Women In The Eye Of The Media

Take out your phone right now and search for results of this week’s Winter Equestrian Festival in Florida. I guarantee! you will see women dominating classes left and right. From Grace Debney (GBR) to Laura Chapot (USA), talented women are out there, winning wildly prestigious classes and the results of their achievements are easily accessible to us all. This is now due to a more considerate approach from the media when compared to the past. 

In just over a decade, the equestrian industry has seen a huge turnaround in the way the media covers women and addresses gender equality. Not so long ago, you would have thought that there was not one female rider winning so much as a sausage! When in reality, female athletes were indeed winning major competitions all over the world. But for some reason, they were not given the same respect and platforms as their male counterparts. This is odd, is it not? When equestrian sports are one of a few, where men and women compete with and against each other. We even boast about this, right?

As a child, growing up with a passion for horses and with a fierce hunger and fascination for the competitive side of riding, I often wondered, while flicking though my horsy magazines and watching any competition which was shown on TV, why there were so few interviews with women? Even though I had seen women actually winning competitions, they were not the ones I was seeing being interviewed! Yet I never saw a reporter skipping over one of the lads on the podium. From Horse & Rider promoting interviews with the likes of Ben Maher to Horse Sport Ireland shining their spotlight on Shane Breen and Cian O’Connor, I rarely saw female riders receiving the same hype. Don’t get me wrong now! These guys were, hands down and still are my idols! But we got to know the guys so well from all the articles and interviews. Shamefully the same can’t be said about the female riders of that time.

The first time I recall the media honing in on a female rider, was when we were introduced to Charlotte Dujardin, circa the dressage Grand prix scene of 2011, with her mount Valegro, or as she calls him at home – Blueberry. We all got to know this female rider in depth, as we had only really seen previously with male riders. It seems that the media’s coverage of Charlotte set a new precedence for future reporting on our female equestrians. This got me thinking, about today’s young riders and would they be more familiar with any of the current leading females, due to media coverage? 

So, I then decided to ask a group of particularly young riders, who their current female idols within the industry were and why. Each and every one of them were able to provide me with the names of current riders who are making waves within the equestrian circuit. 

Luciana Diniz (POR), Edwina Tops Alexander (AUS), Jessica Springsteen (USA), Malin Baryard-Johnsson (SWE), Beezie Madden (USA), Amanda Derbyshire (GBR), Piggy March (GBR), Gemma Tattersall (GBR), Simone Blum (GER), Ingrid Klimke (GER) are some of the many riders who were mentioned to me. As for the why? They all agreed it was because they felt like they knew them already, even though they hadn’t actually met them. Because they saw so many interviews, winning articles and posts about these riders, they felt “if another woman is working hard achieving her goals, then there is no reason why we can’t do the same.” 

These young girls then enthusiastically told me all about Gemma Tattersall’s feature in the December 2021 issue of Pony Mag!   

I read Pony Mag and similar, every month when I was a kid aged around 8 to 10 years. From cover to cover. And back again! But I struggle to remember the featured female riders. And now in 2022, I speak to a gang of 8 to 10 year old equestrians and they can spit out these names like they were their sisters! What a significant change this has been. This has opened so many more doors for women in the sport. The more publicity one gets, the harder it is to forget about them. Especially for things like being selected for team events. When in the past perhaps a woman may have been overlooked, considered less important, less likely to win, less likely to hold it together? In any event, let us not ever canter backwards on this. The media now seems to have the guys and girls on an even keel. This paves the way for equal treatment in their working world. Media representation has certainly come a long way. That’s not saying that we as women should settle for where the media has laid it’s hat. I believe, as many others do, that the media has enormous potential to show a more balanced and diverse depiction of women in the equestrian industry, to help us achieve gender equality. We must continue to advocate for it.

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Women In The Eye Of The Media

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