How do you describe yourself as an equestrian?
I ride horses! I love a good trail ride or a good dressage lesson. If this means I’m an equestrian, I’ll take it.
In my view, to be a good equestrian one should always be willing and open to learning. It’s a bit like art. The more you know, the more you realize that there is more to know. I’m an equestrian that takes both the highs and lows of everyday life in stride. I work 2nd shift, which starts later in the day, so I clean the stalls and paddocks, feed, and ride every day before my job as an airplane mechanic.
I am what I call “horse poor” yet I wouldn’t have it any other way. I am an equestrian that rides, mucks, hauls, cleans tack, grooms, and will make sure there’s always enough fuel in the truck. Like many of us equestrians, we can spend more on shoes for them than ourselves!
How did you get involved with horses?
Growing up we had to watch what my dad was watching on TV. (And yes, I was the remote!) He loved westerns and I loved watching Little Joe ride his black and white horse. Sitting on the floor, leaning on my dad’s leg watching all the riders gallop everywhere was so exciting to me. I knew because of Little Joe and Little Timmy having Lassie that I wanted to have a horse and a dog!
My 5th grade teacher, who is 100 years old now and like my second mom, invited me to her home to meet and ride her daughter’s horses. That was truly the beginning. Horses have been a part of my life ever since. I couldn’t afford them as a young adult so I took lessons. I knew early on that I needed to choose a career or job that would allow horses into my life on an everyday basis.
How has your culture influenced your equestrian lifestyle?
My culture is a part of me. It defines me in many ways. Yet when I’m interacting with my horses it’s not at the forefront of my mind. Out on the trails or in the show ring I’m with my horse. In those moments, the very first and last thing I do is say, “Thank you, God.”
With that said, the few times I have been involved in musical freestyles with my dressage horses is when I want my culture to shine. I want it to express what I am proud of. With my black horse, it was with South African music. With my Welsh Cob pony, it was with Stevie Wonder.
When I’m with a group of horse people socially, I do “me”. I never go into a situation feeling like I have to prove myself. I’m a decent rider. I know my worth. In my everyday job, I am the only woman of color that is a mechanic on the Boeing 737 airplanes. I do me! Human, female, person of color, mother, and partner. They are all combined and which part of me comes first can change depending on what I am facing.
What challenges have you faced as an equestrian of color?
This may sound crazy, but challenges in the horse world because of the color of my skin have not been an issue. I’m not saying it’s nonexistent though. There have been times when other horse people will look at me for the first time and underestimate me, especially at a competition. But I am comfortable with it because I know my worth.
I make sure that I am surrounded by good quality friends in all that I do. Be it with horses, work, or family. I don’t spend time with negative or mean people. Life is too short for that. I’m blessed with a good community of horse friends, be it at a show, out horse camping, or on a good trail ride.
The main challenge, as for many, is the financial side of owning a horse. It’s my addiction that had to get set aside for the sake of raising my kids. Now that they are grown and doing well, it has become easier.
What words of encouragement would you have for other equestrians of color or people of color considering becoming equestrians?
Everyone has their own path on where horses will take them. Have a plan. There will be roadblocks, which is life. Just don’t give up.
It’s never too early or late to take up becoming an equestrian. Always be willing to learn. Gravitate to the good people who are kind to their animals.
And know your worth!
Kayla is an equestrian and adventure photographer located in Western Washington. Kayla provides a fun and unique experience to all her clients while focusing on capturing authentic moments and emotions that showcase a real relationship between horse and rider.