Put down the PlayStation controller and listen up, young man. Advice this good doesn’t come along often.
You might think that you’ve just beaten some hot young gal named Suzette in hand-to-hand combat in an online video showdown, but in reality it was a fat guy from Minnesota who makes Jabba the Hut look like a fitness freak.
So, here’s some dating advice: Put away the gaming console, stop wearing your pants at half-mast, and learn to ride a horse.
You don’t have to become a world-beater. Relax in the saddle. Ride like a cowboy. See some sights. You’ll enjoy yourself.
Why do it? Because it will open up a whole new world to you – and it’s a world full of lovely young women.
Study after study has shown how women dominate the world of horse-riding. The numbers at elite level are a lot more even, but across the entire riding spectrum women vastly outnumber men.
Online surveys covering various elements of horse ownership consistently indicate that 90 to 95% of respondents are female. So, for every male that turns up at a riding event, chances are there will be nine horse-riding females doing their thing.
Now, it goes without saying that this ratio changes, depending upon the discipline. Rodeos, polo tournaments, and chuckwagon racing don’t have the same female domination, but when it comes to dressage, showjumping and eventing, it’s women all the way.
Now, I can understand a young man declaring that dressage is not for him. Perhaps showjumping and eventing aren’t your bag, either. Maybe the worn accoutrements don’t align with your unique “style”.
All these sports require a lot of commitment, even at the lower levels. And, to be frank, there will be plenty of young men who wouldn’t actually have the cajones to hurl themselves around a showjumping arena or an eventing cross-country course atop a 1000-pound horse.
But, by learning to ride and embracing horsemanship, you can take an interest in horse sport and open up a world of possibilities. Turn up, watch, chat with the competitors. Talk about your riding. It’s a vibrant and interesting social world, with the odds stacked marvellously in your favor!
Which brings me to horsewomen.
First, the bad news. Imagine, if you will, the pedestal which you fondly imagine you’ll occupy in any relationship. Well, when it comes to horsewomen, you’re not on it. That honor belongs to The Horse.
Horsey gals understandably love their horses and you can plan on playing second fiddle for a good few years – perhaps your entire life.
That’s not such a bad thing. There’s plenty of love to go around, and relationships should never be about being the center of attention.
Horses can also cost quite a lot of money, but you’re not buying video games any more, so imagine the savings!
So, without further ado, here are the eight main reasons for dating a horsewoman.
1. They generally get on well with horses.
Now, this is no minor thing. Horses are nothing like dogs, who crave attention and will be anybody’s friend to get a pat and a dry old doggie biscuit. Horses are not so accommodating. They have a finely tuned flight instinct and will relate well only to people they trust. There’s a reason behind the growth in equine-assisted therapy. The response and feedback from horses relate very closely to how you treat them and behave around them. They are, for all that, mostly compliant and willing companions, but they are certainly a mirror to our soul. They especially reward honesty and friendship. Horses bring out the best in people. People who relate well to horses will generally relate well to other people, unless they happen to be loners seeking solace through the companionship of a horse. In short, working with horses builds empathy and sensitivity.
2. They’re competitive.
Being competitive in any sport is a character-building experience. The best lessons in competition come not from winning, but losing. Horse riders who compete spend hours in training. They strive to be the best they can be with the horse or horses at their disposal. And, at the weekends, they get out and compete. And most of them lose. I’ve never yet come across a horse-rider who wallows in self-pity over their competition results. They go home, they keep training, and they’re out next weekend to try again. Don’t ever underestimate these qualities. Being competitive, and not being afraid to lose, will get you far in life.
3. They’re disciplined.
It’s not just the training. It’s picking up the poo; it’s getting up early before school or work to feed the horse. It’s about organizing their day to ensure everything gets done. It’s about shouldering responsibility – and horses are a big responsibility. Are those the kinds of qualities needed to play on a gaming console?
4. They’re usually fit.
You don’t have to a super-athlete to ride, but it certainly helps to be fit. Most women who ride build a good degree of fitness from their time in the saddle and all the chores associated with horse-keeping. People who own horses are no couch potatoes. A British study carried out in 2011 revealed that riding can expend enough energy to be classed as moderate-intensity exercise. An hour’s schooling session or group lesson burns off 360 calories – the equivalent to an hour peddling up to 10mph on a bicycle. Even mucking out was found to be a useful workout. Another study declared: “Horseback riding is a complex and demanding physical sport.” Spot on.
Horse ownership is a story of ups and downs. Sometimes, there can be a lot of downs. Injuries and behavioral issues crop up regularly. They nearly always need to be worked through in a disciplined and careful way. In the world of horse sport, improvement is never an accident. There are no short-cuts. You’ve got to keep training and refining techniques. In short, if you don’t have resilience, you won’t be getting very far in the horse world.
6. They’re more decisive, good at goal-setting and problem-solving.
There’s plenty of research out there to show the benefits of horse ownership. And these three qualities featured large in a study that showed the value of young people learning horsemanship. Horses acted as both teachers and friends for young people, it was found. The study commissioned by the American Youth Horse Council found that young people who learnt horsemanship skills showed better decision-making, thinking, communicating, goal-setting and problem-solving. Say no more. In short, your typical horsewoman is not about to fluff around the edges. It’s hardly surprising. Horses like clear and unequivocal signals from their riders. This is all about leadership.
7. They’re happier!
This is not pie-in-the-sky stuff. Research in 2011 found that riders were a happy bunch. It was found that horse riding stimulated mainly positive psychological feelings. It transpires that horse riders are strongly motivated to take part in riding by the sense of wellbeing they gain from interacting with horses. This important positive psychological interaction with an animal occurs in very few sports. So, in short, riding puts a smile on your dial.
Horse-riding builds self-esteem in individuals. In fact, American research has shown that just five minutes of horse riding in the great outdoors can boost your mood and self esteem. A pleasant ride along a water way or beside the sea, amid shades of blue and green, is likely to be even more invigorating, the study reveals. Horse riding has become part of what is now known as a green prescription to achieve better health.
So, there you have it. And if you don’t believe me, perhaps you’ll find some recent German research more convincing.
The German Equestrian Federation commissioned this study to investigate what character elements shone through with horse riding.
The study involved 411 riders aged 14 to 65, 91% of whom were women and 9% male. For comparison, the researchers surveyed 402 non-riders who collectively met the same gender distribution, age and income bands of the riding group.
Riders, it was found, were generally more determined, enthusiastic, structured and balanced than their non-riding counterparts. They also showed greater leadership, were more assertive and competitive, and demonstrated greater resilience.
“We have always been convinced of the positive impact of the horse on the development of children and adolescents, because it corresponds to our experiences and observations,” the federation’s secretary general, Soenke Lauterbach, declared.
Clear interpersonal differences were found between riders and non-riders, he said.
“The close contact with the animal requires a high degree of empathy and sensitivity to the subtle body language of horses. This especially benefits young people.
“The horse is not only a friend to whom they can tell their concerns and needs, but they can also learn from him ‘for life’.”