The social factor is indeed something I have not considered; perhaps because I was particularly thinking of little girls and boys, forgetting that socialization starts way more earlier than we would realize.
Also, I really really like the "relationship" factor, compared to the "win factor". It is a key point that I have not thought about.
However, I'm not sure if the cultural thing applies to my country, for example. In here the horse people are traditionally horsemen, especially in the countryside area. Women look after cows mostly, while men look after horses.
And yet, when turning to the modern or urban society, a crushing majority of pupils at a riding school are girls.
I like what one of the male posters said about males being more goal oriented and females being more relationship oriented.
In the past (more than a hundred years ago) horses were not looked at , for the most part, as individuals. They were tools, a means to an end, a way to achieve a goal ; survival. Since they were viewed as a tool, there was no real need to have a relationship with them as an individual, indeed the conept of such was only something romantisized in books like "Black Beauty" (which was ahead of it's time).
I would think that since horses have become more pets than tools, and are viewed as individuals now, that they have more appeal to women, who look to form relationships. Men are still some of the best horsepersons in the world, but they relate with horses differently. In many cases, I think that women anthropmorphize horses TOO much, and it makes for a difficult connection with the horse. Because horses don't relate to each other the way many women think they "should", then there are places for disappointments and miscomunications between women and horses. Men may not be so concerned if the horse "likes" them and that makes for a relationship which is more in line with what is normal for the horse.
However, some women can achieve amazing connections with horses because of their acute sensitivity.
Here's another way to think about it. Biological determinism of behaviour is not an agile enough argument to account for the fact that there are vast differences between cultures and even between individuals in the same culture, nor does it account for the fact that you can't really know other minds. If men are hardwired to be goal-oriented because of their male qualities, and women are hardwired to be relationship oriented because of their female qualities, then where does that leave all the sensitive, relationship-oriented men and all the driven, goal-oriented women? You're backing yourself into a discursive corner, because the logical follow-on is that relationship-oriented men are somehow less male and goal-oriented women are somehow less female. If the ideal, perfectly natural feminine brain (remember, it's biological) is nurturing, sensitive, and relationship oriented, then women who do not behave like that must almost be seen as having something pathologically wrong with their brains. This sort of thinking imposes strict gender norms on people -- if you don't behave in a certain way, people will think something is wrong with you and you will find yourself not fitting in or whatever. Unsurprisingly, this is a little bit like how things really are. One example that comes to mind are people in Britain who make jokes like, "Margaret Thatcher was really a man." That tells you something about the perception of gendered behaviour and how Thatcher didn't conform to social norms of femaleness. She probably would not have got herself elected as Prime Minister if she had. Also, girls who dress and act in ways perceived male get labeled as "tom boys." I think many young women have tried to own this term, but it was certainly meant to be perjorative. On the other side, if you watch young boys playing, one of the worst ways to insult anyone in the group who shows too much sensitivity or fear is to call him a girl. So we don't need elaborate theories of biological determinism to police gender norms. They are so ingrained anyway and the theories merely justify the imposition of these norms on individuals. Which is exactly what they have done. The Victorians, not known for their feminist outlook, had elaborate scientific theories about the physiology of the brain and how that determined behaviour. They had physiological, scientific theories explaining how women's brains were weaker, more prone to "nervous disorders," irrational, nurturing, unable to cope with hard intellectual labour, etc. The science worked to help enforce already existing gender norms.
If you argue instead that gendered behaviour is for the most part socialized instead of biological, then you're better equipped to deal with cultural and individual variation Needless to say, everyone has had different life experiences and due to that and yeah, to an extent due to their very individual hardwiring, respond to the social pressure around them differently.
I do agree that bringing in the social argument offers a more proper and fair terrain for argumentation on this kind of topics.
However, I still consider there ARE biological factors that do influence both genders in their general approach, behavior, attitude and decisions.
We are still living beings, we still have organs, hormones, lifespan and so on.
Most animal behaviorists accept, for example, that male horses tend to behave differently (sometimes) than mares We refer here to the majority, not exceptions.
This does not mean they attended a "manners school" where certain attributes would be socially imprinted.
I believe this could be the case for humans as well; Most of our behavior is imprinted socially, however instinctual and biological aspects still exist. Attributing our behavior to solely biology would be indeed not only wrong but also slippery, and it has led to many misconceptions in the past.
Denying the influence of our own nature and refusing it as a sign of weakness or fearing the consequences of who knows what conclusions might draw is, however, equally dangerous in my opinion.
Anyways, coming back to children, genders and horses.
I wonder if other popular animals have such a large discrepancy in being liked by mostly 1 gender.
I thought of cats, dogs, rodents, could not come up with a similar example.
