“You know what your problem is? You’re too sensitive.” Ouch. Have you heard this? It feels like being accused of throwing like a girl.
It’s dismissive. This definition of sensitive means I’m not dependable, that I’m an emotional liability. When I was younger, hearing this would make me defensive. My mind ran like a rat on a wheel, I choked on my tongue and my heart rate jumped. I appeared… well… too sensitive.
Since when is being sensitive a bad thing? Granted, temper tantrums aren’t anyone’s best moment, but being emotionally upset is not the same thing as sensitivity. How many of us are shamed into stifling our sensitivity (and honesty) to please social conventions? Is being a sensitive rider the same as riding like a girl?
Sensitivity is a sign strength in the barn. In the less-than-poetic reality of training challenges, vet calls and mortality, a sound mind and a strong constitution are requirements. There are tears, sometimes inconvenient, but they’re never a reason to quit. It would be a mistake to underestimate a sensitive woman who works for horses.
We were all born sensitive, but there is some courage and vulnerability involved in maintaining it. Being sensitive is taking time to experience the authentic expression of life- past the surface reflection. Sensitivity is that thing that combines with intellect, and becomes perception- a horsewoman’s best attribute.
Maybe it’s time to answer the too sensitive question with direct eye contact, “You are right, I am too sensitive. Thanks for noticing. It’s what makes me a good artist/mother/friend/rider. Not to mention, dogs like me…”
Come to think of it, it wasn’t that long ago that women were judged too emotional and over-sensitive to vote, drive, or have a voice in their destiny. Historically, there was a belief that women’s brains just weren’t capable of understanding world issues and were best left to domestic tasks. Most classical horsemen thought women too mentally and physically unstable to ride, except for the dullest of horses. (Unstable- there is an interesting word…) And again, a mistake to underestimate women.
Now equestrian sports are one of a tiny handful of sports where men and women compete as equals, and finish results have proven we are up to the task. Women have gone from wearing riding habits in sidesaddles to wearing Olympic medals.
A sensitive rider is a good match for a sensitive horse. Do you ride like a girl? I hope we do- with sensitivity, honesty and the respect of our horses. And the next time someone suggests that you (or your horse) are too sensitive, accept the compliment.
“We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are.” Anaïs Nin
Anna Blake, Infinity Farm.
(See My Horse is Too Sensitive (Part One.) here.)