TAILS FROM THE TRAILS
Sy Budofsky, a member of a most exclusive club, exudes a great joy of living.
He grew up in New York City, attended the City College of New York, got his degree in engineering, married and had three children. But Budofsky had a secret ambition.
“I always wanted to be a cowboy,” he said. “When I grew up, all my heroes were the stars of westerns: Rex Bell, Ken Maynard, Tim McCoy and Tom Mix, who rode Tony the Wonder Horse.”
He and his friends used to play cowboy by throwing a rope around someone’s shoulders, then holding onto the two ends, which would be the reins.
“My uncle was a street peddler in The Bronx. He’d rent a horse and wagon for the day and sell produce street to street. Sometimes he’d let me hold the reins and drive the horse. It was fantastic,” Budofsky recalled.
Finally, at 35, Budofsky decided to take a step toward realizing his secret desire. He started taking riding lessons at Rice Farms in Old Bethpage, on Long Island.
“I’d drive out to the farm three or four times a week very early, at six, and ride, then come home, shower and change and go to work,” he said. “I learned to ride and jump hunters, and even attended a few shows, but I was never crazy about showing. I’m very shy. I liked riding much better than showing, but I do have a small collection of ribbons and a few trophies.”
This continued for many years. Budofsky moved to Vermont; he found a new barn and kept riding. Finally tired of the cold winters, he and his wife moved to Palm Beach Gardens in 1988. And one of the first things he did was search for a new stable. He found a nearby barn in western Jupiter, but then the owner moved. Budofsky explored a new stable, Desert Rose Ranch. He has been riding there for four or five years.
“That’s a great place, technically sound, neat as a pin and the people are terrific,” he said. “They’re very sensitive to people’s needs. And yes, there were more than a few eyebrows raised when I showed up and asked about riding. After all, I’m no young kid. But I had a friend who rode there, and she acted as my envoy, kind of paved the way for me.”
At first they put him on an old, mild-mannered school horse to see what he could do. He passed the test.
“Now I mostly ride Bay, a very nice gelding. He’s comfortable, dependable, safe and sane. I ride at least three times a week,” Budofsky said.
The reason he raised some eyebrows at the ranch? He recently turned 90 years old!
That gets us back to that exclusive club of which he’s a member. It’s called the Century Club, open to any horse and rider pair competing in a dressage show or event whose combined ages equals more than 100.
According to www.dressagefoundation.org, the Century Club was formed at the Dressage Foundation in 1996 to encourage and reward older senior riders. It’s important to show that rider and horse work well together, but the club also wants all senior riders to have fun. The club has no dues, no meetings and no agenda, except to enjoy the occasion. Many keep in contact with the foundation and with each other by e-mail and phone.
Budofsky didn’t previously ride dressage, but he changed his mind after an accident about 10 years ago.
“I was dismounting, and as I threw my leg over the horse’s rump, I accidentally kicked his hip,” he said. “He bucked up and threw me, and I broke my neck. I recovered fully, but my family laid down the law: no more jumping, even though the accident had nothing to do with jumping.”
But he finds dressage challenging.
“When you’re jumping, you basically just point the horse at the next fence. Dressage requires total concentration, keeping up impulsion, making sure the horse is properly on the bit, getting him to do exactly what you want. I’m not a great dressage rider, but I like the challenge,” Budofsky said.
He enjoys learning new things.
“I think it was Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes who decided to learn Greek when he was 91,” Budofsky said. “Someone asked him why, and he replied, ‘If not now, when?’ That’s my philosophy of life. Do what you want to do when you can. After all, what better time than now? There may not be a later.”