“It’s Never Too Late” is a new series that tells the stories of people who decide to make their dreams come true on their own.
Rose Young has an uncanny ability to adapt to demanding jobs and intense situations. She was an FBI agent focused on white-collar crime; an attorney practicing insurance disputes; and, after returning to North Carolina from Lafayette, LA, with her husband and daughter in 2003, a healthcare compliance officer.
But the only job she dreaded, despite desperately longing for it as a child, was horseback riding. “I grew up in Hamlet, a small North Carolina railroad town,” said Ms. Young, 65. “I was five when I saw my first horse and I wanted a lesson. I was shown around once or twice by a neighbor who had a horse in his yard, but that was a rare treat. I never got on a horse again. “
A few months before the pandemic, Ms. Young, then 63, took her first English riding lesson. (She happened to meet a woman at work who she connected to a teacher who was willing to take in an older student.) One class turned into two that quickly became monthly. Then it became a one-year project. Then a life changing experience. (The following interview has been edited and shortened.)
Why didn’t you take classes as a child?
I grew up in a humble home. My parents were blue-collar workers and worked very hard. There was nothing for extras. So I convinced myself that riding is not something that is sad for me. As I got older, I could have taken one lesson a month, but I was intimidated and uncomfortable. And there was fear.
What were you afraid of?
Falling down or hurting me. But in 2003 I was diagnosed with breast cancer and had a mastectomy. That changed things. That’s motivation. You have to follow your dreams when you have a chance because you don’t know how long you will have the chance.
How did you find the courage to take the first step?
I didn’t let breast cancer scare me and I didn’t let the joy out of my life. That would have been a disaster. I decided to have a different life. Learning to ride meant finding new joy. It was also a reward for surviving something very dark and getting out on the other side.
How did you start
Although I live in an area where many people own horses, I had to find someone who would be willing to give themselves and their horse to an older student. Many places train children. It’s harder to find someone to take a risk with an older student who is at risk of injury or may not be ready to learn. It was a month before I found my first teacher. I’ve also read books and watched countless videos.
What were some of your biggest challenges?
Find the right instructor and then find the right horse. At the moment I’m on my fifth instructor and sixth horse. I think I’ve finally found the right thing. Also, overcoming the fear of falling or hurting me. I fell four times and got a concussion. I was concerned about going on. I thought I might be crazy to do that. I took a couple of weeks off. Then I tried another horse and another until I found one I wasn’t afraid of.
When was your lightbulb moment?
I had a couple of friends who got riding later in life; that was inspiring. Then an older friend who had a knee replacement and thought she would never go back there decided to compete again. That was inspiring too. I thought, ‘If she can do it, so can I.’
How did it feel to finally sit on a horse?
In the beginning it was more scary than awe inspiring. I forced myself to breathe and dispel the fear. Horses are beautiful, intelligent and sensitive. Your eyes are soulful. There is nothing like being up there and feeling real synchronicity and connection with another being. We both move with the same goal. It’s a fleeting, effortless, fluid connection. You feel outside of yourself. And there is something very seductive and empowering about controlling and influencing the behavior of something bigger than you are.
What did you learn about yourself during this time?
That I’m not afraid to fail. That in the interest of learning something new that is valuable to me, I am willing to look stupid. That you can’t rush this process. It took me a while to understand. I wanted to learn everything in a month. That didn’t happen. I’m still learning. I still have a long way to go. I have suppressed my desire to ride for so long because it was inconvenient, expensive, took too long, or was out of reach. These were excuses to justify my inaction. I realized that was stupid. I wanted to do that as a kid, I’ve learned that I have to give it to myself now.
How has your life changed since you started riding?
It was enriched through this process. Small wins add up to a bigger goal. I’ve learned to slow down and enjoy every moment with the horse. I try to enjoy the feeling of accomplishment.
What are your future plans?
My next big step is to lease a horse in October, which means I can ride outside of class. I would be alone on the horse. To do this, you have to achieve a certain level of competence.
What did riding give you that you didn’t expect?
It intensified all aspects of my life. It made everything more interesting, brighter, more lively. It rejuvenated my curiosity and interest in everything around me.
What would you say to people who feel stuck and want to change something?
Think back to what made you happy when you were young and see if that can be used as inspiration or joy. Then you will find the time and ability to do it.
What lessons can people learn from your experience?
Don’t be afraid to be ashamed or open to criticism. You have to agree not to be in control of something. And don’t let fear get in your way. It gets less scary every time you try.
We are looking for people who decide that it is never too late to switch, change their life and make dreams come true. Should we talk to you or someone you know? Share your story here.