Regularly a thread appears on the Forum which asks why most men do not take up the ownership of a horse. I have often wondered about the undoubted fact that horse riding in Britain is predominantly a female sport. It is also a sad fact that over a life time I have been able to convince only three of my male friends to ride and of those only one still rides to this day.
I believe the biggest deterrent to men buying a horse is the commitment of time. Horse ownership, unless one can afford to keep the horse in full livery, is a 24/7 hobby. Men know of other sports such as football, golf, cycling, surfing and cricket which are ‘pick up the kit and go‘. Horses are just so demanding of limited spare time.
There is also the fact that the modern style of classical riding is hard on the male anatomy - especially when one is learning to post to the trot or sit into a canter. In the old days when I learned to ride, one was taught to ride forwards, Littauer style, and a rider’s weight was lifted up off the saddle and partially transferred in times of stress to the stirrup irons and the knees.
Personally I learned to ride late in life. I was in my mid thirties when I first discovered horses but instantly I realised what magnificent creatures horses can be and I have been hooked on them ever since. I very much regret that when I was an impecunious young man there were few stables in central London. Horse riding is an absorbing hobby in which one never ceases to learn. Most sporty men I have met seek adrenaline and that is to be found in racing of all types, team chasing, polo and fox hunting. But there are many cheaper ways for men to get a similar buzz from a demanding sport. Few men would deliberately seek adrenaline by negotiating a busy highway to get a horse across to a pub on the other side of the road as I have been prone to do. However I am not a competitive rider and I prefer my horse to be surefooted and brave rather than competitive. I simply enjoy the company of my horse.
Young women seem to be surprised that so few young men take up the sport but truthfully speaking a young man can more easily seek out the company of young women in bars or at work if it is company that he is looking for. Speaking for myself I can only say that in 36 years of riding horses, no female rider has ever come up to me and winked with a certain smile. In return I have admired a lot of horses when I have not noticed the female owner even when sometimes she was sitting on the horse. There again I am lucky in that nowadays I share the ownership of my horse with my wife who also rides.
There is one other important factor. In the US and Australia horses riding is seen to be a sport for men.. Here in the UK it is definitely seen to be a female dominated sport and that factor alone can change the atmosphere in the stables. Generally speaking men as a group somehow are not quite so ’precious’ and male humour is undeniably different from that of women. Men seem to laugh more easily, particularly in times of stress.
I can envisage men hiring a horse to ride at a weekend but I cannot see many young men buying a horse to keep at a livery yard. A man has to hold down a good secure job to be able to afford to keep a horse. Unlike in rural America in the UK, outside of racing, hoof care and the military, there are few jobs involving horses.
It might help if more young women persuaded their boy friends to have riding lessons but I doubt if men will ever take over the sport in my country. The mail order catalogues are going to be filled with female fashion for decades to come.