The Olympics are the oldest and most recognizable athletic competition in the world. The only Olympic events, where women compete as equals with men for individual medals are the equestrian sports.
It’s no accident, these are the sporting events I find most appealing. It’s more than the magnificence of the horses. I find inspiration in the courage, love and strength exhibited by the riders, in partnership with their animals, who defy limits most of us wrestle with regularly.
Strength is Beauty.
I love all things athletic. There’s great satisfaction in finding and pushing through one’s perceived limitations. It’s exhilirating to take a risk and come out the other side unscathed and victorious. In the 60’s and 70’s, little girls were supposed to cheer others in these pursuits, rather than experience them. My mother had other ideas, though.
When I was a kid, our society discouraged young girls who aspired beyond traditional paradigms like: get married, make babies and keep a nice house. Even women with college degrees weren’t supposed to put professional aspirations above cultural expectations. Overshadowing the men in their lives was also discouraged. Hints of these traditions continue today, but we can all admit, it’s improved a bunch since the 60’s and 70’s.
Mom was ahead of her time.
My sisters and I were blessed with a mom who said defining our roles as women by traditional measures of obsequiousness was nonsense. She encouraged us to be athletic and proud of it. And she introduced us to horses at a very young age. She whispered that we could be whatever we want, and if we wanted to be wives and moms, that was cool but not required. First and foremost, we should make independent choices, rather than bend with every trendy breeze and that’s what horses taught us too.
We didn’t learn in a fancy riding school. And we didn’t learn with saddles. We learned from a lady trainer, on retired show horses, bareback without a bridle in a round pen, who free lunged us in a circle until we could balance all three speeds without falling off. And we fell off many times before achieving our goal.
Those lessons taught us winning meant sweating and taking risks. Getting dumped in the dirt meant taking our lumps before finding success. If you keep climbing back on, and stay in the game, eventually, you get where you want to go. Scrapes and bruises can be badges of honor, when earned on the road to achievement.
We grew up with no quit in us. We also grew up with an understanding that persuasion works better than force, in most scenarios. We learned that fear is a healthy, but manageable emotion one can transform to triumph with enough grit and determination.
Women love horses
Women love horses because of the relationships we form with them and our horse community, but those aren’t the only reasons.
For most of our lives, various aspects of our culture sell false limitations to women by insisting they look a certain way, participate in certain activities or wear certain clothes. We hear, through a thousand subtle messages, we aren’t quite good enough to play with the big boys.
Horses tell us otherwise. I believe them.