Girls, Ponies and Horses

Girls, Ponies and HorsesLas Cruces, way down in southern New Mexico, is a big dusty town massed around a small historic district; the Three Day Event we were attending took place on the outskirts, in a vast plain under rugged mountains, wind and drought stricken, golden in morning light.

Ariadne (16) rode on Saturday in the dressage events, Iona (almost 13) rode on Saturday as well, and then on Sunday on a big cross country course that blended imperceptibly into the vast plain.

Jumping a horse was something I never did as a child growing up on a scrub mare in Kentucky, and I admire and respect the courage of girls (it’s almost always girls) who take on this challenge. In the comfortable life we lead, this is a rare chance to deal directly with the possibility of fear, of accidents, of loss—and these are the chances that convert girls into sturdy women; as a friend commented—her two daughters were both champion volleyball players—“Courage begins in the body.”

I’m not sure either of my granddaughters would agree with me, but to see the way they have mastered this sport after years of lesson is inspiring. (And mucking out stables, feeding, grooming as well.) There will be greater challenges ahead as they go out into the world, but galloping across a dusty plain may be the best possible preparation for dealing with a surly boss, a demanding boyfriend, or the complexities of negotiating a woman’s life in the twenty-first century.

Sallie Bingham is a writer, teacher, feminist activist, and philanthropist.

She is best known for her family memoir, Passion and Prejudice published by Knopf in 1989. Her most recent work is titled The Blue Box: Three Lives In Letters, published by Sarabande Books in 2014.

Her forthcoming book, tentatively titled Doris Duke: The Invention of the New Woman will be published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux, most likely in 2016. More on the book and Doris Duke can be found in Sallie's blog.

Sallie's complete biography is available here.


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