How do you describe yourself as an equestrian?
l would describe myself as competitive. I definitely love winning – I mean who doesn’t – and I’ve made some of my best memories with friends at shows.
I would also describe myself as collaborative. Our sport is a collaborative effort between rider and horse, so being adjustable and perceptive to my horse’s actions is a skill that I always aspire to practice.
How has your culture influenced your equestrian lifestyle?
The Korean side of my family had lots of pets and animals in their household and they always treated them like members of our family. This value has taught me to always treat my horse as I would want to be treated. I take great value in the little things. Such as always giving my horse a treat, brushing her, and just treating her as good as I can no matter what kind of day we might be having.
What challenges have you faced as an equestrian of color?
The Korean side of my family isn’t always the most supportive of me riding competitively. It isn’t a common activity in my family so it is really hard for them to understand why I do it and why I love it so much.
Also, people in the equestrian industry often assume I am not in touch with the Korean side of myself, which is totally untrue. I proudly celebrate Korean traditions with my family. I can speak and write Korean fluently, and I have indulged myself in every part of Korean culture. I wish we could normalize celebrating racial and ethnic diversity in our sport.
In what way have you been most disappointed as an equestrian of color?
I am disappointed about how blind some members of our community are to the inequalities that equestrians of color experience. Sometimes I feel like some people are living in a bubble. That they are unaware of POC experiences in general. Given the elitist history of our sport, I think it’s important to start actively advocating to make this amazing sport more inclusive and accessible to all people no matter what their background is.
What is your happiest or proudest moment as an equestrian?
My proudest moment was during the 2020 season when my horse Truly and I won a round of the Children’s Hunters with a score of 88. Truly was a super green and sensitive horse and it seemed like not a lot of people had faith that he and I could succeed. This was our first show after moving barns before the pandemic and after months of prep and practice once our barn reopened. Truly and I never really had success in the show ring until this moment.
What words of encouragement would you have for other equestrians of color or people of color considering becoming equestrians?
This might sound cliche, but I would just say stick to what you love and don’t let anyone tell you that you’re out of place. As long as you’re being yourself you’re in the right place.
Personally, riding and being around horses has been the best part of my life. I would totally recommend getting involved with the sport in any way you can.
Jeni Jo Photography is an equestrian portrait photographer based in Washington state