5 Misconceptions About Horseback Riders

Lila Gendal has heard her fair share of stereotypes and misconceptions about our own unique kind of crazy. Here are the five most common!
Vinnie and Lila at June GMHA, Prelim, 2015. Photo: Denny Emerson

Vinnie and Lila at June GMHA, Prelim, 2015. Photo: Denny Emerson

Like anything and almost everything in life, being a “professional” horse person comes with some annoying stereotypes. While they may be based loosely on facts, they’ve since developed into inaccurate misconceptions. Here are the five most common misconceptions that pertain to my riding and other riders like me. (Of course, there are many who might be accurately described by these stereotypes, but I am not interested in those folks!)

We’ve never had “real” jobs.

This one I really love. In fact, I want to scream when some stranger assumes that because I ride horses, I therefore have never had to work or earn my living. Even though I am currently attempting to “make it” as a horse professional, and that includes writing articles on a weekly basis, teaching any and all ages how to ride, training horses for others and working on a website that resolves around horses, I have always had a job. I have been a caterer, a waitress, I worked for a publishing company and I have worked on websites. I was even the lonely working student who actually had to leave the barn most afternoons so I could go waitress until midnight so I could afford to actually be a working student.

We’re very rich, and very spoiled.

Another favorite. Perhaps I am riding my horse during an hour of the day when most people are in an office or library, or out building a bridge. Just because I am sitting on a horse and not performing some act of physical labor does not mean I am spoiled or have a deep pocketbook. Yes, I have known and met tons of riders who are very privileged, and live in beautiful homes with barns nicer than my house, but I am not interested in those individuals. Just because I ride horses does not mean I have a lot of money. In fact, if I were not so stubborn and infatuated with this lifestyle, and spent every dime I do not have on grain, competitions and vet bills, I would probably have a real savings account. No such luck though!

We’ve probably never had to perform physical labor.

Wrong again and definitely laughing out loud. I am not thin and strong because I sit around the house and then go get on my horse who is waiting on the cross ties, tacked up and ready to go. I move large quantities of hay, bedding, bags of grain and water buckets. I don’t know anything but physical labor. I learned at a very young age if I wanted something, I had to work hard for it. That translated into doing physical labor on my farm, other farms, at my house, at others’ homes … the list goes on!

Riding a horse is easy, therefore we will not get stronger from riding.

Now my blood is boiling! Yes, there are other ways to get stronger, and other ways that should augment your current riding schedule, if you are an avid competitor and athlete. However, actually riding horses, when done correctly, and at a certain level in your riding career, will indeed make you stronger. How about galloping five horses at a competition where you’re in a half seat on cross country? Thighs and legs of steel! How about sitting the trot without bouncing and looking like a real dressage rider without stirrups for thirty-five minutes? Riding can and will make you stronger, and the rest is nonsense!

All we care about is horses.

While this is a loaded statement, and I cannot and will not speak for the majority of riders, I care about more than just riding. I am obsessed with this sport, and cannot imagine my life without horses, but I have other interests. I adore my family and friends, many of whom are outside the horse world. I love animals; I love reading a really good book while lounging in a hammock on a warm summer afternoon. I love the ocean and stars, and if I could go on a boat ride on a lake or ocean I would. I care about other thing besides horses, and so do many others, I am sure!

My name is Lila Gendal and I am 29 years old. I am from Vermont and have been riding horses since I was 6 years old. I have been eventing since I was 10. I have been riding and training with Denny Emerson for the last 9 years. My goal is to compete at the upper levels someday. I’m currently leasing an awesome ISH gelding named Theatre Royal (owned by Gayle Davis), and we are going Prelim. When I am not on a horse or in the barn I am likely working in my office on what I like to call Equine Media… or social media for equestrians and equestrian websites.

Lila and Vinnie schoooling in so pines, 2015. Photo: Ashley Neuhof/AMN Photography

Lila and Vinnie schoooling in so pines, 2015. Photo: Ashley Neuhof/AMN Photography


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