It’s Not Horsing Around

Allyssa Gauer, Columnist

Some may think that sports aren’t considered sports unless they have a ball. Some may imagine that some sports are incredibly easy to do. Both of these appear in many minds when I bring up horse back riding. However, this sport goes far beyond that. Have you ever been on an animal you trust with your life? That can ruin your future with just one kick? That cares for you as you do for it? Have you ever soared above a jump so high that, before then, you thought was impossible? Have you ever tumbled down and fallen, then found the courage to get back up and correct your mistakes? These are all challenges to conquer for equestrians, yet when I state that I ride horses for a sport, I get the reply “that’s not a sport, all you do is sit on a horse.”

It makes me incredibly angry knowing that some people don’t appreciate the hard work equestrians put into riding successfully. All the small hidden ques to make a horse bend around a corner, or the upper and lower body strength required to simply stay on, regardless of racing over jumps, are all thoroughly executed and yet it’s still not thought of as a sport. Volleyball, basketball, gymnastics, and swim are all instantly proposed as a sport, but horseback riding involves many of the same features that these sports require.

In volleyball you need to master your timing and teamwork, as when riding a horse. You must push yourself up at the same time the horse begins to jump, and work together to strongly get over the jump (you directing the horse towards the jump with enough time for the horse to set up correctly, and the horse listening to you). In order to do this you must trust the horse, trust that it will go over the jump, instead of refusing, swerving away, or halting in front of the obstacle. This is similar to how you must trust your teammates to make a good pass and set in volleyball, or trust that your basketball teammates will take the ball and score. As for swim, it requires a brutal amount of power to thrive individually and as a team. Horseback riding also demands a large portion of strength, perhaps not as much, to stay on and present good equitation. Lastly, balance is necessary for gymnasts. The same applies to horseback riding: if you are unbalanced, the horse will feel it and stop, to insure that you stay on.

Riding a horse goes past just physical skill, as do most sports. The majority of a rider’s capability is based on their mentality. Say this equestrian has a confident, bold attitude when entering the arena. The horse senses the straightened posture, the rider’s head held high, and the determination the rider’s realising and this improves the horse’s confidence as well. Equine Wellness states that “We can hide our irritation from other people by masking our emotions, because humans are not good at reading energy fields… [but] a horse will read and see through everything we are feeling. Emotional health must be in control. We need to be a confident leader emotionally with our horses.” A horse can also sense when something’s off or when your feeling down, and try to cheer you up, just as supportive teammates would. I recently injured my leg, and on Tuesday participated in my first lesson in over a month. My horse, Drama Queen, quickly figured out about my injury and threw her body forward when jumping to give me an extra boost and take off pressure from my leg. Likewise, I play on a club volleyball team, and the members always know when I’m down and quickly cheer me up.

Although I confidently declare riding a horse as a sport, others may not agree. Whether it be because there’s no ball involved, or that it’s not a common sport, or that people may think you aren’t doing any work, they have their reasons. As I previously mentioned, gymnastics and swim are thought of as an athletic activity, and they don’t include a ball of some sort. There’s no difference with riding. And, yes, it’s not a particularly common sport; there aren’t frequent scholarships offered for riding, and owning horses can be quite expensive. However, there’s still a professional league for riding and worldwide competitions. I attended the FEI World Cup Equestrian Games of 2017 located in Omaha, and the next one is hosted in Paris, according to FEI World Cup Finals. There’s also an Olympic level of riding, just like volleyball, and other sports. It wouldn’t be at the Olympics if it wasn’t a sport, no?

Riding has all the same qualities of a sport. Strength, balance, proper attitude, practice, teamwork, and trust are all parts of all sports, including horseback riding. Take it from someone who plays multiple sports, all exceptionally different from each other; horseback riding is a sport and, if it’s not, then volleyball, basketball, and cross country shouldn’t be considered sports either. So the next time you or anyone else says horseback riding isn’t a sport, think again.