Age no deterrent to Canon City dressage rider
A practice ride late last year proved more exciting than Ginny Wegener of Canon City expected. Her horse, Loki, a 17-year-old Norwegian Fjord horse, stumbled in the arena and Loki and Wegener both tumbled to the ground.
“It was scary because it looked like he was going to roll over on me,” Wegener recalled. “Fortunately, neither of us was hurt. I just got a mouthful of sand.”
Those who ride frequently know that coming off a horse — whether from a horse stumbling, shying or bucking — is always a possibility. We try to be careful to avoid it, but we know it can happen.
But most of us aren’t 90 years old. Ginny Wegener will turn 91 in May.
“I don’t trail ride anymore. I just do dressage,” she said in a telephone interview last month. “The trouble I have now is I can’t (ride) as long as I used to. I have trouble getting through a whole first-level dressage test.”
“She’s amazing,” said Kathleen Burke, a close friend and secretary of the Arkansas Valley Dressage Association, of which Wegener is a member. “I’ve known her for years and years. I pick her and Loki up every week when we go for our lessons.”
Burke was riding with Wegener in November when Loki stumbled and fell. She also feared the horse would roll on top of Wegener. “Luckily, it was soft footing,” she said. “He did sort of a slow roll. She was just a little sore the next day.”
Burke added, “We hope she goes another 10 years. She’s in such good shape. You’d never guess she’s 90.”
You’d also never guess that Wegener took up competitive riding relatively later in life, at age 58.
That doesn’t mean she was a newcomer to adventure before horses, however.
“I’m a pilot,” she said. “I used to work for the FAA giving flight exams. And I used to air race a lot.”
When her three children were young, and the family was living in California, they had horses and Wegener did the typical parent-of-horse-lover duties of ferrying them and their steeds to horse shows around the region. “I didn’t ride much then,” she said.
Once her children were grown, she decided, “I love horses, maybe I should get one.” She purchased an Arabian gelding then 7, that she would ride for years and keep until he died at age 39.
Initially, she competed in events in California, and she loved it. But as she grew older, she switched to dressage only.
Decades ago, a friend convinced her to move to Colorado. She originally arrived in the tiny community of Guffey, not far from the Royal Gorge. She drove frequently to Colorado Springs and Canon City for horse activities. Twenty-four years later, she would move to the outskirts of Canon City, where she had more access to trainers, horse shows and clinics.
“I try to take a lessons once a week with a group of people,” she said. “I’ve been going to a number of clinics and I thought I’d try freestyle this year because I enjoy listening to music while I ride.”
Loki, she said, “Is very well trained and could go second-level” in dressage competition.
She and Loki have twice been recognized by the Dressage Foundation for Century Club rides — an award that is given if the combined age of horse and rider totals more than 100, accourding to Centaur, the publication of the Rocky Mountain Dressage Society. They could do it again if they competed in an officially sanctioned dressage competition.
Wegener said she still drives, and pulls her own horse trailer when she doesn’t have friends available to give her a lift. “For Christmas I got a camera for my truck that makes it easier to back up and hook up to my trailer,” she added.
She keeps Loki on her property, and tends to the feeding and barn chores herself, with occasional help from neighbors and friends.
She also attends exercise classes three times a week to keep her body in good shape.
“When it gets to the point that I can’t ride, then there’s probably something I can do in the office” for the dressage association, Wegner said. “You’ve got to keep going and keep your enthusiasm up.”
She added, “I think that’s the reason I’m still up and getting around. It’s a passion that keeps me going.”