In this series, I will be outlining the different moments in my equestrian career, and my own experiences with the sport, while being a male rider, in a female dominated sport
Following my tenth birthday, I came to the conclusion that I wanted to start taking horseback riding lessons. After spending a lot of time watching my mom take her lessons, I decided that I wanted to be doing something while I was doing nothing, so I started taking lessons at a local hunter barn in Fair Hill, Maryland. I fell in love with the sport immediately, and stuck with it for another twelve years, and hopefully many more to come.
After spending several years with the hunters, and doing a little bit of local jumper shows, I was given the opportunity to join the Delaware Pony Club, where my real experience as a male equestrian took shape, and where I had become fully conscious of the fact that this is a female dominated sport. I would not know how well that I would have handled it without my friend Colin, who was also in the club, where we owned our male equestrian culture and went on to do things our way.
I Don’t Want to do Hunters Anymore:
After spending the first few years of my riding doing hunters at the local farm, and doing local hunter shows, I realized that this type of riding was not for me, and Pony Club was a major catalyst for this. I did not want to be stuck in a ring, doing a Walk/Trot class, then a Walk/Trot/Canter class, then finally jump the most basic course imaginable. I wanted something more challenging, something faster paced, and I wanted to win based on being a good rider and not because I learned how to ‘game the system’ in order to win, which is mostly the case at hunter shows. This lead me to doing a small amount of eventing and A LOT of jumpers. I was never great at eventing and was timid during the cross country phase (and do not get me started on how awful dressage was at the age of 13/14 years old). Jumpers was perfect for me. It is a fast paced competition with challenging courses, and the only way to win is to leave every jump up and be the fasted on the course. This was my domain. I would always volunteer to be first to go in the course and loved to watch people try to go clear and make my time. While competing at Ludwig’s Corner, I was in a class with 50+ riders, and lead the division as one of the first to go, only getting beaten out during the last 10 riders, dropping me to 10th, but for my first ‘big’ show, I could not have been happier about that outcome.
Me at one of my first shows riding Gwen at Appleton Stables
Why I like to Ride and Compete:
Jumpers is a sport that benefited me as a boy at the time. Due to its fast pace nature and difficulty in the courses, I was determined to win and go fast. I was always confident in at least one first place finish in my division just because I wanted to win, and I was not going to let anyone stop me from winning. If I lost, or had a bad day, it was never the horse’s fault, but just a bad day and I knew what needed to be worked on later.
This competitive nature just comes from being a boy growing up and being involved in numerous sports as a kid. Even through High School I was playing football, or running for cross country and track, and then riding once I got home. I wanted to compete, and had the understanding of “you win some, you lose some”.
Riding became a way for me to really test myself as an athlete, since not only do you yourself compete, but you also need to compete with a 1,200 pound animal, while training the horse and yourself. This became very interesting to me and loved the difficulty of the sport as a whole. Riding is all about being supple yet firm, and disciplined but relaxed. It is a sport that makes you throw out all of your natural instincts in order for you to fully understand how to ride and train. The sport is just interesting, difficult, and rewarding.
Me riding Fox Red at the Maryland Horse Trials at Loch Moy
Keep following along with the series as I recount the experience of a male equestrian! I will also write articles on marketing equestrian sport to the general public, along with my thoughts on the sport and where it is leading, and where it needs to go to. Please also contact me on anything else I should write about.