The Equestrians of Color Photograph Project turns one year old! Join us as we celebrate all of the incredible and diverse stories that have been shared by equestrians of color across the nation.
“The common question, “Where are you from?”, with the follow-up question of, “No, where are you really from?” is asked inside and outside the equestrian world, and is very alienating. I cannot help but continue to feel like an outsider even though I have only lived in the States and consider myself an American.” Read Christina’s full story.
“The first time I jumped, I was hooked. I thought it was so much fun. I’ve always enjoyed the feeling and the exercises. I remember doing a grid for the first time. I was like, ‘You get to constantly keep jumping a bunch of times in a row?’ I thought that was the best thing on earth.” Read Josh’s full story.
“As an equestrian, I would describe myself as someone who is very passionate about horses and riding! My horse Honor and my riding coach, Rachel Walker have both taught me so many life lessons. Including skills and values that I can apply to my life, such as; patience, perseverance, work ethic, responsibility, faith, and more.” Read Navina’s full story.
“As a PhD student, things can get a bit hectic, but I can’t see my life without horses. I see many of my colleagues working themselves to the bone, stressing over every little thing, anxious about what’s around every corner, and I couldn’t be more thankful for my barn time.” Read Brittany’s full story.
“Being Mexican, I’m very interested in the history my culture has with horses, especially now that I’ve started riding Cowhorses. Vaqueros were the original cowboys, who originated in Mexico. When Spain invaded Mexico in the 1500’s they brought over cows and horses. They taught the natives their way of riding and handling cattle. ” Read Erica’s full story.
“Due to riding nationally, I travel from different places to compete. This summer, I recently traveled to a different state in the south. I was approached by an older white man, while in my riding attire, who commented “I didn’t think they let people like you ride horses.” It was extremely hurtful and I had no words to answer.” Read Isabella’s full story.
“There’s been a lot of disappointment as an equestrian of color, but the biggest one that comes to mind is when someone refused to lease a horse to me because, and I quote, “your people eat horses and I just don’t trust you”. Might I add that I was 13 years old at the time when an adult said this to me over the phone.” Read Hailey’s full story.
“Social media makes it seem like everyone is an amazing Olympic rider, and that is hard when you are starting out. Don’t ever give up. It took me more than two years to even sit a canter at my age. I don’t know why it was so hard but one day I finally did it and I posted the video of it on Instagram. I was so excited and one of the first comments I got was, ‘Look at her heels they are so wrong she is going to fall.’ Now, this commenter was right, my heels were wrong. But she didn’t know how much effort it took to get there for me. I also didn’t let her words take away from my joy of finally being able to canter.” Read Tahira’s full story.
“My mother is African American and my father is Caucasian. So, I have always been faced with having to “pick sides” when it comes to different aspects. I guess the horse world is a “white” sport. When was that ever designated? Who knows. But, that isn’t the case. I take big pride in being half black, and I wouldn’t change it if I had the chance to.
I’ve taken many classes in college to learn about my ancestors, and how African American’s are treated in today’s society, and in my opinion, there is no right or wrong way to “act black”. I am who I am, so the question should never arise in a conversation, period.” Read Mariah’s full story.
“I am an equestrian because I am the happiest when I am on a horse.
I am from the city of Hyderabad in India, now living in Portland, Oregon. As a kid, I always wanted to be around horses but there was really only one place you could go at the time, and unfortunately, I had no one to drive me there. My parents never even sat on a horse, so obviously they did not understand my obsession at first. All that changed when I got my first driving license!” Read Sajid’s full story.
“If you’re wanting to become an equestrian and have the means to do it, DO IT! A little tough love: if you think your skin color has anything to do with how you can handle a horse, you’re wrong. If you’ve got a brain in your head and a passion for it, do it.
If you are faced with rude or ignorant people, what does your trainer always yell at you for? Shoulders back! Head up! Keep your heels down and keep forward motion!” Read Chloe’s full story.
