How do you describe yourself as an equestrian?
I would describe myself as dedicated and ambitious. I’ve always had big dreams and goals in this sport. There have been many things that have tried to hold me down – such as my injuries, EDS (Ehlers Danlos Syndrome), and POTS (Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome) – but I’ve always found ways to keep riding and work harder towards my goals. I spend almost every day with my horses and try my hardest to not let anything keep me from riding and learning from them.
How has your culture influenced your equestrian lifestyle?
I enjoy sharing my culture with other equestrian friends. I think more diversity is needed in barn atmospheres. Sometimes I feel like we tend to leave it at home because of fear of discrimination or lack of opportunity. For instance, many protective hairstyles do not fit in riding helmets. I have worn box braids to the barn and I feel like it brought some of my culture and diversity into the barn atmosphere but I sadly had to take them out so helmets would fit my head.
What challenges have you faced as an equestrian of color?
When I was a younger equestrian I felt very alone. I did not see many equestrians of color in my community or on social media. Sometimes people weren’t very accepting and I have faced racism. These challenges have pushed me to try to promote diversity for our sport. They also pushed me to start social media to show my journey as an equestrian of color.
How did you get involved with horses?
I’ve been riding for 16 yrs. I rode my first pony at 3 yrs old. It was a family member’s pony and I had the horse bug ever since! I begged my mom for lessons at 5 yrs old and started competing in leadline. I’m currently at the barn I started at 16 yrs later and showing in USEF rated hunter/jumper shows.
What is your happiest or proudest moment as an equestrian?
My happiest and proudest moments were getting messages from other equestrians of color that my journey and social media have helped them not feel alone and inspired them towards their equestrian goals. Nobody should feel alone in this sport. It makes me so so happy to encourage others to ride and learn from these beautiful and intelligent animals. Knowing I’m encouraging others gives me hope for more diversity in the equestrian sport.
What words of encouragement would you have for other equestrians of color or people of color considering becoming equestrians?
Keep going! Don’t let anyone hold you back! If you love horses and the sport, don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do it or reach your goals. This sport is for everyone. Every age, every race.
Julia D’Orazio is an equine photographer based in central PA. She aims to capture the beauty in each horse and create emotive images along with artwork for all horse lovers.