How do you describe yourself as an equestrian?
I would say I’m an equestrian with a deep love and respect for my horse. What is best for them matters first and foremost. I like to try all different styles of riding. I feel that trying different disciplines make for a rounded-out experience for yourself and your horse.
How did you get into horses and what is your current relationship with them?
I started my journey with horses at eleven years old. My mother used to be a hot walker at the Atlantic City Race track, as well as a trail ride instructor when she was a teenager. Her love for horses rubbed off on me. Having horses growing up was something we bonded over.
I left the horse world during my high school years and started up again when our youngest daughter begged to get her first pony. Five years later, we now own a horse farm and have our own herd. My husband and my two daughters also ride. It’s a family affair.
How has your culture influenced your equestrian lifestyle?
Honestly, when I was growing up in the 4-H, I was the only member that looked like me. There wasn’t anyone in the English world I could look up to.
But now, things are really changing. With social media, we can connect with so many people and are able to see our own culture living, working, and changing the equestrian world. Creating our own equestrian lifestyle.
What is your happiest or proudest moment as an equestrian?
I’ve been blessed to say I have many that I am proud of. But there’s always one memory that comes to mind: an experience during my first 4-H fair.
I was competing in both the English and Western divisions. As a child, I couldn’t afford to take lessons. Besides the basics – my mother could teach me the western discipline – I was self-taught otherwise. I would watch instructional riding videos and read books all the time.
During that 4-H fair, my competition included kids who could take lessons and ride in multiple shows throughout the season. When I won Overall Reserve champion in English and Overall Champion in the Western division. I was beside myself. It was, and still is, the greatest moment in my equestrian journey.
What challenges have you faced as an equestrian of color?
I have been blessed to have ridden with great equestrians that always made me feel comfortable that my skin color didn’t matter. But the biggest challenge is being taken seriously as a competitor.
There’s always a look or feeling when facing certain situations that you know are directed towards only you. But I always try and rise above it. Just continue to ride my ride and don’t let it faze me. It just fuels me to work harder.
What words of encouragement do you have for other equestrians of color or people of color considering becoming equestrians?
Horsemanship will teach you so many life skills, and give you peace and patience. The adventures that come with your journey as an equestrian are irreplaceable.
Remember to never let someone’s viewpoint, their defeat, negativity, or over-accomplishments affect anything you strive to achieve. Just go for it! You won’t regret it.
Horse Breed: Standardbred and Thoroughbreds
Horse Color: All Colors
Treat to give: Cookies
Place to ride: Anywhere and everywhere. WHY THE HECK NOT
Anna Smolens is a fine art and equine portrait photographer located in Maryland. She is one of the founders of this project and strongly believes that now is the time for more open conversation about race and equality. By using our collective voices, we can make the equestrian community stronger.