Opinion

Violet got back in the saddle at 99 years of age

As Violet Rumpel approached a milestone birthday, she climbed on a horse for the first time in years. - submitted photo
As Violet Rumpel approached a milestone birthday, she climbed on a horse for the first time in years.
— image credit: submitted photo

When Langley resident Violet Rumpel, who recently celebrated her 100th birthday, decided last year that she wanted to experience the freedom and joy of riding again, her daughter Karen asked Michelle Meacher, executive director of PRDA, for help.

Violet frequently reminisced about her early childhood horseback riding days and of the love she had for her pony,  a present when she was in Grade 1.

“He was a nice pony, and smart. We would go to school in the winter in a sleigh pulled by Ronie. In the summer, I would ride him bareback. I felt free as a breeze riding Ronie,” said Violet, who raised five children with her husband Ed, before moving to Langley. She told her daughter that she wanted to experience the feeling of riding and the freedom it gave her again while she was still agile and mobile.

Thanks to Michelle, the then-99-year-old retired homesteader from Saskatchewan safely realized her dream of sitting in the saddle again, and got to feel the wind in her hair while riding in Campbell Valley Park.

“Michelle was conscientious and caring in her efforts to satisfy Vi’s dream. She consented to let Vi trot in the indoor arena with spotters to ensure her safety.

Vi really wanted the free reins but we reminded her she would have to ride a few more times to build confidence and trust,” said Karen.

Violet’s determination to ride at the age of 99 years old inspired Michelle to launch a new seniors’ riding program at PRDA, which is set to start next spring.

“When Vi came to ride here at PRDA, it showed me that there is a whole population out there that would enjoy horses and riding. And we have the right horses for the job,” said Michelle.

The benefits of riding to seniors include increased joint mobility, balance, strength and coordination together with the psychological benefits of being around animals and getting out in the fresh air.

Violet, who rode in her 80s at another daughter’s ranch in Goldbridge, is a testament to the benefits of exercise and outdoor activities to the aged.

Physical activity has always been a part of her life.

She learned to water ski in her 50s, and then to snow ski, and celebrated her 100th birthday by walking the 195 steps up the hill behind her care home while friends and family cheered her on.

The seniors’ riding program at PRDA will be available to riders who have the approval of their physician.

“Participants do not have to be super-fit. Our mounting ramp and horses can accommodate wheelchairs, walkers, canes, crutches, and any other mobility aid.  Some things could prohibit someone from participating, like obesity, severe arthritis in a flare–up stage, or anything the physician or PRDA doesn’t feel comfortable with.  Basically, if riding would do more harm than good, they shouldn’t be riding,” said Michelle.

PRDA’s senior riding program will include social activities as well as riding, and will be geared toward individual goals, whether those include a casual ride in the park or arena work.  Costs of the 45-minute lessons will be around $20 instead of the regular $38 rate, to make them affordable for pensioners.

“Our aim is to create a safe, relaxing atmosphere where seniors come once a week on a regular basis,” said Michelle.

Ann Patterson is a Langley writer and horse owner. Contact her at accidentalrider@yahoo.com.

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