How would you describe yourself as an equestrian?
I enjoy training more than showing, but I don’t mind showing horses who I have spent enough time with; horses who I know how they will react to the situation. I never want to put a horse in a situation that could potentially be too overwhelming.
I always want to end a session on a good calm note. Doing so reassures the horse that no matter what new things you are teaching, the session will always end in peace and calmness.
Calmness is one of my superpowers that I really promote with any horse I am with. Horses feed off the energy of those who are around them.
How did you get involved with horses?
One day I applied at Medieval Times to be a knight. There, I became interested in the horses and how they trained. I would inquire about how and why they did what they did in the show and started being taught the methods they used. I started learning under the head trainer, and after a year of training, I became an assistant trainer.
It felt like I had done this in a previous life. That began my journey, my dance, my life with horses. I have been working with them ever since. Nine years later, I still freelance train, loving every day and everything it has to offer.
What role do horses currently play in your life?
I perform many spiritual practices for the public in energy work and sound healing. Continuing to work with horses has given me profound abilities in presence and observation that have helped make this happen.
Today, horses keep me grounded and remind me of the beauty of nature as well as the raw power and elegance they possess. With my sun and moon sign being Gemini, I am always in the air, so working with horses brings me back to and with the earth – grounded.
Without them, I would probably just float away.
How has your culture influenced your equestrian lifestyle?
My culture gave me insight into training that has given me the upper hand in many situations that others have struggled with. Overall, I’m glad to have the background that I have. It has allowed me to really connect with my first trainer (which was by far the hardest work I have ever done). I knew I was training with the best and that I was blessed to do so.
What challenges have you faced as an equestrian of color?
Many people assume that I don’t know much, or enough for specific tasks. I obviously don’t know everything, but I am happy to say I’m always learning and listening. Everybody has something to teach you, even if it’s what not to do.
Being able to speak Spanish, I could communicate with many of the people who worked for ranch owners, horse trainers, and equestrians from all walks of life. Communicating with them taught me who I could trust, who to stay away from, and who to learn from.
Sometimes in this line of work, if you don’t know English, you are treated as if you’re less than. I have seen it, I have heard it, and I have witnessed it first hand. Thankfully I am damn good at what I do, and I have met some truly loving and caring people who truly care for the Latinx and help them run their ranches, properties, and horses.
What is your happiest or proudest moment as an equestrian?
Training an Andalusian stallion to ride during a show for the first time at Medieval Times. It was like riding a horse into battle for the first time. Flags flying through the air, people yelling and cheering, the clatter of armor, the smoke from the machines. I showed him how to be comfortable with all of that commotion with guidance from the head trainer.
I was his first rider, I was the one on his back guiding him and showing him not to be afraid. I will never forget this as long as I am on this earth. It was like not knowing what would happen, but being confident that we would make it out alive.
What are some words of encouragement would you have for other equestrians of color or people of color considering becoming equestrians?
Do what makes you happy and always have open ears to listen, open eyes to see, and an open heart to understand where the people and horses are coming from. That doesn’t mean subjecting yourself to cruel people, but it does mean doing what you have to do to learn and grow.
Become greater than those who don’t know better. Stick it out through the hardships and make as many connections as you can.
Jessica Lian Photography is an equine portrait photographer based in New Mexico. Using natural light to showcase the connections between horses and riders is paramount to JLP’s photography. When Jessica isn’t photographing equestrians (or playing with her son and working horses), she is writing her masters which focuses on equity in how POC are portrayed in informal science institutions.