How do you describe yourself as an equestrian?
I grew up in Iowa and on Sunday after church, my brothers and I would go out to a farm and ride horses. I discovered at eight years old that I loved horses and I was about ten years old when I started riding. I’ve had a love and passion for horses ever since. That and the fact that while riding, there is so much peace and calm on the trails or riding through the pastures. It felt exhilarating and free.
Fast forward to when I retired as an educator in 2009, I decided that one of my things to do would be to ride horses. Currently, the role horses play is trifold. First, it has been a catharsis for me due to the loss of loved ones in my life. Secondly, it is so much fun. My horse knows me and we communicate together as we ride (I’m chuckling). Thirdly, it is my gym. Going in the fields to catch the horse, bring him back to the barn, grooming, and finally, the blessed ride. Riding is great mentally, spiritually, physically, and socially… it’s a whole lot of fun!
What do you enjoy about being an equestrian of color?
I simply love the horses with a passion. Horses understand the human spirit. It is a comfort being around horses and a sport to keep this old lady in shape. I’ve taken lessons since I’ve retired, riding both English and Western. Western is my preference but I’ve also had dressage lessons. I have an Australian stock saddle that I own and love too.
My fondest memory was on Sundays after church, after a great Sunday meal, my five brothers and sister would go to a farm, where the horses were saddled and waiting for us to ride. This eight-year-old girl looked forward to riding whenever the weather would permit us to do so!
What challenges have you faced as an equestrian of color?
Mainly finding a farm to ride at. It was hard to find places to ride and take lessons due to the liabilities of the farm owner. I searched the internet for nearby farms and went to several before I found a welcoming friendly place. The first farm I went to was sold but the second farm I’ve been with ever since. I love that place! It’s like my personal peaceful place on the earth and I get to ride.
Once, I was finished riding and had snacks in my pocket to give to my horse after he was out in the pasture. Well, when I was surrounded by several other horses wanting a snack too…it was a little scary! But my lessons had taught me to twirl my lead rope to get them to back up. Needless to say, that never happened again. It was an uncomfortable moment, but a lesson well learned.
What words of encouragement would you have for other equestrians of color or people of color considering becoming equestrians?
I would urge more people of color to try it. Visit a farm or ranch where there are horses to see if you like horses. Do some research regarding farms in your area and take some lessons to get you started.
Never give up on your passion and keep trying until you find a place that’s right for you. At the end of the day, it is really worth it! GO FOR IT and enjoy the ride!
Phyllis Burchett is a Professional Photographer, Artist, Workshop and Tour Leader based in Georgia.
She leads an Equine Photo Tour to Iceland each year along with numerous Workshops around the USA.