The "scary" pets - reptiles, large spiders - are preponderantly liked / raised by boys though, and here I agree it might be 100% social imprint.
Somehow it is still considered that a human female behaves properly if she faints / yells / runs off at the sight of an animal socially acknowledged as "ugly" or "scary".
Interestingly enough, my interest in horses as a child was frowned upon and considered boy'ish. Weird, eh?
As a girl, I was supposed to be interested in kittens and baby chicks. At most, foals were a somehow accepted compromise.
The sexual segregation - social - is still very very strong in my country, although most adults deny it and sincerely do not realize it. Traditional toys for girls are still Barbie dolls, toy kitchen pots, baby dolls etc, whereas toy horses, toy trucks and ALL the games that mentally stimulate (building parts, etc) are boy destined.
Liking animals is actually regarded - especially among less educated or countryside communities - a men's childish desire.
A woman (and a little girl) is slowly educated usually that most animals are a source of
- unfit for a clean, proper house (which proper house is solely her responsability)
There is a high tolerance towards men and whatever they're doing ("big babies" attitude) and a very strict "stop that right now" attitude towards little girls, who are pushed towards maturing and "taking the reins of the house", behaving sober, etc.
Anyways, the reason for which I made this parallel was to show that even in a quite misogynistic country, it's still the girls that tend to approach the horse and still the boys that tend to avoid them :)
I'd like to thank everyone who participated so far in this discussion, and please remember it is NOT a debate as much as a collective attempt to figure out some questions. Meaning that my theory does not represent my set in stone perspective, but merely my current supposition of why things are the way they are.
...If men are hardwired to be goal-oriented because of their male qualities, and women are hardwired to be relationship oriented because of their female qualities, then where does that leave all the sensitive, relationship-oriented men and all the driven, goal-oriented women? You're backing yourself into a discursive corner, because the logical follow-on is that relationship-oriented men are somehow less male and goal-oriented women are somehow less female...This sort of thinking imposes strict gender norms on people -- if you don't behave in a certain way, people will think something is wrong with you and you will find yourself not fitting in or whatever...
Put me in the group who believe men and women ARE different. Think of overlapping bell curves of behavior. Some men are more relation-oriented, and some women are more goal-oriented, and there will be some overlap. However, the vast majority of guys I've known during my 52 years have never ever talked to me about any relationships. Maybe a dozen times, someone will discuss some aspect of their marriage, and we'll sometimes talk about raising kids, but not in terms of relationships.
I think I'd been married for about 15 years before my wife realized I REALLY don't ever think about our marriage - not in terms of how I feel about it. And her friends will talk with her about their relationships, so I don't think it is just her.
Go to the teen talk section of the forum, and look for a guy who wants to talk about his relations with girls, etc. Maybe you'll find something, but not much. MOST guys just are not interested in that the way many girls are.
Does that come from genetics or environment? When I was young, I thought it was 100% environment. Then I had kids. They had pretty similar environments, but they were each completely different.
Consider Border Collies. They have a genetic instinct to herd. Usually. The first one I owned didn't see sheep until she was 7. A rancher friend had some range sheep not used to dogs that he needed to move, and he was curious to see if Leila had any interest. We were both shocked when she forced those range sheep into a tight flock and then moved then thru a gate without our asking. Then the next gate, and my friend had to run ahead a shut a third before Leila moved the sheep thru it. No training of any kind.
That doesn't mean all Border Collies will herd sheep without learning. The one I own now has shown no interest an any herding activity. His full sister qualified for and competed in the Nationals (finished in the teens as a novice, was DQed in her first open). But if you wanted to herd sheep, would you go talk to a Border Collie breeder, or a breeder of Labs?
On the whole, are Arabians more flighty than Quarter Horses? There are individual exceptions, but on the whole? Some people who live near me have asked why my horses seem alive, while most of the horses they see seem...dead. And I explain that Arabians tend to be more alert and more flighty than most Quarter Horses.
Regardless of genetics vs environment, I think it is obvious that women tend to be more in to relations than men, and men tend to be more competitive and goal oriented than women. It is a generality with many exceptions, but it certainly is consistent with what I've seen.
That is why we get along. We may have become friends, but we did it by doing things together, and she doesn't expect or like a lot of touchy-feely stuff. She likes to be ridden. She is willing to watch someone else riding with me, like a couple of guys watching a football game. But to just hang out together? Nope. And I think a lot of women would find her disappointing. She just doesn't give much emotional feedback, at least not the sort that many women seek. If you understand her, you can accept that she is very friendly and even affectionate, but she isn't the 'climb in your lap' horse that our other Arabian mare was.
Mia and I watching my youngest get one of her first lessons on the green broke but very friendly Lilly. We watched the whole time, but we didn't snuggle while doing it: