|photo Winnie Chui, Myrddin Equestrian Centre|
Feminism, Fitness and Horses, by Kim Logue
As we turn back to our routines after the holidays, I want to celebrate the fact that a feminist quest for improved fitness, health, and wellness, especially through horse-related programs, greatly empowers, and enhances a person's abilities to overcome adversity or oppression.
We’ve all probably seen girls and women, learn true leadership because their approach to fitness/health, includes interaction with 1,000 lb animals. And they earn skills to employ in bullying situations, and in a variety of roles, and group interactions. Horses teach us how to muster inner courage, to address such a large animal, or to do things from an increased height or speed, and, in a variety of settings.
I also like to notice students practice resiliency and tenacity. Sometimes, equestrianism reminds us life isn’t fair, and hard work falls short of Lady Luck. We may spend time watching other riders succeed, while we deal with the challenges of a young or old or frightened horse; or an equine illness or injury; But prioritizing horse wellbeing, develops empathy. If we do compete, we could need to learn, how to lose. Gracefully. Maybe even to someone with less talent or drive, but much more money. Think of all the men that appear magically on the podium at the high levels, even though there's not usually very many sharing the riding ring in our backyard. But again, the horse can help us to see things from their point of view, and to understand that really, that score doesn’t matter.
And how a horse can move us, with a beautiful partnership, based on respect and trust! How very powerful language without words is.
We are continually reminded that our horses truly mirror us, and teach us about ourselves, and they don’t care about what’s on our business cards, or in our schedules and plans. They don’t care how high our grades are, or what our net worth is. They also don’t care about our appearance, and in fact, as long as your weight falls between 15-23% of their body weight, they aren’t bothered by how light or heavy you happen to be.
Admittedly, I personally do enjoy an extraordinary amount of work and physical labour, by nature. But, I’ve seen others benefit from being involved, with the development of a strong work ethic, and strength of character. Are those aspects of feminism? As well as the leadership, confidence, communication and decision making skills I see developing in the riding students in my program? I think so.
When hoofbeats hosts an equine event, we often distribute post cards, provided by the National Sport Office, Equestrian Canada, about the benefits of Equestrian Participation:
“Increases self-esteem, confidence and patience.
Develops a respect and compassion for animals.
Opportunity to have fun and develop life long friendships.
Improves balance, muscle, strength, coordination and reaction time.
Physical mentally and emotionally stimulating.”
More benefits are that horses help us to think about breathing, about controlling our breath and our intention. They get us out of our comfort zone, and teach us the benefits of focusing our minds and staying calm in scary moments.
Lastly, I've seen that concentrating on their nutrition and filling their water buckets, even when its raining or snowing or icy, can help us with our own health habits. And that's good for feminist fitness too. Never underestimate the power of time spent working in the barn. I have made some of the biggest decisions of my life while cleaning stalls. I have thrown bags of shavings to work off rage at some of the disasters I've faced in life and I have ugly cried my way through major heartbreaks, taking comfort in the warmth and routine of feeding the horses. I've enjoyed a free gym membership as put in 22,000 steps and sculpted my back and shoulders with the chores.
I feel like I am constantly trying to justify the value of the time, expense and even the environmental impact of horses to others and even to myself. But, for me, it is a sacred, immensely healing time, in a beautiful slice of nature, that helps me stay more fit. Horses are my feminist happy place, and I love how they keep me, in each precious, present moment. Its a lifestyle that teaches you discipline, how to love unconditionally, put something other than yourself first, and to work hard for the things you want and need, while you are also kept humble by such a sensitive animal.
|Kate, Kim and LBH at Myrddin Equestrian Centre's holiday Gymkhana|
photo Winnie Chui