How do you describe yourself as an Equestrian?
I think dedicated is the best description I could apply to myself as an equestrian. I’m always seeking knowledge of how to best serve my equine companions.
My passion is dressage. Additionally, I am constantly working to improve my riding and horsemanship. I’m also dabbling in breeding. We produced our first foal in the spring of 2022! I guess I’m a bit of an “all-around” horsewoman.
What role do horses currently play in your life?
Horses are my family. I’m fortunate to have my herd at home. I see them every day.
I am currently getting my mares ready for the 2023 competition season. My horses are my life. They keep me young. They give me purpose.
The relationship between myself and each of horses is unique. I find it interesting to experience such different personalities!
However, I will say, my mini donkeys are my best friends. We just don’t let the horses know.
How has your culture influenced your equestrian lifestyle?
I was born and mostly raised in my mother’s home country, the Philippines. My father is African American. I grew up on a military base in the Philippines. We had a horse stable on the base. It was quite exclusive. Instead of horse ownership, people in my socioeconomic group were most likely to afford the hour-long trail ride.
You could find many manner of livestock out and about. I remember living next to an empty lot where the neighbors kept a random water buffalo and a little horse. I was obsessed with that horse! He was scraggly and welcomed any and all treats. I tried to lay across his back once, and he quickly delivered a kick that I narrowly escaped!
My experience with horses was quite limited. One summer, I scraped together enough money to pay for a half lease on a pony. Additionally, my father paid the balance so that I could fully lease the pony all summer. It was the most pivotal time in my life! I fully immersed myself in the horse world. I decided that no matter what life threw my way, I would always figure out how to make horses part of my life.
What challenges have you faced as an Equestrian of Color?
There have been a multitude of challenges. Initially, it was access. Seeking resources was immensely challenging. There were not many people of my color involved with horses within my community.
Another challenge was opportunity. I remember inquiring about a working student position for a dressage rider in Georgia. She gave me one look, a few random questions about my horse, and I never got a callback. I was so confused! How does one learn, if your lack of exposure is a barrier?
I discovered that connections are very important. I found an equestrian family just outside of Atlanta. The farm culture is one of inclusion, respect, and community. I spent my time there meeting people of all walks of life, passionate about dressage just as I was.
Lastly, financial. The cards are stacked against me. I didn’t grow up in a wealthy household. Everything I have is because I learned how to navigate this still exclusive lifestyle. I’ve had to put in the hours, in and out of the sandbox. Sometimes more hours out of the sandbox. I’ve learned to be gracious to myself when work demands outweigh time in the saddle.
What is your happiest or proudest moment as an equestrian?
My happiest moment as an equestrian was presenting my mare and foal before the American Hanoverian Society. I had the opportunity to have my horses inspected at Spy Coast Farm here in Lexington, Kentucky.
They both received respectable comments, and my first foal was accepted into the registry. Evidently, my mare was accepted into the main mare book!
It was intimidating. Especially when I saw not a single person that looked like me. Obviously, I was gleaming with pride!
What would you like our readers to know about your history and/or culture?
Coming from two different cultures, makes history telling quite interesting. Interestingly enough, the common theme between my African American and Filipino cultures is the presence of horses.
My father, as a young boy, worked on a horse farm. He would stack hay to make a little cash.
In my mother’s country, there’s a mountainous area called Baguio City. We would visit there, and I would ride these little trail ponies for hours! I was destined to be a horse girl.
What words of encouragement would you have for other equestrians of color or people of color considering becoming equestrians?
If you dream it, go for it! Set goals, get planning, and put in the work. Find your community! Social media has been a game changer. You can make connections much easier these days.
Sara Farrell is a fine art and portrait photographer servicing Lexington Kentucky. She strives to turn candid moments into lasting memories. Sara believes in the importance of empowerment through representation, and the power that emotional storytelling through photography can have.