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June 08, 2017 5 Comments
Now a record 90+ percent of the horse industry is made up of women. Most over 40.
I wanted to uncover why there has been such a dramatic shift and how it has impacted the industry in general.
The first answer came after nearly 20 years in the industry myself. I’ve been teaching riders and training horses for a variety of different people and a variety of different reasons. I’ve helped Olympic riders, I’ve trained Olympic quality horses. I’ve helped backyard enthusiast, and professionals.
In the beginning, the people who came to my classes varied. I’d see women and men of all ages. But over the last few years my clientele has shifted to middle aged women. Occasionally I’ll see a young girl in my class or the husband of another clinic participant. But generally, in fact almost exclusively, my classes consist of women riders between 40-65 years old. That doesn’t mean there aren’t classes out there being taught for younger generations. And certainly, in western performance classes we still see a lot of men competing, but rapidly, the industry is changing. And I believe for the better!
Why did this shift happen? In my book Leadership and Horses, which you can pick up right here on this website or buy from Amazon.com, I talk in depth about the value of a horse and how it’s shifted through the centuries. Thousands of years ago people hunted horses for food. Then used them to farm. Then came transportation. Then came warfare, and industry. When machines replaced horses in industry, people began using them primarily for sport. In the last half century, horses have been used almost exclusively for recreation and entertainment. There are still people who rely on horses for farming in certain parts of the world but most people have the resources to do without them.
The shift in demographics (the types of people who participate in horse activities) changed with the tides as well. People who used horses for industry don’t see the value of a horse. People who used horses for transportation, no longer need their four legs and strong back. People who used horses for war, found tanks and trucks were more effective. And most of the people involved in those work-related endeavors came from a male dominated work society. But today, society has changed. Women have a real voice, a well-deserved and respected voice for change. It is women who found the horses true value. It is women who see past the four legs and strong back to the very heart and spirit of the animal. It is women, who are reaching out to rescue animals, and connect with them in a way that men generally struggle with. That’s why I think it’s the best thing for the industry that women are engaging with horses more and more. Women are more sensitive (of course only generally) than men and therefore tend to be less abusive. Women are kinder, sweeter, more aware of the being they are interacting with.
Women have brought horses into their lives for a variety of reasons. Many find the connection with an animal compares to little else in this world. It’s a place where a heart and mind can clear, where the problems of the world go away. Some want horses to explore the trails, or to challenge themselves in ways no other course in history can compare to. When a rider engages in Mastery Horsemanship (that never-ending pursuit of perfection), the human soul can literally change and heal. When a rider takes her horse into the ring to teach a new task, both engage with each other in complicated and beautiful ways. Owning horses requires leadership skills, some of which need to be honed and trained. Women can be natural leaders with the ability and desire to increase their leadership skills. To better themselves. The horse is a fantastic vehicle for all of the above. And fortunately for the horse, more and more women are becoming interested in training and leadership and connection.
I believe without the demographic shift in the horse industry, one of two things would have happened in the last 20 years. Either horses would be abandoned altogether and sentenced to die in captivity with no positive stimulus or men would continue to assert their dominance over animals for the sake of sport. (another generalization to be sure). Many men are kind, thoughtful, creative, supportive, and spiritual. I encourage all the men in my classes to listen close to their equine friends. Many do, and many make magical changes in their own lives as a result.
Many horse fans continue to engage in sports and recreation. I encourage this as well. But I hope to inspire a change in the industry of sport. I hope to show people how to see the horse beyond four legs and strong back. I want to help people teach horses to love our human interactions. Horses can learn to engage with us in ways they would never even think of. These new interactions can expand their own experience while in our care.
I hope to show people how to see the horse as a partner in progress. Only this time it’s not about building bridges or digging canals. Instead it’s about finding the human soul and expanding it. When a rider begins to see the true value of a horse, like so many of the women in my classes do, they can transform their own lives and give back to the creatures that gave us everything we see and touch today. This can be done in a way that is rewarding and pleasurable for everyone.
Maybe together, you and I can change the value of horses completely. We can shape the world around us to where we see less abuse and more harmony. We can change the future for all horses.
Thank you for reading! Support me now to do more.
Buy Leadership and Horses here, or on Amazon.
When you buy this book, a percentage of your sale goes to the “Horses for Orphans Project”, which helps underprivileged children engage with horses to find healing inside and confidence. Find out more when you follow the link.
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June 27, 2019
My two year old facebook group with 48,000 members certainly is an example of this Aging Horsewomen Intl
June 25, 2017
I love horses, im 61and I’ve always had animals in my life! They give me pleasure and we seem to understand how to communicate with each other. They give me love and peace in my heart. Animals of all kinds from the wild to the domestic have taught me how to love and be a part of all our lives! I would love to be a part of your special chance to be involved in sharing my love with these beautiful horses!
June 23, 2017
Thanks for your comments. I always appreciate reading them.
September 04, 2020
I loved reading your post about women and horses. I was born loving horses. I ate, slept and breathe horses throughout my childhood. People always thought I’d grow out of my love of horses. The opposite has happened. I have not been without horses in my life but it wasn’t unit I was almost 50 years old that I woke up to the healing power of horses. How they help people find the truth of their souls. It changed my relationship with my horses and I now have a true partnership, where I allow them to be the teacher, to listen carefully. They are a reflection of me. I now help others find the heart of their soul and live life through truth and awareness. Horses are magical powerful beings.
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August 06, 2019
You forgot one other vital piece of the puzzle – many “women of a certain age” also have the money to pay for boarding and lessons and training and clinics. The kids are gone (or there never were kids), the career is stable, and many of us find that riding and doing the physical things one tends to do around horses is a much better, more pleasurable workout than the gym. We are fit, eager to learn, and have some disposable income. We also like to be around other women who are seriously into horses, and tend to be much less competitive than our younger selves might have been. It’s a fabulous shift and I’m so thankful to be a part of it.