How do you describe yourself as an equestrian?
I describe myself as an African American rider and a female small business owner.
My life has been completely engulfed with horses ever since I started riding as a child. Whether it is riding, training, or studying new equine management techniques, the majority of my time is spent focusing on my passion for horses.
I like to think of myself as an all-around rider but I did grow up as a hunter rider. You can still see my hunter background show up in my riding style today, but over the years I have grown to appreciate and dabble in other disciples such as Jumpers, Eventing, and Reining.
How did you get involved with horses?
I got involved with horses as a child living down in Miami, FL. I used to be completely fascinated and in love with watching The Saddle Club. Watching the girls build their bonds with each other and their horses drove me to want to get involved with horses.
I used to beg my parents to allow me to take lessons and I would spend hours jotting down barn numbers from the Yellow Pages phone book for my mom to call. One day she called a barn and found out that they offered horse camp. I did a full summer of camp and from day one I was hooked!
From then on I continued lessoning and was able to find another barn where I could work to pay off a lease on a horse. I began participating at local shows and also volunteering as an exercise rider at a local thoroughbred rescue. I took any chance that I got to ride different horses and train under different people. From the beginning, I knew that being an equestrian was just not a hobby for me, it is my passion and lifelong career.
What role do horses currently play in your life?
I am currently a veterinary technician for an equine clinic. I also recently opened Serendipity Equine – an Equine Assisted learning center – with my business partner this past year.
My business partner and I opened Serendipity Equine in the hopes of introducing and empowering students of all ages, ethnicities, and backgrounds to become confident leaders, clear communicators, and capable team members. I wanted to start an equine program because as an EOC I want to make a change in the equestrian world. I want people that look like me, or that may not come from financial backgrounds that are usually associated with equestrianism, to realize that working with horses and riding is completely obtainable.
How has your culture influenced your equestrian lifestyle?
I come from an extremely hardworking, supportive, and loving family. Even though I am the only rider in my family, my parents have always supported my equine endeavors and I can not thank them enough for that.
Of course, there were times when they questioned some of my choices regarding horses – such as going for my bachelor’s in Animal Science specializing in Equine Science vs. going for a more profitable career – but no matter what they pushed me to do, horses are what made me truly happy. Both of my parents worked extremely hard to be the professionals they are today and that has shown me that anything is possible if you put your mind, soul, and time into it.
What challenges have you faced as an equestrian of color?
The challenges that I have faced as an EOC include the lack of diversity and classism in the equestrian world.
I think there is a great need for diversity in all aspects of horses. Whether it be diversity in riders, vets, trainers, farriers, barn managers, equine nutritionists, equine scientists, etc. At all of the barns where I have ridden, I have been the only African American person. As a child, it was really hard for me to look around and not see anyone that looked like me and not feel out of place at times.
This has stayed the same throughout the years and this also includes the equine professional world. When attending veterinary conferences or horse shows, there might be a handful of minorities in an area filled with hundreds of people.
As far as classism, we all know that riding horses is expensive. That is just the whole honest truth. This does not mean you have to be rich to ride and work with horses though. There are many ways to progress in the equine world without having to support yourself personally and financially. This is one of the main reasons I opened Serendipity Equine. I want to educate and offer interested riders other ways to break into the equestrian world such as becoming a working student, volunteering, and exercise riding.
What words of encouragement would you have for other equestrians of color or people of color considering becoming equestrians?
Just do it! Come up with a plan on what you want to achieve, and how you are going to achieve it, and stick with it. Then allow yourself to be flexible and go with the flow because no matter how much you try, nothing will ever go strictly to plan, especially when it involves horses. So be open to change and adaptable.
I would also recommend being a “sponge”. Audit different lessons, ride and work under as many reputable equestrians as you can, go to equestrian-related events, and connect with other equestrians via social media. Sponge up as many different techniques and tricks as possible.
Horse breed: TB
Horse color: Palomino
Treat to give: Carrots or apples
Place to ride: Out on the trails
Jill Brammer is a Florida based equine and canine photographer specializing in capturing the relationship between these wonderful animals, those who love them and the life they enjoy together.