DARE TO ASK: Women see horses as 'big dolls'
By PHILLIP MILANO, The Times-Union
I am a man who loves horses. Yet it seems that more than 80 percent of the
people involved in horsemanship are women (mainly teenage girls). Why?
Robert, 34, Birmingham
Horse-loving women ponder this, too. You'd think men interested in meeting
women would gravitate to horses, but instead they seem to prefer NASCAR. I do
think horses represent a fantasy that can be made real - the special friendship,
the freedom of riding and the camaraderie of other women who like being around
Anne M., Albuquerque, N.M.
Maybe there's just something about having something so large and muscular
between your legs that we mortal men could never match (sigh).
Mike, Richmond, Va.
I call it "the big doll" theory: Before you go riding, you have to groom the
horse and clean his hooves, etc. Then you dress him up in his saddle, blanket
and bridle and all. It's like playing Barbies on a very large scale.
Women seldom get the experience of moving fast and having 1,000 pounds of
steel-shod muscle under the command of their slightest shift in weight. It makes
us feel free and graceful. You thought it was going to be some kinky sex thing,
Elaine C., Columbus, Ohio
I get no enjoyment out of grooming, and I've never decorated my mount's mane.
I've also never gotten pleasure from the movement between my legs. The only
possible explanation I can think of is that many books, dolls and toys for
preteen girls feature horses.
Emily, 14, Memphis, Tenn.
A horse is a horse . . . of course, of course!
Really, writer Vicky Moon of horse mecca Middleburg, Va., says, there's
nothing hot about riding a giant, hoofed mammal.
"When all you're thinking about is 'Please, dear God, let me stay on,' you're
not thinking about anything sensual," said Moon, author of A Sunday Horse and
The Private Passion of Jackie Kennedy Onassis: Portrait of A Rider.
And while lots of young girls are into horses, at the highest levels of
equestrianism - the Olympics, horse-jumping, horse-racing, polo - it's men who
still dominate, she said. But about that gender disparity at the lower levels:
Moon likes the "control" and "doll" theories.
"Horses are big, friendly and easily intimidated. Here you are a little girl,
and it gives you confidence to take care of, ride and control a big horse," she
"As far as it being like a big doll, it's true. It's a nurturing thing. You
have it from a little age. To this day I love to give horses a bath. It's very
Shrewd fathers who steer their young sons toward baseball or football should
consider horsemanship, she added. Polo players can make tens of thousands of
dollars a week.
And yes, it's a good way to rub shoulders with women.
"My son loved it for that reason: to meet girls. It's a chick-magnet thing."
Phillip Milano, author of I Can't Believe You Asked That! (Perigee),
moderates cross-cultural dialogue at Y? The National Forum on People's
Differences. Visit www.yforum.com to submit questions and answers.