The Sidesaddle Riding Artist Gaela Erwin and the Author taking a walk in the park
I have never had such a good time as I have had making friends with Kentucky chicks. Or the chicks I’ve met since becoming a Kentucky chick myself. Could be the horses. Could be the bourbon.

Could be me.

I have never been a “girly” girl. Even with three older sisters, I have never been a girls’ girl. I have always had a select group of a very few really good girlfriends, but I’ve never truly been able to figure out the complex, snarky snarl of sorority. Groups of junior high school girls still scare the crap out of me. The social politics of women have always been an indecipherable mystery of esoteric, ever-changing hierarchical symbols measured by who has the smallest pants size, the biggest hair, and the correct jeans brand. 

Horsey girls were particularly intimidating–especially the ones who boarded their horses at fancy barns and went to weekend shows. Overnight. With horsey girls, all the previous status symbols applied WITH the additional trappings of the competitive horse world. They were the ultimate ‘fre-nemies’ as they could simultaneously sigh with envy over ‘Ashley’s’ new saddle to her face and snicker over her nag of a horse behind her back. Among themselves, they were frequently fierce, often devious competitors: who had the best horse, who won the most ribbons, who had the most expensive tack, who was the instructor’s favorite. (And top marks to the girl who snagged the rarest prize of all: the Straight Boy Who Rides.)  But to outsiders, like myself–they were an impenetrable united girl gang of perfect hair, perfect riding britches and expensive boots. With spurs. They were confusing and a little terrifying.

But, as ever, the older you get, the wider the world can be–and how wonderfully freeing it is to realize that there are a lot of people out there–a lot of different sorts of horsey girls, yes, but also that you don’t have to limit your friends to people from your own age group or school or stable or job or your own town, state or country. Social media has shown me that some people I consider to be wonderful and very real friends I have never actually met in person. I might someday. Or I might not. I love the fact that the world is, in fact, as huge (or conversely, as small) as I want it to be.

Also, not every friendship, no matter how much fun or how deep, is meant to last forever. This is something you know when you are little and your friendships are based on five minutes with another kid in a sandbox, and then forget in junior high, when you feel like time will stand still, and then re-learn when you are old like me, and some of your friends start actually dying (which is where having friends in different age groups starts to really hit home) and you realize that if you need to pretend to be something you don’t want to be, or do all sorts of stuff you don’t want to do–like spend hours on your hair, or exercise constantly to fit into the right jeansjust to try and keep a friend–well, it sounds more like a job than a friendship. As a sassy ice princess might say, “Let it go, girl.”

So armed with this re-discovered self-knowledge, I’ve just been doing my thing–trying to build a farm, trying to build a business. And, just like they tell you–when you are busy doing stuff that you enjoy doing, many times the right people just sort of show up.     Some of them armed. Literally.

Many of these women I met in the traditional way–friends of relatives and friends of friends,  Craigslist (looking at horses for sale–not the personal ads), and eavesdropping on conversations about horses in airports. And, yes, as a matter of fact, I have met a lot of the truly awesome-est women through social media. Some were girls I’ve known since junior high and got to know better through the filter of age, distance and the internet. It all sort of shows me that you don’t need to be from a geographical spot to be part of the tribe. You don’t need to be from Kentucky to be a Kentucky Girl.

Here are some observations about Kentucky Women:
1. Dirt on your boots, pants and hands doesn’t make one any less a lady. (Filth is, in fact, a badge of willingness and ability to work hard, ride hard, and play hard.)
2. Swearing does not make one any less a Christian (or otherwise virtuous) woman. (Those lucky enough to hear a Kentucky girl swear are just that–lucky. Lucky they ain’t dead; it probably kept her from killing you.)
3. You should always find some reason to wear fantastic hats.
4. Any event can be drawn out into a reason to wear a fantastic hat.
5. Complimenting a Kentucky girls’ boots (or shoes) goes a LONG way.
6. Complimenting her horse goes even FURTHER. (Extra points if you know something about the breed.)
7. Complimenting her favorite bourbon? Well, now you’re just sucking up. (But we’re not saying no!)