International Women’s Day 2018: Celebrating Female Riders But Asking Why There Aren’t More At The Top

Pénélope Leprevost Ph. ©Lucio Landa

Waking up to today’s International Women’s Day announcements online and on social media only added to the existing pride I have for all of the incredible women I know and admire who are shaping all aspects of the horse industry.

We should try to celebrate women everyday, not just on March 8th, but given that today casts an official spotlight on influential females, there’s even more reason to recognize lady riders.

  • Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum was the first woman ever to top the world rankings in show jumping in 2004 and to earn a spot at the European Championships in Hickstead, not to mention, she’s the first woman to win the World Cup Finals three times in 2005, 2008, and 2009.
  • Jessica Kürten of Ireland was the first female champion of the Longines Global Champions Tour in 2008.
  • Edwina Tops-Alexander was the first Australian rider-male or female-to qualify for the individual jumping final at the World Equestrian Games, finishing fourth in Aachen in 2006.
  • Beezie Madden was the first woman to surpass the $1 million mark in earnings for a show jumper. She’s also the only four-time USEF Equestrian of the Year. In 2014, Madden became the first woman to win the prestigious King George Gold Cup at Hickstead.

First celebrated in 1911, IWD also marks a call to action on gender parity. Gender parity is at the forefront of today’s social climate and is an issue that’s far-reaching beyond the traditional professional workplace, extending, yes, even into the equestrian realm— the discipline of show jumping in particular.

Georgina Bloomberg Ph. ©Lucio Landa

Equestrian is generally a sport that levels the playing field between men and women; however, Erin Gilmore observed a noticeable absence of female representation in the Longines FEI World Rankings not just in 2017, but over the past few years.

[Did You Know: There is not one woman in the World Top 20 of show jumping and only 7 currently in the World Top 50.]

The game-changing accomplishments listed above, among many others, paved the way for upcoming generations. But despite the consistent top results by women on the 2018 international circuit, their capability isn’t reflected in the higher rankings.

Isabell Werth of Germany leads the World Dressage rankings, while women make up half of the Top 20 in Eventing and forty percent of the Top 20 in Senior Reining.

So what’s the deal with women’s status in today’s show jumping in comparison to men?

It’s definitely not a lack of personal talent, talent of their string, or ambition because we all know, today’s leading lady show jumpers are just as hungry for the win and are forces to be reckoned with in any venue, in any grand prix around the world.

Today, on International Women’s Day 2018, we’re celebrating the accomplishments of female riders, young, old, new, and veteran, but we’re also wanting to start a discussion.

We’re posing the question to you, our community of passionate horse-lovers: What do you think are the factors preventing women from dominating in the global ranks and how do we move forward in having them take back their mantle at the top?

Sources: Official Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum Website, Equestrian Australia, and Official John Madden Sales Website

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