Should we be surprised by a survey suggesting that the performance of female jockeys is equal with that of their male counterparts? No, writes Carolyn Henderson.
Survey author Vanessa Cashmore, University of Liverpool, says that statistics show a lack of opportunities, not lack of ability. It would be fascinating to know if the same applied to equestrian disciplines usually regarded as being equal opportunity.
Looking at British Showjumping’s gold horse/rider combination league for 2017 shows women riders on the back foot. From 1 April – 30 September, 34 women featured in the top 100. The same applied from 1 October 2017 – 21 February 2018.
British Eventing’s top 100 riders saw 44 women in the ranks. You can’t compare dressage on the same basis, as British Dressage rider rankings no longer exist. Instead, a rider’s top eight scores from premier league shows, national championships and international competitions are used to calculate his or her points total monthly.
However, the latest scores show one male rider, Daniel Greenwood, mixed in with female stars – and no prizes for guessing that the top three places are held by a certain Charlotte Dujardin, riding Mount St John Freestyle, Hawtins Delicato and En Vogue respectively. To be fair, Dan does have two rides at the rankings: Chevalier O, in fourth place and Lukien Von Tespe, in seventh.
I’d eat my best, highest safety specification riding hat if someone could prove that men were better riders than women, or even that they were more competitive. The female can be just as deadly/determined/bloody-minded – delete as applicable – as the male!
I suppose I’d better wear that highest safety specification hat before suggesting that a lot of men have more opportunities to compete. Hang on a second while I adjust the harness.
How many women do you know who say they are now giving their time to their children’s interests rather than their own? Are you one of them, and if so, do you have withdrawal symptoms? Or are you a Supermum who manages to achieve the best of both worlds?
Such Mums do exist. Olympic event rider Kitty King says that her mother, Jane Boggis – herself a former top level event rider – parked her in a pram next to the arena and that she probably absorbed riding from the moment she was born.
Living near Newmarket and seeing so many dedicated female workers in its racing industry, I hope trainers take note of Vanessa Cashmore’s research and give female jockeys more chances; not just to ride, but to ride their better horses.
Vanessa’s work suggests that, once the quality of the horses is factored in, the performance of female jockeys is equal to that of male jockeys. Her data also shows that females hold only 11.3% of professional jockey licences, and that they took only 5.2% of available rides during the period of the study.
Nick Rust, chief executive of the British Horseracing Authority, has said that many in the industry feel that there is no reason why female jockeys should not be considered as good as their male counterparts.
Equality has been a high-profile topic recently, from equal pay and opportunities to the centenary of women getting the vote. And as Nick Rust says, “If female jockeys are not being given the same opportunities as the men, then this cannot be considered as equality.”
Let’s hope trainers agree, and that women jockeys get the chance to give men a run for their money.