When someone asks me if I play sports, the conversation usually goes a little like this:
“Do you play sports?” they say.
“I ride horses,” I reply.
“Oh, so the horse does all the work,” they respond.
Sigh. Here we go again, should I be offended?
What’s even more degrading than someone demeaning something I am passionate about to my face is the fact that this commentary is seemingly always followed by a laugh and a pat on the arm. I’ve been riding every week for more than 17 years. I don’t know why I waste my time on someone who has already made-up their mind about what I do.
I’ve had a lot of time to think about this. When I explain to people how horseback riding works and the athleticism that is required most are surprised, impressed and apologetic. That is flattering for a second, then I remember it’s still just as offensive as them thinking so poorly of equestrians in the first place.
Logic, to me, deems equestrianism the most impressive of all sports, but I’m a little biased. I’m not writing this to brag about how impressive I am or may be, or how people should bow down to me as soon as my equestrian lips mutter the word ‘horse.’
I’m writing this to those of you who honestly believe that “the horse does all the work” and who think that expressing this to someone who ride horses competitively is appropriate. It is not. Next time, maybe respond with a little more respect and understanding.
Here are some fun facts:
- Horses have been used for work and transportation in just about every civilization for about as far back as history books will allow. (This makes them cool).
- Another little known fact amongst non-horse people is this – horses are animals. Yes, I know, this is crazy. You obviously had no idea that this sport I partake in involves a living and breathing hot blooded mammal that has the capacity to not only make its own decisions, but also turn on you in a millisecond.
My job, is to get on a horse’s back and try to command its 12,000 pound body to prance, reverse, turn in circles and fly through the air over nearly five foot fences.
This has to happen while I pray that the horse doesn’t decided to come to a dead halt mid-run right in front of a jump, sending me into the air or trample me – because if it wanted to that is exactly what it could do.
Can you even think of another sport that includes ‘Risk of animal returning to animal instincts and trying to harm, if not kill you?’
No. I didn’t think so.
If that’s not enough proof that what equestrians do is a sport, maybe we should reevaluate what makes something a sport.
In soccer or football, you play, then you pack up your ball and leave. You get to go hydrate immediately and leave immediately post game.
In horseback riding, you don’t get to put yourself first. Why? Well, because this is an animal we’re dealing with here. It cannot verbally communicate what it needs.
Once you hop down from that horse the next 30 to 60 minutes consist of you caring for that animal. You have to untack, then give your horse a treat, sweat scrape him (if it’s hot), brush him, sometimes bathe him, pick his hooves, if it’s cold out put his blanket on him (which weighs about 10 pounds and has a million buckles), make sure he’s been fed, has water, clean his stall, administer any medication needed and then turn him out to the field.
Now, you can take off your helmet, half chaps, gloves, get a drink and go home.
Does your football get that much care? I didn’t think so.
So, next time someone says they ride horses, and you’re inclined to be disrespectful, think of the danger, the care, and everything in between that goes into the craziness behind hopping up on an animal and commanding it to fly.