Sep 20, 2007

A Horse and His Boy

You know, one of the other reasons horseball was created was actually to attract more boys to horseback riding. I haven't been able to stop thinking about that. We're always trying to attract more boys to riding, but in my point of view at the high levels of every discipline, there are A LOT of boys/men. Okay, I don't have exact numbers, but I still think it is pretty clear that in the grand prix dressage and jumping competitions, the number of men and women is fairly even. Maybe there are even more men at the high levels of Western and I would probably say the same for Saddleseat. This is all just empirical evidence that I've witnessed over the years, but overall what I'm trying to say is that I don't particularly see a dearth of men in the upper echelon of riding. Maybe a dearth of straight men (oops, did I say that out loud?), but not men in general.

The interesting thing is that at the entryway into riding (school-barns and the like), you're going to see primarily girls, girls, more girls, and silly older women. There are so many horse-crazy girls who aren't even that into the sport, but for some reason are obsessed with the cute furry creatures.... It's super sweet, but it kind of irritating at the same time. I wish girls weren't so silly about horses. I love the creatures, but I don't feel the need to treat them as my best friend or my baby or my doll to dress up. Sometimes I just think that if we really wanted to make riding more attractive to boys just starting out, we could do something about the hordes of little girls at the stables that just hang out, braid and dress up the ponies constantly, all the while proclaiming their undying love for a certain pony and that they will surely marry him when they get older. Look, I endured that ALL THE TIME as a riding instructor. One on hand it's kind of cute in a retarded way, but it gets old fast. I can't blame the boys at the edge of the crowd just rolling their eyes. I don't remember being that absurd as a little horse-obsessed girl. I wanted to learn and compete (in addition to braiding purple ribbons into C's tail), but the point is that I wasn't always encouraged to be a silly little girl around the ponies. I was encouraged to be a good, competitive rider and to read and study horses not just play with them like dolls. If we spent more time encouraging the girls at the stables to take an active interest in being better horsewomen and showing them great role models, we might not create such an insular world that boys don't always feel welcome to join. Instead many lesson and camp activities seem to revolve around how to make our pony pretty or to parade him around like a stuffed animal. It's okay to do those things, but we don't have to treat it like the end-all and be-all of being at the barn.

Is it blasphemous to think that we could be creating smart, thoughtful, competitive riders of both genders? Someone I actually want to hang out with away from the barn?

Look, I realize this could be construed as me being misogynistic or something, but that's totally not my goal. I'm just saying that we have a tendency to encourage girls (and women) to have infantile interactions with horses that is just totally absurd and way off the mark. It's a sport, people. (And a risky one at that.) Can't we just attempt to acknowledge this and not actively encourage silly behavior as the only type of horsey interaction?

No comments: