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Hey Denny! Your question on boys in Eventing

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  • Hey Denny! Your question on boys in Eventing

    Interesting that you should bring this topic up in a previous thread. I get the UK Eventing magazine and they did a whole article on this. I guess they have 'the trend' too where the boys don't take an interest in horses.
    Here are their stats:
    Under 25
    Girls - 2749 placings in competitions
    Boys - 653
    Females - 6393
    Males - 1102
    Unknown (seriously!) - 537

    They interviewed a well respected instructor that concentrates on young riders about it. Her quote: "boys liek the care and grooming side of it less than girls. Boys seem to find it boring. The boys prefer to get on with the riding, but like to find more to excite them than dressage, such as the corss counter". Another trainer states, "Boys don't see eventing as their future career at the ages of 12 or 13. They need to be kept interested with success. They need to move up more quickly and be set more challenges."
    The article poses some interesting questions:
    Male role models have always existing for teenage boys coming up through the ranks, but is it cool to be an event rider? Is it possible for the boys to wear white jodphurs with pride?

    Okay, one problem we have is that we don't have the male role models. We don't put out there a William Fox-Pitt. We kinda have lost David O'C. and we need to replace him. And I'll readily admit that those jodphurs make me think of Borat and his bathing suit. It's nothing I want to see. And I'm shopping for hubby britches at the moment and I cringe at the catalogs. Ewww!
    One snippet they had was listing what a certain person wants for Christmas. One guy, Harry Meade said, " I want a wife who's a vet and a mistress who's a farrier. " Now, that's what I'm talking about!
    Even duct tape can't fix stupid

  • #2
    I think that boys just don't like horses as much as girls, understandably. Part of "horses" is building a relationship with it, spoiling it, loving on it, buying it lots of "clothes", etc (at least when you're a kid). A lot of boys simply aren't into this "relationship with an animal" thing that takes lots of care and commitment.


    • #3
      I can definitely get the boys don't like the care and, especially, the grooming side of it! We've got two "boys" in the barn, the boss and an adult male amateur. If it wasn't for me, I don't think the client's horse would EVER be clean (why he treats me kindly during show season ). The boss can turnout a horse nicely when he has to, but he prefers it when I do the dirty work. All the girls, on the other hand, including me, are far happier to spend 20-30 minutes getting their horses groomed to ride, and another 20 to put them to bed! I had a guy friend in high school who rode, and he was constantly getting on dirty horses!

      But I do think the guys who ride do have a special bond with their horses. It may not be quite the same as a girl's, but they love their horses just as much and bond with them. Horses are very, very special souls, and those who get that feel it and understand it, no matter their gender


      • #4
        My brother rode as a child and through college - boy did he hate the cleaning aspect of it. Got in big trouble at a pony club rally saying "the only clean I care about is over the course". He did manage to clean up enough to get his B.

        However, he had no shortage of girls offering to help him with things like braiding, tack cleaning - he had it made, really... and he was a good rider.

        He evented, he was also on the ski jumping team (regular downhill wasn't thrilling enough) and took flying lessons. During college he decided he would rather race cars than ride, which he still does today.

        He was truely fond of his horses, and they were "his", they definitely bonded, to the point where his B horse failed the riders who had to ride in the switch - wouldn't even canter for one of them, and he was not a difficult ride. He found a few good male instructors to keep him motivated and I think was crucial - he worked for the Schurinks in VT, and with Ken Edwards (show jumper) and could look up to Jerry and Ken as role models.

        had he not taken up car racing he might still ride - but he's always loved mechanical stuff and he can go a lot faster in a car.

        One of his kids seems interested in horses so I hope to foster him along when he gets older.


        • #5
          I think there are a fair number of boys that ride... well, not as many as girls that ride, but some. They just do it mroe frequently in a western saddle.


          • #6
            Take the Mc Donalds test. You are a guy coming back from a rodeo. You swagger into Mc Donalds in all your gear.
            You are a guy coming home from an event. You will change in the backseat of a vw bug before you would go in public in your boots, britches and little beanie helmet.
            Right there is a big piece of the problem. It`s not perceived as a sport that real guys do.
            Take a 12-14 year old boy, just the age they get hooked on riding. What self respecting kid that age wants the ridicule from his friends for doing "a girl sport?"
            "Cute little pants you got there, kid!"