“Take a look at any equestrian website or magazine pre-BLM era and you’ll be hard-pressed to find black and brown riders from diverse backgrounds. Being able to change that, even at a local level in one barn, makes me happy because I know the kids who show up for their first lessons will notice this. Our children are our future, and what they see and hear often becomes who they are. Why wouldn’t we want to give our best, most humane versions?” Read Karina’s full story.
“One time at camp I was playing with some of the younger kids the game “I got your nose” where you pretend to take someone’s nose, but it is really just your thumb. All the kids knew that it was not me that had their nose because my thumb was brown and their noses were all white. That was the first time that I felt different. I started to think about why there were no brown kids like me there.
The horses do not care if we have white or dark skin or even if we have different color hair or eyes or anything. They just want to be cared for and ridden and loved.” Read Bria’s full story.
“I began riding at about nine years of age. In high school, I got into rodeo and playdays; even Rodeo Queen competitions. I have been barrel racing now for about 15 years.
Recently I have found myself wanting to explore other disciplines after training my 6-year-old Quarter Horse gelding, Rolex. I’d like to try cow horse competitions, like boxing and reining. Continuing to learn and hone my horsemanship skills is quite important to me.” Read Carolyn’s full story.
“I grew up learning to ride English from my mother. It was always a great day headed out to the barn to go ride with her! When I turned 14, I started to get into the sport of rodeo. Like any other teenage girl, I wanted to barrel race, so my mother bought me an appaloosa and said, “If you can teach this horse to run a pattern while riding bareback, I will get you a coach.”” Read Taylor’s full story.
Darryl Sumner and Crew:
“I would describe myself as a “dream come true equestrian.” As a child, I lived in the city and there was no way for us to have a horse. I would watch countless hours of westerns with my father. I loved cowboys and Indians and I had more collections of them than you could imagine. I collected trains, I had stagecoaches, anything that would allow me to recreate scenes from the westerns.” Read Darryl’s full story.
“Being a person of color in the United States of America has always been interesting to me; let alone, being an equestrian of color. I’m originally from Thailand but I came to realize that most people here don’t assume I’m Thai. Now, being a male equestrian of color in the dressage community has been even more interesting.
One of my most memorable and enjoyable experiences of being a male EOC was when I showed for the first time in years at a USDF show in Central Florida. I was the only male rider in that show and of course, I am also an EOC. People were very interested in me and would ask questions about my story and how I became interested in horses.” Read Miles’ full story.
“I attended Delaware State University where I was the first African American to receive a full Equestrian Scholarship. I graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Animal and Poultry Science and was then asked by South Dakota State University to help with their hunt seat team while getting my master’s degree.” Read Kamerra’s full story.
“The thing I enjoy the most about being an equestrian of color is that I can help break the stereotype that equestrians of color don’t belong. I am half Bolivian and half African American.
My grandparents are from Bolivia and came to the U.S. where they eventually met, married, and had my mother and aunts. My family is very close and I spent most of my time growing up surrounded by them and my cousins. But no one in my family knew how to ride or even knew of anyone that rode horses.” Read Briana’s full story.
“I enjoy [being an equestrian of color] because I love to watch other fellow equestrians of color flourish and grow. It always makes me so excited to see another equestrian of color! I feel like I breathe a big sigh of relief and think “I’m not the only one, I see you and I’m going to cheer you on!”” Read Mia’s full story.
“I was bitten quite early. I started riding when I was 5 years old and continued recreationally through high school and college. College turned out to not be my thing, so I found myself back with horses and turned it into a career.
I started by cleaning stalls and relatively quickly began handling professionally for breed shows and inspections on the East Coast which helped me set roots. I currently manage with my husband, Jonathan, our small breeding program Quantico Sporthorses, along with working full-time as an in-house rider and the sales manager for Iron Spring Farm in Coatesville, Pennsylvania.” Read Quinnten’s full story.
