How do you describe yourself as an equestrian?
I am a mixed-race (Nepali & white American) show jumper that has been obsessed with horses for my entire life.
I find every aspect of riding fascinating—the competitive nature of the sport, the connection that horse and rider must have to be successful, the countless hours of training, and the care of the horses. While my path to competing at the top level of the sport has been different from many of my peers, I am dedicated to achieving excellence in my riding.
I am a serious competitor, but I am also: a groom, a crazy horse girl, a follower of top show jumping, a researcher of top jumping horses and breeding lines, and a student seeking a deeper knowledge of both riding and horsemanship. Currently, I compete in the High Junior Jumpers (1.40m). In the future, I plan to become a professional rider and to compete frequently in international shows. I hope to develop my own group of Grand Prix horses and to represent the United States Equestrian Team.
How did you get involved with horses?
Since I was two years old, all I’ve ever talked about is horses. My mom tried to introduce me to just about every other hobby—soccer, ballet, swimming—but all I wanted to do was ride horses! I took my first lesson when I was almost three and I fell in love. Since then, riding has been the most important part of my life.
As my riding has evolved from a hobby to a passion/future career, horses have taken on a new role in my life. While they have always brought me immense joy, now that I am riding and competing more seriously, horses have become more like teammates to me. I have come to rely on them and to constantly try to improve myself so that they can rely on me too. When on course, it’s up to both the horse and rider to perform, and I have learned the importance of working together with the horses to achieve a common goal. I think it’s important to recognize how much horses do for us riders, and to truly appreciate them for their kind and forgiving nature.
What do you enjoy about being an equestrian of color?
As an equestrian of color competing at a high level, I feel that I am able to set an example for other young minority riders. When I was growing up and first starting to compete, I never had anyone to look up to that looked like me. I think that my results and level of riding can show other people of color that want to become equestrians that they can be successful in the sport. I also like that I am able to bring my own perspective to the sport, and potentially bring changes that wouldn’t have been thought of before because of a lack of diverse points of view.
What is your happiest or proudest moment as an equestrian?
Rather than one specific moment, I am proud of my entire journey as an equestrian and all of the ups and downs that have brought me to where I am today. Starting out in a local lesson barn, I never would have imagined myself competing at some of the largest shows in the nation.
I am proud of my commitment to horsemanship and the sport and I feel that my passion for horses is apparent in my riding and horsemanship. (I take complete care of my horses, even while competing at some of the largest and most competitive events in the nation.) Riding makes me happy, no matter what kind of day I’m having, and I am both proud and grateful to have the opportunity to ride such incredible horses every day.
What challenges have you faced as an equestrian of color?
As an equestrian of color, I am constantly confronted with the differences between myself and the majority of riders. Aside from differences in appearance, cultural differences have made it somewhat difficult for me to connect with other riders.
With an immigrant father, the importance of a strong work ethic has been impressed upon me from a young age. Therefore, I have always been responsible for all of the riding and care of my horses. This practice is occasionally frowned upon in the hunter/jumper world and my work in the barn has limited the time that I can spend socializing with my peers. Additionally, there is little understanding of equestrian sport in Nepal, so it has been somewhat difficult to gain some of my family members’ support of my riding.
What words of encouragement would you have for other equestrians of color or people of color considering becoming equestrians?
I think that it is incredibly important for equestrians of color to pursue their passion and not to feel that their color will prevent them from achieving their goals. As a community, all equestrians must work together to create an environment in which all athletes have equal opportunity for success, regardless of race. I think that every equestrian of color should know that they are fully capable of achieving greatness in riding and that they should shoot for the stars!
Equestrians of color should dream big and use the opportunities they are given to demonstrate their dedication and passion for horses and riding, with the understanding that the more young people of color see equestrians that look like them experience success, the more diverse the sport will become.
If a person of color is considering becoming an equestrian, they should go for it! Horses bring out the best in people and riding can be an incredible way to meet new people from all sorts of backgrounds—not only riders, but trainers, grooms, vets, and so many more types of people—and to learn about yourself.
Jill Brammer is a Florida based equine and canine photographer specializing in capturing the relationship between these wonderful animals, those who love them and the life they enjoy together.