‘Performance = Potential – interference’
Growing up on a farm in North Cork, I didn’t notice too much about gender equality until I was about eleven or twelve. I loved working on the farm & did all the same jobs as other boys & girls of my age, but as adolescence loomed, I slowly started to notice gender differences. When we were cutting silage or bringing in hay, it seemed to be carried out by men. Then, as a teenager, when I worked in racing yards, it was also predominantly male jockeys I encountered. Thankfully, there are now many high-profile women in both the agriculture & equestrian industry, providing a tangible example for girls & women.
Where Did All the Fun Go?
As a child & adolescent, I felt I needed to take my horsemanship goals very seriously in order to be taken seriously. I needed to prove that this horse lark was no passing phase, I meant business. This was positive in that I pursued my goals relentlessly & achieved much of what I set out to do, but it also took the fun out of it a little. This was due to both a strong personality & feeling that I needed to overrule the ‘all girls love ponies’ stereotype.
When I worked in professional yards, it seemed that the men were there to be a success, the girls were there to maybe be a success, but largely to care for horses, turn them out & keep the yard tidy. This was almost twenty years ago & changes have occurred, but I still have a sneaking suspicion that equality does not triumph each & every day.
When I worked in professional yards, I was very reticent to make too much of a joke of anything, or equally if a horse was not doing what it was supposed to do for me, I put a lot of mental pressure on myself (& the horse) to get it right. I was not amused or curious about why a horse was behaving in a certain way. What I was, quite frankly, was panicked. Panicked I wouldn’t get it right & as a result would not be taken seriously or jeopardize future opportunities.
Through trying to be taken seriously as a female equestrian I lost a lot of myself;
My Sense of Humour
My Sense of Curiosity
Finding The Lost Pieces
In my 20s I found natural horsemanship & at the risk of sounding trite, it changed my life. It allowed me to really be myself, laugh & be curious. I met women just like me who were icons in this new world I now inhabited. However even within the realms of natural horsemanship there are more men in high profile positions than women, despite women dominating the natural horsemanship population.
I found a place where I could regain my authenticity, sense of humour & curiosity, I still had to work hard, but there was something much easier about it all.
Finding the lost parts of ourselves as equestrians should be possible regardless of our approach or discipline. When we are our whole selves, we are happier & our horses respond to this. When we are in congruence with ourselves our horses know this & perform better for us.
I was incredibly fortunate to meet women that empowered me to be better & do better. These women put opportunity my way, encouraged me to keep going & dusted me off when things weren’t going according to plan. The support I received is something I am immensely grateful for & try to pass on to others that I meet. When we empower others, we raise the bar within ourselves, our equestrian communities & the industry at large.
What can we do as a community to empower women in a practical sense?
- Take women in equestrianism seriously
- Be curious about their goals
- Ask what we can do to help
- Stay curious about what bothers you about another woman
- Refrain from negatively commenting on other women, particularly in a public forum
- Remember that different doesn’t necessarily mean wrong
- Stay open to learning from other women
- Know that we are stronger together than apart
- Remind ourselves that there is enough success out there for all of us
- Agree that everyone has something to teach us
- Remember that we all love horses & are doing the best we can in the present moment with the knowledge we have.
The Equitas Generation
Equitas believes that all women in equestrianism deserve to have their voice heard. Through the Equitas movement we are harnessing the power of women by recognizing their unique & powerful offering.
Equitas is centered on creating a positive & nurturing environment for women of all ages, levels & interests where they can excel & reach their full potential. This potential is reached by removing interference & barriers. These interferences are challenged & removed by opening up powerful conversations that drive change for women both nationally & internationally. Equitas has brought together some of the brightest minds in Irish equestrianism & the potential of this fusion is limitless.
‘If you have the words, there’s always a chance you’ll find the way.’