“I love that I can show that anyone can ride. I love that I can stand out and show that you don’t have to fit the norm to do what you like. Not everyone has the desire to ride horses, but anyone can have that desire. I think that no matter who you are, if you have the desire to ride then try to do it!” Read Lauren’s full story.
“I love the hats and boots. When I am out and dressed in Western wear, people do give me a second look. When my friends ask about it, I explain that I am from the Wild Wild West with roots in Texas. I was born and raised in Los Angeles with my family roots from Texas. They know I am more enthused with out-of-the-box things to do than ordinary, everyday stuff.” Read Jacqueline’s full story.
“I am forever asked the question “what are you?” I believe that this is an acknowledgment of sorts that people recognize that my heritage is different than theirs. They are right in that guess. But the way people ask sometimes makes me feel like an animal at the zoo. I’m extremely proud of my Sri Lankan, Dutch, and Irish heritage. And I identify most with the Sri Lankan part of it. The people, the culture, the food.
I take the question commonly asked of me as an opportunity to be able to reframe the way someone asks. “Are you asking about my heritage?” My hope is that perhaps they choose to use that phrase the next time they ask. My heritage is who I am. It is who I am becoming. And it will be what is left of me when I am gone.” Read Tara’s full story.
“It’s difficult finding clothes that fit me and finding a helmet that works with my hair. I have to change my hair now that I have to have all of it under my helmet and I can’t do that with braids. The clothes and helmets are made for a certain shape and for hair that’s not like mine. Being alone, being different can sometimes be difficult. Sometimes I feel so out of place. There is no one else who looks like me.” Read Jaila’s full story.
“When I started training horses and teaching riding lessons part-time, I vowed to break down barriers and create a more accessible environment for anyone who wanted to get involved. I serendipitously, independently ended up having a little group of lesson riders that were all POC and/or LGBTQ+. (“Lesbian Equestrians” we fashioned ourselves.) Suddenly, my horsey world looked so much more diverse like I had always hoped it would become.
The cherry on top was the day I was told a little Asian American girl came to visit the barn and read my horse’s card with my name as the owner, and her eyes lit up as she exclaimed in disbelief, “A Chinese person owns this horse?” That. That is the inclusive horse world I want: Where a last name like mine can slowly become normalized. For little girls (and boys and everyone in between) to see that they, too, can be an equestrian. That is such a rewarding feeling.” Read Luna’s full story.
“I describe myself as a horseman. To me, horsemanship is a language that transcends all disciplines. It is about the communication between horse and rider, and the never-ending quest to educate oneself to communicate more effectively with horses. This is the base of all of my goals and dreams in the horse world.” Read Brianna’s full story.
“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.” Read Carolyn’s full story.
“I’m half Mexican. And as a kid, I was embarrassed to admit that, though I am not exactly sure why. It was also hard to introduce my parents. I grew up with my dad and step-mom, who are both blonde-haired and blue-eyed. People would look at me weird, so I would joke and mess with people and say I was adopted – which drove my dad nuts.
As I get older, I am learning to embrace that part of myself- it doesn’t matter WHAT I am, but WHO I am. I just strive to be the best person I can be and if I can get a good tan while doing it, then I am totally winning.” Read Kayla’s full story.
“I describe myself as a lifelong equestrian. I was bitten by the horse bug early in life.
My dad took me on pony rides and horses stuck. I began lessons when I was 6 years old, and I knew I would be a horse trainer for my profession. Although I begin my doctoral program soon and I will pursue other professions, I will always be a horse trainer first.” Read Christopher’s full story.
“There are people like you in the equestrian world; you are not alone. There are people who look like you, who have similar financial, social, and time constraints, who also love horses with all their hearts. There are people like you who feel guilty that they sometimes feel like horses are a burden because they have to work so hard to be in the horse world, but also appreciate the love and fulfillment that horses bring.” Read Leesan’s full story.
