I will be referring to this article in my post. It’s not long, and it’s very grabbing! This is a remarkably interesting topic for me, as I, a female, have competitively ridden horses for almost thirteen years.
I will be the first to admit that I worry about my appearance (I absolutely possess the inner heterosexual male gaze). But when I ride a horse, I am genderless and I am the most confident, handsome person ever. When I dismount from a horse, I know that I reek not only of sweat, but also of power. Horseback riding allows me, as a woman, to be fearless in an generally male dominated athletic world.
As quoted in the article, Olympic medalist Carol Levell says it all too accurately: “there’s no way my 130 pounds can make [her 1,895-pound Olympic mount] go anywhere he doesn’t want to go.” This isn’t a sport about strength, and whether or not more or less testosterone plays into your abilities. You could take the biggest strongest NFL player, but if he can’t ride a horse, even the best trained one at that, there’s no chance he can fair in the sport against my skills and my 5’5″ frame. For this reason, I don’t think it’s right for anyone to be upset that men and women compete together in this sport, but I also don’t feel that it’s right to say women are “better” with horses, and it is here that I must oppose the article.
While I can try to believe that women are more empathetic toward horses, creating a stronger bond, I have not really seen this in my personal experience. Just this past Saturday at a horse show: the quickly-paced switching of horses doesn’t allow for much bonding, but I heard one male competitor say to his female opposer, “Just talk to [the horse], she’ll do what you ask,” while the female swiftly mounted the horse without so much as a greeting. I myself have had just “bad” practices where I’ve caught myself rushing to groom my horse afterward and then I catch my brother scratching the horse’s neck. And here again shows that my gender does not matter in this sport: in a horse show, often times I have never met the horse until less than ten minutes prior to riding, while I might only ride him for about five minutes. I have no time for bonding. While I love myself a horse hug, my gender’s “tendencies” are not what will lead my horse and I to victory.