On the surface, eventing looks like a pretty level playing field: After all, the equestrian disciplines are the only Olympic sport where men and women compete equally (with the exception of one sailing event). But that doesn’t mean it’s all fair play and feminism for us lady riders.
Dig a little deeper and the cracks start to show, especially for female riders trying to make their way into the top of the sport. Why is it that women comprise a disproportionate percentage of lower-level amateur riders, then get stuck somewhere on their upward climb? It requires a incredible level of commitment for women to get to the top and stay there. As Nina Gardner, an owner for Jennie Brannigan, says, “Challenges don’t seem to be related to lack of interest or lack of talent, but at least partially due to challenges in financial and other support for women riders.”
Regardless of whether we’re contesting four-stars or Novice events, many female riders have encountered challenges somewhere along the line due to our gender. Of course, there’s the eternal dilemma of balancing horses with motherhood. There’s that creepy farrier who won’t stop hitting on you, the salesman at the truck dealership who is trying to rip you off because he assumes you have no clue, or the wealthy owner who offers you the ride on their upper-level dream horse … but there’s a catch. Despite the huge strides we’ve made in recent decades (see Amanda Ronan’s excellent “Breaking the Glass Ceiling: The First Ladies of Eventing“) there are still male-heavy power structures, louder-than-thou male voices and other assorted variations on on the patriarchal theme within our sport.
The topic of this week’s Let’s Discuss is “Gender Equality and Eventing.” Want to weigh in? Engage your community in the comments section below.
We’ll be passing your comments from this thread along to the organizers of the Celebration of Women in Peak Performance Equestrian Sports Luncheon, to be held Friday Nov. 17 during the $100,000 Ocala Jockey Club International 3-Day Event. Admission is included in VIP packages, for riders and officials at the event. Separate admission for luncheon only may be purchased for $45/ticket.
The luncheon will be a celebration of those women who have made the journey to the top successfully, as well as a discussion of the current process and support system for women riders to succeed at the highest levels. Come to get inspired and to discuss ideas to do even better! Learn more here.