In an inter-species relationship as in an intra-species relationship, it would be illusory to imagine that it could flourish if one of the two individuals is not benefiting from respect within that relationship. However, female riders in the traditional equestrian world are faced with questionable ideals. Domination, infibulation, forced mating of mares are all convincing examples of abuses that lead to some inadmissible behaviour. Mirroring this, child sexual abuse is sadly very common in the sporting world of equitation. Riders who are faced with this are daring to break their silence by denouncing those coaches who abuse them. Their testimonies are shocking and concern us. “If you don’t have sex with me, you won’t be given a good horse for the next competition.” To destroy a life in this way to satisfy one’s impulses is no better than the coupling of a mare by force, a practice all too banal in the equestrian world. The presidency of the French Equestrian Federation (FFE), covers up by its silence acts of child rape – cf. the Médiapart survey by Quentin Müller and Margaux Solinas, published on May 23 and June 11, 2020. Raping a young teenager in a stable or in the coach-competitor common room would not be deemed denounceable. To be shocked or offended by this practice would mean exclusion from the traditional equestrian circle and being labelled as a killjoy. Yet, we must all agree that this lack of respect for others must not be considered as normal behavior. The well known toast, “to our women, our horses and those who ride them” not only lacks elegance, but above all, it lays the ground where contempt for others becomes an established value.
The denigration of women in the equestrian world is not new. Before the beginning of the 20th century, women who mounted astride were considered immoral or tomboys. One can never tell, a woman might take pleasure in rubbing herself against the back of her mount, whereas men in the same position, on the contrary must be careful not to jeopardise his genitals, that would be unacceptable. Unacceptable in a society driven by the exclusive pleasure of men. This idea did not fail to generate fantasies in order to justify that a woman should not ride horses. The most persistent fantasy remains the one which claims that women can lose their virginity. When receiving young female riders at our centre coming from families of Muslim faith, it was often difficult to reassure them as they were often terrorised by their fathers.
Horseback riding is a fun activity, learning about social life that can demonstrate to machos that otherness, partnerships and the search for mutual well-being makes for stronger and more intense relationships than does domination. The culture of fulfillment predominates over that of confrontation. It would be dangerously limiting to believe that women will compare the attention and respect she shows to a horse, with the attitude they may have towards a human who is insensitive to otherness. A young woman attentive to her horse companion will not become servile, on the contrary she will learn that respectful exchange is rewarding and in turn she will offer it to her human partner.
The traditional equestrian world as it stands today effectively hinders emancipation. The reason for this archaism lies in the permanence of an education that ignores otherness . Teaching nuns have received divine instruction carefully controlled by the national technical director, called “God”. Leaving the nunnery by any door is the only solution for female riders to emancipate themselves. The one and only antidote to this “eternal” submission is to offer an alternative equestrian education that integrates diversity, respect and the enjoyment of a moment shared with a conciliatory partner, the horse, when he too is not subject to disrespectful practices.