By Jenny Johnson
Ginny Wegener of Canon City, Colorado, recently turned 90 years old but isn’t letting age slow her down. She is a two-time member of The Dressage Foundation’s Century Club and continues to ride and care for her horse, RT Loki. She said, “I plan to continue my horse activities until at least 95. I always had it in my head and heart to be an active rider and participate in horse activities. Exercise keeps me moving and clinics increase my knowledge and keep my brain moving. Determination, passion, as well as good genes have gotten me here. Seniors can do it!”
Sidelines caught up with Ginny and asked her to share some stories from her horse life, as well as advice she has for other riders:
How did you become involved with horses and dressage?
My first involvement with horses was as a 16-year-old in Kansas City where I lived with my family. I would ride my bike many blocks to the riding stables. I made friends with one of the stable men and he would let me ride the horse to my house, even over train bridges and waterways. It was thrilling to me. I didn’t own my own horse until I was 58 years old. At that time I said to myself, “I would like to become a rider,” so I purchased a young Arabian gelding named MHR Handsome, Sam for short. Sam was my teammate for my first Century Club ride in October 2002 and he was with me until after his 39th birthday. We shared many adventures!
Do you have a favorite horse-related memory?
My favorite memory…well of course there are many. But to pick one, I remember when Sam was in a horse show and received a blue ribbon. We were all standing under a tree and I had Sam standing close to me. A friend had brought champagne and glasses. As we all raised our glasses to make a toast to Sam, he reached over my shoulder and slurped every drop of the champagne. He was quite surprised and we all laughed!
What do you enjoy most about riding dressage?
After Sam came into my life, there were several dressage shows in my area and I was really drawn to learning how to become a dressage rider. I enjoyed the challenge of riding to the tests and increasing my abilities as well as Sam’s. Sam was very well suited to the discipline. Now that Sam is no longer here I ride my Norwegian Fjord, Loki, and did my second Century Club ride on him in May 2010 at the age of 87. Loki is a great guy! He is 14.2 and I am five feet tall, so we are a perfect match at this time in my life.
What advice do you have for young riders?
When I was raising my three girls, Carol, Diane and Su, the older two became interested in having horses. I think the involvement my teenage girls had with their horses and animals kept them busy and out of trouble, as well as teaching them so many life skills. To this day they love their horses as do some of their children. To the younger generation I would say: Follow your passion (I hope it is horses). Always love your work, stay positive, and honor the commitment to protect and care for such wonderful partners in your life as horses!
The Dressage Foundation’s Century Club is a program designed to honor senior dressage riders and their senior horses. To become a member the ages of the horse and rider must add up to at least 100 years and they must ride any level dressage test before a judge or dressage professional. For more information on the Dressage Foundation, please visit www.dressagefoundation.org.
About the writer: Jenny Johnson is the Administrative Director at The Dressage Foundation in Lincoln, Nebraska. In addition to that full-time job, she also has the full-time job of being a wife, a mom to three children, and “mom” to her 20-year-old Quarter Horse who she’s owned for 19 years.
Ginny is my idle. I hope I get just a little of the horse knowledge she must have. I am 65 and have been riding only for 3 years but will continue for the rest of my life. I have found my passion.
Very inspiring! My Mom is still riding at 83 and I am just starting a young horse that someday I want to do my century ride with. Way to go Ginny!
What an inspiration Ginny is. Thanks for sharing her story!
I have never ridden a horse, but from childhood on, I always wanted one. The closest I have been to a horse was when a friend, whose son owned two harness racing horses and had a small track on his farm, let me drive one of the horses around the track. It was an experience that I will never forget. I was wearing a t-shirt and shorts, no goggles or helmet, in other words, no protection of any kind. They told me how to hold the reins, how to make her go slowly and how to speed her up. I was to take her around the track three times and when they held their hands up, I was supposed to speed her up, go around the track three times, and then slow her down for three more times around the track. Fool that I was, I did exactly that, and I was enjoying the slow ride around the track when they gave the signal to speed her up. I did, and pow, we went flying around the track, with sand and gravel blowing behind me, sometimes going around the bends, on one wheel, and I thought my days on this earth had ended. I kept thinking if I should just jump off, but thought better of it, hung in there with all my might until they gave me the signal to slow down, which I was very thankful to do. Fortunately, this horse had been very well trained, because I sure did not know what I was doing.
I got more and more involved in showing and raising German Shepherds after I finally got the dream of my life, a little acreage out in the country. I often thought about getting a horse, but decided that it would not be fair since I had a bunch of dogs to take care of. Besides, at my age, I figured it would be better to stick with something small like a German Shepherd.
A few years later, I discovered alpacas, and decided, because they are much smaller than a horse, I could handle them. Now I own twenty one of those soft, critters, and everyone is amazed that I can handle all that by myself. My neighbors have two horses and my other neighbors have three, so I get to see them, but am glad I stuck with a smaller animal.
Kudos to this lady who is a real inspiration. I intend to stick around to at least a hundred, and have my critters until my eighties, or as long as my body will let me do.
I started rig at 50 something and I am now just turning 63…I started with a 6 year old Thoroughbred mare that had been in pasture all her life – mistake on advise of a very young trainer. I am now riding a 23 year old Swedish Warmblood schoolmaster, Nelson…what a difference. Will continue riding as long as I am healthy…Ginny, you are my encouragement that I can DO IT.
Wow, Ginny, you are my new, favorite role model! I’m 68 y/o and have been thinking to myself that maybe I might have another 7 years or so of riding, but maybe not! I’m now setting my sights on 90!