How do you describe yourself as an equestrian?

I’ve been told that I’m a bit of an enigma: I’m a complete perfectionist; I want to be the best that I can and I want the horse I’m riding to be able to perform to the best of their abilities as well. However, I’m no stranger to goofing off! Even though my horse Maggie and I spend a lot of our time together preparing for shows, we love playing soccer with a big exercise ball, playing “tag” with each other in the arena, and chilling out in the pasture.

Additionally, I enjoy so many aspects of the horse industry. Maggie is more of a western all arounder, she loves the horsemanship and western riding and trail. But we love going over fences! Before getting Maggie, I did show in the hunter circuit for a little bit and it’s something that I definitely enjoyed. I’ve also ridden reining horses, and had the chance to ride some off-the-track endurance horses with my cousins in Malaysia.

How did you get involved with horses?

I’ve been horse-crazy for as long as I can remember! I used to sit on a plastic bouncy horse and my mom would pretend to be the announcer as if I was in a show. It totally helped that my mom grew up showing horses too! She made sure I got on a horse at a young age, and the rest is history.

What do you enjoy about being an equestrian of color?

One thing about the horse industry is that a lot of people are extremely friendly. Aside from my love for horses in general, I enjoy the fact that I get to meet so many people who share the same passion.

In terms of being an equestrian of color, my supposed ethnic ambiguity heightens people’s curiosity. One of my favorite recollections of this was at the Minnesota Horse Expo when Maggie and I were there with Minnesota Pinto. I was riding Maggie in the warm-up pen, getting ready to present with the other members. If you’ve been to the Minnesota Horse Expo, then you know that there is a parade of breeds.

A nice man working his Paso Fino approached me and asked, “Are you a Spanish girl?” I smiled, as I get similar questions often, and said, “No, I’m not.” Almost disappointed, he said, “Oh. Well, you look like a little Spanish girl.” I was beaming because I knew that he saw my skin tone and found a likeness to his. I said, “Thank you!” and we proceeded to talk about our ethnic backgrounds and I got to learn a little about his journey being a South American immigrant.

What challenges have you faced as an equestrian of color?

I think the biggest challenge for me personally has been my legitimacy as a person of color. I am biracial, and my mom is white so for a majority of my life I never really knew what “category” to put myself in. A lot of white people will consider me to be “white-passing” and don’t tend to ask any questions until they meet my father. For a lot of my life, I’ve grappled with the duality of my identity, wondering where I fit in, or where I should fit in. And it wasn’t until recently that I realized that I don’t have to fit in just one place.

Being Amanina allows me to fit in many places: I can listen to country music and hang with the cowboys while simultaneously having the ability to listen to some Bollywood music, eat rice with my hands, and cut open a durian. And of course, there are times when I’m put in an uncomfortable situation and someone’s ignorance gets the best of them, but that is not exclusive to the horse industry. There are ignorant people all over the world, and everyone is bound to encounter them. It is my belief that it is up to us, people of color, and our allies, to educate those who are unaware of their biases, and set an example for those who express their biases.

What words of encouragement would you have for other equestrians of color or people of color considering becoming equestrians?

Do it! Whatever you think is stopping you is a poor excuse- you’re only robbing yourself. You can always find a place where you belong amongst horse people, because our love for horses is what brings us together. There is no other love like between you and your horse, I promise. That sounds so cheesy and cliché, but it’s true.

What is your favorite?

• Horse breed: Paint
• Horse color: Bay Overo
• Discipline: I can appreciate all disciplines, but I love riding horsemanship and equitation. My favorite to watch is probably the trail or reining!
• Treat to give: Apples, it makes their breath smell so good!
• Place to ride: Ford Truck Arena in Tulsa, Oklahoma