How would you describe yourself as an equestrian?
Empowered. Riding taught me how to use my voice. I was talkative, but not assertive.
Confident. Riding helped me manage my anxiety.
Focused. I am always ready for ‘what’s next?’ The next show, the next higher jump, anything new.
Competitive. I love to show and that helps me to find areas to challenge myself to improve.
Well rounded. I am an English girl at heart, but I also ride western.
What role do horses currently play in your life?
I am in my happy place when I am with horses. I love all horses and I am always eager to ride a different one. Horses help keep me grounded and help to ease my anxiety. I am at peace with them, whether I am doing groundwork, on a jump course, or on a trail ride.
How has your culture influenced your equestrian lifestyle?
My African American culture puts me in a position to be a role model. With that in mind, I do my best to always smile and remain positive when tough moments arise. I have learned that those who look like me watch me very closely at shows. I always take the time to take special care of my horses and bond with them so that I am able to do all things related to horsemanship without assistance or much guidance.
What is your happiest or proudest moment as an equestrian?
My happiest and proudest moment as an equestrian was becoming a horse owner. I have a beautiful teenage mare and a wonderful baby gelding. Being able to call them my own has been an absolute dream come true. I have learned so many things and had so many wonderful experiences being a horse owner.
What challenges have you faced as an Equestrian of Color?
I feel like having so few African American hunter/jumper role models is a challenge. The lack of diversity and representation at the shows I attend is difficult because I feel like I am looked at and questioned differently. It makes me question if I belong. People are often shocked and surprised when I say that I am an equestrian and getting them to believe me can be tough.
What would you like people to know about your experiences as an equestrian of color?
As an equestrian of color, I have been blessed to be aligned with trainers who pushed me to reach my goals. Trainers who referred me to other barns when theirs was no longer suitable to my needs and aspirations. Trainers who helped to impart knowledge upon me. Trainers who have aligned me with organizations so that I can tell my story and encourage diversity. As an equestrian of color, my path has been a blessing because of the people on it.
What words of encouragement would you have for other Equestrians of Color or people of color considering becoming an equestrian?
Go for it!
Riding changed my life. I am a better all-around person since I found my passion. Riding is my happy place and I truly think that the magic in it can and will impact every person who rides.
Find a barn where you feel comfortable and align yourself with someone at the barn who knows your goals and who will support you while you grow. Try it, you might like (love) it!
Jessica Lian Photography is an equine portrait photographer based in New Mexico. Using natural light to showcase the connections between horses and riders is paramount to JLP’s photography. When Jessica isn’t photographing equestrians (or playing with her son and working horses), she is writing her masters which focuses on equity in how POC are portrayed in informal science institutions.