How do you describe yourself as an equestrian?
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.
What do you enjoy about being an equestrian of color?
That I can hopefully show representation to other riders of color that they too, can be a part of horses. It can be intimidating to anyone to start something new when you do not feel like you belong. A strong support system that is encouraging is beneficial. I think people should shoot for the moon and you will at least land amongst the stars. When I was a child there were no trainers (men or women) of any color!
A person’s culture consists of many contributing factors. I feel it is important for representation of all – anyone who does not identify as a part of the mainstream equestrian community, and as a professional to be a voice to young riders. It is not only cute blonde girls that enjoy riding. I think it shows an inclusiveness that should be a part of life in all aspects.
What challenges have you faced as an equestrian of color?
The biggest challenge I would say I have faced as an equestrian of color has been the microaggressions I have experienced. Not long ago I was bathing my horse, wearing a hat, jeans, and a t-shirt. A woman came up to me and the first thing out of her mouth was a question asking if I spoke English. I responded with, “Well, I wish I spoke Spanish. Unfortunately, I only speak one language and that is English. But yes, the office is through the archway and on your left.”
As an instructor, I think my biggest challenge has been building rapport with the general demographic of little girls that ride. Riders choose less qualified teachers because their daughter likes riding with other female trainers. Color may or may not be a part of it, however, I tend to believe it can often be a contributing factor. I have had students of color share reasons why they quit riding at particular farms and why they chose other farms instead – they did not feel truly welcomed so they chose to leave.
What words of encouragement would you have for other equestrians of color or people of color considering becoming equestrians?
Truthfully, just have fun. If you are the only person of color at your farm, even better. In a field of horses be a unicorn. If a person loves horses and wants to ride – go ride and have a blast learning. Find the best and most qualified teacher you can afford and learn from as many trainers as you can.
There is no ‘one way’ to approach riding and training ever. That is like telling a psychologist only one theoretical orientation works and other theories do not. Everything has its time and place when it is most effective, and you might learn something important from who you least expect.
Lindsey Long provides Southern California equestrians with beautiful images of their beloved horses, capturing the human-equine bond. She believes that encouraging diversity is vital to the survival of equestrian sport.