How do you describe yourself as an equestrian?
Someone said to me this winter “there are horsemen and there are showmen”…it hit home. While I absolutely love to horse show competitively and teach, the most important part of being an equestrian to me is the horses.
I love their individual personalities. I love listening to them eat. I love figuring out what makes them tick.
After my back injury about 10 years ago, I don’t ride much anymore but in finding myself grounded, my love for this sport has grown exponentially.
How did you get involved with horses and what role do they currently play in your life?
I was introduced to horses by a babysitter around age 8 and immediately knew this was going to be a lifelong passion. I am VERY lucky to have parents who supported my love for horses and they still do. I started taking lessons and my Dad purchased my first horse when I was 10 years old; she was an OTTB named Daphne.
Now, my husband Doug and I, own and run a 40 acre 48 stall Hunter/Jumper barn in West Bend, WI with our 9-year-old son, Carter. We host several local level shows per year and we also travel throughout the country to show on the A Circuit.
Farm ownership is a lifestyle. We live it 7 days a week, 24 hours a day, all 365 days of the year. Horses don’t play a role in our lives, they are our life!
What do you enjoy about being an equestrian of color?
Honestly, before being asked to participate in this shoot I never would have considered myself an “equestrian of color” simply just an equestrian. But I thought…WOW, this is cool and this is something I am! I am proud to be an equestrian of color and I am proud to be part of this industry.
In a world that can be awfully bland, I embrace that I am unique…be the paint horses in a sea of bays and greys!
How has your culture influenced your equestrian lifestyle?
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.
It’s simple… help who you can when you can, contribute, be brave, write your own story, tell the truth, and be a good horseman/woman and a good sportsman. Write a new story so history doesn’t repeat itself!
What challenges have you faced as an equestrian of color?
To my knowledge, I have never faced inequality in the horse world. My horses have always loved and respected me for who I am.
I have encountered direct racism outside of our sport but never within it. For those who haven’t worn those shoes [and experienced racism themselves], consider yourself blessed because it’s awful. I spend a lot of time with exceptional horsemen and women…they don’t care if you are pink, purple, brown, black, or a unicorn, so long as you are kind and good to your horses.
That said, I think being a “paint horse in a sea of bays and greys” makes you stand out. My husband would tell me that people remember me because I am Asian. Which is both a blessing and a curse. In my opinion, to be a successful paint horse, you have to do everything a little better than the bays and the greys because your moves are noticed more.
In what way have you been most disappointed as an equestrian of color?
I’m disappointed there is a need to label “equestrians of color”. It is heartbreaking that we even need to bring awareness to racism when it simply shouldn’t exist.
It doesn’t seem hard to me to understand that we are equal as humans but unique in our experiences and differences!! Skin of any color is just the wrapper for one’s character.
What words of encouragement would you have for other equestrians of color or people of color considering becoming equestrians?
Find your tribe! Focus on the horsemanship!
This goes for all people entering this sport. Find a like-minded barn atmosphere where you feel safe, encouraged, accepted, and challenged to learn and grow. This sport is filled with different ethnicities, economics, and experiences…find one that fits you!
When I was sidelined for my back injury, I realized there are so many great ways to enjoy being an equestrian besides riding. While my experiences are different from the ground I don’t love it any less!
Erin Beckett is a photographer and filmmaker located near Milwaukee, Wisconsin. She believes that by sharing stories of diversity, we can start much needed conversations about race, equality, and why representation matters.