Explaining to people who aren’t horse lovers that riding is a real sport can be hard. How many times have you heard “the horse does all the work” or “riding doesn’t LOOK hard.” Comments like that are so frustrating!
Remind them that riding is in the Olympics.
Sports that are represented in the Olympics are notoriously difficult to perfect. Riding wouldn’t be included if you just sat there and looked pretty, would it?
Compare the riding discipline you do to a more mainstream sport.
For example, if you ride dressage, compare it to figure skating. Running hurdles in track is similar to jumping, and running barrels is just like a sprint.
Invite them to watch a competition with you.
Whether they watch with you in person, on TV or even some short YouTube videos on your phone, showing them what a good high-caliber rider looks like can convince them that it really is a sport.
Explain to them how riding involves your entire body.
Walk them through a daily ride, explaining how you have to walk to catch your horse, then use your arms to groom and saddle; you use your legs and core to stay steady while your horse moves underneath you. What other sport requires you to ride a moving target?
Tell them that some colleges offer scholarship money to riders.
Equestrian athletes are valuable assets to a school, so much so that some schools offer them scholarship money. Teams at some colleges are NCAA sanctioned—the same as basketball!
And the best comeback yet: Offer to bring them to your barn for a lesson.
While most of your friends won’t take you up on the offer, those who do will be believers as soon as they try to mount.
At the end of the day, you will never convince some people that riding really is a sport. Just remember that you know something they never will: horses are the most fun exercise there is!
This article riding being a real sport originally appeared in the January/February 2018 issue of Young Rider Magazine. Click here to subscribe!