“There have been many times when people have assumed I was a barn worker or groom and I have been asked many times if I spoke English. I have even heard of myself referred to as unsavory names. I think the most disappointing part of hearing things like this, is that I know other people have to go through the same thing every day.” Read Julia’s full story.
“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.” Read Carla’s full story.
“It is very disheartening to me to see Native people portrayed in movies as amazing horsemen, yet still “uncivilized” or “savage”. Just because we are different, have a different culture, language, and traditions doesn’t mean we are LESS THAN. People are quick to ask for my help or advice or ask me to share my cultural teachings with them when it comes to their animals, namely their horses. But those same people will still make all the same ignorant, harmful assumptions about my way of life, intellect, and culture. Which is it?” Read Alex’s full story.
Amanina Abdul Rashid:
“I think the biggest challenge for me personally has been my legitimacy as a person of color. I am biracial, and my mom is white so for a majority of my life I never really knew what “category” to put myself in. A lot of white people will consider me to be “white-passing” and don’t tend to ask any questions until they meet my father. For a lot of my life, I’ve grappled with the duality of my identity, wondering where I fit in, or where I should fit in. And it wasn’t until recently that I realized that I don’t have to fit in just one place.” Read Amanina’s full story.
“I would describe myself as a student of horses. There is always so much to learn and a myriad of ways to learn it all. I try to improve as often as possible, by auditing clinics, learning from others’ mistakes, and doing my research. As for my discipline, I’m an eventer at heart, and I love to jump!” Read Jackie’s full story.
“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.” Read Aolani’s full story.
“I am a serious competitor, but I am also: a groom, a crazy horse girl, a follower of top show jumping, a researcher of top jumping horses and breeding lines, and a student seeking a deeper knowledge of both riding and horsemanship.
Currently, I compete in the High Junior Jumpers (1.40m). In the future, I plan to become a professional rider and to compete frequently in international shows. I hope to develop my own group of Grand Prix horses and to represent the United States Equestrian Team.” Read Maya’s full story.
“I see this diversity roadblock as a test of strength I must overcome. Being one of the few Taiwanese equestrians gives me a unique story. Most of the backgrounds you hear from big riders are about how they were born into it, competitively riding and showing at extremely young ages. I, however, am the first equestrian in my family. Therefore, I started competitively riding pretty late compared to the big riders. I hope my future and story can inspire more Asian equestrians to continue their passion, regardless of what society or family says.” Read Kristen’s full story.
“I would go to the tack store every year and try on every helmet they had to no avail, and each year they told me that all the Asian riders in the area had the same challenge. Our heads were just a different shape. Round fit helmets weren’t widely on the market yet, and I couldn’t afford the odd $400 version. I finally found and bought my first proper fitting helmet when I was 22 years old. It always made me sad that I was excluded from proper-fitting safety equipment, either by design or by budget.” Read Chloe’s full story.
“Visit a barn. Take a chance. And if you feel less than welcomed, visit another until you find the ONE. You don’t have to be white and affluent to share your life with a horse. You don’t need an expensive, imported warmblood with a $5000 custom saddle to be a part of this lifestyle. The $20 swayback you rescued from the auction doesn’t care about fancy tack and A1 boarding facilities. Chase your dreams and hold your head high, you belong here. You are supported and you are welcomed and to hell with anyone who says otherwise.” Read Andreca’s full story.
“In this sport and being of color, I have quickly realized that you’re not spending all of this time, money, and effort for other people and their enjoyment. You are doing it for yourself. There is only you and your horse on this journey.” Read Bianca’s full story.
“I don’t know if my culture overtly influences my equestrian lifestyle but I feel a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment at excelling in a sport where people of color are not well represented. I can serve as a subtle reminder to others that diverse people DO belong in these spaces; plus I mow my pasture and clean my stalls while blasting reggaetón and hip hop music!” Read Nia’s full story.
