There has been much discussion in the media about the disparities and distribution of wealth and privilege in the sport in the past several weeks. Contributor Kate Kosnoff set out to study this difference and whether a handful of influencers at the top of the sport might be able to turn the tides.
Things were different for Margie and Beezie when they were just starting out, and they have built loyal followings through hard work, determination, and being aware of what it means to be a role model. But now, we are in desperate need of a new generation of female equestrian role models to step forward. This sport has changed, and it seems like the top level is more disconnected from the lesson barns and schooling shows than ever before.
Our sport is populated by wonderfully talented, young women with a whole host of opportunities and resources open to them. Though many of these young riders have taken advantage of social media and have built up their own individual brands, many of these ladies have yet to realize the power of doing good, like giving fans a behind-the-scenes look at the horse show life and accurately representing the dedication it requires.
Photo courtesy of KBK Photography
Many of us are drawn to the glitz and glam that comes with showing on the Longines Global Champions Tour or the Winter Equestrian Festival. We sometimes think that life gets better when the jumps get bigger and the breeches get pricier. The reality is this: most of us aren’t in those boots. The images we see on social media are carefully crafted to show us the highlights of that lifestyle, and, in the process, can sometimes invalidate the girl who spends her early mornings mucking stalls and throwing hay.
But we can’t say to the ladies who live a life of privilege “Stop bragging!” because they’ve worked hard in a different way. Cruising around a 1.55m course against the best riders in the world is no easy feat, and though their mounts may be pricey and their training top-notch, those horses certainly don’t pilot themselves.
Photo courtesy of KBK Photography
The problem is that no matter our station, it seems we can all come in on the defensive. We need a few brave souls to step up and bridge the gap between the haves and the have-nots. Instead of letting our differences divide us, we need equestrienne role models with ambition and dedication to share our commonalities, not our differences. I would love to see this up-and-coming generation of equestrians become more socially conscious and inclusive.
In a Twitter poll I conducted on July 5th, 38% of voters said that young, female equestrians are most likely to gain a large social media following because they show at the top shows. Someone even responded and said, “We like to live vicariously through the pretty, talented girls that follow the circuit,” so perhaps people are feeling underrepresented on social media.
Why do you think young, female equestrians are most likely to gain a large social media following?
— Kate Kosnoff (@katekosnoff) July 5, 2017
Social media should be a place to share triumphs in the ring, great horses, and exciting ribbons, but it should also be a place for honesty. Nothing with horses is completely perfect, and we shouldn’t feel obligated to make it appear that way.
What I’d love to see is a few girls in their late teens and early twenties lead the way by letting us get to know your horses on a personal level, what you do to combat nerves, and how to bounce back after a bad fall. We’d be delighted to hear about your most memorable show experience, your favorite boot polish, or your favorite snack to eat in between rounds.
All we ask is that you think about the little girls and gals that follow you on Instagram because they want to jump big jumps just like you. Those kids want to feel like they can get to where you are one day. The equestrian masses would love to feel like they can be a part of your world without feeling like their riding isn’t valid because it doesn’t look like yours. We can’t wait to watch you blossom and grow into world-class horsewomen!
Kate Kosnoff is a senior at Denison University. She is the founder of ridersforwellbeing.com, a blog dedicated to promoting positivity in the equestrian sport. She is fond of photography, reading, napping, and showing her horse Waffle, aka Breakfast in Bed.