How do you describe yourself as an equestrian?
I see myself as a perpetual student of the horse, other equestrians, and equine professionals. I try to always have an open mind and ask questions – because what I think I know today may be limited in scope. I need tomorrow’s knowledge to understand the art of being an equestrian. Gratefully, I have a large community of support!
What role do horses currently play in your life?
I am certified in equine massage and bodywork, mentor incoming bodywork students, and started a business, Copper Equine Bodyworks in November 2021. (Copper is required for melanin production and a nod to one certain, handsome horse.)
I also volunteer with an equine-assisted therapy program, take riding lessons (ideally once a week, but sometimes that doesn’t work!), and spend time with my horse! And on my days off (giggles)… try to learn something new and try to not talk about horses to non-horse people.
How has your culture influenced your equestrian lifestyle?
I had a hard time answering this. I read it multiple times. Closed my computer, looked up the exact definition of equestrian…and of culture.
My history is my culture. I am mixed, born to two teenage parents. I was raised by my mother’s side of the family; my great grandma was German, and my mom is of Scottish/English/Swedish descent while my dad is Black, descended from slaves from the Nigerian/Ivory Coast. I was the only POC (person of color) in my grade school classes but never thought about it until I went to a public high school. I often felt out of place.
Someone very inspirational to me described thinking about “self” – who you are and who you are meant to be – as a solid line. As you age, gain experience, make mistakes…live, you stray from that line. Sometimes up or down, but when you return to the line of self, everything is right. For me, my culture/history created some interesting patterns on my line of self, but everything with horses is a return to the center.
What challenges have you faced as an equestrian of color?
This is not singular to being a POC, but it is also a socioeconomic status challenge. Just having the opportunity to be around a horse (that wasn’t at a county fair) was difficult. Being able to be near horses, let alone ride, and ride on a regular basis, didn’t seem realistic. I waited until I was an adult. My daughter wanted to learn how to ride and I thought I was over my “horse obsession” until her lessons started…hearty chuckle here.
What is your happiest moment as an equestrian?
When my horse Dusty and I are together on a ride at the end of a day, with no set plan. When we are in sync about where to go next. When he waits for me to reach and pull branches (to swat bugs) and then tolerates me getting sap stuck on everything. When we move into a trot (or more) when my branch-bug swatter isn’t a great idea, and the bugs are still bad. When he trusts my intentions and never holds me to my mistakes.
What words of encouragement would you have for other equestrians of color or people of color considering becoming equestrians?
Be brave. There are so many things that POC are hesitant to do because of limited representation. If you are an equestrian of color, know that someone may be willing to try just because they saw you.
If you are considering becoming an equestrian? Silence any inner voices that tell you “can’t”. You absolutely can and you should!
Erin Beckett is a photographer and filmmaker located near Milwaukee, Wisconsin. She believes that by sharing stories of diversity, we can start much needed conversations about race, equality, and why representation matters.