HN Blogger Contest, Round Two: The Appeal of Horses: Freedom, Equality & Friendship

“Every time I’m privileged enough to ride around our lanes and see a young girl or boy stare up with that look in their eyes, I always ask if they want to come over and say hi.” Read the rest of blogger contest finalist Jess Crandon’s Round Two submission!

Our five finalists in the 2018 HN Blogger Contest are back with their Round Two submissions! For this round, we asked each of our finalists a question: “How do you think horseback riding and equestrian activities can best appeal to the mainstream population?” We’ll be sharing their responses this week — and we want to know what you think as a reader! Share your thoughts in the comments section.

Floyd the heartbreaker. Picture credit: LRG Photography/Jess Crandon

For most of us, horses are in our blood. They’re a passion breathed into our soul from the moment we arrive on earth, and the need to be with them is as crucial to living as a heartbeat. The pain of being horse-less is visceral. It’s an ache that starts in the stomach and ends in the heart, and is no less real than a broken leg.

And it’s for this reason that it’s so hard to explain the appeal of horses. Should I try to explain the appeal of breathing? Of eating? Of drinking? No, because it’s obvious. When horses are such a huge part of your life – such a huge part your personality, of your raison d’être – it’s a struggle to stay objective.

When the team at Horse Nation first asked how horse-riding and equestrianism could best appeal to the mainstream population, the answer was obvious. “Because it juST DOES,” I shrieked internally. This, if posed to the general public, would – I fear – firstly cement the idea that ‘crazy horse lady’ is the new ‘crazy cat lady’, and also leave them none-the-wiser to the most precious gift on earth.*

*I’m proud to be a member of both clans.

It was only as I hacked around our village that I realised I answer this question almost every day. My horses will freak out over new road markings, tree stumps and giant leaves. But the one thing they have no issues with is small children hurtling towards them. Every time I’m privileged enough to ride around our lanes and see a young girl or boy stare up with that look in their eyes, I always ask if they want to come over and say hi. When I was a horseless child, that would’ve made my month (and probably ruined my mum’s, as it’d be all I talk about for weeks on end). I hope these small chats and cuddles spark a fire inside their bellies – the fire that drives them to the same level of idiotic obsession that afflicts the rest of us.

I don’t, oddly enough, do this for passing adults. When you get old, you get scared. Horses are big, strong animals, and they drain your bank account and your energy. For adults, the plan needs to be more nuanced. And this is how I think we do it.

Girl power

Charlotte Dujardin. Jonelle Price. Beezie Madden. Lucinda Green. Some of the greatest athletes in our sport are women. And they aren’t dismissed by comments of ‘the best at women’s dressage’ or ‘the top female eventer’. Equestrianism is equal. It’s one of the few sports where men and women compete against each other on a completely level playing field. And in today’s climate of fighting back against sexism and opening up opportunities, what could be more inspiring than watching these gutsy women take home some of the biggest prizes in equestrianism? Even for the non-equestrian, the sheer mental strength, skill and accomplishments should be enough to class them as bona fide role models.


This is quite embarrassing to admit to non-horsey people, but I know I’m among friends here. When the woman in the Lloyds TSB advert gets out of her wheelchair and onto her horse, and you see her cantering through the woods, I bawl my eyes out. Because it’s the epitome of what horses mean: freedom. They lend us their speed, their strength and their power with no expectation of anything in return. When we’re on horseback, we see the world from a different angle (and no, I’m not just talking about peering into people’s gardens…). Horses offer us that total, unbridled escape from modern life, that not even a yoga class can equal. You can’t have one hand on your phone when you’re riding Spooky McSpookster down Pheasant Alley, now can you?


Today, loneliness is deemed as lethal as smoking. Well, when you get into horse-riding, not only are your chances of being lonely greatly reduced, but you can’t actually afford to smoke either, so there ya have it.

My heart swells with joy at the love, kindness and support shown in our community. From Hannah Francis to Jonty Evans, when tragedy strikes – we’re here. We all have opinions that divide us, but at the end of it, we all share one common feature: the love of a horse.

Once you start riding, you get initiated into the best gang in the world. One where you can have an hour-long conversation with a total stranger, just swapping horse photos. Where you can be comforted by a fellow competitor after a bad round. Where people will know the pain, loss and grief you’re feeling, and help you deal with it – no matter who you are.

And it’s not just forging friendships with people. My horses are my best friends. The Irish one genuinely believes he’s part Labrador and there’s no way on earth you can be lonely with a personality like that in your life. Even when I lived far away from home and friends, loneliness didn’t seem as stark – not when you have a velvety muzzle shoved in your face.

Horses aren’t as inaccessible as people believe. They’re not terrifying beasts waiting to crush your toes (most of the time anyway).

Horses are an escape, they’re the greatest of partners, and they teach us lessons that no other human can.

“He’s more myself than I am. Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same.”
Wuthering Heights, Emily Brontë

Jess Crandon, aged 27 from Berkshire, England, UK

Aspiring eventer, but yet to successfully piece all three stages together. Used to dabble in dressage before buying a horse that doesn’t try to kill you over fences. Usually forgets that riding is meant to be fun.

I own two horses. A 7-year-old thoroughbred with buckets of talent and bloodlines to die for. Naturally, he’s retired due to totally breaking down. The other is called Buttons. No, not a tiny Welsh pony or a kitten with a saddle. Is actually a giant chunky youngster from Ireland.

Character-defining qualities include the ability to stick out the most horrendous rides by chanting “it’ll make a good story” until feet are back on solid ground. Also have much less faith in myself than talent and determination, so often end up pleasantly surprised.

Embarrassing moments are too numerous to list. They range from being swiped off a horse’s back by a tree branch to mistaking an elderly mare for my yard owner’s showjumper. Other tidbits include not being able to wake horse up for the farrier so having to cancel, and reassuring vet that giant chunk would be safe to lunge in a headcollar – not bridle – after two days of box rest, and being treated to a session of grass-skiing and flat-out galloping.

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