Don’t let fear block healthy aging

As a child, I loved to ride my brother’s Shetland pony.
True to the breed, Tony was very independent. He would let us ride bareback until he got sick of it. Then he would put his head down, kick his heels high, and we would slide down to the ground.
The only other riding experience I had was on a beautiful white horse that belonged to a neighbour whom we called Uncle Hi.
When I was a very young girl, sometimes Uncle Hi would lift me up on this gentle animal. I would hang onto the reins tightly while he led the horse around the yard.
Although I had wonderful experiences with these two horses, I’ve never ridden since. In fact, I’m afraid of horses.
That’s why I can’t imagine a 101-year-old cowgirl brave enough to saddle her own horse and ride in parades.
Although Constance Douglas was born in a small town in Texas, her paternal grandfather was English nobility. But the family loved horses and they began photographing Connie on horses when she was just an infant.
At five years old, Connie received her own horse from her grandfather. She soon mastered both western and English riding styles, and began riding horses with the cowboys.
But her parents wanted their only child educated properly, so at age 21, Connie became the first woman to enroll in the University of Texas Law School.
Unfortunately, the Depression put a crimp in her plans to become an attorney. Her father was without a job, so Connie had to leave school and teach to support the family.
At age 35, Connie returned to her lifetime dream of working with horses and became a riding instructor at Camp Waldemar for Girls.
For the next 66 years, she worked at the camp. At first managing a staff of 12 people, overseeing the care of 75-100 horses, and teaching more than 30,000 girls to ride, and later as a consultant.
At age 42, Connie married a professional rodeo cowboy who was the camp’s head wrangler, Jack Reeves. After their marriage, the couple lived on one of the camp’s 10,000-acre ranches.
Tragically, Jack died of Alzheimer’s in 1982.
Connie continued riding throughout her life and won many honors, including being inducted into the National Cowgirl Museum’s Hall of Fame.
At age 101, Connie Reeves died after being thrown from her favorite horse.
It wasn’t her only accident at an advanced age. She broke her wrist, fractured five ribs, and punctured a lung when she ran into a hornet’s nest at age 83.
A horse kicked her and broke her leg when she was 85. And she was thrown from her horse at age 99.
Connie and Jack never had children, and perhaps that is fortunate. Because if she had had children, they no doubt would have insisted years ago that Connie stop riding and enter a health care facility.
How much better to have lived an active life and died with her boots on.
What about your parents? Do you expect them to give up their dreams because of your fears for them? And what about yourself? Are there dreams you’ve given up just because you’ve reached a certain age?
Is it possible that fear itself is the greatest enemy of healthy aging?
Marie Snider is an award-winning health care writer and syndicated columnist. Write her at or visit

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