How do you describe yourself as an equestrian?
I am a true adult amateur rider who loves horses and the people around them. I am a diligent “social rider” with a saddle pad addiction. My style of riding is hunter/jumper and the more I learn, I realize the less I know. Part of me thinks my contributions as an equestrian are insignificant but those are my own insecurities coming out.
How did you get involved with horses?
I was born horse-crazy. My earliest memories were playing with the original 1980s My Little Pony plush toys. When I grew older, I devoured books like Misty of Chincoteague and the Saddle Club series, always trying to get my hands on every horse book possible. I even dragged my whole (not horse-crazy) family from Florida to Chincoteague Island for a visit one summer.
When I turned 30, I started taking English riding lessons. Because of the wonderful community, I fell deeply in love with being an equestrian and living the adult amateur lifestyle. I could not be any happier with my equine lifestyle choices.
What role do horses currently play in your life?
My horse is one of my worlds. I currently have a lovely baby gray Warmblood and Thoroughbred cross who is sadly whitening by the day. She is my first green horse and I am (mostly…okay maybe 60%) enjoying the process of glowing her up.
My other worlds are my human family and my career as an infectious diseases pharmacist. My husband is an amazing and kind man and we are parents to a 3-year-old boy with special needs. My son loves being at the barn and his favorite animal is the tractor. When he’s not playing with Red Tractor, it is heartwarming to see him interact with my mare, who is especially tolerant of his toddler antics. As he gets older, I hope my son will love horses just as much, if not more than his mama. I want horses to teach him the valuable life lessons that can carry him through the rest of his life.
Being an infectious diseases pharmacist in a busy hospital setting, horses offer a respite from the stress-filled environment of my job. I look forward to riding, something I’m not great at which humbles me on a daily basis.
How has your culture influenced your equestrian lifestyle?
As an Asian American who started riding at age 30, becoming an equestrian has been one of the best decisions of my life. I have always loved horses, but never seeing an Asian face made me think people like me did not ride. Growing up, riding horses equated to a “silly dream” as I was told.
I put those thoughts aside and instead concentrated on school and excelling at the violin and piano. When I turned 30 I decided to casually pursue that silly dream, which instantly brought me a wonderful barn family. The love I felt from this chosen family was remarkable and I quickly progressed to chestnut mare ownership.
When my career permanently relocated me to another area, I feared I would not find the same sense of community. I also worried being Asian American would prevent me from finding a sense of close-knit belonging. It absolutely did not. When I met my new trainer and realized she was a minority too, I knew I would be fine.
Fast-forward seven years later and I could not ask for a better group of people supporting both my horse and me. In short, the absolute joy and connections that come from horses and my barn community are priceless. Horses are special, and so are the people who work with and alongside them. Had I not taken a chance on becoming an equestrian, my life would lack so much of the joy it holds today.
What challenges have you faced as an equestrian of color?
Even though I’m constantly surrounded by people and horses, sometimes I feel alone. In the world of Texas hunters/jumpers I am usually the one minority in a predominantly Caucasian landscape.
Luckily, I have never felt the toxic swipe of overt racism, but I am constantly aware of being different because I look different. At horse shows, I covertly search for other minority competitors and try to meet them or offer an extra warm smile of goodwill.
When that’s not possible, I mentally wish them extra luck and happiness in the ring. These little actions create a sense of community, as being an EOC is bigger than the individual. It’s slowly breaking racial barriers and shifting the status quo one equestrian at a time. It brings me comfort to see a growing number of minorities in the horse community.
My hope is through the EOC project, we can raise awareness of minorities in the equestrian world and start more thought-provoking, kind discussions on inclusivity and diversity.
What is your happiest or proudest moment as an equestrian?
I think my proudest equestrian moment is a compilation of my struggles to be worthy of being an equestrian. Being newer to the English riding world, there is still a vast lifetime of learning, riding, and horses to go.
I am not a naturally talented rider – let’s all be clear on that. My form is always wrong, my body is never strong enough, and my reaction times are much too slow. Horseback riding and all things horses are largely the most frustrating passions I have ever taken on. My husband jokes that I like to “live life on hard mode,” meaning I willingly add on stress-provoking challenges and will not stop until I’m successfully proficient.
Riding is my ordeal. In my heart I know I will never be a great rider. I’m usually good at most things I attempt, so this journey with horses has been an incredible, often frustrating (green horse life), and humbling experience. My gratification of equestrianism lies in all those moments where I have pushed myself out of the set norms and forced myself to be comfortable being uncomfortable.
This has translated to every aspect of my life, including my career, relationships with people, and my own emotional growth. I am proud that I have struggled and will gleefully continue to flounder through all things horses because it makes me a better person. And at the end of the day, horses are magical.
What words of encouragement would you have for other equestrians of color or people of color considering becoming equestrians?
You are not alone! Be a role model for others who may have doubts because of their culture or heritage. Horses have the ability to bring limitless joy and will constantly push you to be better. If you have the desire and space in your life, allow horses to be included. You will infinitely benefit.
Horse breed – Arabian X Quarter horse crosses = Quarabs
Horse color – Chestnut w/chrome
Discipline – Hunters
Treat to give – Beet treats or Effol’s Mango Friend Snacks
Place to ride – In the arena in a lesson
Abigail Boatwright is an award-winning writer and photographer specializing in writing, photographing, editing and proofreading for mainly Western stock horse publications. Her photos have appeared on over two dozen covers. Abigail also writes copy for equine and mainstream businesses. She lives in Fort Worth, Texas, with her husband and two children.