Earlier this week Steve Haskin wrote a column on why women will keep racing alive. I understand where he is coming from and I know he meant no harm and wrote it with the best intentions but frankly, I wasn’t a fan.
The long short of it is that Haskin painted women in horse racing as the pretty pony fans, which in my experience is a rough stereotype that leads to less respect. It has happened a lot, at the track or online, that someone won’t listen to what I have to say much because they think I only like American Pharoah because I think his short tail is cute. Even if that’s why someone originally got into the sport it shouldn’t matter, but that first assumption takes a while for people to get over.
I do not care what road someone takes to get into racing, but I do care when people think we take the same one to get there.
Back in school I was totally the horse girl. In 2004 I watched Smarty Jones’ Arkansas Derby and my parents encouraged it and took me to Emerald Downs whenever they could. Sure I thought the horses were cool and still do, but what hooked me in was the atmosphere, the crowd, the speed, the excitement of a stretch battle, the intensity of it all, that is what hooked me in. Some people have similar stories, some don’t, we all came in for different reasons.
Being a girl should have absolutely no impact on how anyone is viewed or respected. If I say something I expect it to be held in the same regard. If I say something horribly wrong or mess something up I expected to be criticized or called out. I’ll be damned if I am considered for a position because I am a woman. I am not here to fill someone’s quota to look progressive.
Unfortunately though, there is sexism in racing. I’ve seen it, I’ve experienced it, I’ve seen friends go through it. Such is life. Thing is everyone has experienced it differently. Listen to the heckling women jockeys get in the paddock versus the men, the tone is different. How girls are talked to and respected on the farm and backside is different.
Jockeys and trainers who are women are almost always shown in the “just a girl and her horse” light. I hate that. It was like that with Chantal Sutherland and Game on Dude, it was like that with Maria Borell and Runhappy, it was like that with Rosie Napravnik and Untapable. Remember Kristin Mulhall, who was 21 with Imperialism? Happened to her too. No one would be a professional trainer or jockey if they didn’t love it, but women are given this weird image that its something more spiritual, guys in the business rarely if ever are perceived in that light.
There is no need to separate men and women. Haskin says women will keep racing alive. I disagree. Doesn’t matter if its a guy or a girl, passionate people will keep horse racing alive.