73-year-old recaptures glory riding a T’bred

After the ride, Walker says her OTTB seemed to stand a full hand taller.

After the ride, Walker says her OTTB seemed to stand a full hand taller. Photo by William Morgan “Billy” Benton

In her glory days, Arrington Walker worked among the stars of horse sport.

An assistant competition manager for equestrian sport at the 1996 Olympic games in Atlanta, she saw the very best athletes strive for the fabled five rings at the pinnacle of their careers.

But now, at age 73, the soft-spoken South Carolina grandmother is doing something even more exciting. She is doing what those in the Thoroughbred world refer to as myth busting.

To the amazement, and mild concern of friends, family and coaches, Walker bought herself an off-track Thoroughbred two years ago, practically pulled the old mare from a field and saddled her up.

Before the horse and rider met, Walker had been looking for the perfect riding horse for several years when in 2012, while chatting at dinner with some friends, she learned that a friend of a friend had a horse she could try.

New name: Sip and See
Sire: Carborundum
Dam: Suzy’s Surprise
Foal date: Jan. 30, 1996
“I was giving my usual does-anybody-know-of-a-horse story when a friend got this lady on the phone,” and the next instant, Walker was chatting with a former college classmate and horsewoman, who, upon hearing Walker’s story proclaimed, “I’ve got a horse.”

And those words, uttered so confidently by her old school chum Jane Gunnell, turned out to be true. She had a horse all right. And what a gem she was.

“As soon as I put my foot in the stirrup” to try her “I knew. It’s an instinct, and that’s the only way I can explain it,” she says. “We went out in the hunt country of Aiken, and there were two of us riding … and she never put a foot wrong.”

After a two-week tryout, Walker purchased the former racehorse and broodmare, and eventually named her Sip and See. The name, taken from a southern colloquialism used by grandmothers, came to her one day while she and a bunch of lady friends gathered in a field to look at her new horse.

“When you have a grandchild, you invite your friends over to sip wine and see the grandchild, so we say, ‘Come over for a sip-and-see.’ And one day in May, six of my friends came with me to her pasture—they brought their lawn chairs— and somebody said, ‘We’ve come to your sip-and-see!’ ”

And all who took a peek at the mare, who was 16 at the time, proclaimed that there, standing in the field serenely grazing, was a gem of a racehorse.

Walker, 73, completed her first three phase on Sip and See last month.

Walker completed her first three phase on Sip and See last month. Photo by William Morgan “Billy” Benton

Her calm nature won over everyone, including her riding instructors who initially advised her, for obvious reasons, to purchase an older, smaller, well-trained animal.

Quite the opposite, the mare stood 16 hands, and possessed little training beyond the racetrack. And yet, her lack of a competitive streak made her quite agreeable to train and calm in most situations.

Last month, after a year of training together, the pair of “old ladies” made quite the splash at the Jumping Branch Horse Trials in Aiken.

The 18-year-old Thoroughbred and 73-year-old rider completed their first three-phase, an impressive feat for a rider who hadn’t competed in 22 years.

Though not the Olympic games, the competition was a monumental achievement for her.

“This is my miracle horse,” Walker says. “I’m out there competing, and I haven’t done it in 22 years! I’ve run into so many people from my Atlanta days, and they can’t believe I’m out there riding a horse and jumping!”

30 responses to “73-year-old recaptures glory riding a T’bred”

  1. Judith Ochs

    Loved this story – as I have so many others. But more personal for me than some. I started riding at 60 and bought my first horse at 63 when I retired. A very big, very green 5 yr old sport horse/TB whom I fell in love with at first sight – but knew at first ride he would take care of me. Fast forward 3 yr and we are both learning and coming along. My trainer had some misgivings – since she knows how I ride – and he was a young powerful horse and her biggest thing in life is safety for rider and horse. He is now a (? the) barn favorite for his demeanor, sense of humor and kindness – as well as being a very fun ride. We have even gone on trail rides alone – though across the street from my barn with phone in pocket! I hope to ride till the day I literally die. Nothing in my life has been this much fun. Just grateful for every day and ride with my guy.

  2. Jane Murray

    That’s my mama!

  3. Kathryn Syssoloff

    I LOVE IT….. YAY for us retirees!!!! Now, if I can find some boots, I’m picking up the reins again after a 33 yrs absence. Dreams never die.

  4. Lisa Melone

    Great story! You’re only as old as you feel and as TBDancer said, age is just a number! Horse DO keep you active and young.

  5. sybil

    LOVE this!! so inspired, and nothing like double myth busting! you CAN do it as an older rider! and you CAN do it on an ex-racehorse! and an older ex-racehorse at that! great story, and now i’m ready to go ride my boy today. i just turned 58 and know that i have a long long riding life ahead, and my 7 yo OTTB (plus his 6 yo sister) are the ones to take me there! this has to be my favorite profile to date!

