How would you describe yourself as an equestrian?

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.

My father would share stories about his childhood growing up and working on a farm. I knew those stories so well, you would have thought I lived through them. He had grown up on a farm in south Georgia. Horses were an integral part of their lives because they were working horses and the family depended on them for their livelihood. There were stories of tilling fields, pulling buggies, and horses foaling.

My favorite stories were the ones that shared the secrets of how they would cure a horse of colic or lameness. In those days there was no access to veterinarians, and my grandfather was like the midwife to animals in their area. He often took my father along when he would go to farms to help people with sick livestock. I was immersed in colorful stories and I’ve carried those stories and shared them with my children. At twenty-five I bought my first horse, my dream come true. That began my equestrian journey.

What do you enjoy about being an equestrian of color?

When I think about being an equestrian, I don’t personally think about the color of my skin unless it is pointed out to me. What I love about being an equestrian is the relationship that I nurture and maintain with the horses.

The sport of having a horse and riding – it has always been about love and family for me. My father and I soft broke my first horse, a young Arabian stud, Bay Boy. We spent hours at the barn, he taught me everything he knew. Brought all those stories to life about how they “broke” horses on the farm, and how your relationship had to be based on mutual respect.

As soon as my boys were old enough to go out to the barn with me, I bought miniature horses and continued that love of horses with them. To this day, when we are out at the barn or saddled up riding you can feel the love and joy of the sport.

What challenges have you faced being an equestrian of color?  

In life, there will always be challenges, if you live long enough or stick to anything long enough. Most of the challenges that we have been met with would have been challenges regardless of skin color. They were more financial; losing a competition that you thought you would win because a farm with big money rolled in at the last minute, with a six-horse slant load dress and tack and a million dollars worth of horses and training to dominate the competition.

You’re asking about the ignorance that we have faced over the years in the equestrian community. Like, your daughter being told that she shouldn’t be riding a horse because black people don’t ride horses. Being told that you can’t join a riding club because they are racist and won’t allow black people to be a part of their organization.

There was one night that I met with a real challenge. I was out on a ride with a few friends, it was a late night ride and we came upon a group of men all dressed in white, with hoods and all, that were burning a cross. That was a challenge trying to back up those horses in the woods and get out of there without being discovered. Hearts racing, minds racing, now that was a real challenge based on the color of our skin, we surely couldn’t have gone up and asked them what they were doing.

What words of encouragement would you have for other equestrians of color or people of color considering becoming equestrians?

The color of your skin should never stop you from pursuing anything you want to do. There will always be ignorant people in this world that will say and do things to intentionally hurt you. If you allow them to stop you from learning something or doing something you love, you give them power and a piece of you.

Use them as a stepping stone to push you closer to your goals. There are many organizations now that support people of color and those who are not people of color. Do what you love, with people you love doing it with. That’s what makes life worth living.