What do you think when you hear that 80 million baby boomers reach the age of 65 every day? Wow. That’s quite a number. But when you consider that these are the very same people who currently carry the horse industry along…well, I wonder how many people are coming up through the ranks to take their place as they eventually dissipate from the horse scene.

The next thing that occurred to me is that I hadn’t really been paying attention--just who are my clients? Yep, it has been right there in front of me all this time--there are most definitely a large proportion of baby boomers, especially women. Their horses are the center of their lives as the kids grew up and moved away to pursue their own lives. Now Mom gets to pursue her dreams of owning a horse and picking up where she might have left off before having a family. And she has gone at it with a passion.

Veterinary medicine isn’t always about catering to the health care needs of the horse. Sometimes it stretches its bounds and has as much to do with nurturing the enjoyment of horse owners and enabling them to connect with their horses--we help keep the horses healthy and sound and educate our clients about how to offer effective and practical horse care. As a packed audience sat in the convention hall at the AAEP Convention in Nashville in the opening hour of the first morning’s session, we were exposed to an inspired platform of getting people involved with horses--a program called Time to Ride. The American Horse Council recognizes the need to breathe new life into the horse industry and so they’ve created Time to Ride as a marketing alliance to connect horses and people.

I am impressed by the spirit of this organization. They are reaching out to a new generation, and in particular to non-horse-owning moms aged 35-44 with kids aged 7-14. How old were you when you started to ride or at least started daydreaming about horses? I caught the “disease” at about age 4, and spent many hours playing in my room with my Breyer’s horses or running around acting like a horse. And, look where that got me.

Visit their website (www.timetoride.com) and maybe you can also help steer new energy toward the horse. There are all kinds of horse-related activities listed: It’s Time to Go Trail Riding, It’s Time for a Good Ole Fashion Rodeo, It’s Time to Go to the Horse Races, It’s Time to Take a Riding Lesson, It’s Time to Trail Ride. The website offers a map of possible horse activities to get people involved. Having a chance to connect with horses and breathe in their smell, and feel the velvet of that soft muzzle and look into their big eyes--that’s a gift worth sharing.

My sister always referred to the phenomenon of looking after another living being as “arrows out”--this responsibility builds compassion and puts meaning into our lives, while also taking away the self-absorption that often causes people unhappiness or trouble. And, what the horses give back is immeasurable. How many times have you mounted up for a ride and felt your worldly cares and angst shed away with each hoof fall? There are moms and kids just waiting out there for the incentive to get similarly involved although they may not even know it. Now that we’ve thought about it for a few minutes, perhaps we each know some moms (or dads) who might be inspired to start their kids on a path that shares the passion we all feel for the horse. Perhaps all they need is a jump start.

Nancy S. Loving, DVM