How do you describe yourself as an equestrian?
I think my story truly began when I was 5. My elementary school threw a yearly fundraiser that included pony rides. Of course, 5-year-old me just had to ride the pretty pony! Maybe it is cliché, but from the moment I was placed on the pony’s back, sparks flew. Ever since then, I have taken countless lessons, owned a few horses, and show in the jumpers. I currently own an OTTB named Duck, and she is the light of my life. I have reached many milestones in my riding career thanks to her. I’m a big believer in rescuing animals, and I plan on one day owning my own facility.
I definitely can describe myself as stubborn. It takes a lot for me to be submissive, especially to drama and comments from other people. I also describe myself as being open. I’m always open to my trainer’s thoughts, concerns, or opinions, and judges notes on cards. I feel like that has helped me not only as a horsewoman, but in life in general.
I feel as though I’m more understanding than many others in the equine community. I understand that horses aren’t always perfect and that you’ll never have the perfect ride, or the perfect equitation. I’m a true believer that hard work pays off and to do what makes you happy! Whether it be your sexuality, discipline, etc., love is love whether it be towards a person or to the sport, and you shouldn’t let other people live your life for you.
What do you enjoy about being an equestrian of color?
I enjoy being an equestrian in general, and the way that I’ve crushed quite a few stereotypes. What I enjoy the most is being an equestrian of color and being a tattooed equestrian as well. It’s kind of like that TikTok where it says “let’s add a little bit of…spice”. I feel that my job as a mixed rider is to bring more awareness to whoever is willing to listen and I hope that a lot of younger riders (whatever color or sexuality they are) who watch me ride, have something to look up to.
What challenges have you faced as an equestrian of color?
You could say I’m quite fortunate that I don’t “look the part”. Being a mixed child has always been rough, both in the equine community and life itself. I have quite a few people comment on how pretty I am, whether on the streets or the side of the ring, and they always seem to ask where I’m from. When I tell people I’m of both Asian and Italian descent, their look changes. Not necessarily disgusted, but surprised. That’s such an awful stereotype. As if a young woman from Asian descent can’t be pretty? Or afford to ride? That’s quite disturbing to me, that people don’t expect riders from different countries or nations to be “good.”
I actually had one older lady come up to me when I was learning my course at a bigger show than I normally go to. For reference, my ringside riding bag has both Italian and Chinese flag patches. She came up to me and said, “so who do you groom for?” Assuming that she had seen my patches, I replied with “I’m actually showing today in the 2’6” jumpers.” This lady looked dumbfounded. At the time, I did not realize she had a young rider with her. The young girl looked around 12 or 13 years old. The lady turned around, looked the girl dead in the eyes and said, “Don’t let that chink beat you.” I think that was the first time I cried at a show, in a porter john behind trailer parking.
I couldn’t understand what I possibly could have done to make her feel the way she did. I realize now that quite frankly, I wouldn’t have been able to do anything, because that’s just the way the world works.
What words of encouragement do you have for other equestrians of color, or people of color considering becoming an equestrian?
If you do one thing in your life, don’t give up. Whether it be because of financial stability, race, the color of your skin, or not enough support. I work 2 jobs to pay for board, lessons, vet visits, showing, and everything in between all on my own. I’ve had no support from my parents. In fact, my parents haven’t really accepted the fact that I ride, even today 16 years later. But you know what? I wouldn’t trade my life for anything.
It’s the hard work that you put in, the dedication that you have to yourself, and the sport that should keep you going. Always be thankful for what you have! Yes, people will have expensive horses, tack, and even clothing. Why does that make you any less of a rider than they are? Keep your chin up, and your heels down!
Hi! I’m Bethani Chadbourne, the owner of Pictorial Tales Photography based in Massachusetts and also serving Rhode Island, Connecticut, Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, New England and further upon request. I specialize in horse and rider portraits, liberty, horse shows and more. I’m an artistic and empathetic photographer who not only captures the remarkable features of your horse, but also deep and profound emotion. If you are a horse owner like myself, you understand the enveloping love one has for their horse. Your relationship is unique. Let’s capture your horse’s distinctive characteristics and your special, authentic bond. Being able to pause these sentimental moments in time creates a memory you can physically hold, or decorate your home with that will last for generations.