How do you describe yourself as an equestrian?
I’ve loved horses since I was introduced to riding lessons as a 6-year-old in Canada. In 2010, we returned to America, but my family was not in a position to pay for lessons so I had to bide my time. Owning or even leasing horses, and competition costs are still undeniably cost-prohibitive.
To work towards my goal, I have been a working student where I muck stalls, scrub water buckets, haul hay, feed, clean, and exercise horses for hours to earn each lesson. I tutor chemistry to be able to afford second-hand breeches and tack.
I’m excited that my hard work has paid off for my gap year before medical school! As an apprentice, I am working, learning, and riding in the UK/Belgium.
How did you get involved with horses?
In Canada, my classmate and friend Teagan and her mother brought me along to watch her ride her own horse and I was hooked! I pursued western riding lessons at the Lazy G. Ranch.
Sadly, when I moved to the U.S., finding a local western riding school proved too expensive to pursue. So, during college, I volunteered at a local horse rescue and therapeutic riding center near Providence. It was a beautiful experience to see clients benefit from a new approach to patient care! It also made me realize how much I missed riding.
As a junior in college, I tried out for my school’s Varsity Equestrian team. I was excited as they routinely took walk-ons onto the team who had little experience and it would have been a great, affordable way to get back into the saddle. Unfortunately, my hours of Western lessons in Canada prevented me from being accepted as a walk/trot candidate and I wasn’t accepted onto the team that year. I was heartbroken, but I resolved to find a way back in the saddle!
I sought working student positions in my area over the summer and was fortunate that Ringside Equestrian let me exchange work for lessons. Switching from Western to English and regaining my riding legs was difficult, but within 3 months, riding nearly every other day, I had progressed from walk/trot to cantering small courses! As a senior, I reached out to the Equestrian team’s coach, and sent her some videos as I was proud of my progress. She accepted me onto the team for my senior year and I was thrilled to spend my last months in college training with her and the team!
How has your culture influenced your equestrian lifestyle?
As immigrants, my parents were unable to afford many trips to India, and so my connection to my roots has been “long-distance.” My mom has been our family historian and instrumental in keeping me connected to my Indian heritage.
Through prayers, legends, historical stories, and the epics, I heard so much about horses! Horses have been an integral icon in Hindu religion and culture, as a religious symbol of elegance, speed, power, prosperity, and strength.
My great-grandmother was a strong matriarch; she was the bridge between the past and my world. She was well-traveled and was a patron in the education of many disadvantaged children in her hometown of Bengaluru.
As a young child (early 1900s), she was raised under the patronage of a queen who ensured she was taught to ride horses! My mom grew up on stories of powerful women of Indian royalty who fought on horseback. My grandfather is a well-respected equine veterinarian in India. It was no surprise that I grew to love horses!
What is your happiest or proudest moment as an equestrian?
I’ve had so many! Every time I push my boundaries, try something new, or achieve a new skill is a thrilling and very deeply satisfying experience!
Ever since I was young, I have always feared hitting the ground – not to be confused with a fear of falling or a fear of heights. I have neither. Trust fall exercises make me anxious. But interestingly, this fear does not translate to horses. Despite their massive size, I was never afraid of the moving mountain beneath me. Riding is exhilarating – I feel on top of the world!
As an apprentice at an Olympic Belgian eventing barn, I recently had the opportunity to have a jump lesson with a tough Olympic rider. I had so many reasons to chicken out of the lesson:
I had not jumped a horse in weeks; I had recently healed injuries to my foot and back from apprenticing; my most recent jumping attempt was on a very spooky, bolting, young thoroughbred, with a very aggressive trainer who left my confidence shaken; I would be riding an older schoolmaster I had only met last week; lessoning with a much more advanced peer; with jumps much higher than I had ever done before; there was even an angled jump I had never seen before!
I took the lesson and I’m proud of myself for taking the chance. I tried my best and learned so much, growing my own confidence in the process and giving myself my love of jumping back. I look forward to every moment in the saddle, and I’m proud of myself for pushing my comfort zone.
What challenges have you faced as an equestrian of color?
In the U.S., there is a lack of minority representation in all equestrian sports, but specifically in show jumping and eventing. Growing up, I never saw anyone who looked like me competing or even training and it was difficult for me to imagine doing the same.
It’s still awkward to be one of the only people of color at a barn, show, or event. Standing out can be good, but often it’s not easy nor comfortable. I seek to encourage more young minority athletes to venture into this sport, competitively or for pleasure.
What words of encouragement would you have for other equestrians of color or people of color considering becoming equestrians?
Horses are beautiful and can teach us so much about them, ourselves, and about life!
As an equestrian, I’ve learned to fall off and get right back in the saddle – a literal life lesson not to give up. My trainers have taught me that building trust is critical for high-quality team performance, and to pay attention to the details and timing of every hoof in the arena. My teammates, the horses, have helped me learn the importance of reading body language – to respond with calm respect to their fears, aches, and pains. Both have trained me to stay focused on our goal and be clear in my communication, as this gets the results we strive for.
For those of us who struggle to afford this sport, watching others lesson multiple times a week, own their own horses, and compete, can really sting. As an apprentice working long hours of tough physical labor caring for others’ horses, it’s difficult for me to accept that I will likely have to wait a decade and have to be well into my career before I can afford my own horse with little chance to show/compete until then.
But our love for horses will carry us forward, exploring every opportunity and learning all we can!! Without money, it can be difficult, but it is possible! Dream BIG and make it happen – no matter how different you are!
Horse Breed: Marwari
Horse Color: Black/Dark bay
Discipline: Aspiring Eventer
Favorite Treat to Give: Apples
Place to Ride: Trails
I am a traveling photographer based in Oakland County, Michigan. I love all types of photography, but specialize in equine and equestrians, weddings and events, horse racing photography and pets.
Having a lifelong love for photography and horses alike, I pride myself on capturing the special bond between horse and rider through a creative eye. I own 4 horses myself and live on a small, 5 acre hobby farm. My menagerie also includes dogs, cats, chickens, and quail.