Hoseback Riding and How it Empowers Young Women

by Ben A.

Everybody knows that sports are often dominated by hegemonic male ideals and that women often have a hard time enjoying these sports because of those ideals. Horseback riding encompasses “male concepts, such as hierarchy, orderliness and discipline” (Forsberg & Teblius, 2011).  In a woman’s teenage years, it is essential that they can feel empowered by sport, and horseback riding is just that. For me, it is an interesting idea that this activity, which was previously looked at as a male dominated activity can empower young women and give them freedom from socially constructed ideals of what a woman is supposed to be. It is understood that young women in their teenage years want to engage in leisure activities where they can feel safe (Forsberg & Teblius).

For young girls, there are many societal pressures to adhere what a woman is socially constructed supposed to be. In the article “The riding school as a site for gender identity construction among Swedish teenage girls”, riding offers a place for young women to be free of all societal pressures to conform. The young women who were interviewed mention that their riding friends consider themselves a “non-bothering gang”. They were not afraid to let their hair down and wear old clothes to the stable because they knew that they would not be judged. It is amazing to see a sport where women feel free to be who they are and not feel pressures to conform.

When I was younger, I participated competitively in track and field. On the outside, track may seem like a sport where there cannot be many pressures to conform of what it is meant to be a “track star”. That assumption would be wrong. There usually was always a new pair of shoes on the market that all of the good athletes would have and you just felt like to be included you had to have the same. The same went for clothing; many of the ‘good’ athletes would wear the most outlandish clothing and there was a pressure there to conform. I think this can relate back to the culture of horseback riding for young women as the adverse; in the stable there is only one goal, and that is to get the work done, and to do this it does not matter what you look like. The girls do not have to conform to the stereotypical body norms to be a rider.

In an ideal world sport would be a place where all genders can be free. Sport could be a place where your ability was not judged by the clothes you wore. I believe we are moving in the right direction as we see more and more accomplished women in sport being publicized in the media. It is great to see young girls being empowered by horseback riding which many years ago was dominated by men. Hopefully one day in sports, ability will only be judged by who somebody is as a person and not their gender, sex, age, or material holdings.

Forsberg, L., & Tebelius, U. (2011). The riding school as a site for gender identity construction among Swedish teenage girls. World Leisure Journal, 53(1), 42-56.