Time and time again, equestrians hear it. You’ve heard it. I’ve heard it. “The horse does all the work!” “That’s not a sport.” “You aren’t doing physical activity.” Yes, such words are increasingly common for the everyday rider. Each time someone is faced with this, there’s always a comeback in return. “It’s in the olympics!” “Ride my horse and try saying that again.” Oh, there’s never a new one from the victims. In the midst of hearing these from both sides, the rider and the onlooker, I began to think deeply about the truth. Is horseback riding really a sport? The deeper I thought, the more I came up with my answer. This is how it was at the start. Riding a horse is not always a sport. Being a rider does not always mean you are an athlete. Here is why.
You see, riding is not one simple endeavor people can do. There are so many sub-categories in riding that the simple term ‘riding’ is a library and the different ends are the various genres of books. Jumping is different from dressage. Trail riding is different from reining. The different ends require different amounts of physical activity and different sets of skills. This is not debatable. This is truth. But the problem is, people don’t hold to what is actually required of them to be athletes.
Riding now is vastly different from how we fantasize it to be in our heads. Every person who sits on a horse calls it a sport. A “sport” is a physical activity where a person or team competes against others. Horseback riding is a physical activity. Is it competitive? Only for some. An “athlete” is a person proficient in sports. The problem is that all the people who call themselves athletes are often times not. Riders have now fallen away from what that actually means. So why aren’t they, then?
Look at how competitions are now. Look at how these “athletes” are now. The so called sporting events people call home about are, more often than not, a run down sand oval and a handful of classes offered that have points for nothing. Our “athletes” are hobbyists that do not commit to the fitness, ethic, and toughness the sport requires. The amount of people who ride that actually eat, work out, and dedicate time properly are so few that it’s idiotic. One would assume it would get better if you move up in the levels. This is also false. The partner, the horse, is fit but not prepared. Illegal injections cover that. Next. The rider. Once again, the idea that they are all “athletes” is warped. Expensive equipment and thousands of dollars of training is chipping paint on a wood post. They still do not commit. They are not to blame. Should we look at the trainers? Of course. They are under the ideals that skinny, small, and presentable is what an athlete is. Look at every other sport. Horseback riding is the only one where having strength show in muscles and endurance be frowned upon.
We end up covering up these terrible flaws with the idea of ‘toughness’ and ‘dedication.’ There is not a single doubt that getting thrown from one of the beasts requires great nerve and strong bones not to break. But people stray from the idea that riding, when a sport, is a skill sport. It requires great physical activity, but unless someone is indeed getting thrown, the only hurts come from sore muscles if we actually are performing as athletes. Horseback riding is not hockey where players skate full speed to check someone into the boards with all their weight. Riders do not get tackled for catching a ball. They, rarely, have to execute something equivalent to a full out sprint unless it’s the last stretch of a jump-off or the homecoming in a barrel race. But that is fine.
It is fine because it is something entirely different. All sports require precision, strength, and effort. What a true athlete should do creates poetry out of it. The olympians to represent us can build teamwork and complete feats that few can. It’s no wonder the athletes we send to represent our country are so much older than others. It takes so long to reach perfection. But the thing is, people want shortcuts to it, and they want to believe they are at perfection. The people who say “It’s in the olympics” and “my sport is tougher than yours” believe they are at perfection for just that moment or longer. We are not all olympians. We only require toughness when schooling a troublesome creature or flying through the air after a terrible mistake. Then what do we say when arguing that what we do is a sport? Is it worth arguing if we are not all athletes and it is not always a sport?
It is worth educating. Absolutely, 100%, even though horseback riding has dwindled in how it should be as of late, it is worth defending. Because even though most are not at the level of “athlete,” isn’t it true that anyone who signs up for a competition wants to be there? They rarely succeed, they don’t know what to do or what it requires, but the desire is there.
I say educating because the person questioning our sport is not to blame. They do not understand. Likely, we cannot make them understand. How can they understand when social media and exposure only treats them to those who are blatantly not athletes? Horseback riding to others is internet horse masks, overweight backyard breeders smacking a pony to canter across their lawn, drunken idiots laughing as another idiot climbs on their half-broke 3 year old. That is all that they see. That is all that they are allowed to see from where they stand. We cannot be angry with them for doubting us. They do not understand that true athletes go up in the ranks, eat healthy, work out, and strive for the international level. They don’t know that. They don’t even know horse shows exist. All they know is the Kentucky Derby because that is all they are exposed to.
So when you are discussing the lengthy battle you had with your pony and someone tells you “it’s not a sport” do not be angry at them. Be angry if they do not try to understand. In the simplest possible way, tell them that, how riders work up to the international level and eat healthy and work out [even though the majority don’t.] You may be surprised and see that they start to believe you, and while not understanding, respect you. That is all that you should need. They will not be able to sit on your horse and feel what you feel. Understand that. Complicating it and growing angry will only make them resent riders more.
At the end of the day, the arguments are over. The horse is put away and the person questioning horseback riding likely forgot about the ordeal. And here I remain, sitting, baffled all of these thoughts struck me and made me redirect them into words. There are factors and details that lead up to a big picture. And that remains. It is screwed up and distanced from what it really should be, but for those who strive for it, the answer is clear as day.
Horseback riding, no doubt, is a sport.
this is a horse
the best baby goalie ever!
so I ran into one of my other favs at the elevators
I MET ONE OF MY FAVORITE HOCKEY PLAYERS TODAY WOW IF I DIDN’T RIDE ID PLAY HOCKEY
Showplace Spring Spectacular at Lamplight in IL
Who even cares I was in the middle of the biggest pony hunter show lol
I adore her with all my heart
and always wanted her to know
guys i got 30 new followers today! keep em coming I’m only at 80 BUT STILL YOU GUYS ARE THE BEST
WOW MOCHA AND I GOT FAMOUS
I took this about 2 years ago near my friend’s house. I was, and still am very proud of this picture.
Penelope Leprevost and Mylord Carthago.
She has the BEST equitation and finesse.
ALL HAIL THE MIGHTY