for yourself where you are. Wear as many braces as you need to help your body out. I wear two back braces, tennis wristbands on my elbows to help them out, and I wrap my fingers that have been beat up from riding and training horses over the years with vet wrap. Stay active and fit, stretch, wear a protective vest even if you are just trail riding, and don’t let anyone tell you that you are too old to still be riding!


From growing up wishing for a pony to now owning a few of her own, Agnita Knott was a horse-lover from the start. Although starting your riding career in the city isn’t the easiest, Agnita and her husband are now active riders with a zest for life on the trail and a record of riding all over Massachusetts. At 69 with her beloved Morgan horses by her side, Agnita finds the best part of her day begins and ends at the barn.

EJ: How did you get into riding?
Agnita Knott: Ever since I was really, really young I wanted a pony for Christmas. I lived in the city, so I had to take riding lessons and that started when I was 10 or 11, up to now! Later on, I was a teacher and one day the principal said to me, “We have clubs,” and I said “Oh, I ride horses!” and that became the club I managed. For 12 years I handled the horse club, so I would show them Black Beauty and the Marguerite Henry books, and then we would go the stables for an hour. I didn’t buy a horse until I could afford one and when I did, I had to buy another one…and another one.

EJ: What is your inspiration to continue riding?
AK: My husband and I have our five horses standing outside looking at us as if they are saying, “We need to be ridden!” We need to ride because it keeps us active and we take care of the horses ourselves, which is a 24-hour job. It’s just us, so we go there at 11:00 at night to check on them and give them hay. We just love all the people that we ride with in the clubs we are in— they are all like family—and we just love our horses.

EJ: What has been your biggest achievement as an equestrian?
AK: Years ago, we bred a few Morgan foals and we kept them all. One of the foals we had is now going on 27 and he has done all of the rides we go on, except maybe one. Now he is the babysitter for our younger horses, and he has just been the best horse. Another foal we bred was a driving horse and my husband would go carriage driving on a 30-mile trek from Massachusetts to Vermont and then 30 miles back—he was a great driving horse.

EJ: What are your biggest challenges while riding?
AK: We have a young horse that is just getting into trail riding, and he’s pretty good, but you just never know what is going to pop up—we were on a ride recently when two deer popped out—you never know what you are going to encounter. There aren’t many challenges; my husband and I just tack them up at home, they jump right into our big stock trailer, and away we go!

EJ: Do you do any physical activities outside of riding?
AK: Well, caring for the horses is very physical. We go to New York to get our own hay, so we are constantly going up and down from the hayloft. My husband also hikes the Appalachian Trail, so we do a lot of walking, and I used to do things like yoga. You can’t do everything, but I try.

EJ: Have you passed your love of horses and/or riding on to others?
AK: My cousin in California has a granddaughter who is a horse lover and my cousin will say to me, “I can’t believe it, she is just like you!” And from my club at the school, a lot of the students went out and bought their own horses when they got older, so hopefully I passed it onto them.

EJ: What do you think is the best thing about riding as a senior?
AK: Of course, it keeps you very physical—you have to sit straight in the saddle and balance. The activity of just grooming the horses, cleaning the barn, putting hay out, and carrying water buckets—that is perfect exercise because every single muscle in your body is working.

EJ: Do you have any advice for other riders who want to continue riding as a senior?
AK: You just have to keep riding. A lot of people sometimes get a little timid, and may be afraid of falling, but if you just keep on riding as much as possible, that keeps your mind fresh.


An avid equestrian for 50 years, Deanna Ross has been riding for most of her life. Mainly a western rider competing in all-around events aboard her Quarter Horses, Deanna comes from a family of horse fanatics—her father was an International Buckskin Horse Association trainer, judge, and inspector while she was growing up—she caught the bug early on. Now 67, Deanna has been showing since 1981 and has no plans to stop.

EJ: How did you get into riding?
Deanna Ross: I think horse was my first word! My dad brought home a pony named Sparky, he lived in our backyard, and the whole family just went toward the horse world. It is in my blood.

EJ: What is your inspiration to continue riding?
DR: I love to compete. I love the horse show environment, and I love the people that I show with. I have a couple of friends, we call ourselves the Golden Girls because we are all north of 60, and we all go to the shows and compete together. I met my best friend showing—we were in a showmanship class and her shirttail was pulled out, so I tapped her on the shoulder and told her to fix her shirt so she wouldn’t get dinged for it. I have been fortunate enough to have some trainers that take your physical and mental capacities to heart and help you to develop what aging has caused you to lose. As you age, most of us realize that you lose that crispness that you once had and it is nice to have a trainer that isn’t constantly criticizing but helping you to redevelop skills to make it not quite as noticeable because you just can’t move as quickly as you used to. I have a showmanship mentor and she has been a huge inspiration to keep showing—even though I could be her grandmother! She is the ultimate competitor and I strive to compete in my showmanship classes as well as she does.

EJ: What has been your biggest achievement as an equestrian?
DR: I was fortunate enough to get a horse in January of 2009, Cruisin Sunny Dee. He was 17 years old, and taught me the finer points of showing before he retired in 2012. From May 2009 to September 2012 we earned 36 all-arounds, reserve all-arounds, and third place all-arounds!

EJ: What are your biggest challenges while riding?
DR: Oh boy, that’s a good one! Since all of my horses range from 15.2 to 16.3 hands, and I am 5’1″, [my biggest challenge] is mainly getting on. So pride aside, I have a massive mounting block. The other challenge due to my height is saddling, so that pride thing gets kicked to the curb and I have to ask for help.

EJ: Have you passed your love of horses and/or riding on to others?
DR: I have one daughter; she is 32, and was two weeks old when I got back on a horse, and I have passed my love of competing and horses onto her. She is an all-around trainer, but her first love is barrel racing and pole bending. I passed my love—and hopefully my talent—on to her! I am her biggest fan.

EJ: What do you think is the best thing about riding as a senior?
DR: I think it is the physical and mental fitness. Riding gives me that mental uplift to keep those aging demands on the body and on the mind at a minimum because I can stay active. When I was growing up, 67-year-olds were sitting in rocking chairs on the front porch with a cat—I’ve got my own truck, my own trailer, and I take off and go to the shows! I think it keeps that mental clarity, and I think it keeps you sharp by allowing you to get out and do things.

EJ: Do you have any advice for other riders who want to continue as a senior?
DR: Just do it! That saying that, “the outside of a horse is good for the inside of a man—or woman” is true. If I get to the point where I can’t ride—I have osteoporosis in my right hip and I know at some point they are going to say that I can’t—I will continue to show and ride even if I can only do showmanship or halter.

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