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From My Window

Issue Date: September 2, 2021

Horse Ad

By Jane Thibodeau Martin,




**********

I was reading our free weekly shopper paper when I saw an auction ad for an Amish family that is apparently moving or retiring. In it were a few horses, including this listing:

ൖ-year-old Chestnut Standardbred (a breed of horse) mare TS woman driver, registered U.S. Trotting Association"."

Standardbreds are a breed of horse used in trotting races, and a lot of unwanted or untalented trotters who don't make it on the track, or those too old for racing end up at horse auctions in Wisconsin. They might find new homes with the few people who drive carriage horses as a hobby, or more likely, to the Amish to serve as their main mode of transportation.

What got me thinking was the reference to "woman driver." I understood what that referred to. I frequently encounter Amish buggies on my travels between central Wisconsin and Marinette. The horses I share the road with are always used as singles, not teams, and they are always without exception moving at the trot. It would take too long to get anywhere at the walk, and the canter is too tiring to sustain for the distances the Amish may travel, so a horse trained to maintain an unbroken trot is ideal. And they are almost always being driven by a man. There is one buggy I encounter occasionally that is apparently transporting some children to a little Amish school driven by a woman, but this is uncommon.

There is no physical reason a woman can't drive a horse-drawn carriage as well as a man. In fact, the equestrian events at the Olympics are the only "compete as equals" events in that lofty competition that I am aware of. Olympic equestrians are not split into men's and women's or mixed doubles teams. The best horse and rider combinations win, regardless of the sex of the rider (or of the horse, for that matter!) The same is true of top-level carriage driving, a sport popular in Europe.

To support my argument, I share the 2021 Olympic equestrian events results. Dressage: Individual medalists all females. U. S. team was the silver medalists, two of the three-team members were women. Show jumping: individual silver medalist female. Show jumping team ?? the U.S. team with two of the three team members women. Eventing: Gold medalist was a woman from Germany; the team that won the gold medal had a female on the three person team.

A bit of trivia of interest: one of the two women on the silver medal U.S. jumping team was Jessica Springsteen, the daughter of the famous singer Bruce. She was blessed with a wealthy family who encouraged her interest in riding, all the same, you do not make the U.S. Olympic team in a crowded field of talented competitors unless you have the riding skill and experience to be selected. And she's only 29, with years of riding ahead of her. One of the U.S. Eventing team members, a very physically demanding sport, is Phil Dutton, still riding at an élite level at 57. And team horses are generally between 12 and 15 years old ?? quite the contrast to most racehorses who run the track at three. It takes years for the horses to master their complex skills.

Clearly, women can compete against men in nearly any equine sports. The one exception I can think of is the rodeo event bucking horse ride. Instead women (only women, as far as I know,) compete in barrel racing.)

No, this "woman driver" horse ad reference is more to the fact that women seldom drive in Amish culture. The assumption is they need a more compliant and gentle horse than a man. It is a sexist term, but it is completely in line with their culture, as I guess male saddle bronc riding is in ours.

Children are often disappointed with their first horseback ride. They expect to get on, be turned loose and immediately be able to safely gallop around on a magically compliant horse like they see on TV or by watching experienced riders who make it look easy. A first ride is usually a plod in a circle with the horse strictly controlled, a letdown compared to the vision the child had. But riding takes a high level of skill, a sure seat, a strong core and many, many hours of experience. There is no shortcut that is safe. That said, with interest, practice and instruction, anyone can learn to ride or drive horses. Gender makes no difference whatsoever.

In defense of the "woman driver" ad reference, I thought of a term I see fairly frequently in the "horse for sale" world, where an ad will highlight that a saddle horse for sale is an ideal "husband horse." This term refers to an extremely gentle and easy to ride horse, with a laid-back attitude, perfect for the use of a man when riding out or "hacking" with their horse-crazy, highly skilled partner who can handle a much more challenging animal. This husband is likely to be an infrequent or unenthused rider, and would be uncomfortable riding a horse that demands the skill level his horse enthusiast partner rides. I have never seen a sales ad for a "wife horse."

Happy Safe Labor Day. Take care on the waters and the roads and honor all those who labor, as there is honor in nearly all work.

You can reach me for commentary, alternative viewpoints or ideas at this e-mail address: JanieTMartin@gmail.com.


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