BY LETTIE TEAGUE
My 78-year-old friend Marie Boynton rides six days a week—in freezing cold weather or triple-digit heat unless her 23-year-old horse Bosco has a stone bruise or stifle injury (his two most recent complaints). Boynton only stopped showing in amateur-owner hunter classes a few years ago when Bosco, a Thoroughbred Shire cross, was no longer able to jump 3’. Boynton is my role model and the kind of rider I hope to be when I’m her age. In truth, she’s the sort of rider I’d like to be right now.
Boynton is a member of a remarkable group of horsewoman and men who began riding at an early age…and never stopped. Or if they did, their pause didn’t last and they were soon back in the saddle again. They’re riders whose deep love of all things equine (along with a bit of luck, some money, and a good horse or two) have kept them riding—whether in the show ring or on a hunt course—well past the age most athletes of virtually any sport are likely to retire. They ride with vigor and dedication out of love for the sport. Or something else. As 80-year-old Betty Oare said of her remarkable career, “I’m simply addicted to horses.”
A legendary equestrian and horse show judge, Oare, of EMO Stables in Warrenton, VA, has earned just about every accolade possible in the sport and has been a role model for multiple generations. Her name resonates equally with twentysomething riders as it does with her peers. How many other octogenarian athletes can claim that kind of recognition, not to mention an ongoing record of wins? In fact, when I reached Oare by phone it was the second day of the Blowing Rock Charity Horse Show in Blowing Rock, NC, where she picked up a Reserve Championship in the 50 and over Adult Amateur Hunters and was later awarded Toltec Sportsmanship Award, which she called a “great surprise.”
If good sportsmanship is made of modesty and hard work, Oare has plenty of both. “I’ve been up since the crack of dawn,” she says cheerfully on our call. Oare rides every day without fail and has done since she was quite small. “I’ve never stopped unless I had some broken bones,” says Oare, who has a regular routine that changes only when she’s at a horse show, or attending church.
“Right now, we have three horses in work at our home barn. I’ll go down at 8:30 or 9 in the morning and ride for two-and-a-half to three hours. I’d ride all day long if I thought it would help me,” she says with a laugh.
Sixty-five-year-old Bill Rube of Cherry Hill, NJ, began riding when he was five years old and won championships at Devon and the Fairfield County Hunt Club as a young man, but he stopped riding for a number of years. “My life took a spiral in the ‘80s,” Rube says. But, he adds, “It didn’t last long. I got back in the ‘90s, bought another horse, and I’ve been going ever since.” Rube is currently the executive director of the Glenearye Equestrian Program in Lumberton, NJ, and is a passionate advocate for the sport.
Rube has lived multiple lives in the equestrian world, first as a top hunter jumper rider, later as a breeder of hunters, and now as the owner of a warmblood gelding named Roulette, whom he imported from Belgium this past summer.
Rube rides Roulette “at least twice a week” at Coast-to-Coast Equestrian in West Milford, NJ, where he works with trainer Will Baker, who rides Roulette several days a week. “Will makes the horse Bill-proof,” Rube says with a laugh. The plan is for Will to take Roulette down to WEC Ocala this winter to begin his show career. Rube will likely follow—he’s certainly not going to stop riding. “I’m going to stay in the saddle. It’s what keeps me young at heart,” he says.
Larry Byers, the 83-year-old Master of Fox Hounds of the Aiken Hunt in Aiken, SC, (for the past 11 years) maintains a rigorous fitness routine in and out of the saddle, which he credits to his time in the Marine corps. “I was a Marine for 15 years. You develop a regimen for keeping yourself in shape,” he says, adding that he was cleaning stalls while we spoke.
Byers began riding around seven or eight, growing up in Adams County, PA. His earliest riding experiences were with his aunt’s gaited horses, although Byers later turned to eventing and hunting. He also became prominent in several Pony Clubs when his children were young, and was the President of the US Pony Club from 2001 to 2004.
Byers and his wife Pat spent many years in California before moving back east to South Carolina 18 years ago. “We used to hunt in southern California before it became a parking lot,” he says, noting that horse-centric Aiken is a much-welcome change. Today Byers has two horses, both Thoroughbreds (“I think the Thoroughbred is the most athletic horse there is,” he says) and rides five days a week. Byers hunts twice a week during the season although he stopped jumping fences two years ago. Today, Byers is a self-described “hill topper” who focuses on his hounds. “I ride because I want to keep up with the hounds,” he says.
“Keeping up” is something any horsewoman or man might find hard to do with any one of these four remarkable women and men. They’ve collectively demonstrated that riding horses (and riding well) isn’t just an achievement, but a lifelong goal.
*This story was originally published in the October 2021 issue of The Plaid Horse. Click here to read it now and subscribe for issues delivered straight to your door!