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Posted on 27 Oct 2020 by Charlotte Smet
 

 

Often horseback riding is thought of as a hobby for little girls. However we know that is far from the case. As a matter of fact the three Olympic equestrian disciplines are the only Olympic sports that see male and female athletes competing against each other. Moreover, when we take a look at both the FEI showjumping world ranking list and the Hippomundo rider’s ranking based on prize money, we see that female riders are largely outnumbered by male riders in the top 30 since 2015. How can our sport carry the reputation of a “girly” hobby, but simultaneously be dominated by male riders at the highest level? We take a look at the top 30 ranks of our Hippomundo rider’s ranking, which classifies riders based on the total amount of prize money won per year, in comparison to the FEI world ranking to examine precisely which lady riders have made it to the top of our sport.

In the year 2015, the top 30 of Hippomundo’s rider’s ranking counted only five female riders. It was British rider Scott Brash who earned the highest amount of prize money that year by winning €1,840,008. Rank four is when we come across the first female rider in this ranking. Beezie Madden had a tremendous year in 2015 by winning a total amount of €1,045,046. Portugal’s Luciana Diniz won €924,510 in total, which put her into eighth place in that year’s ranking. The third female rider is France’s Pénelope Leprevost who earned the 14th spot by winning €727,940. Laura Kraut is the second American lady rider to make it into the top 30 and into 17th place by gathering a total prize sum of €681,850 in 2015. The fifth and last female rider we see in the top 30 of this ranking comes in at the 25th place with €611,280, Australia’s own Edwina Tops-Alexander. It is interesting to note that when we compare this ranking to the FEI ranking of September 2015, we find the same five lady riders in the top 30. Beezie Madden claimed second in the world ranking of September 2015, while Penelope Leprevost was the second highest ranked female in ninth position. Just outside the top 10, we find Luciana Diniz in 12th, as Edwina Top-Alexander and Laura Kraut stood at 21st and 25th respectively.

Luciana Diniz

 

2016 marked yet another successful year for Scott Brash as he takes the lead in the Hippomundo rider’s income ranking by winning €1,800,837 over the course of the year. It isn’t until we scroll down to rank 16 that we find the first of five lady riders in the top 30, Edwina Tops-Alexander who did so by securing €744,428 in prize money during 2016. A fresh female face pops up on place 20 with yet another American rider, Jessica Springsteen who managed to win precisely €668,082 that year. Rank 24 and 25 are taken up by two familiar faces, Penelope Leprevost and Laura Kraut who won €618,016 and €615,985 respectively. Although representing Germany, but nevertheless American-born Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum closes the top 30 by winning a total prize money sum of €530,600 during the year 2016. Despite there also being five female riders in the top 30 of the September 2016’s FEI ranking, it is not the same five we discussed earlier. First ranked woman is Penelope Leprevost in 7th place, followed by Edwina Alexander in 15th. Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum claims the 18th spot, while Laura Kraut lands in 22nd. Although Jessica Springsteen was the second best highest earning female rider, it is Canada’s Tiffany Foster who creeps into the FEI top 30 in 24th place.

Edwina Tops-Alexander

 

The year 2017 was on of the least successful years for female riders, seeing only three in the top 30 of  Hippomundo’s income ranking. It is USA’s Kent Farrington who was the highest earning rider that year, winning a total amount of €1,885,748. However, we have to scroll down to rank 20 to come across the first female rider, Luciana Diniz which she earned by winning €828,908 in 2017. Rank 24 and 27 show familiar faces on team USA Laura Kraut and Beezie Madden who won €731,005 and €661,843, respectively. These two American riders were also the sole female representatives in the FEI ranking from September 2017, with Laura settling in 24th and Beezie in 29th place.

The following year German legend, Marcus Ehning won an incredible sum of €2,379,382 to make him 2018’s best earning rider. Unfortunately, we see only three female representatives in the top 30 of that same ranking. Yet again, Beezie Madden is among the top 30 highest earning riders landing in the 11th spot by winning an impressive amount of €1,232,695. Edwina Tops-Alexander returns to the top 30 in 20th place by gaining a total amount of €1,008,862 in 2018. The United States of America seem to have a very strong female lead with Margie Goldstein-Engle closing the top 30 by winning €723,962. These three riders also earned a place in the top 30 of the FEI ranking list of September 2018 with Beezie Madden on place nine, Margie Goldstein-Engle in 20th and Edwina Tops-Alexander in 30th. A fourth female representative entered the top 30 of the FEI ranking, Laura Kraut in rank 22.

Laura Kraut

 

Last year saw yet another German rider in the lead for highest earning rider. Daniel Deusser managed to collect precisely €2,670,572 in prize money during the 2019 season. Regrettably we see only two female riders enter the top 30 that year. Two of the US’ leading riders are returning names in the rankings as Beezie Madden was the eighth highest earning rider of last year. 2019 also proved to be a successful year for Laura Kraut who won just under one million euros to become 20th highest earning rider. Yet we don’t see Laura return in the top 30 of the FEI ranking for September 2019, Beezie Madden however, ranked sixth. A fresh female face enters the top 30 of September 2019’s FEI world ranking list, with reigning World Champion, Germany’s Simone Blum coming in at 24th.

2020 has been an odd year in every sense of the word, with the sport being entirely cancelled for several months in the spring. This break may have proven beneficial as we see a rise in the number of female riders in the top 30 of income ranking, as well as a couple of new faces. So far in 2020, France’s Julien Epaillard is this season’s highest earning rider by winning €570,438. Great Britain’s Laura Renwick has won €200,919 so far this year, which makes her the highest earning female rider for the moment in 20th place in the overall ranking. We must also mention Laura’s impressive statistics, as she has won 15.2% of all international classes she has jumped this year, while an extraordinary 62.2% result in a placing. USA’s regular, Beezie Madden closely follows in the 21st spot, winning €195,793 so far this year. Beezie Madden’s teammate, Kirsten Vanderveen enters the top 30 in 25th place with €191,055, closely followed by another British lady rider, Amanda Derbyshire joining in at 26th place by winning €189,435. The fifth and final female rider in the top 30 is another rider for team USA, Margie Goldstein-Engle in 29th, who earned that spot by winning €178,565 so far this year. This increase in female riders in the top 30 of the income ranking, however, isn’t reflected in past month’s FEI ranking, which sees only three women in the top 30. Of course Beezie Madden leads the way for female riders in eighth place, while it is French rider Penelope Leprevost who is found in spot 25. Reigning World Champion, Simone Blum remains in the top 30 on the 28th spot.

Pénelope Leprovost

 

Conclusion: this means that for the past five years, there has been an average of 3.8 female riders in the top 30 of the income ranking and 3.5 women in the top 30 of the September edition of each year’s FEI ranking. Therefore female riders make up only a little over ten percent of our sport’s top athletes. We must also note that there is a very strong female elite who remain competitive in our sport, whereas the arrival of new names is scarce. Surely we shouldn’t assume that this gender inequality is due to the lack of talent of the female gender as those lady riders we see at the top today equal or even surpass their male competitors in talent. Does the gender pay gap occur in equestrian sports just as it does it the corporate world? Could it be that female riders get less opportunities to reach their highest potential in the sport? Or are female riders biologically less competitively wired than their male opponents? It would be interesting to hear the opinions of the world’s leading lady riders. In the meantime, we should celebrate the uniqueness of our sport by providing equal opportunities and praise to riders of all genders.

Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum
 
 
 
 
 

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