A former dancer and gymnastics champion says you’re never too old to try something new after taking up equestrian vaulting when she was 74.
And now, she’s been officially recognized as the world’s oldest equestrian vaulter after taking part in a competition at 77 years 175 days old.
Maureen “Mo” Fitzgerald née Hill (South Africa) earned her title after competing in the seniors category at the 2021 Gauteng Vaulting Championships.
She told us: “I strongly believe that you can do anything you put your mind to. You do not have to hang upside down on a horse - find what makes you happy and do that thing, no matter if you have never done it before or how old you are.
You will achieve great joy from doing something new, it makes you feel young and alive.
The mum-of-three and gran-of-seven’s journey to becoming a record breaker was kick-started by her granddaughter Siobhan Doherty’s school project.
It was when a then-11-year-old Siobhan and her classmates were asked by their teacher who had the coolest gran that the family began looking into Mo’s many achievements.
They began wondering if she was the oldest woman out there doing equestrian vaulting, but when they found that a record didn’t already exist, they set about creating one with Guinness World Records, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Mo, who is also a ballet dancer, participated as a gymnast in the 1966 World Games before transitioning from the sport to ballroom dancing, where she enjoyed lots of success in South African championships.
But with her knees left weak from years of gymnastics, she decided to try something new.
Despite having no previous horse-riding experience, she found a passion for equestrian vaulting.
Now, she can do everything from a shoulder stand to an arabesque and a scissor change to a forward roll dismount off her horse.
Mo, who features in Guinness World Records 2024, said: “I still have very good balance and love horses. I wanted to do something that was challenging and I did not need my legs too much for. I am very strong still and started doing this as a way to keep fit.
“As equine vaulting or horse vaulting is almost like gymnastics and ballet on the horses, I found the transition relatively easy after having years of gymnastics and ballet experience.
You are never too old to do what you love.
Mo has performed on a few different horses, and is currently riding Onduno Gladiator, a 20-year-old Namibian warmblood.
Her Guinness World Records title is just the latest in a long list of accolades for Mo, who has been included on the ‘Wall of Fame’ at The Wanderers Club, a top sporting club in Johannesburg.
And I think, above all else, we can all agree that Siobhan does indeed have the coolest gran.
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