Strong girls become strong women. Strong cowgirls become invincible.
Support with Horses
Whether your role model is your mother, best friend, fifth-grade teacher, or the Vice—President Elect, having an example of girl power in our lives is an important part of our own journey of strength.
Some strength is physical. Activities requiring physical strength were a part of every day life 100 years ago. Now? Not so much. Few girls split wood, bring buckets of water from the well, or do laundry with water heated in a boiler and soap that was made by hand.
Not only did that more primitive life cultivate physical strength, it strengthened girls, (along with everyone else) mentally and emotionally, not that anyone particularly cared back then. Whether or not a 12-year-old girl was feeling fulfilled or happy with the work she was doing for her family didn’t matter. You did what needed to be done as a matter of course. No one offered you a medal (or a car on your 16th birthday), you were simply expected to do your part. Girls didn’t need to spend a lot of time looking to fit in, the firewood and clean laundry were physical proof that they were contributing to their family
In a lot of ways, that life was probably easier than the reality girls face today.
Whether they’re being bullied in school or comparing themselves to social media’s unrealistic standards, girls today face an unending stream of situations in which they feel they don’t belong or they’re not “enough”.
The need to fit in is Powerful
The need to fit in is powerful. At our most primitive, if you didn’t fit in, you died. It was that simple.
While the consequences of being an outsider now are rarely as severe, the need to belong often overshadows the qualities that make us unique, so they’re hidden hidden away to keep us from feeling “other”. And it is non-stop. SnapChat, Tic Toc, texting – all available 24-7. It can become all consuming to try to be like everyone else.
A strong woman who embraces her unique personality is a great role model, but most teenagers aren’t into emulating adults, no matter how strong they are.
This is why the teen years are a good time to call in the cavalry, almost literally, and add horses to the young woman’s support team.
Horses are hard work. You won’t find many people who care for them day in and day out who disagree with that fact. They’re absolutely worth the effort, but the effort is real – physically, mentally, and emotionally.
And in return for care, grooming, loving, (and peppermints), a horse becomes a judgement-free confidant. When you’re 12, your BFF could dump you in a hot minute, and fickle friends don’t build a lot of trust.
A horse is there. A horse listens. A horse can be trusted. And, as I mentioned, a horse is hard work.
There’s a never-ending to-do list at a barn, and when you’re busy grooming or riding, or mucking out stalls, or lugging water buckets a few things happen. You get connected to something much bigger than yourself, both literally and figuratively. You develop strength – physical, mental, and emotional. You’re validated in an organic way. You cleaned that stall or scrubbed that water bucket, and those acts had a positive effect on the object of our affection, the horse.
Another great thing about horses? There is a built in social structure at most barns that’s centered on real girl power rather than the shallow, dis-empowering world of social media .
The other girls at the barn also have hay in their hair and shavings in their shoes. They fall off, they get back on. They slog through the mud in the dark to bring a horse in from the field. They live a genuine, authentic, organic life. They embody girl power.
The bond that’s formed around horses is a strong one that often lasts a lifetime. It becomes a sisterhood that blazes the trail for the next generation of young women and encourages them to tap into their own girl power. And that’s something they’ll never find on TikTok.
Jody Miller is a professional photographer specializing in Horse Photography, Equine Photography, and Equestrian photography. Her work can be viewed online here in her gallery section, and she is also featured at these Arizona Galleries: Van Gogh’s Ear Gallery on Whiskey Row in Prescott, AZ and Coops Coffee House at Talking Rock Ranch.
Guest Blogger: Penny Hawes is a lifetime horse owner, rider, trainer and coach. Her articles have appeared in the USDF Connection, Dressage Today, The Chronicle of the Horse, as well as other regional and national magazines. Learn about her coaching at https://thehorseylife.com/calm