Men vs Women – Part 1

    Jose Antonio Garcia Mena finishing a top class test at the World Equestrian Games, but beaten by a woman (FEI / Arnd Bronkhorst / Pool Pic)

Jose Antonio Garcia Mena finishing a top class test at the World Equestrian Games, but beaten by a woman (FEI / Arnd Bronkhorst / Pool Pic)

The battle of the sexes has infiltrated nearly every area of human life and, with the help of expert academic research, HQ takes a look at the differences between men and women and how they influence the riding abilities of the sexes.

Vive la difference!

Men and women are different. Our bodies often look different; our muscular structure is different, our range of movement and flexibility is different and our attitudes about the right way to do things are certainly often different. However, do these differences matter when we’re in the saddle? According to research, they certainly do.

In history

For thousands of years, horses have been used by humans for help with transporting goods and people, agriculture, battle, delivering messages, sport and more. Because men dominated the business and industrial sector, they used horses more than women did. Women may have ridden in carriages or been given ‘ladies’ ponies’ to ride gently for exercise, pleasure or transport. However, in today’s equine world, women often seem more widely represented than men, and the sexes compete on equal terms.

Riding and competing has become hugely popular with women. In today’s world, most riding schools in South Africa have noted that their female riders across all age groups outnumber their male riders. The majority of sports across the world separate the sexes in competition, but horse riding has us competing firmly as equals. However, are we really equal? Let’s take a look at the physical differences that could affect the way the sexes ride.

Muscles and strength

Charlotte dujardin celebrates winning gold on Velegro, at the World Equestrian Games

Charlotte dujardin celebrates winning gold on Valegro, at the World Equestrian Games

At a university in Canada, a study was done to determine, on average, if and how men are physically stronger than women. The findings were published in Gender Differences in Strength and Muscle Fibre Characteristics by Miller AE, MacDougall JD, Tarnopolsky MA and Sale DG and cited the following as significant for horse riders: The women in the study were found to be 52% as strong as the men in the upper body and 66% as strong in the lower body. The women’s muscles were between 25% and 41% smaller than the men’s. In conclusion, the data suggests that men have greater strength, particularly in the upper body. This could be because women tend to have most of their lean tissue in their lower bodies and fattier tissue in the upper body.

In short, this means that on average a man naturally has greater strength and stamina when riding, particularly for sports requiring harder, faster strength work like cross country, polo or racing. However, this doesn’t mean that a woman can’t, and hasn’t, beaten male competitors!

See Part 2 for information about men vs women, their bone structure and how this contributes to the great debate about who the better riders are! Watch Charlotte  Dujardin’s winning test here.

Text: Peta Daniel

The full article appears in the May issue of HQ.