How do you describe yourself as an equestrian?
I’m very dedicated, driven, passionate, and hard-working. I make sure I learn how to produce the best life for my horses, improving my horsemanship in any way.
Unlike most riders I look up to, I wasn’t born into riding. Throughout my childhood, I did a couple of small camps and lessons. When I was 10, I began riding lessons at a show barn, with whom I am still riding with 5 years later! At the age of 11, I started to become more serious.
Now as a hunter and equitation rider, I am traveling to A shows around the west coast. Throughout many years, I have spent countless, laborious hours at the barn, learning different techniques and skillsets. Even when I’m unable to be in the saddle, I always work to improve myself as an equestrian whether I’m researching, analyzing, or exercising. I strive to be very inclusive and friendly. At shows, I enjoy uplifting strangers by saying positive phrases such as “great ride” or “you are an amazing rider”.
What do you enjoy about being an equestrian of color?
As a person of color, I enjoy being unique in the crowd of equestrians. I understand how this could seem counterintuitive, but you don’t see a Taiwanese rider every day. This difference allows me to go out of my comfort zone, striving to become one of the best.
I see this diversity roadblock as a test of strength I must overcome. Being one of the few Taiwanese equestrians gives me a unique story. Most of the backgrounds you hear from big riders are about how they were born into it, competitively riding and showing at extremely young ages. I, however, am the first equestrian in my family. Therefore, I started competitively riding pretty late compared to the big riders. I hope my future and story can inspire more Asian equestrians to continue their passion, regardless of what society or family says.
What is your happiest or proudest moment as an equestrian?
Winning is always such a blast, but I have to say my happiest moments of being an equestrian is the excitement of having my horses arrive at the barn for the first time. It’s one of those feelings that makes you feel like you can do anything.
What challenges have you faced as an equestrian of color?
Luckily, I live in a pretty liberal area; therefore, I haven’t faced many racial discriminations yet. However, it’s tough being so passionate in a sport, only to see very few POC successors. It’s heartbreaking to look at all of these successful equestrians, and find no diversity.
This realization is extremely discouraging and diminishes my confidence. It creates the thought that it’s impossible, that the goals I’ve been striving so hard for are unreachable due to something I can’t control: my race. For hours, I would look for equestrians like me. Taiwanese riders, living the successful and competitive life I dream of, only to find one or two. It’s like hitting a giant, brick wall headfirst. I truly believe it’s very hard growing into a sport seeing those who are competing every week at big shows and getting top placings in every ride, who look nothing like you and have a background nothing like yours.
What words of encouragement would you have for other equestrians of color or people of color considering becoming equestrians?
It may seem like it’s impossible, but you can do it. Just because it hasn’t been accomplished, doesn’t mean it’s unattainable. I understand seeing the huge amounts of underrepresentation is more than discouraging, but you can be the first. You can be the one with the unique story. The one who people never thought could make it, but did.
It will be a long and treacherous road, I won’t lie. But you can succeed and become the rider you always wanted to be, no matter what challenges society throws on you. Be strong. Be the one who proves it’s possible, I know you can do it.
Horse breed- I don’t have an absolute favorite, but I’ve been drawn to Holsteiners.
Horse color- My favorite horse color has to be bay.
Discipline- Hunters and equitation.
Treat to give- I make my own homemade treats!
Place to ride- I’m not picky, but the favorite place I’ve been lucky enough to ride at is probably DIHP! (Desert International Horse Park)
Jeni Jo Photography is an equestrian portrait photographer based in Washington state