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Saturday, August 6, 2016

Girls, Women and Horses: Is it Really a Thing?

On one of my earliest dates with the man who is now my husband, I mentioned how much I loved horses and he said he’d never met a woman or girl who didn’t.

And I thought, hmmm. Well. That doesn’t make it a girly thing? Well, no. Because why would we have Westerns? And then I thought of my own unlikely journey to riding, which I would never have predicted.  But that experience taught me why women and girls love horses, or at least, why they should.

I was a Brooklyn girl, New York and New Jersey framing how I saw the world. Not the sort of girl who got riding lessons or whose parents would even have thought of it. So it came as a huge surprise when, during my first marriage, I moved to Indiana and found a friend who had grown up around horses and had one. She asked if I wanted to ride with her sometimes. And of course I said YES.

Next thing I know I am in Crown Point Indiana, sitting on a copper-colored horse named Gabriel in the riding ring of a trainer named Ginny, a single mom who trained kids and adults to post, canter and gallop.

Ginny’s place was no finishing school. She was tough, funny and if you didn’t do what you were supposed to, she yelled at you. She was tickled that I grew up in the New York area and never learned to drive; and that my first experience “driving” would be learning how to ride a horse.

Gabriel was an older stallion and very, very patient with me. I didn’t know he could canter until finally Ginny let me try, and I have to say I was impressed that such an old horse could move so well.

Some months later, I tried riding Marshall, a white horse who seemed huge next to Gabriel, and then a skittish chestnut-colored mare who bolted at the tiniest sounds.

Ginny taught me to post with a joke. “Do you have kids?” she asked. “If you do, you know how when you’re about to sit down and they say, ‘Mom’ – over and over again? So you just start to sit and have to get up again. That’s what you need to do when you’re posting.”

A few years later when I had a kid, I found out exactly what she meant. Ginny was the best teacher I had on any subject, let alone riding. She knew exactly what she wanted you to do and told you how to get there. Riding around her ring made me feel like whatever life had in store for me, I could manage.

A couple years after meeting Ginny, I moved to the Twin Cities and though I’ve wanted to badly, I have not found the time or place to ride. I still think about it though, and promise myself I will as soon as the stars align.

In the meanwhile, I decided if anyone asks me why girls/women/I love horses so much, I tell them. They let us climb on their backs—and RIDE.

If you can do that, we’ll love you too.