“Simply put, I was destined to be an equestrian.
Even though I had hardly any access to horses growing up in Japan, I always had a deep love for horses. My favorite toy was a rocking horse and I begged for pony rides every time we visited a farm park in the rural area. At 9 years old when my parents told me that we were moving to America because of my father’s job, all they had to do to stop me from bawling my eyes out was to tell me that there were lots of horses in America and I would be able to take riding lessons when we moved.” Read Maya’s full story.
“I’m a trail rider who is starting her journey into limited/long-distance endurance riding. I like to think that I’m a decent rider and equestrian.
Eowyn is my first horse and I have learned so much with her from groundwork to in the saddle and trail work. I try to listen to my horse as much as possible and I think that has helped both of us grow. I’ve been told by a trainer that Eowyn is really well trained (though she has some habits that we are working on).” Read Hannah’s full story.
“I am a South Korean adoptee. The South Korean Flag has black lines around it and they stand for something very important to me: The strong protect the strong, the weak protect the weak, the weak protect the strong, and the strong protect the weak. You will find these lines in our Seoul Creek Farm logo because it’s truly how we have built our Farm, our Family, our Friends, and our Equestrian Lifestyle.” Read Courtney’s full story.
“As an equestrian, I take pride in developing youth through my equine nonprofit program: Frankie’s Corner Little Thoroughbred Crusade (FCLTC). I teach basic horsemanship to advanced horseback riding, ranch living, and leadership development through a research-based curriculum. I feel like I never work when I am teaching youth about equines. I love when they are new to the industry and their eyes light up as they advance in my program.” Read Jermo’s full story.
“My first introduction to horses was when I was ten. A friend of my mother’s invited us to her farm to ride horses with her daughters. I also had additional opportunities to ride when attending summer camps.
Moving forward through time, in later years, my daughter was enrolled in an equine therapy program. She learned to ride and we both learned about horses. The equine program allowed my daughter to ride, understand farm life, and meet people that she wouldn’t meet in school.” Read Bay’s full story.
“I’m a 32-year-old man pursuing BEGINNER riding lessons. Adding in the fact that I’m brown made me think that I would stand out and be judged in a negative way. Having these negative thoughts at the back of my head has really hindered me in the past from pursuing things that I would have liked to try. Luckily, so far my fears have been unfounded and the riders and trainers at the barn have been extremely welcoming.” Read Kyle’s full story.
“But what I find as an additional irritating obstacle is that myself, or any other person of color, is not your prop. We are not here to solidify you in your “woke-ness” and well-roundedness. I’m not here to make you look cool or feel better about possible thoughts of you wanting to culturally appropriate, in the equestrian world or whatever venue it may be. I see it as either you partake in these – what my ancestors see as major historical moments – with me, or you can watch from the sidelines.” Read Jovān’s full story.
“If you love it, go for it! I finally found myself when I started riding again. It’s definitely not for everyone but there is such a deep connection for me personally when I’m around horses. You learn to respect each other and you start to pick up on what they are feeling. It’s beautiful, really. I wouldn’t let people’s perception of who an equestrian is in their mind be the reason I stop doing what I love.” Read Bobbie’s full story.
“Being an equestrian of color means I am helping blaze the pathway for the next group of colored riders. I want the youth of color to be able to see they are not the only ones. I get to be that example that one’s looks do not determine their skill, and the countless possibilities I and anyone else can achieve.” Read Adriel’s full story.
The Equestrians of Color Photography Project exists to amplify the voices of equestrians of color who have stories they want to share with our community. First and foremost, each of us is an ally before a photographer and is here to listen, learn, and evolve from the stories that are shared with us.
If you are an Equestrian of Color (EOC) or know someone who is and feels interested in sharing your story, please click here to inquire or view our current list and map of participating photographers here. Must be 16 years or older to apply.
Read, learn & grow.
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.