How do you describe yourself as an equestrian?

I got into horses basically because my mom rode horses as a teenager, and she rode while she was pregnant with me. So I always tell people I started riding when I was in the womb. I think it’s really special that my mom and I still share that today.

As a kid, I did a lot of trail riding with my mom, some family members, and some friends. We rode western and basically that just meant in a western saddle; it wasn’t anything formal. But my neighbors rode English so I really got into English with them. Fast forward to college, I bought this little Thoroughbred mare. I bought her from a dressage trainer and that’s how my dressage career started.

How has your culture influenced your equestrian lifestyle and what challenges have you faced as an equestrian of color?

I identify as a biracial individual – I’m half black and half white. My mom is white. It hasn’t been until more of my professional career working with underprivileged adults and children that I really absorbed how fortunate I have been to live the equestrian lifestyle.

For me, I recognized I was a person of color (and more or less standing out) when I was a child – people would let me know. I didn’t always think about it even when I looked in the mirror and I knew I looked different than people. It wasn’t until they came up to me and wanted to touch my hair or commented on my skin or my lips or other features – invading my personal space big time.

So I would say as I got older and started going to more upscale events where there are VIP tents and services, that I noticed I looked different and I stood out – that it was primarily people in the service side of these upscale events that were people of color. That stung me a lot of the time and I felt uncomfortable being there.

It feels uncomfortable to say the least that you don’t really feel like you fit in wholly somewhere – that you’re not entirely white even though you have white friends, white family members, white colleagues. And the same for being black – you have black family members, friends, colleagues, all these things – but you’re just a little different. And that’s been a tough tightrope to walk, I would say. And again it just goes back to being enough for one side or the other so to speak – and I just want to be enough in general.

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

Advice that I would give for other EOCs or people of color thinking of getting involved in the sport is that this is where social media can be so powerful. Look for hashtags, look for groups on various social media platforms and pages, and just start connecting with people. There are really so many more people involved in our sport than we know, and I’m very thankful that we have social media and can connect in that way nowadays.

For any equestrians of color who are having a challenging time, I would just say reach out to different people privately on social media – to the people who you feel you’ve made a real connection with. Share some of your experiences and get trusted feedback on different options that you have moving forward. I would never encourage anyone to stay in a toxic situation: friendship, boarding barn, anything like that. Always know there are options no matter what the situation is.

What else would you like to share with our readers?

I think the equestrian community could definitely use more diversity, acknowledgment, and recognition for our trainers, breeders, models, and riders who are all people of color.

In general, our society and our media portrays primarily white individuals as the people leading more or less everything. I think it’s important to recognize how you can bring change to whatever environment you’re in and showcase everyone who really needs to be showcased – whether that’s amplifying voices of people of color or people with exceptional abilities both physically and mentally. Just be welcoming to everyone.

For people who are interested in really becoming an ally (because thankfully that’s where we’re at in this day and age), it’s not just about saying “Oh I’m not a racist.” It is about protecting and helping support people of color who are in need of your support. Do your research, do some studying, find various books on being anti-racist, and dedicate YOUR time to doing the work.

There are some close friends that I hope you have that you can ask some questions to, but remember it can be exhausting to be a person’s “go to.” They feel like they may be your only friend who is a person of color and that’s tiring.

I’m very happy to be part of the Equestrians of Color Project to help connect people and help amplify the stories that need to be told – the good, the bad, the ugly, all of them – because everybody has a story.

To view the video interview, click here