When Horse Whisperers Catcall

By MARLEY LIEN-GONZALEZ

I was walking my horse across the show grounds one day when a guy looked me in the eye and called me the b-word in Spanish. 

I already knew the meaning of the word he called me though—this was just the most recent of countless times this has happened to me. 

I was careful not to show any visual reaction, even though my stomach twisted when he turned to his friend and started laughing as I continued to ride by. 

In a coed sport that is predominantly female at the professional level, it’s disappointing that women still have to experience this inappropriate degree of attention from men. Whether it’s staring or full-on catcalling, if it’s making people uncomfortable, it’s not ok. 

In 2018, USEF integrated an organization called Safesport, which is dedicated solely to ending sexual, physical, and emotional abuse on behalf of athletes. This is thier mission statement, alongside their own Minor Athlete Abuse Prevention program (also known as MAAP). 

This action taken by USEF demonstrated a concern for the safety of equestrian athletes, but with a clear intent to be more geared towards minors or cases of abuse. 

But who, or what, will stand up and protect female workers, riders, and competitors of every age against the constant miro-harassments that occur daily in barns or at horse shows? 

And why is this something we collectively turn a blind eye to? 

Is it a fear of offending the guilty party? Or more a lack of responsibility? 

There are a lot of dark corners of the horse industry that people don’t address, but when the mental and physical well-being of daughters, mothers, wives, and women of all titles are at stake, it’s an issue worth bringing to light. 

In any language, in any place, in any circumstance, it is never appropriate to make a woman feel uncomfortable with either words, body language—or both. 

This is especially true at venues like horse shows, where we take pride in embodying professionalism and sportsmanship. 

Treating people with respect is the norm in real society—and we have to make it the standard in horse society, too.