Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Guest Post: What is it About Girls and Horses? (Emily Edwards)

Why do girls and horses go together like peanut butter and jelly? It’s a well-known fact  that many young girls want to own and ride horses, but it’s not always clear why they want horses so badly. A lot—but not as much as you might think—has been written about girls’ love affairs with horses, and I would argue that it has quite a bit to do with feelings of empowerment and confidence. When a girl truly communicates with a horse and succeeds in having the horse do what she asks, she feels in charge of both the horse and her life and that feeling is very powerful.

In The Trouble with Being a Horse, the main character, Olivia, is unhappy because she feels that her life is out of her control—and, in the beginning, she is very passive and simply lets things happen to her. Turning into a horse is a shocking event for her—as it would be for anyone!—but it is the way she handles her unusual situation that leads her on a path of self-discovery and empowerment. When Olivia realizes she has a choice to make she begins, as so many girls do when seeking to control a large and unpredictable animal, to learn to manage the strong emotions she feels about her life and her situation. Olivia is transformed through her experiences with and as a horse into a capable, more thoughtful girl who takes responsibility for her own problems, all of which lead to her being happier with her life.

Ironically, I hadn’t set out to write a book about empowerment for young girls but I’ve come to realize that the genre itself is necessarily about self-discovery. Any attempt to harness—either literally or figuratively—an animal ten times your size requires a reevaluation of your own abilities, and in fiction this provides infinite possibilities for character development. Alec and Velvet are transformed from ordinary adolescents into champion jockeys in The Black Stallion and National Velvet, Ken undergoes tremendous personal growth in My Friend Flicka, as do Paul and Maureen in Misty of Chincoteague. In fact, it is very difficult to think of a horse book in which substantial character growth does not occur. Horses allow girls to become assertive and confident, and horse stories illustrate how this happens. The Trouble with Being a Horse is no exception—I just made the connection between horse and girl a little closer than usual!

Emily Edwards is from the small town of Antigonish, Nova Scotia, and has a PhD from Trinity College Dublin from the Centre for Gender & Women's Studies. She has wideranging writing experience and currently works as a Research Associate. The Trouble with Being a Horse is Emily's first work of fiction, and is published by Single Stride Publishing. She has been an avid equestrienne for over twenty years, participating in Pony Club and the Trinity College Dublin Equestrian Team. 

Check out The Trouble with Being a Horse at Single Stride Publishing or Amazon.  

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1 comment:

  1. I'm not sure it's control or power though it may be for some.

    For me it's communicating with the horse. A friendship that is stronger than most human relationships and the sense of freedom that you can achieve on the back of a horse. Imagine if you will a car that cares about your well-being and would stand in the way of danger. Pretty freaking awesome, yes?

    That is a horse to a girl. At least this girl.