How would you describe yourself as an equestrian?
Cowboy. It’s a simple word – but tells you everything you need to know about me. Who I am, Why I am, and what makes my heart pump. A cowboy cares for the horse that’s going to get him through the day. The hot days, the hard days, the days where you just have to hope your horse knows the way home. I was born to be Cowboy and that is exactly who I became.
How did you get involved in horses?
I grew up completely away from horses. I was born and raised in Detroit, Michigan, but my Uncle Willie was a cowboy in Mississippi.
My earliest memory with horses was when I was small. I vaguely remember going down to the back to see them with him. Fast forward as I grew up and visited more, my fascination for Uncle Willie’s cowboy stories grew and I decided I want to cowboy, too.
How has your culture influenced your equestrian lifestyle?
My Gramma Dixie was not a cowboy at all, but the way I was brought up is the reason I’m the cowboy I am today. I wasn’t given a choice to work hard: the choice was work hard or you and your disabled mother starve for the week. It was, work hard or you don’t graduate since you dropped out to get a job to help with bills and decided to come back. It was, work hard or y’all have to go back to ask community places to pay our rent and give us groceries again.
By the time I became a cowboy, I had the most important parts figured out: Have manners, Protect women, Protect your family, Work hard, Don’t ask for handouts. My culture has had to work triple time to survive since I can remember so when I show up and work three times harder than everyone else out there it gains me respect from the very ones that looked down on me.
What challenges have you faced as an equestrian of color?
None that I couldn’t overcome. I’ve faced many looking down on me, people cracking jokes, or people doubting my ability because all they knew were our amazing community of urban cowboys. So when I’d show up to the rodeo, to the ranch, honestly anywhere in my hat and boots, I’d feel the instant judgments and hear the murmurs.
I didn’t let it bother me, I understood it to a certain degree because the media doesn’t really shed light that we cowboy how I cowboy as well. So I just put my hat low and did my job and pretty quickly I gained a well-respected name in the cowboy community. Actions are louder than words is probably one of the biggest quotes that helped me face anything my color under this hat brought to me.
What are you most proud of as an equestrian?
That I am one. I’m grateful for the horses that allow me to learn from them. The community that’s welcomed me into a world where people that look like me aren’t usually part of “publicly.”
I’m proud of the progress I’ve made, not only for kids that look like me, but even kids that don’t and just didn’t grow up with horses. I have motivated so many to get into this lifestyle and I couldn’t be more humbled by the voice God gave this little kid raised on 7 mile and Van Dyke in Detroit, MI.
What words of encouragement would you have for other equestrians of color or people of color considering becoming equestrians?
It’s hard, but anything we do in life is gonna be hard. Don’t let the stares, comments, slurs, or lies get to you. People will try their hardest to take away your good name, your respect, and your pride. Don’t let them. Ignore it.
Lies about you? Ignore it and let your actions speak. Doubters doubting? Ignore it and let your actions speak. They tell you to leave? Ignore it and let your actions speak.
Actions. We inspire others, we progress, and we succeed by actions. It’s nothing you can say to make someone believe something they don’t want to believe. So speaking on it does nothing because they chose to go against you already. Tuck your pride and make them tuck theirs by proving them wrong every single time. Remember as long as you get to ride, you get to show them what you’re made of.
Kirstie Marie Photography LLC is a fine art equine photographer located in Aubrey, Texas. Her style is characterized by revealing the most beautiful elements of each girl and her horse in sun-soaked, distinctive photos to be treasured for generations to come.