How do you describe yourself as an equestrian?
I describe myself as an adult beginner. I’ve always loved horses but I didn’t have any knowledge of commercial barns, horse lessons, or the accessibility of English style riding.
About a year ago during the first stages of quarantine I started researching riding lessons. Ever since lesson one I’ve been absolutely entranced by the equestrian sports.
At this stage of my training I’m not sure where exactly I plan on going within the equestrian community, but I do know that I’m so blessed and excited to learn everything I can about caring for horses as well as proper riding and training techniques.
How has your culture influenced your equestrian lifestyle?
I’ve always been a minority no matter where I go or what I choose to do; I’m multi-racial (Black/White/Native) and I’m gay. I’ve kind of learned to own it. I’m just excited to bring a different perspective to the equestrian community. Ready to share my story with other adult beginners, especially ones of color, as well as with children who might have an interest in horses. To share my experience of healing through horses.
Growing up, I never thought riding lessons or working with horses to be an attainable goal. It feels amazing to now be achieving my smaller goals and taking the steps toward achieving my ultimate goals of training horses of my own, at my own horse property.
What challenges have you faced as an equestrian of color?
I think the biggest challenge that I’ve faced as an equestrian of color so far, was working up the courage to take the first step and pursue show jumping. I didn’t know if I’d be able to find a barn that I would fit in at, or a trainer that would take me seriously.
I’m a 32-year-old man pursuing BEGINNER riding lessons. Adding in the fact that I’m brown made me think that I would stand out and be judged in a negative way. Having these negative thoughts at the back of my head has really hindered me in the past from pursuing things that I would have liked to try.
I’ve just had to accept that I didn’t start when I was young and a lot of the younger people at the barn have been riding much longer and can jump full courses while I’m at the cross poles and still perfecting my seat.
Luckily, so far my fears have been unfounded and the riders and trainers at the barn have been extremely welcoming. Now my confidence is so high that it wouldn’t matter to me if anyone had anything negative to say about my riding and my trainer assures me that my riding is where it needs to be.
What words of encouragement would you have for other equestrians of color or people of color considering becoming equestrians?
I would tell anyone with an interest in equestrian sports to “do it.” Don’t let your fears talk you out of giving it a try.
Horses have a way of bringing peace and calm to me; they have been the best source of therapy to combat instabilities in my mental health. So I would definitely encourage anyone struggling with their mental health, self-esteem, or confidence issues to give it a try.
Rachel Griffin is a wholly obsessed horse-nerd-turned-photographer based in Oklahoma. She’s on a mission to help devoted equestrians feel confident and comfortable in portraits with their heart horses—because that partnership too important to let nerves or worries get in the way of celebrating it.