  6. Lynn Evans

    So happy for you and See See! Great pair! Hope to trail ride with you this spring!

  7. Callie cox

    Hi grandma! I am so glad you made the web! I am so proud of you and C.C! Good luck next show too!

  8. Big Margaret

    I was present at the sip and see and am always impressed with Arrington’s adventures!

  9. Robin Compagno

    What a lovely and inspiring story 🙂

  10. Mickie Johnston

    Arrington, Iam so excited for you and very impressed. You go girl!

  11. Mo

    Nice story and pics. Glad to see I’m not the only rider left who uses a classic plain, flat bridle instead of the trendy raised styles.

    1. Arrington Walker

      Well, I have a very old raised bridle that I will use for SeeSee if and when we ever make it to a horse show!

  12. cheri vaughan

    Bless them both… I have no other words. Grand ladies, keep on!

  13. Jan/ Springtime Farm

    The smile and beauty on your face shows your
    love for life and your beautiful Mare.These OTTB’s have a way
    of getting into your heart and never leaving. I applaud your bravado, and only hope
    I am able to continue riding into my golden years as well. What a
    great example of a mature equestrian athlete.

  14. Faith

    Wonderful!!! I want to be Arrington when I grow up. (That gives me about 7 years.)

  15. Deidra Darsa

    Awesome! I’m right behind her in age and I don’t ever want to stop.

  16. Mable John Hickory Top Farm

    What a great story !
    So glad you are ready to compete at Hickory Top May 3!!!
    See you then! M

  17. Sue Livingston

    Great Story! Never too old, are we? Horse or rider…

  18. JSmith

    Great story. Just goes to show that not everybody should go out to pasture just because of age.

  19. Joan Stephens

    This story sounds so much like me. At 74 I found a 17hh 5 yr old Grey OTTB mare
    that had raced 18 times. She was in a pasture after retirement and was listed on a track trainer’s listing. She turned out to just what I wanted, nice and quiet and very agreeable. I’ve had her a year now and she has learned a lot of new thing as she is so smart and easy to work with. Lots of ground work before WTC and then trotting Xs. At 75 now I love my mare. Her name is, I’m A Believer. Very apropos I think.

  20. Kitty Farnell

    Article brings tears to my eyes! So inspiring to ride with Arrington and SeeSee and to take care of dear SeeSee. Both are “real ladies” and ready for fun at any age! Go girls!!

  21. Bonnie Warner

    good for her! I miss having a horse so much, I cheer for her. maybe I am not toooo old after all(67)I think my first word was horse!

  22. Susan Crane-Sundell

    one word: Inspiring!

    Horses do keep one young.

  23. Elizabeth Bradley

    I am not the least surprised! I have known Arrington since I was a child and was fortunate enough to have her as both a Riding Instructor and Counselor at Camp Ton-A-Wandah. She was phenomenal then and that she is phenomenal now is not surprising at all!

    Sip and See is beautiful-congratulations on finding such a wonderful partner Arrington!

    Elizabeth “Liz” Newman Bradley

  24. Michelle

    I loved this story! After being “out of horses” for 15 years, I recently purchased my 11-year-old OTTB mare, Little Gummy, at an auction. I am 52 and hope to be riding well into my 70s, as Ms. Walker. Kudos to her for not only riding, but jumping and eventing as well!!

  25. edna

    yes, thanks! A wonderful story for another horse lover who never wants to stop riding or competing! and a weakness for TBs.


    Very inspiring. So happy for Walker and Sip and See!

  27. Maureta Ott

    What a wonderful story! I love that Arrington and Sip And See have found each other. I pray that I can continue to ride my OTTB for many more years and this story is so inspiring. It shows that we older friends are not ready to be put out to pasture. Thank you for sharing this wonderful pair!

  28. TBDancer

    What a GREAT story!! As a “soon to be 71-year-old” myself, I find it inspiring that someone ELSE regards age as “just a number.” I swear that horses keep you young AND keep you sane. Go, Arrington Walker and Sip And See!! And thanks, Susan, for a real “lift” to my Friday morning!!

  29. Amy Vodraska

    What a beautiful and inspiring story! My children lease an OTTB, and this puts me in mind of his kindness with them. I am totally coming to adore the breed, which I’d always thought was too hot for all but experienced riders, because of this horse. And as an aside, this also shows the value of a good mare. My mare is a warmblood, but she is the epitome of the phrase “a good mare.” As they say, a good mare, no matter the breed, is a gem beyond price.

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