Not long ago, I stumbled upon an article about how women with horses should be avoided at all costs.
There are multiple like this particular missive online, posts espousing horse girls as manipulative money burners who smell bad and have no soul.
But Internet trolls are not the only ones with an odd set of feelings about women who work with horses. Outing myself as a “horse girl” is the only time I have ever heard the word “majestic” used in earnest.
Once divulged, it’s a fact that inevitably brings an onslaught of bizarre comments.
The ladies I swim with at the YMCA told me how they love Westerns, a stranger at work asked if I can take their child riding, a friend over coffee looked down into her drink and told me horses scare her. When I wrote about horses back in graduate school, some of my fellow students turned my passion for horses into something dirty or wondered why the sport was mostly women. At a horse show, a cowboy turned to me and said, “Horse girls, man, more money than brains.”
Even those of us who are equestrians have an entire tack trunk full of stereotypes that we trot out when when it serves us. I, too, have done this. Being “Horse Girl,” no matter which group you hang out with or political divide you are on, comes with cultural baggage.
And it use to drive me crazy. The comments made me feel small, weird, and antiquated. They still bug me because they are lazy and tired, but there is another sensation that I have discovered buried underneath it all.
Or, better yet, empowerment.
So, to those who quake at the thought of a horse girl, I say, “Good. Be scared.” That’s right. Beware the horse girl.
The word beware comes from an old English term that referred to prudence, being warry, or a sense of vigilance. It meant to watch carefully, and with caution. And it is true horse girls are a thing to watch, a thing to be careful of, and a thing to fill you with awe.
We Horse Girls are fierce.
We drive heavy equipment. We lift hay and wheelbarrows and saddles or use our body strength to shove over an animal ten times our size when it steps on us. We aren’t afraid of mud or blood or pus. We brave the heat and the cold; we get up at ungodly hours. We have lost sleep, gone out in blizzards in our pajamas, and spent our last penny to make sure the thing we love doesn’t have to suffer.
We face the threat of serious injuries and even death far more frequently than most ever will. When you love horses the cycle of life is always front and center, because of this we know how to cry hard, laugh loud, and love with abandon.
Perhaps the other reason horse girls cause so much of a ruckus in the brain is because there is this strange, almost spiritual mystery to the whole thing.
From barrel racers to dressage riders, we understand that there is unspeakable beauty and connection to horses that can’t be translated to those who don’t feel it themselves. We live for the beauty of a floating trot, a gallop down the trail in perfect weather, or that well executed turn that we have practiced for months.
This mystery has a force to it too. Horses have the power to make us braver, smarter, and more determined that most of us ever thought we could be.
So yes, please, beware the horse girl. Watch us with care. If our grit frightens you, by all means, steer clear.
But remember this, being a horse girl is a gift, and knowing one is too.