Boy Story

   This smart young boy (far left) has worked out the advantages of being in equestrian sport

Boy Story

Experienced riders know the most dangerous place to linger at an event is near the scoreboard. Not only are you vulnerable to attack from those officials you’d rather avoid, but you’re also guaranteed to get baled up by a fellow competitor wanting to give you a move by move rundown on their dressage test. And even if you avoid those hazards, there’s always an awkward conversation to be had with a parent whose name always escapes you.

So I only had myself to blame when I was caught in exactly this situation recently. Lassoed by one of the wise old heads in eventing, I was lashed to a post before I could even think about making an escape. But as I was making preparations to settle in and nod for hours, the conversation turned an interesting corner.

They wanted to know how we could make eventing more attractive to boys. Of course, my first thought was that eventing has always been fairly attractive to those boys smart enough to work out the benefits of the sport’s lopsided gender ratio. But since so many boys fail to make it in eventing through the difficult teenage years, I knew this issue would require some deeper thought. So in order to regain my freedom I promised to put my mind to finding a way to keep more boys in eventing.

Style matters

When I was in my early teens, jodhpurs were by far the least appealing aspect of eventing. Tight, awkward, and extremely feminine, these unflattering pants were an even bigger curse on the sport than dressage.

   Tight fitting jodphurs don't always look the best

At school, any talk of horse riding would inevitably descend into a period of unpleasant ribbing about jodhpurs. While this was tolerable, it hardly encouraged you to roll in on a Monday morning crowing about your weekend spent on horseback. School can be an unpleasant experience at the best of times, and jodhpurs provided an unnecessary free kick for the idiots and imbeciles that spawn there. I can’t imagine things have changed much in the years since.

If we want boys to stick with eventing past their early teenage years, we could start by ridding the world of tight jodhpurs. This means banning well-meaning parents from dressing their boys in clothes bought off the girls rack at the local saddlery. One thing I can guarantee is that nothing drives a boy towards rugby faster than finding himself packaged up in a pair of girl’s pants.

So here’s the tip – if you’re an entrepreneurial type, there’s a dollar to be made producing flattering riding clothes for young males. Because even though I’m no designer, if you can put pleats in breeches that create an air of mystery around the masculinity of grown men, then it can’t be too difficult to do the same for teenage boys.

   Give me pleats any day

Let boys be boys

At its core, eventing is a rough and tumble, active, outdoor sport. And because of this, teenage boys should swarm over it like ants on an ice cream.  

But somewhere along the way eventing has become too precious and caught up in its own self-importance to keep boys interested. Laden down with heavy-handed rules and protocols and boring (and impossible) things like plaiting, it simply becomes too much for them to bother with. So they slip through the cracks and disappear off to ride motorbikes or chase young girls around shopping malls on a Saturday afternoon.

To keep them interested, boys need to be allowed to be themselves – free to enjoy the fun parts of eventing without worrying about the thoughts of a cranky dressage judge. Because when they’re older and wiser (and probably already riding quite naturally around 2 Star), they’re less likely to throw in the towel when their coach or parents try to reverse engineer the finer points of eventing into them.

   Boys need to enjoy their eventing while at the same time look good from behind

The odds are in their favour

No, not just with the girls.  What I mean is that the boys who do keep riding past the age of 15 mostly go on to become very good top level riders. And by that stage, no one’s judging them on their jodhpurs.

See you somewhere out there.

Hamish

 

Comments

Can't imagine who holed up Hamish at Interschools!

BUT, it is on! Boys, eventing is an extreme sport; exciting, fast (well other than the dressage) and comes with lots of benefits... believe me, I had two sons.

Penny Rose

I'll be sure to keep all of this in mind as I attempt to stear my two youngs away from football and into the old of eventing. No buying bargains off the girls clothes rack!

Awesome! Love your articles!

Seriously, dressage judges aren't all THAT bad, are we? I hated SJ more than stressage as a kid. Still do!

This was me to a "T" as a teenager. You're hysterical, keep it up!

I have two sons that evented through their teens - both are now still eventing at 20 and 23 - we recently purchased upper level prospects for each of them and are really looking forward to an exciting season with the young mares and our sons.

I can feel this young fellow's pain. Not only is it hard to find jophurs that fit boys, it is also hard to find a coat that fits! You have to buy a girls coat and the cut makes it very girly. My grandson FINALLY fits in a man's 28 waist (when you can find them) and we are trying a 32 coat hoping it fits with maybe a little altering. He is very tall and slim so he has grown out of the size 16 boys coat we did fine because of the length of his arms. If I knew how I would take up the challenge of fitting boys for eventing and hunter/jumpers. I could certainly make some money!