When Horses Go Through Menopause.

WM eq menopauseDisclaimer: I’m not a vet. Or a doctor. But someone has to talk about it.

How can you tell your horse is going through menopause? Here are some of the symptoms: His rider is usually a woman somewhere in her forties or older. Well, I guess there is just that one symptom really.

Still, when horses go through menopause, it’s a frightening experience. As hormone levels start bouncing up and down, symptoms can be overwhelming. Although the horse doesn’t experience the same night sweats, hot flashes, urinary issues, joint pain, skin dryness, and bone loss as his rider might, he does share the same emotional symptoms.

Common emotional symptoms of (peri)menopause are depression, anxiety, mood swings, reduced self-esteem, rage, irritability, crying easily and feeling overwhelmed. I confess, there have been times in my life that this would be considered a normal day at the barn. Keep riding.

And while I am getting the bad news out-of-the-way: Perimenopause symptoms typically continue throughout a woman’s monthly cycle and do not disappear once she gets her period. They are also much more erratic, unpredictable and intense. So much so that many women feel they are losing control or as if they are going crazy. (from Perimenopause and the Emotional Rollercoaster .by Mia Lundin) Meaning menopause is like PMS but it doesn’t go away for a few years. Keep riding.

Is Equine Menopause real? Yes. Does your horse suffer from these symptoms? Yes, he catches them from you.

I will leave the medical part to people who know more. The part that concerns me is this: At this point in our riding lives–because of hormonal changes–some of us lose confidence. It’s tied into emotions, fueled by hormonal changes that are real, not hypochondria. We don’t need to punish ourselves, any more than a migraine sufferer punishes themselves for getting a migraine. I remind you–lots of people had a fear of horses their whole lives. You did not. Keep riding.

The part that really drives me crazy, or should I say, menopausal, is that our culture tells us that feelings of anxiety–like vulnerability, fear, or even being timid are signs of weakness–which makes it the fault of the victim. Let’s be clear: It isn’t our fault and we are not victims.

Some of us stop riding–we break our own hearts with a quiet dismount. Some of us get a young, hot horse and act like balding middle-aged men in Corvettes. We each have our own path.

We may be old gray mares to some, but years have given us wisdom and that’s a good trade, especially where horses are concerned.

For some of us of a certain age, our taste in partners has changed. At one point in our lives we might have loved a whiskey-drinking, bank-robbing bad boy on a motorcycle and then at another point in life, the charms of a computer programmer cannot be over-stated. Don’t be embarrassed, brag about it!

It’s true with horses too. Maybe now is the time for a mid-life gelding who doesn’t want to jump anymore. No shame, keep riding.

How to deal with the emotional concerns that are part of menopause? Health professionals recommend exercise and eating healthy. That’s what they recommend for most everything. Along with seeking emotional support from friends and family–I think horses fall into that category.

And also they encourage having a creative outlet or hobby that fosters a sense of achievement. This is the part that is tricky in the barn. Horses are a fantastic creative outlet–way more rewarding to most of us than crochet will ever be, but achievement is a subjective thing.

Maybe it’s time to be as kind to yourself, as you are to your horse–who I remind you, goes through menopause with you. If you are not young enough to ride stupid anymore, that’s good news. Ride smarter, not stronger. Work on relationship–it has always been women’s best skill. Use your age-given wisdom to negotiate a peaceful path with subtle cues. Leave the pulling and jerking to hormone-driven youth. Buy yourself a purple saddle pad and post this Old Horsewoman poem on the barn door. But know the truth–in some ways, you are capable of riding better now than ever.

Wisdom comes with a better understanding of patience, the most important skill a rider can have. Young skin, white breeches and all the elite training in the world will never take the place of patience to a horse. A post-menopausal old gray mare in the saddle is a gift to a horse. And what do you have to lose at this age? The barn door is flung open to ride your own ride.

And a last bit of advice from a trainer: For crying out loud, stop apologizing for not wanting to get bucked off. I hear this all the time from clients, as if the best riders pray for unplanned air-time. Not wanting to get bucked off might be the most rational thing you have said since you bought your first horse. Brag about it–what’s the point of surviving everything before menopause, if we are going to get stupid now? Wear a helmet, but keep riding.

Anna Blake, Infinity Farm.

(with no apology to my vast male audience, all 11 of you, for talk of ‘lady’ things. Pretending you’ve cleared menopause would make your horses happy, too.)