            • #7
              My husband and I were discussing this. We think it comes back to the herbivore vs carnivore thing.
              Boys get along with dogs because they are rough and tumble and still can enjoy a good cuddle....then you get to turn around and throw them a ball. The are carnivores and they can play rough.
              Horses on the other hand (being Herbivores) are so sensitive. Surprizingly (based on size), sensitivity is the name of the game. They, as we all know, respond to a gentle hand. The softer you are with them, the better they get and the happier they are. And the little cues they give that express their grattitude are also very slight.
              Very "feminine" if you will.
              We bought a horse for my older son when he was in high school. He loved that horse. But he never could identify with the "soft touch" thing. At one point, she began to get a bit gurthy and it did not take long to figure out why! Why does one need to take TIME to sinch a girth on a 1200 pound animal anyway?


              • #8
                Ah, nothing like a group of women wondering why more men don't ride.

                Denny is right on.

                Here is my personal experience, so don't agrue about being politcally correct. At the same time, these are some of the things that my buddies and I have come up with when considering the topic.

                In the US english is not considered a "man's" sport. Rodeo is. It is a function of national heritage. The cowboy was always the primary horseman to the public, while calvary was strictly the domain of the military. It is quite different in Europe as the history is different.

                Peer pressure. For schoolage boys almost all of them understand rodeo but english is a sport for gays. I can't tell you how many of my friends called me derogatory names and insulted the "outfit." They had no basis of history and why we wear what we do.

                What kept me in horses was NOT girls/women. It was the fact I had other guys to hang and pal around with everyday. It was more fun working on the farm but riding was part of that. I assure you that it is not all that great having just women around. There are plenty of times that being able to hang with the guys at a competition is better.

                I feel that this is why at the upper levels the men are dominant (e.g. grand prix) because the ones that still do have a single focus and have already been pushed as far as they can as to what they want in the sport.



                • #9
                  Well. . . . as the mom of a 17 year old who events and plays polocrosse, but has sworn off of pony club, and the wife of a guy who hunts, plays polocrosse and events as the check book allows. . . .

                  With regard to boys/males and sensitivity I think that is something that has to be nurtured in young men. Society frowns on "sensitive" guys. Certainly my son has an incredible relationship with both his polocrosse mares and his eventer.

                  And Denny is correct "horse shows" are perceived as something girls do. Andrew's school friends didn't get pumped about coming along to shows with him until they watched him jump cross country, and realized the very high percentage of girls in boots and tight pants (every young man's fantasy!) Now there is standing room only in our truck to go to shows. You'd have to know my son to know that part of the fascination for him is being unique - the rare straight young man at an event - and one of the only A grade polocrosse players in the US who does not play in a stock saddle.

                  As for grooming and braiding - well that's what moms and girlfriends are for!

                  Male role models in horse sports are tough to find, we are lucky in the area that he competes there are a higher concentration of guys in breeches and english saddles. It has also helped hugely that guys like Denny, Mike and Charlie Plumb, and John Williams have reached out to him. Early on in Andrew's "career" there were a group of middleaged gentlemen around here, competing at Novice level, who made it a point to include him in crowd - he still talks about being one of the guys with them - it was very sweet to watch these 40 something men pal-ling around with a 10 year old.

                  I don't know how to address the men's apparel question. I do know that my guys are very particular about what they want to wear - it's the only place my son expresses a strong opinion about clothing - and it is damn near impossible to find the types of breeches they like in this country. I think I have located just about every manufacturer of looser cut breeches with pleated fronts that ship to the US. And WHY is it that if I look at UK stores they have a huge selection of suitable breeches and US stores do not? Don't answer that, I know why. I have decided this is the year when I get vocal with the places I do business with about that issue.



                  • #10
                    And we do NOT like to braid... And apparently I don't know how to comb a tail properly

                    I think it was an accident as much as anything that got me into english riding. I think I initially wanted to be like the cowboys in movies jumping on and galloping and shooting and such. But the lesson barns of course were english so thats what I did. I didn't really get into eventing until many years later after I'd done it a few times and realized how exciting xc is.

                    But its certainly not 'cool' and I wasn't exactly advertising my hobby in high school.

                    Between the books and movies out there ('saddle club' etc.) What on earth is there in our culture to make a guy realize that riding could be exciting like dirt bike racing or flying a fighter plane?

