In 2014, Buzzfeed published a quiz titled “How Privileged Are You?”
In the five years since it came out, I often think about that quiz and the strange ways it intersects with the horse industry.
However, I seldom talk about it.
For one thing, privilege is a taboo topic. For another, the definition of the word often varies from person to person.
One equestrian might think of the word privilege, as it references honor or distinction, such as, “It is a true privilege to get to ride my trainer’s best horse.” Another horse person might think of it as a reference to a socio-economic class or as a euphuism for wealth, “Only the very privileged can afford new tack all the time.”
Both are technically correct definitions of the word. The Oxford English Dictionary defines privilege as “having special rights or advantages that most people do not have.” Or “having an opportunity do something that makes you feel proud.”
The current concept of privilege we hear on the news or in a debate is more complicated than those classifications. It’s about access to opportunities based on your identity and circumstances. And it isn’t just about money and drive, but a complex spiderweb with factors like race, religion, health, gender, education, sexual identity, location, and family influence—all impacting the other in ways that can be both subtle and painfully obvious.
For example, if someone grew up riding as I did, they are more likely to have more access and knowledge about horses as an adult than those who started with horses later and life. If you live close to a big equestrian park or in an equine friendly area, it is cheaper to go to shows. It is also easier to meet other horse enthusiasts or find a quality vet or farrier than it would be for someone who lives in the inner city or a rural area with few amenities.
Very few people are extremely privileged, but everyone has different markers of it.
One subject that arises when we talk about privilege, especially in the horse world, is personal choices and work ethic. How often have you heard (or said!) a horse person say, “My privilege doesn’t matter, I work hard and I have made a lot of personal sacrifices to ensure that horses were in my life.”
I, myself, am guilty of it. Now, after years of writing, reading, riding, training, and enjoying the company of horsemen and women from all walks of life, I know I was wrong.
First, I have never met a lazy equestrian. Even those horsey humans I have disagreed with have had a legendary work ethic.
While work ethic and drive can influence the amount of privilege in our lives, most of the conditions that govern our access to it are based on chance, family, and the culture at large. We cannot change the color of our skin, the bodies we live in, where we came from or how the world reacts to those things. We can, however, be a bit more aware of how privilege impacts our lives and lives of those around us every day.
Below are 100 questions based on the different aspects of privilege. Your score is based on how many you can check off.
- I own a horse.
- I own a purebred horse.
- I own or lease a horse specific to my discipline.
- I show at the local level.
- I have shown at a nationally recognized show.
- I show or have shown more than five times a year.
- I have shown or competed in multiple states.
- I have shown in multiple countries.
- I own show clothes.
- I own show boots.
- My show clothes keep up with the latest trends.
- I can regularly afford lessons.
- I have been on horse-related trips or vacations.
- I am or have been a member of a horse club or association.
- I have had multiple horse trainers.
- I have had an unpaid or volunteer position in the horse industry.
- I was on the equestrian team in college.
- I have a college education.
- I know all of the vocabulary of my discipline. (Dressage, Reining, Racing, etc.)
- The other equestrians around me speak my native language.
- I can afford a horse that is the right age and training for my skill level.
- I have never had to buy green or rescue horses because they were all I could afford.
- I own the land that I keep my horse on.
- My horse is less than five miles from where I live or work.
- There are horses or an equestrian facility less than five miles from me.
- I do not live more than an hour away from a doctor or hospital.
- I do not have to worry about how far away the vet is from the barn.
- I live close to an animal hospital.
- I have never felt unsafe in the barn or at a horse event because of my gender.
- I have never been passed up for an equine-related job to someone of another gender.
- I have never had to give up a horse because of my pregnancy.
- I have never had to give up on riding because of a partner.
- No one has ever told me, “it’s the horse or me.”
- I am married.
- I have never been mistaken for the wrong gender at a horse event.
- I have never had to hide my sexuality at a horse-related event.
- I have never had to hide my gender identity at a horse-related event.
- I have never lied about who my partner was at a horse-related event.
- I have never avoided public displays of affection with my partner at a horse-related event.
- I have never thought about my race in equestrian spaces.
- I have never been discriminated against at a horse event because of my race.
- I have never been called a racial slur in a horse-related activity.
- I have never been the only person of my race at a horse-related activity.
- I have never been asked about my race at a horse-related activity.
- I have never been misidentified as the wrong race at a horse-related activity.
- I am of European descent.
- I have never been told that “My people” are bad with horses.
- My immigration status has never impacted my life with horses.
- My parents or other family members had or have horses.
- My family helps me pay for my horses.
- I have never had to sell a horse because of an issue with a family member.
- I rode as a child or teenager.
- I took formal lessons as a child or teenager.
- I got to show as a child or teenager.
- I have never cleaned stalls in exchange for board or lessons.
- My family has never told me that horses are “a waste of money.”
- I can always afford the gas to the barn.
- My job pays me a salary.
- I have never skipped meals to pay for board or hay.
- I have never gone into debt because of my horse.
- I have never had to surrender a horse.
- I have never skipped getting my horse’s shots because it was too expensive.
- I have never skipped the farrier because it was too expensive.
- I have never had to put a horse down because I could no longer afford it.
- I can afford a colic surgery for my horse if they need it.
- No one has ever called animal control on my animals.
- I own one car that can pull a horse trailer and one that does not.
- I own a horse trailer
- I have never worked side jobs to pay for my horse.
- I have never had to use a saddle that didn’t fit.
- I can buy another horse if I sell or lose my current animal.
- I can buy a new helmet when I need it.
- I can afford custom tack now and then.
- I have never had to give up riding because of an illness.
- I have health insurance.
- I can afford both my medical bills and board/upkeep of my horse.
- I have never been told I am too fat or too skinny for my horse.
- I can always find clothes that fit me at the tack shop.
- I have never been told I am too tall or too short for my horse.
- I have never had a disability that has prevented me from riding.
- I have never felt that a barn, show venue, or other space was inaccessible for my body.
- I have never had a mental illness that has prevented me from riding.
- I have never had an eating disorder.
- I have never changed the way I eat because of horses.
- I have never considered suicide.
- I have never had an addiction.
- No one in my family has ever had an addiction.
- No one in my family has a mental illness.
- I have never had rumors spread at a horse event about my family or me.
- I have never felt like I needed to have a buddy with me at a horse event.
- I have never worried about being alone at the barn.
- I have never worried about a family member’s safety because of another person at the barn.
- I have never had to give up riding because of bullying or abuse.
- People happily let me ride their horses.
- I have someone to feed my animals when I go on vacation.
- No one has ever made me do something I didn’t want to so I could ride.
- My identity is accepted in equestrian spaces.
- I have a network of people I can turn to if I need help with my horse.
- I have friends who can go riding with me.
- I get to ride or spend time with horses at least once a month.
Add up the number of questions you checked:
- 0–30 Little to no privilege.
- 31–50 Some privilege.
- 51–70 Quite privileged.
- 71–100 Very privileged.
About the Author
Gretchen Lida is an essayist and an equestrian. Her work has appeared in The Washington Post, The Rumpus, the Los Angeles Review of Books, and many others. She is also a contributing writer to Book Riot, Horse Network and the Washington Independent Review of Booksand currently working on her first book. She Lives in Chicago, and is still a Colorado native. Find her on Twitter at @GC_Lida.