38 thoughts on “When Horses Go Through Menopause.

  1. Wow !!! You are a mind reader…and a heart reader…I just turned sexty,I am calling it sexty not sixty!
    I beat myself up all the time .I ADORE my horses but I don’t want to get bucked off or falloff for that matter.I have been teaching exercise for thirty years .I already have had one hip replaced.I would like to keep the rest of me intact. I promised three horses that I would take care of them for the rest of their lives.I have to stay strong and healthy. I feel so much better after reading your blog today.I feel happy tears rolling down my cheek.Thank you. I thought I was the only one that felt this way.
    Off to the Barn to kiss some horses on the lips …
    They thank you too… Nina
    .

  2. This is SO dead-on! With one exception. Over the last 45 years I’ve ridden predominately with men, men who have ridden upwards of 45+ years themselves. Riding stupid? We’ve done it. Maybe even invented it! But I gotta tell you something. I’ll whisper so I won’t offend anyone. Those guys? They don’t wanna get bucked off (anymore) either. They’ll even talk about it sometimes, all wistful-like; “Remember back when … ?” Yeah. Past-tense. ‘Cause they don’t want to go there anymore either, if they can help it. Their backs hurt, their knees are shot and their hips don’t feel any better than ours, but they keep riding on.

  3. Sharon

    Perfect! Thank you for explaining it. I think I found a perfect girl to go through menopause with! Keeping her between me and ground is primary! So thankful she is patient with me as I try to be patient and listen 🙂

  4. Oh my gosh Anna – your timing, and description of “the change” are (as usual) perfect.

    It seems the things we need to be mindful of, to navigate menopause well – exercise, good diet, mental balance, feeding our spirits – are what we should have been attending to all along, only now, if we neglect ourselves, the consequences can be immediate and dire (dire for those around me anyways). I think it’s the inevitability that is most bothersome.

    Thank you for putting it into perspective through the lens of what brings us so much joy – our horses.

  5. Randi Ruhle Myer

    Brilliant, and thank you! Just what I needed to read. The past couple of years have been quite a realization for me; which I did not understand at first. But now…..
    I am coming to grips with and have an understanding what my mind and body has been saying. I am okay with it now. and will continue to keep riding….

  6. Seems like you should hear from at least one of the 11. No apologies needed. While fighting prostate cancer I had my testosterone blocked for over a year. I got to find out what it was like to be a 65 years menopausal man and though interesting, it was not fun. But somewhere in the midst of that period and ever since, I discovered my love for animals in general and particularly horses. Over the last eight years, with my wife’s support we have adopted one troubled mare, a feisty four day filly and an agitated former reigning competitor. All females. I have written about the troubled mare that was headed for the meat auction because she was deemed a problem horse that would never be safe by three professional trainers. With little experience but lots of help, all three ladies are doing well. At 73, I ride two regularly and am training the filly for my granddaughter. I believe whatever success I have had has all been based on two things. My true love for these beautiful beings, and patiently waiting for them to trust me completely. I ride almost every day the weather permits without fear. I know I am taking a risk but it is worth well worth it for the joy I experience for whatever time I have left. These are all bonus years as far as I am concerned. A trainer friend told me I have become a “Mareman” and he assured me that was a complement. I’ll take it.

    1. Hi Fred, I was hoping to hear from you… You are a late bloomer, but I just love hearing about you and your girls. Mareman is indeed a compliment. Glad you are all well! thanks for commenting.

  7. Oh no, Anna. You found me out. I must have been channelling my inner balding guy in a sports car, when I bought my delinquent Spaniard five years ago! And then I found out the hard way I had thinning bones :-/ The good news is that he absolutely taught me to develop those advanced relationship skills (as you already know!) and he’s catching me up at a middle aged 13, while I turn sexty (thanks for that reinvigorating thought, Nina!) tomorrow. Thanks for making me feel better about it, both of you!

    1. Happy Sextieth and many more, all with your Spaniard and your lovely tack room. Always better than the alternative. Glad to hear all is well- my friend.

  8. Colleen Foley

    2 weeks ago I sold my OTTB, for the reasons described in this article. I am 58 and she is . . . A racehorse! I loved her dearly and wept buckets, but I could not keep up with her and my confidence was shaken. I am very happy to report that I took over “Sticky”, my daughter’s sweet 23 year old Arab, since she just started college and had zero time. I am overjoyed at my comfort level with this sweet guy. I can ride him bareback with just a halter, he goes out on trails minus any hysterics . . . I am so relieved and having so much fun. Thank you for another spot on post!

