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For many, horse riding is stereotypically a girls hobby. Especially at the lower levels the equine world is made up of mostly women. This combined with the fact that it is one of the few sports in the world where men and women compete on a level playing field, it would be easy to assume that sexism doesn’t exist in the equine world. But realistically, it isn’t that simple.
Men and women at the top
Not only do men and women compete against each other, but even at top level the women are just as good as the men. In eventing especially, we see both men and women in the world number one spot. Charlotte Dujardin broke multiple world records with Valegro in the dressage world and 2021 has been a fantastic year for women in racing.
I was lucky to grow up in a time when there were plenty of female equestrian heros, especially in the Olympic sports. I grew up playing video games inspired by the greats Mary King and Pippa Funnel. Pippa Funnel was not only the first woman to win the Grand Slam of eventing, but the first person to ever win it. Now the next generation have even more female role models in the form of Charlotte Dujardin and Rachael Blackmore just to name two. But this wasn’t always the case. Even those born a decade before me would have struggled to find female heros in the equine world, with nearly all of those at the top of the sport being men.
Men and women not viewed the same
Despite women repeatedly proving they are just as good as the men, women are not always viewed the same as men. This is particularly true in horse racing. A recent study found that despite female jump jockeys having the same if not a higher win rate than male jockeys, the betting odds were higher, suggesting that the market believed they were less likely to win. There is also an idea in the racing industry that female jockeys aren’t as strong as male jockeys, leading to some owners, even female owners, not wanting female jockeys on their horses.
But hopefully after the past year, these outdated ideas will be left behind. Holly Doyle achieved incredible things on the flat, being nominated for the Sports Personality Of The Year and Rachael Blackmore broke records becoming the first female jockey to win the leading jockey at Cheltenham Festival and to win the Grand National.
What about sexual harassment in the equine world?
I am lucky to have never experienced any form of harassment in the equine world, although I am sad to say it probably does happen. What I have noticed though is the amount of sexualised comments from outside the equine world to horsey women. Whether it is from men on dating apps making lewd comments about what else you ride, to some really quite disgusting comments I have seen on social media about some female jockeys. So while I am sure there is sexual harassment within the industry, I have only witnessed it from men outside or on the outskirts of the industry, most of which was called out as wrong. So hopefully we will see less of this too.