Thanks to advances in both human and veterinary medicine, we humans and our horses are living longer, fuller lives. And for horse people, quality of life means continuing time in the saddle. While we may opt to leave the jumping or barrel racing to the “kids”, riders of a certain age have found enjoyment in dressage. Of course, you can fall off any horse that spooks or takes a bad step, but it is less of an adrenaline sport that can suit aging bodies.

Celebrating older horses and riders is The Century Club, a part of the Dressage Foundation, which recognizes dressage riders and horses whose combined ages total 100 years or more. To date the club has over 660 members; one such person who recently rode onto the list was Janet Haddon of Pittsburg, PA, who is 80, and her 20-year-old horse Pippin, a Canadian Warmblood who was a former para-equestrian horse.

To qualify for the list, other than your combined ages, the equestrian duo ride a test of any level at a show (schooling or recognized) or event that is scored by a judge or professional. Western Dressage is also included in the Century Club. According to its website, the Century Club ride has become a serious endeavor that encourages and rewards older senior riders, “And while we stress the serious nature of riding a test, we want all senior riders for the Century Club to have fun!”

The Century Club is free and there are no meetings or agendas, but some members opt to keep in touch with the Foundation and each other through email and social media.

If you’re interested in joining the Century Club, you can find an application here.  The form should be submitted to the Foundation at least two weeks prior to your ride. Once your ride is completed, you and your horse will be presented with a black-and-gold ribbon at the show that was sent ahead of time by the Dressage Foundation (TDF). Then as a follow up, TDF sends a Century Club plaque to you. The list is open to any North American rider and horse who qualify.

A senior rider sitting on her senior horse.

Jackie Gallant (68) and Donnie (32). ( photo)

As of this writing there are a number of Canadian horses and riders who made the list since the club was formed in 1996:

Dawn Ruthven and Wisla (BC) 2007
Janet Chisholm and Simon (ON) 2015
Egil Hansen and O’Malley (BC) 2016
Jack Kasenberg and Kramer 2017
Ruth Goldthorp and Hollywood Star (ON) 2018
Berit Turner and Swallowfield Eno Hilaire (BC) 2018
Judith Nancy Byers Legate and Wendarlin (BC) 2019
Patricia Close and Deneobola (ON) 2019
Dianna Sacha and Sampson, (AB) 2020
Robert Henselwood and Special Ed (ON) 2021
Margaret Dean, Hotlittleinvestment, 2021

And so far in 2023:

Bernadette Carter and Sparks (AB)
Cheryl Coates and Cervantes (AB)
Jackie Gallant and Donnie (ON)
Klara Bystrom and Felina (AB)
Rhoda Kerr and Bruno (QC)
Mary Jago and Tazeko (BC)

Calling all active sexagenarians, septuagenarians and octogenarians (and beyond!) – will you be next on the list?