How would you describe yourself as an equestrian?
I would have to start by stating I am a newbie. I am still learning the basics, the different disciplines, and how to interact with different horses. My previous experience has been occasionally riding my friend’s horse and going on trail rides during vacations. This was prior to my current ongoing lessons.
The learning process is awesome, and I am motivated to pass on the knowledge and my love of animals to my grandchildren. The better an equestrian I become, the more they will enjoy and appreciate riding. I am looking forward to attending their schooling lessons and competitions.
As a newbie, my initial focus and purpose was therapeutic. It still is today. Awhile back, I had my first grandchild riding with a horse for animal therapy. We both enjoyed those times. Coasting above the ground in nature, not in a vehicle, is a relaxing feeling of openness and freedom.
While starting in my 50’s may have its limitations such as no barrel racing, it does not count me out for trotting, jumping, and other equestrian sports.
What do you enjoy about being an equestrian of color?
What I enjoy about being an equestrian has little to do with color. I love the hats and boots. When I am out and dressed in Western wear, people do give me a second look. When my friends ask about it, I explain that I am from the Wild Wild West with roots in Texas. I was born and raised in Los Angeles with my family roots from Texas. They know I am more enthused with out-of-the-box things to do than ordinary, everyday stuff.
Whatever I am interested in, I get my grandsons involved. When the youngest starts riding and competing, I will enjoy being actively involved while others are on the sidelines wondering how we are able to do what we are doing.
What challenges have you faced as an equestrian of color?
As a new equestrian, I have not actually had many challenges related to color. Sometimes, getting others to join me is harder than riding. Few have a desire to be around the smelly stable or walk through horse poo to get the horse. Some have a fear of large animals no matter how docile some of them can be.
Learning all of the equestrian related verbiage is comparable to learning a new language. Having conversations with a non-equestrian is often a short one. It is enjoyable to learn and share that knowledge, but people want to be able to join in the conversation and not only listen.
What words of encouragement would you have for other equestrians of color or people of color considering becoming equestrians?
As diversity and inclusion are hot topics right now, it’s a great time for people of color to get actively involved in equestrian activities. If you’re interested, go for it. If time is an issue, think about the time spent on social media, playing video games, watching television, etc. That time can be spent communing with a horse.
If finances are a temporary obstacle, find funding or programs that can and will help. There are always avenues to cut out something negative in your life to afford something positive in your life.
As with most things, the younger you begin and stay involved, the more proficient you become. Also, being a young equestrian can lead to so many possibilities later in life such as travel, championships, Olympics, meeting new people you would not otherwise meet, becoming a veterinarian, horse/stable owner, etc. The possibilities are endless. I would definitely say enjoy what you do.
Phyllis Burchett is a Professional Photographer, Artist, Workshop and Tour Leader based in Georgia.
She leads an Equine Photo Tour to Iceland each year along with numerous Workshops around the USA.