‘Lack of confidence’ stopping women showjumping

Trainer and rider Nicola FitzGibbon blames impostor syndrome

At the women in showjumping discussion in the RDS yesterday were (from left)  team manager of Great Britain Di Lampard, showjumper Susan Fitzpatrick  and equestrian manager of the RDS Fiona Sheridan. Photograph: Tom Honan

At the women in showjumping discussion in the RDS yesterday were (from left) team manager of Great Britain Di Lampard, showjumper Susan Fitzpatrick and equestrian manager of the RDS Fiona Sheridan. Photograph: Tom Honan

 

Just one-in-five of the showjumpers competing in Ireland at the highest levels are women, partly because women doubt themselves more, a showjumping gathering has been told .

Blaming a lack of confidence shared by some young women, Co Kildare-based trainer and rider Nicola FitzGibbon said: “It is an extremely mentally difficult sport to be in, and women suffer a lot more from impostor syndrome, they doubt themselves a lot more than men.”

Five days of top-flight jumping begins today on Wednesday until Sunday at the Royal Dublin Society in Ballsbridge, including the Aga Khan trophy on Friday.

Research carried out over 10 years from 2008 showed a drop-off in the numbers of female riders taking part in RDS competitions, particularly at the higher levels.

Riders split equally between the sexes when they are between 10 and 12, said Fiona Sheridan, the RDS equestrian manager told a gathering marking the 100th anniversary of the first female rider at the RDS .

However, their number falls as they grow older, dropping to 43 per cent by their teens in the “Young rider” class: “They’re making the decision at this point to go on in the sport or to do something else,” Ms Sheridan said.

By the time, riders compete in the “Six Year Olds” showjumping class – “the top horses that will make it to five-star level” – the number of women drops to 18 per cent.

‘Far less girls’

Saying she was not surprised by the research, Di Lampard, who currently holds a leading position with the British senior jumping team said: “As you go through up the ladder to the higher echelons, there are far less girls.”

However, female riders can win out. “To get success you just have to compete and show your performance along with everybody else. If you want it bad enough, you’ll jump through fire to get it.”

Susan Fitzpatrick, a rising Irish jumping star, said many women had forged a trail ahead of her: “But obviously there’s still some things we have to figure out to make it easier and more accessible for women to reach the top level.

‘Doors are opening’

“I think those doors are opening up now, I think the managers are starting to realise now there are girls who jump and trying to give us as many opportunities as they can,” said the Kilkenny-born showjumper.

Up to 100,000 people are expected over the course of the show, which also includes other highlights such as the Land Rover Puissance on Saturday and the €350,000 Longines International Grand Prix of Ireland on Sunday.

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