How do you describe yourself as an equestrian?
I am an equestrian who is constantly learning, who continuously seeks ways to become more knowledgeable, who always asks questions, and who isn’t afraid to be wrong. I take pride in not knowing everything because I believe that there are always ways to improve and always new things to learn when it comes to horses no matter how long you’ve been around them.
My passion and love for horses keeps me striving to become a better horsewoman every single day and when I’m not on my horse, I daydream about how to improve my riding to better my horse.
Being an equestrian is being me. It is such a huge part of my identity and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
What role do horses currently play in your life?
Horses are my entire life. I have an equestrian-based business that I founded in 2020, so my life is 24/7 horses and nothing more. Prior to that, I worked at barns full-time as an equine-assisted recreational therapist and therapeutic riding instructor.
When I’m not at the barn with my horse Koda, I am working on my computer and doing something related to horses with my business!
How has your culture influenced your equestrian lifestyle?
I started riding in Hong Kong when I was 10 years old at Hong Kong Jockey Club Riding schools and rode retired racehorses for many years. Starting in Hong Kong where everyone else was of Asian descent, I never felt excluded in the horse world until I moved to the US and continued my riding career here.
I was brought up in a very international environment, having spent my childhood in Canada, my teenage years in Hong Kong at a British school, and most of my twenties in America. I was always not “Asian” enough in Asia, but not “western” enough in North America to where I struggled with cultural identity for a very long time. The only thing that I felt true identity in was being a horse girl.
What challenges have you faced as an equestrian of color?
In a lot of ways, I think that the challenges that I face and continue to face are self-perceived. Even though no one has blatantly done anything discriminatory or racist against me in public in the horse community, I always feel like I have to be on my best behavior and always have to work extra hard to prove that I belong.
I constantly feel like because I am the only one of my color at my barn and at horse shows, I have my whole race on my back and I have to represent people that look like me because Asian riders are few and far between, especially in my region.
When I was not married yet and was still going by my Asian maiden name, I used to get embarrassed and nervous when the announcer would say my name at horse shows because I would be afraid that they would mispronounce it or that the judge would judge me differently because I didn’t look like everyone else. But after getting married and taking my husband’s last name, I decided that I would not be ashamed of my culture anymore and now I have my Chinese middle name appear on all my USDF and USEF registrations.
What words of encouragement would you have for other equestrians of color or people of color considering becoming equestrians?
Don’t let the fear of thinking that you don’t belong stop you from considering becoming an equestrian. Yes, there are very few of us in the horse world here in the US, and yes, you may feel alone sometimes. But the small percentage of us who are here want you to join us in order to make our sport more diverse, more inclusive, and more welcoming to people of all different backgrounds.
You may face some challenges along the way and you may struggle to feel like you belong, but allyship is stronger than you think in this community if you find the right people to surround yourself with.
Yasmin is a portrait, pet, branding, equestrian and fitness photographer based in Arizona. Finding beauty in the details, she creates art photography for every day.