This is my biggest pet peeve by far! I usually respond by telling myself to keep calm, and then I say something like: “Oh you think riding isn’t a sport? Well let me tell you something, working around the barn and doing barn chores and riding definitely replace a gym for me. Lifting weights? Easy, why need dumbbells when I lift 50-pound bags of feed, haul and dump big wheel barrows of manure and carry water buckets? That’s just doing chores. I don’t build muscle while riding? Tell that to my thighs! You try going a countless numbers of laps in 2-point! It’s tough work. And contrary to popular belief, the horse isn’t the only one working up a sweat. You actually can burn calories while riding, and I definitely burn calories doing chores! Working with horses gets your blood and heart pumping because you do a huge ton of walking, and sometimes sprinting if a horse is loose or won’t let you halter it! It’s very much a team sport because you and your horse become one being and you work together. All sports come with risks, but no other sport requires you working with a 1,000+ pound animal that could kill you in one second. Other sports, if you fall, you only fall about 2 feet or so. Horseback riding? You fall about 5 feet or more and you also have the risk of being drug if your feet get caught in the stirrups. When we get in the arena, we don’t get time-outs or the ability to have substitutions. It’s one shot and it’s make or break. And you say horses can’t make you money? Horse racing totally can, and not just racing. Other shows can run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars or more for the first place winner. And if horse back riding wasn’t a sport, why would it be in the Olympics? Only real sports are in the Olympics, including riding.” I might say more, but after I rambled all that on, the person starts to believe me. Horseback riding is a real sport and I think it’s the best sport out there.
Janisse Ruis, via email
Horseback riding isn’t a sport? I’m sure that’s why it’s in the Olympics.
Lance Whitner, via email
I just tell them to try riding my horse and putting him over a 3-foot fence without falling off.
Diandra Littledog, via email
I love riding so much and I really wanted to share why I thought it was a sport, so for my college English class, I wrote a paper about it. I was able to describe the incredible athleticism of the horses and the athleticism of the rider. I also got into how we, as riders, are riding and partnering with 1200 lb. animals while jumping a course or posting without stirrups etc. It was really cool to put research into it and see how riding is a sport by the Olympic standards and if people would really try it, they would see it requires just as much strength and burns as much calories as swimming or jogging. If people would try it, try riding without stirrups or doing a dressage test or a cross-country course, or just try trotting with stirrups for the first time, they would appreciate riding more and see it is a sport.
Rachel McLelland, via email
If it’s in the Olympics, it’s a SPORT!
Shelly Saaf Talk, via email
I’d tell them to take my horse and try to jump something, or do some dressage.
Adrielle Moonswan Kash, via email
The people who believe equestrian activities are not a sport are generally the same people who think those that play football, basketball and baseball are the end all athletes. To them I counter that those other sports are actually games that you play with a ball, while our “ball” weighs 1,200 pounds and has a mind of its own. And ask a pentathlete which of the 5 sports (riding, running, fencing, swimming and shooting) they find most difficult.
Kim Cronenwett, via email
I bring them to a riding lesson, telling them, it’s so easy you have nothing to risk. Seeing them walk after the ride is pretty rewarding! Usually, after this lesson, they never argue that riding horses isn’t a sport!
Josee Talbot, via email
Interesting. I’ve never heard a non-riding person classify any riding discipline as a non-sport. I guess I’ve been lucky. Isn’t thoroughbred racing referred to as “the sport of kings”? At any rate, there’s truly no argument, as everyone’s fine comments prove. Now, golf - there’s another story!!
Andrea Stegman, via email
Riding is in the Olympics and it has been officially ranked the hardest sport in the Olympics.
Rachael Prawitz, via email
Generally, I argue that riding has many nationwide and international competitions and variants, including racing and the Olympics. If that doesn’t convince them, I put them bareback on a horse and send them off to jump a few oxers.
Katherine Johnson, via email
I tell them to jump on the back of the biggest football player they can find, start kicking them in the ribs and try to convince them to go where they want them to go. As they are thinking about that, I say now try that on something that is four times bigger.
Lisa Bent, via email
I was once asked a similar question by a colleague who queried: “Why would you take riding lessons? Don’t you just sit there?”
I responded: “Let me explain this to you. You’re on an animal who may be galloping at 35 mph. His back, the platform you’re just sitting on, could be lifting and dropping 12 inches every 2 seconds, as he moves forward. Sometimes, in response to some scary stimulus that you are never even aware of, he decides to jump sideways 15 feet and maybe take off in another direction. And you think this isn’t a sport?” He never asked about my riding lessons, again. However, he did seem in question of my sanity.