                    Given the toys and media out there you'd think horses were just some Barbie accessory with glitter and pink butterflies. If you take a step further, what is in the horse section of the book store- a lot of books about some 'mystical bond with the horse' etc... Believe me you're not going to get a guy to go near that with a 10 foot pole! (I'm sure guys are equally capable of a 'bond' with their horse- however they are NOT going to read/write/talk about it anymore than they would for 'human relationships')

                    I think I'm probably here only because I got started too young to be aware of the above mentioned things!


                    • #11
                      good points all. The guys do have to tough it out to put up w/ the outside peer pressure esp in the younger years when all that stuff is so important.

                      Anyway I was fortunate to grow up riding at a boarding barn that had around 5-6 boys that rode and stuck together. They had a blast, and like most folks stopped riding once they went away to school. These boys starting riding at elem. school age. Anyway the reasons that they kept it up was b/c they were all became good friends and enjoyed each others company and we had a great instructor. Our Riding instructor/barn manager was a man, a very stocky gruff eastern european male who'd evented at the higher levels in his country. And we were all mostly into eventing. Most of the A-Hunters girls in our area (school friends of ours) were positively intimidated by our instructor. Heck he made you work and care for your horses. He was all about tough love, yelling at you in lessons and even throwing things at your pony. The boys really enjoyed his lessons. Once in a wile he'd take a break from the shoudler ins and leg yielding and tie a ribbon on a riders arm. Then he'd tell the rider in his low, heavily accented voice, "You better run, you're IT" and the rest of the lesson wodl dissolve into chaos as the other riders chased the ribbon wearer around the arena. This same inst. also brought a huge inflated ball into the arena one day and said this is a horse soccer ball, now today you are going to learn how to play horse soccer. They guys loved it.

                      edited to add; that the highlight of a couple of these boys riding careers (if you were to ask them) was spending 2 summers at Denny's in Vermont. I was home for Thanksgiving and ran into my cousin who was regaling me with stories of his 2 summers (in the 80's) at Denny's. Funny I am the only one who continued to ride as an adult but always felt soooo jelous of these guys for going to Denny's for the summer. I still feel like there is a big hole in my education b/c of it.


                      • Original Poster

                        I wouldn't go around posting:
                        "Cute little pants you got there, kid!"
                        Remind me to watch out for you in the schoolyard!

                        I remember during high school, I saw David Wightman (dr guy) get into a car accident. He was hopping out of his car while quickly throwing some baggy jeans on over his britches. If you can imagine an 18 yo guy in San Diego seen on the streets in those little pants!
                        Someone out there would have a great market if they designed a pair of khakis that a guy could ride in as well. Riding in jeans hurts me, I can imagine what it would do to a guy.
                        In college, there were 2 guys who used to ride. Once they got into college, they decided not to deal with that whole life. One found pot, the other found that girls who ride are really cool and began to take it back up in secret. His mom was an a rated hunter judge and he started hanging around us 2 eventers and thought it was way cooler.
                        I personally think if those clothes weren't so darned feminine, you would see a few more guys. See a lot of guys foxhunting though
                        Even duct tape can't fix stupid


                        • #13

                          It's funny how different Europeans perceive the english riders. My husband, being Irish, never had an issue with the way his English gear made him look in public. That being said, he has quit riding and training jumpers and is now roping cattle and rides a paint gelding that is built like a brick house!

                          I would love to see our sport allow Wranglers! But I think that would not go over too well with the Olympic committee.

                          Originally posted by denny View Post
                          Take the Mc Donalds test. You are a guy coming back from a rodeo. You swagger into Mc Donalds in all your gear.
                          You are a guy coming home from an event. You will change in the backseat of a vw bug before you would go in public in your boots, britches and little beanie helmet.
                          Right there is a big piece of the problem. It`s not perceived as a sport that real guys do.
                          Take a 12-14 year old boy, just the age they get hooked on riding. What self respecting kid that age wants the ridicule from his friends for doing "a girl sport?"
                          "Cute little pants you got there, kid!"


                          • #14
                            I was about to pipe up about seeing lots of guys riding... but in Western... but Denny and Reed beat me to it. I am in the smack dab middle of cowboy country here in Oklahoma. I mean, wear else are you going to have signs like "No Spurs on the Dance Floor"?. I know tons of guys that ride, but you wouldn't catch them dead in a pair of breeches.

