If you've ever been to a top level horse race meet, you've experienced the thrill of a field of horses thundering down the home straight. Divets of grass and mud are flung from the track by sheer force as the pressure of pounding hooves drives their sleek and muscular frames towards the finish line. Thousands of adrenaline pumped spectators scream, shaking their ticket filled fists in the air as their opportunity for riches and glory gallop by, and on the backs of these burly, athletic mammals you'll find forty nine men to every one woman, crouching, balancing and navigating their way through a tough and dangerous stampede.
Perhaps this grossly skewed statistic is the result of women being disinterested in horse riding? Nope, that couldn't be further from the truth...In fact 90% of horse owners are women, and 90% of equestrian riders are also female. So why the lack of racers?
People may argue that women struggle to stay as strong and as lean as their male jockey counterparts, but like any stereotypical generalisation, this doesn't have to be the case. As in most historical sports, women have simply not been thought of as equals in the racing world, neither physically nor mentally up for the challenge.
We saw Michelle Payne prove the world wrong in 2015, winning the prestigious Melbourne Cup on the back of Prince of Penzance. I felt like a proud mother. hearing her announce in front of millions world wide, "...I just want to say that everyone else can get stuffed cause they think women aren't strong enough..."
Does this mean all women can be jockeys? No. But neither can all men. Do we need to get all crazy and make jockeys wear skirts to even the playing field? Certainly not. But what it does mean, is that if our daughters are passionate about racing horses, they now have proof it's possible.
Now..."Ride like a girl" can certainly also mean win the race.
I recently met a totally gorgeous and inspiring young lady who happens to be a very talented Harness Racing Driver. Not your typical teenage girl's sport of choice, which is exactly why I loved hearing about it!
Jasmyn (who's called Jazzy), has enjoyed non gender stereotypical activities most of her life. As a young girl, she was interested in cricket and basketball, however from as early as the age of two, Jazzy remembers pretending to harness race by tying ropes to her mum and dad's bed posts and imagining driving a horse. What I found pleasantly surprising after interviewing Jazzy, was that she had not suffered from any bullying, criticism or non-supportive behaviour from peers or family members for pursuing the unique sport that she loves.
"I just love sitting behind my pony..." Jazzy writes, "I love it when there's a connection between the pony and I...I also love how fast the pony goes."
When asked if she thought harness racing was more suited to males or females, Jazzy hits the nail on the head with an accepting response sounding wise beyond her years: "This sport is for either males or females, I think you have to have a passion for horses though...we all respect each other and encourage each other."
It's a credit to Jazzy's parents for allowing her to pursue the bond and connection between herself, pony and racing, without concern for the fact female drivers make up less than 10% of the driving community. Jazzy sees a future for herself in this field for as long as she stays passionate, which is no small feat when so many young girls don't see male dominated professions as a possibility for themselves. I for one, plan to follow in Jazzy's parent's footsteps, allowing passion and talent to guide our family in decisions around what we can and can't do.
Keep riding like a girl Jazzy!
Look up #LikeAGirl - For an inspiring and educational clip to show your daughters and sons, our students at The Summit view #LikeAGirl often (and I still cry every time!)
Mel @ Published Panda