Reclaiming the term ‘Equestrian’ by Jade Moore

The term equestrian is thrown around a lot in our community and not always with a positive connotation by wider society.  

Equestrian is often replaced with “horse rider” and that just doesn’t do equestrians justice. I personally have two retired horses, but that does not make me any less of an equestrian. There seems to be a stigma around having to have ridden horses, ride regularly and compete in order to claim the title “equestrian”, but that just isn’t the case. 

The Oxford Dictionary states the definition of equestrian is “a rider or performer on horseback (Noun)”

This doesn’t accurately describe what an equestrian does, not even a fraction of our daily lives. To me, an equestrian is someone involved with horses on a personal or professional level, it describes the people who have a relationship with equines (yes, including donkeys), and doesn’t discriminate against what activities they undertake with their equines, or the number of lessons they have.

I remember when my Sciatica flared up and I suddenly couldn’t ride with my university team for three months I felt deflated. My own horses were out on loan while I cracked on with my studies and I felt like I was a fraud walking around in my yard coats claiming to be an equestrian. I went to the yard once a week to take pictures for our riders and sneak in all the pony cuddles I could, but I felt so alienated. Without the constant reassurance from friends, I was shell of myself and comparing my own patchy ridden “career” to that of perfectly healthy 13 year olds. I was beating myself up because I was conditioned to believe that in order to be an equestrian, I needed to be riding regularly. In reality, I needed to take this time off to heal and not cause long term damage. 

It was then that I realised I needed to be more vocal about the term equestrian and what it means to real equestrians.

I reached out to some friends, and we brainstormed what does equestrian mean to us?

The general consensus is that to be an equestrian is more than just being a horse rider, it is about passion, dedication and the care we provide our animals. Non horsey friends got involved, their understanding of the word equestrian was it was someone who has connections to horses including owners, riders and people who work in feed/tack shops and on yards.  This was slightly vaguer, but the overarching theme remains:

Equestrians are not just horse riders, they are those who own horses, ride horses or are just generally part of the extended community.

I think it’s important here to remember those who own less traditional equines such as donkeys and mules, they are equally as much of the equestrian community as those who own horses and ponies.

So, to wrap this up, let’s take a moment to appreciate everyone in the equestrian community; not just those who ride, that’s a shout out to all of the non-horsey parents on show days, the partners that just stand and cheer us on, and the extended community of owner’s, shops, instructor’s and more that make this hobby possible. To the non-standard equestrians.

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