93-year-old has her first ride, on 31-year-old mare, with a glass of wine to follow

  • A rider who got into the saddle for the first time aged 93, on a 31-year-old “one in a million” mare, enjoyed every minute, waved like The Queen and enjoyed a large glass of wine afterwards.

    Melita Richardson, known as Lita, decided she wanted to learn to ride, so Summer McBeth, activities coordinator at Eighton Lodge residential home in Gateshead, made it happen.

    She called Three Lane Ends Farm in Bishop Auckland, which has long experience of teaching disabled riders, and Melita had her ride, on 15hh Sally, on 23 November.

    “She looked amazing,” yard owner Christine Barratt Atkin told H&H. “It wasn’t until later that night, I realised just how astonishing it was. The Queen rides at 95 but she’s a horsewoman so she’s got the strength. To do it for the first time aged 93 is such an achievement.”

    Christine said she was not sure Lita would have the core strength to be able to ride.

    “I didn’t want to build her hopes up and say she couldn’t do it, so I said bring her and she can meet the horses and groom them, and I’ll see how physically able she is,” she said.

    “She got out of the minibus in her chair and met Sally, and I thought ‘Yes, you’ll be able to get on’.

    “We got her on, and to our amazement, she could sit up. She didn’t find the stirrups comfortable so we took them away, as we do for many of our disabled riders, and she rode for half an hour, and loved it. Her balance was good, and afterwards, she said: ‘Now they’re taking me to the pub for a glass of wine’, and I thought ‘You deserve it’!”

    Christine posted about the ride on the centre’s social media, and was surprised by the reaction.

    “The horsey community loved it,” she said. “It was lovely to be part of and I felt emotional for both of them. And Melita said she wants to come again. It was fantastic to see someone’s wish granted and she was waving like The Queen to the camera.

    “With disabled people, although Melita isn’t disabled, she’s in a chair, they spend their lives looking up at people and on a horse, you’re the one looking down for a change, and in control of the situation. It gives people confidence and empowerment.”

    Summer told H&H Lita asked to ride after some ponies were brought to Eighton Lodge.

    “She absolutely loved them, and said she wanted to ride a horse,” she said. “I went with her and at first, I couldn’t watch but she loved it. When we walked into the pub afterwards, she said ‘By the way, I’ve just been horse-riding. I’d like a large glass of wine.’

    “She hasn’t stopped talking about it since, and she wants to go again.”

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