                            There is a huge stigma about riding english for guys in this country. I have always said that there are 3 types of guys at horse trials..... either they are a) under 18 b) married or c) gay. I think more guys would get into the English if the clothing was alittle different. I know of several guys that train Huntseat horses in the QHs but have girls ride them in the shows just because they don't want to wear the outfit.

                            ~ Jus Passed My Zipper aka Spanky, 11yo QH gelding.
                            ~ Muskogee, 2yo Oldenburg Colt.


                            • Original Poster

                              Wait wait wait. I got it!
                              Pegasus reminded me why my dad started showing up at events! It's the young girls!
                              If we start advertising with the hot young things in the clothes, the boys will start taking lessons. One or two should get the bug.
                              Yes, Reed, I know, that's not what got you involved but how many boys wouldn't turn their head?
                              I say for the Rolex **** ads on NBC, we get some of the young un's to do PSA's and such. Those ads are generally run during the sporting events. I say scrap the traditional action shots where we are looking like we are heading into a train wreck (really, look at our expressions going into the water complexes). Sex and danger sells, so why not plunge into it?
                              Even duct tape can't fix stupid


                              • #16
                                Originally posted by pegasusmom View Post
                                Male role models in horse sports are tough to find, we are lucky in the area that he competes there are a higher concentration of guys in breeches and english saddles. It has also helped hugely that guys like Denny, Mike and Charlie Plumb, and John Williams have reached out to him.
                                You bring up a good point. I will point out the out west Rodeo is king so men who ride english are rare. Face it, you don't see a lot of good ropers, bronc riders or cattlemen from the east coast. While out east you may have Denny, we have folks like Tough Heedamen and Ty Murray.

                                LisaB, while sure it may work form a marketing POV, but seriously, if we want to get young guys (pre-teen) to ride that will not work. That is where you will get and develop the true horsemen and they want to do what their buddies do. Sex will only get the "wanna-bes" and lechers.



                                • #17
                                  LisaB STEP AWAY FROM THE COFFEE.


                                  • #18
                                    I think allowing riders to wear jeans if they like would be a good idea. I know that vaulting allows guys to wear uniforms that are a bit more concealing than the standard spandex catsuits the girls/ladies usually wear.

                                    Foxhunters, and polo players do wear breeches, though, and both sports have a high percentage of men. I disagree about the herbivore thing - again, there are lots of guys who love horses and riding, though more of them choose to do Western. Hmm, most of the people who do the Civil War/Ren Faire reenactment stuff on horseback are guys, too, but those aren't as popular as the "main" disciplines.

                                    I'm definitely no expert, but it seems like male instructors who are good role models, or having another male friend who rides seems to help the boys stick with it.

                                    Originally posted by Long Shadow Farm View Post
                                    I have always said that there are 3 types of guys at horse trials..... either they are a) under 18 b) married or c) gay.
                                    Yeah, lots of horsey people say stuff like that (not to mention teasing from non-horsey people), then wonder why straight guys don't want to ride English. I've dated a guy who took dressage lessons for a while, one who did Polo, and one who mostly rides Western but has tried English a few times, and all of the guys I know who ride English are straight. All of the gay guys I know who ride prefer Western.
                                    Stay me with coffee, comfort me with chocolate, for I am sick of love.


                                    • #19
                                      [quote=Mustang51;2865227]And we do NOT like to braid... And apparently I don't know how to comb a tail properly

                                      Ah - Denny would tell you that young men who are forced to braid suffer irreparable damage to their hands, become crippled for life and hence stop eventing.

                                      Polocrosse requires roached manes - but then tails have to be braided. As there are a fairly high percentage of males who play, it is always amusing watching the groveling that goes on prior to chukkas with regard to tail braiding. Very good bargaining tool for the grunt work if you are a competant tail braider! This sport does require white pants - and there has been a whole style of riding jean developed for it - no inseams.



                                      • #20
                                        My husband loves to ride (started at age 58); however, there is no way he would wear English riding pants. He will wear a helmet with a chin strap (I would not let him get on a horse with out it). He also likes grooming, cleaning tack, and has no problem picking up poop (I now have my horses at home).

                                        When I was boarding, my husband would accompany me to events and was a great help (even when he would get his foot stepped on leading my horse to cool him out after XC). He observed that at events and other "English" related horse activities, the women far out numbered the guys. He always commented, "it has to be the pants." My husband is not a "manly man", even does house work, but the pants do it.