Breaking The Glass Ceiling


Equestrian | Spotlight

Breaking The Glass Ceiling

Physician and rider Cindy Jones-Nosacek talks about riding not being a male preserve.

The equine sector has been historically connected to men and masculinity, despite the attempts at feminization of the equine industry. Women are owners and caretakers of horses, with some studies putting women horse ownership at 90 per cent compared to men, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association. Physician and rider Cindy Jones-Nosacek talks about the pervasive presence of women in the horse industry in literature. “I loved the freedom of horseback-riding cowboys and cowgirls. Read books like Black Beauty. And the heroines in historical romance novels rode horses.” But more than anything, she believes it is the pleasure of making a “1200 lb animal jump over a fence—gelded.” She says the strength exhibited while commandeering a huge stallion is a major reason for the fondness of ponies amongst women.

A retired physician, Cindy got on horseback at the age of 40, and made sure to kindle a similar interest amongst her children--three daughters and two sons, at an early age. Talking about the challenge of starting late, she says: “I have always been a bit of a trailblazer. I was in one of the first classes in med school that accepted a large percentage of women, I fought the federal and state government to let me hyphenate my name, and I worked full time while raising a large family.” Cindy does not agree with the notion that riding is a male preserve. Having been brought up with stories of women and men fox-hunting together, as well as romantic tales of them riding together, she never related with the conservative idea. After her trainer made her way into the Olympics, and two of her daughters took a shine to riding, her belief strengthened. “Equestrian sports are among the few where your body’s strength doesn’t matter, only your skill does,” she says.

Speaking of her journey of nursing a rescue gelding named Cochise back to health after years of neglect and abuse, she says: “My daughters had horses, nothing fancy, but I never wanted one until him. You could see his ribs from not being properly fed and there were ulcers in his mouth from lack of oral care. The first time I rode him, it took three of us to catch him because he wasn’t used to being ridden.”

Eventually, with proper care and feeding, she got him to the point where he would let her catch and ride him. However, he wasn’t good as a trail horse, which is why the owner planned on selling him. Scrapping their plans of getting new siding for the house, she convinced her husband to buy him instead. “Unfortunately, he now has arthritis in one of the knees, so I can’t ride him much. But he is still my boy.”

Cindy has ridden in 4H shows and some of the local barns, and has won “Best of Show” among the “seniors” at a show at her barn. She excludes herself from the classification of “accomplished” modestly, and defines her pursuit as one of pleasure, rather than of accomplishment. She endeavours to preserve her passion and ride at some of the 4H shows this summer. To all the budding women riders, she says: “Relax and enjoy the ride. And don’t take yourself too seriously. My trainer always says that falls are not mistakes but learning experiences. I remind her that as a physician, my daily prayer is ‘Oh Lord, save me from learning experiences’!”