Back in the saddle

Atwater woman decides to ride a horse… at age 101


Apparently, you’re never too old to ride a horse. Just ask Loisa Rhode, a 101-year-old resident of Sunnyview, a senior living facility in Atwater.

When Rhode was about to celebrate her 101st birthday on Feb. 9, resident home health aide Vickie Gatewood asked what she would like for decorations on her cake before they ordered one.

“Horses,” she politely responded.

The conversation then turned to horses, and Rhode mentioned her desire to get on one again.

“So we checked around to see if we could honor that request as a birthday present,” explained Gatewood. “We called Paffraths in Spicer because we knew that they had horses. So they arranged it all for us.”

The date was set for May 16.

“I wasn’t nervous at all,” she said, confidently. “Why should I be nervous? I’ve ridden horses before.”

It was assumed that Rhode wanted to get back on a horse because she grew up around horses and has always been a horse enthusiast. So the question was put to her: “Have you ridden horses most of your life?”

“No,” Rhode laughed. “The last time I rode a horse was when I was 15 years old.”

In other words, it had been 86 years since this kind-hearted lady had last been in the saddle, yet she was unnerved about climbing aboard again despite her, well … advanced age.


“This particular horse I picked is incredible at reading people,” said Joel Paffrath, who owns Paffrath Paint Ranch. “I broke her in as a 2 year old. She’s calm, gentle and a very intuitive.”

A bale of hay was used as a stepping prop for Rhode to get up on the back of Scotch, a 22-year-old paint horse.

“We were happy to oblige this request,” said Paffrath. “If it made her happy, then it made us happy.”

Once comfortably seated in the saddle, Rhode smiled as she waved her cowgirl hat high above her head as if she were performing in a rodeo.

“You always get on a horse from the left side,” Rhode remarked, as if she had just erased those 86 years since her last ride. “I think it’s because the cowboys’ rifles were always (holstered) on the right side of the saddle.”

Two of the Paffrath Ranch wranglers walked Scotch slowly around the Rusty Spur Arena, a 70-foot by 180-foot indoor building where rides are often given.

“I didn’t have too much trouble getting on or off the horse,” said Rhode, before flashing her natural smile. “And no, I didn’t get saddle sores.”

Rhode was grateful to those responsible for making the ride possible. But she did have one mild complaint.

“They just had the horse go slow like this,” she said, while moving her fingers slowly on the table that she was seated in front of.

“I wanted to go fast like this,” she added, dancing her fingers at a more rapid pace across the table top.

“We go slow for everyone we give rides to,” explained Paffrath. “We don’t want anyone getting hurt.”

Apparently, Rhode has a need for speed. When asked what her next conquest would be, the confident senior citizen never hesitated for a moment.


But because the doors on stock cars are welded shut, it would be difficult for Rhode to climb through the window like the drivers do.

“They did say she could ride in a pacecar,” said Gatewood.

Rhode wasn’t thrilled with that idea, rolling her eyes after pondering that thought for a few seconds.

“I was telling Loisa that I had skydived,” said home health aide Rhonda Garcia. “And she said that sounded like fun. She doesn’t seem to be afraid of anything.”

Rhode grew up near Litchfield, 13 miles from Atwater. Her grandfather would often bring his horse over to her parents’ home and let her ride. That’s where her fondness for the animal began.

While talking about her adventure, Rhode felt people are making too much of the accomplishment of getting up on a horse at her age.

“It’s just like you getting in a car and driving,” she explained. “It’s really no big deal to me.”

Seems she took her adventure of getting back in the saddle again all in stride.

#101yearoldhorserider #Atwater #LoisaRhode

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