    1. Congratulations to Sticky, for finding his right partner. And to you, Colleen, I do trust this was a good decision. Thank you for the heartfelt comment.

  9. This summer, when I turned 54, I rescued my “Corvette,” or rather a Jeep with bad tires. Someone rode Zeus Almighty into the ground, then sent him to auction with navicular and two bad hocks. A 12 year old lame quarter horse doesn’t have many prospects, but with a lot of good vetting and farrier work he is now sound enough to walk trails in a state park across the street from where I board him. We’re a pair of creaky arthritics getting some exercise together, building a bond and sharing dreams… mine goes back to childhood, and his? All the damn grass he can eat for the rest of his days. He’s too lazy to toss me, but so patient as I regain my seat after 30 years away from horses – up to a point. The grass is always greener beneath a saddled horse’s feet.

    Thank you for a great confidence boosting post!

    Nanina

  10. Beth Weaver

    I love this post. You don’t know it, but you are my friend. If you lived nearby, we would surely play together. Sometimes, when I read your posts, I think you got into my brain and translated my unspoken thoughts and feelings and put them into words. I am also 60. Maybe that is why I feel such a connection to you. I too, am a horse addict. Nuff said. We are kindred spirits.

    1. Hello, my horse-sister. Thank you for these kind words. So most of my life I’ve wondered if there was even a way to describe this way of thinking and feeling…I keep chipping away at it. Thank you for the compliment and yes, 60 is a weird age. Glad to share it with a like mind.

  11. 12 now – I started riding again well after the male equivalent, so my girl & I are pretty well hormonally balanced – she ignores the boys as much as I ignore the girls ….

  12. I share these feelings, they are mmm interesting? The fear I didnt even admit existed was brought to light when I reconnected,with barn life after 36 years that were at times tough. I feel a little embarassed that I am a bit afraid at times, I just try to be gentle with myself and these new relationships, I’m getting braver here and there and learning every time I go there. In the end it may be all I have as my boyfriend of 3 years now feels abandoned. but I mostly really like it and now feel responsible for 2 horses with health issues that I am brave enough to hand graze mostly! I will re read in depth this article later. thanks for being there Anna.

  13. Pingback: Welcome to the 2014 November Blog Carnival of Horses | EQUINE Ink

  14. Angela

    Great and timely article.. I dismounted off my horse in March and I broke my ankle (one of those stupid things, landed just “right” and the ankle went CRUNCH 😦 ). Two weeks after surgery I hopped for my crutches and obliterated the ACL on my other leg. Two surgeries later, lots of physical therapy and almost 4 months out of the saddle…I was chomping at the bit to ride again.

    Back in the saddle since late June, and the riding is great… dismounting is another thing. I am scared to dismount to the ground off my 16.1 hh horse… No biggie, he’s a doll about letting me park him anywhere to mount or dismount. I dismount to the right onto a concrete “block” or similar sturdy raised area as the leg with the new ACL feels stronger and I let that leg “lead”.

    Long story short. I am acknowleging my fear and being kind to ME…I have no doubt, eventually I will be able to dismount to the ground from my horse, but that time is not here yet and I’m ok with that.

    I’ve never been “broken” before, taken some epic spills (yes, I would bounce, always joked about bouncing and not breaking), it’s very different looking at it from the other side, now that I did “break”… I don’t want to break again, not fun. Fortunately my horse is “middle aged” too… He still has a very athletic spook to him and his bucks are huge, but he really does try to keep me on top, and those are few and far between as he’s “matured”… lol The velcro butt of my youth is still working pretty dang well. 😉

    One of the great things about being a “seasoned” rider is we don’t have to prove anything to anyone… I’ve ridden my share of difficult horses, nut jobs and whackadoodles, I loved each and every one of them, but I don’t have to ride them anymore and that’s ok with me. I”ve paid my dues, lol… let the immortal young ones swing a leg over them, I’ll sit and watch them with a smile.

    1. Glad you are on the mend, and a great comment. It does feel good to have the confidence to not have to prove anything, right beside the challenges of recovering from an injury. Good for you, and one ride at a time, we are glad to have you back. Thank you.

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