There’s something I’ve been wanting to write about for a while, but it’s an emotive topic and I really don’t want to start a social media argument with anyone, but I can’t keep it in any longer…………… The Great Sex Debate. And before my mum starts calling my aunties apologising on my behalf and saying that I ‘must have taken leave of my senses’, – (I’m 43 and I’ve only just started breaking her in with me saying a few swear words) – but anyway before she faints, what I actually mean is the Great Mare versus Gelding Debate.
With a bit of trepidation at seeming to jump onto the ‘Me Too’ bandwagon, I was reluctant to join in, when it suddenly seems that all equestrians are talking about is the merits of mares over/under geldings. In the 21st century, the freedom of speech and its effects, have reached deathly proportions through the voice of social media. So as someone that generally avoids confrontation, I find myself staying silent. I’m not a fan of the oversharing (except with my besties and they get it all, the whole heap) and I think there is plenty that is best left unsaid, but there are just a few things I have to get off my (undisputedly female) chest.
Out of all my years in the saddle I can safely say that more have been spent on the back of a gelding than a mare and my lifelong ‘true love’ horses have all been either stallions or geldings. Not because I don’t like mares, I’ve ridden some cracking ones and my first go at one day eventing was on a great sport horse mare, but on show jumping, eventing, racing yards, they really are few and far between. This isn’t because they are not good enough – most people I know that ride mares wouldn’t swap them for any gelding – but the good ones are generally earmarked for breeding and thankfully because of some excellent, thoughtful, hardworking and unappreciated breeders, people like me have the opportunity to ride quality horses, time after time. Mare or gelding.
And just recently I’ve had the great pleasure of riding a friend’s mare, who makes me smile, laugh out loud and relish in the real personality and friendship that only a girl can give (both human and horse 😉). I think Tag has set me up nicely for having a new girl friend, with his quirky ways he has ensured that my stance is not one of dominance over my four legged friend, but one of equality (well until he needs a small reminder that he’s a bit too big to be in charge, so I am) and I know from experience, that my new friend would be prefer to be asked, rather than told what to do.
And whether you are a mare or gelding, girl or boy, I think that this would be the choice of most, but as I get older I realise that unfortunately and sadly that is not always the case. I don’t know why it has taken me so long to realise the gravity of this, but all through my childhood and until I became the mother of a girl – who is now knocking on the door of her teenage years – it suddenly dawned on me that I had been given the luxury of never knowing or believing that being female, might be held against me. I never thought that a door would not open for me or a pre-determined pathway through my life had already been written, just because I was a girl. All credit to my parents.
So I took on the challenges of life with the unshakeable reasoning that I was every bit as capable as my male colleagues. And that is where in the equestrian world we are somewhat spoiled and buffered from the rest of the world as mares and geldings, woman and men compete against each other (in the main) on an equal footing. Which gives us some of the most amazing female role models in our sport; Ingrid, Beezie, Edwina, that crazy/brilliant woman at the dressage that is in her 70’s and is rocking the white jodhpurs and the 20 metre circles like a boss. The list goes on and on.
As a groom I was made to feel that I did the best job and not ‘despite’ being a girl, but as well as. And while my male co-worker was thrown up onto every breaker that came onto the yard, I was responsible for the welfare of the horses at the top of the pecking order and I couldn’t have felt more important. Safe to say, I could count on one hand how many times I have felt that way in my professional life since. When I worked in the racing yard, as long as you could stay on the three year olds and not swing off their mouth, you were generally accepted, whether you were male or female and that meant that the work was always split equally, with the strongest or the fittest in the yard, not always being the alpha males. But as with all good mares (😉) it became my time to go to stud and see what my own progeny would be like and my full time work on yards came to an end.
As I get older and slightly wiser, I realise that, in general, things in life are not equal and liberties given to my male colleagues years ago, would have never been handed to me as easily. I’m not resentful of that, but what I now realise, with a daughter of my own to steer, is that although I don’t plan to get out my placard and burn effigies of Harvey Weinstein or raise my children gender neutral (the world is scary enough without starting out with no idea what sex you are – which has actually been dictated by biological fact), there are certain situations when women should be heard as loudly as men.
So, it is not the answer to erase the boundaries that make us different as male and females – goodness, that’s what keeps it interesting – but we have to ensure that the pre-conceptions and acceptance of unacceptable behaviour, become a thing of the past. There is a lot of work to do and I don’t believe some people realise just how much, but as I was writing this a song came on the radio by Labi Siffre and without getting all maudlin, I think it sums it all up;
The higher you build your barriers
The taller I become
The further you take my rights away
The faster I will run
You can deny me, you can decide
To turn your face away
No matter ’cause there’s
Something inside so strong
Mares don’t need to try harder to prove themselves, but sometimes they just do. Like-wise women shouldn’t have to do more to be on a level playing field, but just imagine if that playing field was actually level, how different would things be then?
#girlpower #bagsybeposh #whoamikidding #alwaysscary #allcreatedequal #maregeldingorstallion #manwomanorhorse #bekind #bestrong #beyourself