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Health February 2017

A Horse and a Saddle

By Geno Lawrenzi, Jr.

But there is one exercise that has stayed with me through the years and that I think is perfect for people regardless of their age. That is horseback riding.

Exercise has been an important part of my life ever since my early 20s. That was when the U.S. Army inducted me and sent me to Ft. Ord, California, for eight weeks of basic training.

Now that I am in my 70s, I wouldn't be able to make a 10-mile run. I can still do pushups, jumping jacks and wind sprints, and I exercise daily with eight-pound bar bells.  When I am in the mood, I can be found at the tennis courts in our apartment complex in Charleston, South Carolina, and of course there is always swimming as a good way to get the blood circulating and stimulate the muscles.

But there is one exercise that has stayed with me through the years and that I think is perfect for people regardless of their age. That is horseback riding.

I rode my first horse when I was 12 at Kennywood Park near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The occasion was the annual school picnic.  My two younger brothers and I loaded up on tickets for the rides at the popular amusement park and those attractions included the pony rides.

When I was 19, I moved to Tucumcari, New Mexico, to take a job as sports editor of a daily newspaper.  There was a riding stable at the base of Tucumcari Mountain owned by the local sheriff and I spent many happy hours riding one of his rental horses through the prairie country, spooking jackrabbits and antelope as well as an occasional rattlesnake.

As I grew older, I took up rodeo riding in weekend rodeos in places like Clovis, New Mexico, and Tucson and Phoenix, Arizona.  One of the regular cowboys who took care of the horses encouraged me to close my eyes and feel the effect the horseback riding was having on my body.

I did and was amazed. Every muscle in my body was being exercised by the horse and his gait.

“This is one of the best exercises in the world for a person,” said the cowboy, whose name was Ben. “My father is in his 60s and he wouldn't miss his daily ride for anything. It keeps him healthy.”

Horseback riding is frightening for some people.  It shouldn't be for you. Just find a stable, tell the owners the extent of your skills, and ask them to find a horse that is right for you. 

Limit your ride to an hour at first. After your body has become used to the gait of the horse, you can extend that time to two or even three hours.

Horseback riding is good for your cardiovascular system. It pumps oxygen into your brain. It massages your legs, back and abdomen. And it helps keep you trim and fit.

I lived and worked in the Caribbean for five years and rode horses on St. Maarten. The horses were furnished by Lucky Stables, a stable owned by a charming Dutch couple who guided the riders through the hills above the ocean and through the surf.  The rides were unforgettable and I will cherish their memories. And all you need to complete those memories is a horse, a saddle and an ability to swing yourself aboard and ride.

 

Geno Lawrenzi, Jr. is an international journalist, magazine author, ghostwriter and poker player who lives in Phoenix, Arizona. His email address for your comments and story ideas is This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

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