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Empowering Young Women Through The Study Of Dressage

© 2015 Nancy Kotting All Rights Reserved Reproduction by Permission Only

We women obtain the tools we need to be successful in the professional world from a myriad of different sources. As we grow, mentors and wise teachers come into our lives who challenge us to behave to a higher standard, to reach for excellence in our chosen fields be it creating healthy families, building our own businesses or simply giving of ourselves in constructive ways to the world around us. Sometimes, it is the pursuit of excellence and skill in one endeavor that gives us what we need to be successful in all others. I believe the practice of classical horsemanship, particularly for women, is one of those.

I have spent 40+ years, often while pursuing other areas of interest, mastering this classical art form. This pursuit has lead me literally around the globe, in my quest to gain the wisdom of some of the great Masters, the old ones who possess a lineage of wisdom stretching all the way back to its roots in ancient Greece. Some call this a ‘sport’ as it requires extreme athleticism, something developed over years of instilling correct development into ones muscle memory, much like ballet. One of my greatest teachers could be overheard often proclaiming that there is nothing harder than what we do, nothing. I believe this to be true.

Upon graduating from university, I landed my first position in the male-dominated world of securities trading. Like all women in the corporate environment, not only was I tasked with learning a new business, I also had to navigate the gender bias and the constant subtle, and not so subtle, presence of sexism in my professional interactions. As a rather wild and independent young woman, it was exhausting for me and very defeating knowing the playing field was stacked against me, no matter how I conducted myself, simply because I was a woman.

In this ancient art of Dressage, gender bias simply does not exist. No, I am not kidding. This art form is one where men and women compete equally at all levels. According to the numbers, women actually dominate the sport. I have worked with many, many men in the sport and have NEVER experienced sexism, ever. As an effective rider and trainer, skills acquired in no other way but via years of very, very hard work, a less experienced male rider has no resource at his disposal with which to outperform me, all things equal.

As a female rider/trainer working at the highest levels, I am the recipient of professional respect, respect that is immediate when a knowledgeable male trainer observes my work. What allows a man to trump a woman elsewhere when it comes to professional performance is simply not available to him as an option in the world of Dressage. Once you pull your boots up and gather your reins, you cannot fake it, you cannot posture, you cannot default to brute strength. It does not really matter who you know, no good old boy network will help you. Further, a man ruled by his own ego, an honorable necessity in the rough and tumble corporate world, is very quickly rendered neutral, his machismo disarmed, when he witnesses a 5’1, 110 lb. woman work 8 to 10 stallions in a day. It takes a very emotionally mature and secure man to navigate the world of competitive dressage, surrounded by women like me. (There are some, and they are extraordinary!)

Virtually every woman grows up in a world where she is constantly aware of the threat of being physically overpowered. It is a constant low hum in our psyche, a primitive protective fear. In studying the art of classical horsemanship, we learn to physically and effectively navigate a being that is 10x our size. The confidence that such a feat puts into a young female cannot be understated. In order to ride, we must overcome our fears of a being far larger and much more powerful than ourselves. Over time, this confidence manifests itself in a woman’s psyche, her posture and body language as she moves through the world around her. When fear cannot be observed nor sniffed out by a potential predator, it gives that predator pause; it confuses them and often disarms them before they even know why. Be it walking down a crowded city street or into a male-dominated boardroom, a fearless woman is an empowered woman.

The ancients learned that the practice of horsemanship made us into our greater selves. Courageous leaders throughout history share the common bond of the study of horsemanship, the virtues effective leadership requires having been developed this way. Today, we female equestrians are the beneficiaries of this ancient training in ways the ancients could have never foretold but for which, in these modern times, we should be most thankful.

© 2015 Nancy Kotting All Rights Reserved Reproduction by Permission Only

 

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2 comments on “Empowering Young Women Through The Study Of Dressage

  1. Pingback: Learning about life and leadership through horses | Enhancing Life One Day at a Time

  2. Amanda
    July 13, 2015

    Great article! I am in the corporate world as a woman, can relate on both sides (corp and riding).

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This entry was posted on November 8, 2014 by in Horses and tagged , , , , .

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