How would you describe yourself as an equestrian?
I’d describe myself as a cowgirl that has true GRIT! So many can claim they are tough enough but have you ever been in an alleyway with hot horses pawing at the dirt waiting for the gate to open? That’s the kind of cowgirl I am.
In my experience, the western industry respects black men more than they respect black women! I am teaching this industry daily how to respect me, value me, and represent me. As the first black rodeo queen in the state of Arkansas, I am changing this industry for black women!
How did you get involved in horses?
Horses found me when I was 6 years old. I wholeheartedly feel like they saved my life in so many ways.
I was sexually assaulted when I was 6 years old and was going to see a therapist for quite some time before she invited me to her house to meet her horses. I always say that day she sat me in a saddle and handed me the reins to my freedom.
I want to be that for someone else. I look at what she did for me back then and what I made out of that one horse encounter and I can’t imagine the lives I’ll change.
What are you most proud of as an equestrian?
I’m most proud of the women that I inspire to be themselves in this industry. I pride myself on being the kind of woman that little girls wanna be like. I’m proud that my voice is loud enough for hers to be heard, too.
I speak on so many different things that played a huge part in shaping me into the woman that I am today, and by sharing the different struggles I faced, it allows others to feel more comfortable. I just try to remind people: you don’t have to be perfect, you just have to be you.
How has your culture influenced your equestrian lifestyle?
Honestly, growing up in Arkansas, I came from a lot of culture. My family isn’t very close though. So it was more of that relief the passion that burned in me for horses. That passion made me want to wake up every day and live a different lifestyle than the one I was brought up in.
What challenges have you faced as an equestrian of color?
I built all this for myself off of the strength of people believing in me — but I’ve faced plenty of challenges.
I remember being 13 years old and wanting to ride in my first PRCA rodeo “pony express racing” with no horse — so I hustled. I built relationships and worked my butt off. Then I was able to be on a drill team for 2 years off of the strength of people who knew that I was a great rider and who loaned me their horses.
Aside from the struggles of access that I faced, I also dealt with racism throughout it all. It was tough and I mighta skinned my knees up a little bit, but it is safe to say those “challenges” never broke me.
What words of encouragement would you have for other equestrians of color or people of color considering becoming equestrians?
One thing I always leave the kids that I’ve had the pleasure of standing in front of or speaking to through zoom is: “Never allow someone to mute you.”
It is important that we all recognize and acknowledge how important our stories are and our voices are. It’s even more important that we encourage our youth to use those same voices for good, and for what they believe in. Even if everyone else doesn’t believe in it at first.
Kirstie Marie Photography LLC is a fine art equine photographer located in Aubrey, Texas. Her style is characterized by revealing the most beautiful elements of each girl and her horse in sun-soaked, distinctive photos to be treasured for generations to come.