The culture around horse riding has changed a lot over the years.
There was a time when being involved in the horse riding world, in the UK at least, meant inevitably mixing with a certain kind of person.
To the lay person, these people would be informally known as ‘horsey’ folks. You’re probably familiar with the kind of stereotype that I’m talking about. They’ll wear jodhpurs, even when they’re not going out riding, and will most likely speak with an accent that is so well spoken, it becomes almost unintelligible. Other cliches that prove to be surprisingly true include: buck teeth and a general air of snootiness. Although it might seem like I’m painting in broad strokes, such people do truly exist.
I remember crossing paths with characters such as these and the interactions would always vary. I’ve met some wonderful people through riding, but back in the early days I definitely got the feeling that I wasn’t completely welcome in this culture. Today, I can understand where they were coming from: my initial passion and interest in horses had nothing to do with the creatures themselves, it was derived from a fantasy about the relationship between the horse and the owner; a fantasy that had been originated by the popularisation of the act of horse riding. This was a cultural movement in itself and no doubt something that these ‘horsey people’ did not appreciate.
Television and Hollywood were, of course, to blame. During the 80s and 90s there was an irrepressible surge of what can only be described as Equine propaganda. Adaptations of classic stories such as Black Beauty and Pocahontas emphasised the individualistic nature of the horse, suggesting that they were capable of incredible acts of bravery. Thrilling action-adventure romps, such as The Mask of Zorro, the Lord of the Rings and Hidalgo popularised the bond between the horse and it’s owner. These stories captured my imagination, leaving me aching to own one of these incredible creatures and develop a similar relationship with them.
This intention, borne out of a childish fascination, grew into a full fledged obsession, to the point where I proved to be far more dedicated to my horse than even the oldest of hands. I had to work hard to earn their respect – whether I wanted it or not.
Times change though and it’s partly in thanks to the dissemination of initial outsiders (like me) who’ve preferred to stay true to our own ideals, rather than assimilating into the more conventional Equine culture. So what does this mean in real terms for the development of equine culture and the way that us ‘horsey’ people treat each other?
I believe that the nature of horse riding and how it’s perceived in this modern world, has completely changed. Today the world of horse riding is a much more open and accessible one. Instead of standoffish characters who aren’t interested in your story or where you’re from, we now have people like me who’ve had the chance to grow up and develop our own form of Equine culture. I’m not going to judge you for wearing a fur pom-pom riding hat silk or straight up blank you when I walk past you in the yard. I’ll be interested in where your horse is from, what style of riding you’re into and what you’re aiming to achieve this year.
Horse Riding used to be a past-time whose cultural values were dictated by a ruling social class. Now things have changed and I hope that, if you were thinking of starting but were intimidated by the possibility of being socially ostracised, you’ll consider taking the plunge.
Trust me – it’s worth it.