Opinion

#MeToo in the Horse World

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#MeToo has been a powerful social media movement that has brought to light just how many women have been sexually abused and sexually harassed.

After actress Alyssa Milano asked followers to write “me too” in response to her post, the hashtag went viral and the stories of abuse and harassment flooded social media platforms.

What of the horse show world? Certainly, we are not immune.

When I was learner-judging 20 years ago, I sat in judges’ booths with male judges who continually made sexual references. They talked sexually about the women who came into the ring and stood on the sidelines, commenting on their figures and body parts. I also clearly remember a list being compiled of the most desirable (fill in the real word here) women at the horse show.

I cringed. My face grew hot. I felt deeply uncomfortable. But I tried to chuckle along with them and pretend I could be “one of the boys.” I wasn’t risking getting my license because I spoke up about the inappropriate nature of their talk. Even as I type these words, I worry that this blog post may very well cost me jobs.

I know another female judge who was propositioned by a horse show manager. When she said no, she was never hired again.

How many more female judges have stories like these?

To be clear, this is not all male judges or horse show managers. There are plenty of perfect gentlemen out there and I’ve been privileged to work with them too. Nor is this issue unique to women. I’m sure many gay men have their own #MeToo stories.

And what of the riders and trainers and horse dealers? The riding world is full of women and many men hold the position of power as trainers. You do the math.

I saw a lot of #MeToo hashtags on friends’ walls. But the majority of those was from friends in the non-riding world.

And why wouldn’t we keep quiet in a world where the person who harasses you is often the person who decides whether you are hired, whether you win a class, whether your horse is sold, or whether you receive attention as a student and a client.

Maybe I am the only one with a horse world #MeToo story or maybe we’re okay with keeping quiet.


About the Author

Kim Ablon Whitney is a ‘R’ judge in hunters, equitation, and jumpers.