Patricia Carando, via email
I tell them yes, there are certain equestrian disciplines that are more of a hobby then a sport. For example, pleasure trail riding does not require much athleticism. However any of the Olympic accepted disciplines require physical and mental strength. You must have the utmost balance, muscle control, mental clarity, stamina and patience to ride a 1500lb animal over a course of 4’ jumps. I then proceed to tell them that I in fact have never had anyone that has actually taken a real riding lesson question the validity of it being a sport.
Nichol Peterson, via email
It’s included in the Olympics!
“Crash” aka Sacred Warrior, via email
Honestly, I don’t think anyone has ever said that to me. My physical therapist knows it is good exercise and mentally therapeutic.
Pretty-Ponies Gifts, via email
I always, always invite them to come try it out on one of my horses if they truly believe it isn’t a physical, active sport.
Kelley Wick, California
I had a manager once who told me riding was not exercise. I asked him if he could do squats for an hour. Then, the partner we were working with came to my defense.
Mary Sherfesee, Florida
Whenever people tell me that riding is not a sport and that all you do is sit there and look pretty, I just smile. Then I ask them, have they have ever tried to control a 1200-pound animal? Have they have ever ridden at full speed to a 4-foot high jump? (If you haven’t figured it out by now, I am a jumper.). Have they have ever ridden in mid-August heat or the freezing temperatures of January? Have they sweated buckets or had on so many layers you’ve forgotten how many you have on? Have they ever ridden without stirrups for hours just to get a little bit better? They usually say no to my questions, then I reply, “then you have no clue what we equestrians do – way more than sit there and look pretty.”
Alison Thomas, Arkansas
Tell them to try doing what you do.
Jennifer Granade, Georgia
I’ve had this discussion with folks before. It usually ends with me telling them, “Alright, if it’s so easy, let’s see you do it.” Oddly enough, no one’s taken up on that offer.
Jamie Edgerly, Florida
If someone claims that riding isn’t a sport, they haven’t tried to ride. I just say when you can do a wall sit for half an hour on a moving animal that isn’t very smooth without having sore muscles or complaining, then tell me riding isn’t physically challenging and not a sport. We know that’s not going to happen.
Erin Berkery, Pennsylvania
I always say you try riding a horse first; then come tell me it’s not a sport. They never have a response to that.
Amy Titcomb, New York
Let’s see YOU get 1,200 pounds off the ground!
Aimee Rose Kelly, New York
Fortunately, I haven’t ever had anyone try to tell me that horseback riding it’s not a sport! But, if this were to happen, I would probably invite them to come and ride with me. If the person had the nerve to take me up in my offer, I’m sure they would change their mind!
Nancy Rosen Resop, New York
I always like to invite them to come riding with me if they don’t believe it. I love the satisfaction of them yelling “How do I stop this thing!?”
Paige Vrooman, Maine
I invite them out for a month worth of free lessons with me. After a month of posting and two-point and hitting the dirt, they realize just how hard it is. A lot will not come back after the first lesson!
Amanda Hammons Frye, Texas
I say, “Try and sit on the roof of your car and give it a mind of its own.”
Rachel Holen, Minnesota
I tell them that after they have cantered a course of 3-foot jumps, they can come back and we will discuss their experience.
Susan Hughes, New York
First I hand them a very good waiver to sign. Second, I hand them my horse to ride.
Hunter Heights, Ontario
How can you argue that it’s not a sport when the Olympics awarded it the hardest part of the Olympics? Personally when whoever wants to argue they can ride better than I can on a course at 3-feet on an animal with a mind of their own, I’ll believe them when I see them!
Chelsea Hagerty, New Jersey
One day while sitting in my 1:30 writing class wishing that I was riding my horse, my teacher decided to push my buttons by calling riding a hobby. She messed with the wrong girl. I explained to her that they do not put hobbies in the Olympics. I also told her riding a horse isn’t just sitting in the saddle and looking pretty, you have to be physically and mentally fit. It’s also not an individual sport, you have a teammate with whom you have to communicate without words. Riding requires muscles that most people don’t even know they have. All the hours of lessons, riding, walking courses, setting up patterns is not just for our health (well it does help) but it’s the fundamentals of a sport. Football players take weeks to learn their plays; we only have minutes to learn our courses (which generally are a lot harder). Riding is just as much of a sport as any other, and if you think it isn’t, come over and ride my 1,300-pound horse and make it do what I do.
Amanda Keynton, New Jersey
It’s in the Olympics!
Rachie Rawrrs, Michigan