How do you describe yourself as an equestrian?
Definitely passionate. I have been riding competitively for over 10 years and I have loved every second of it.
I resonate with the common story of the girl who never quite grew out of the ‘wanting a pony’ phase and I am so grateful to have parents who supported me and allowed me to start up this passion when I was young. I am also a competitive person; I love challenges, doing well, and continuing to grow. We all know how hard this sport can be to move up in, but I have been lucky enough to show at some amazing places and consistently train under horsemen and women I respect a lot.
At a certain level, a big part of my appreciation for this sport stems from the animal. I have owned or leased quite a few horses over the years and each one has taught me so much.
What do you enjoy about being an equestrian of color?
Recently, I have been able to talk to and meet so many equestrians of color through different groups across social media and it is definitely a highlight of all my time in this sport. It is rare to see — as diversity is limited in this sport— other men and women that look like me or share a similar likeness of experiences.
I love being black and it has always been a sense of pride for me, but I always say representation is so important. I remember growing up and noticing only one other black woman professional in the sport to look up to. Now, there is a small community of us able to share stories and goals with each other which is so fulfilling and something I definitely wish existed growing up.
What challenges have you faced as an equestrian of color?
It is always daunting to stand out or not feel completely welcome in a space. I am definitely not oblivious to the stares, comments, or slight microaggressions I have received over the years at shows or new barns. That being said, I am so appreciative of all the barns I have shown with, as I have always felt welcome and appreciated the feeling of family at these barns. I am privileged in a lot of ways and I think most of us who are able to maintain a consistent place in this sport can say that, as this takes a lot of work and money.
What words of encouragement would you have for other equestrians of color or people of color considering becoming equestrians?
First of all, this sport is so valuable in so many ways. A lot of the lessons I’ve learned through it can be transferred into general life lessons as well. I would say try to find a discipline that most excites you and a space that you feel most comfortable in. I know starting up social media and reaching out to other black (or POC) equestrians is definitely a great place to start.
I would also say to not be discouraged if your experience is vastly different from the masses because it is just as important. Every voice matters and I am hopeful that diversity and inclusion will continue to grow and improve in this sport. Lastly, I would recommend being ready to fall and get back up (literally and figuratively). Every equestrian has ups and downs, but it is such a rewarding sport. For me at least, I use it as an escape to my everyday life of school, work, etc.
Tell me more about your horse!
The horse I ride now is a full lease named Loki. He is a 17hh registered American Warmblood. We compete in the JR/AM jumper ring together and he is such a joy to not only ride and compete on but be around in general, too. He is quirky, yet super athletic and talented, and has the most personality of most horses I’ve worked with. I just love spending time with him and appreciate having the ride on him for the past couple of years.
What is your favorite:
Horse Breed: Warmbloods will always have my heart simply because I have only owned or leased warmbloods throughout my riding career. I appreciate their athleticism and versatility.
Discipline: Growing up, I only showed in the hunter and equitation rings but over the last few years have been engulfed by “jumper-land”. I still school hunters and other horses for my trainer and enjoy the ride. I am hoping to continue to move up in primarily the jumpers, but will not be surprised if I am back in both rings soon.
Memory: One of my favorite memories in this sport is my first horse named Lily. She was a Hanoverian/Holsteiner cross that I owned from about 10 years old until I was about 16. She was one of those mares that is a teacher. She took care of me when I was young doing the cross rails and took me all the way to the junior hunters. Definitely not the easiest, “forgiver” type of horse and would let me know if I was doing something wrong. I learned the most from her and credit a lot of my riding now to the lessons I learned from her. Even though she is a show horse, I have a lot of fond memories of riding her around bareback in just a halter.
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.