Hope this post finds you well and that your year is starting off right. As you may know already, Together, We Ride! is Ethos Equestrian's motto. And for me, it truly means we are in this together. I have found in my own life that working together and having the support of others has created positive and powerful experiences that I cherish.
On that note, Being an equestrian and spending as much time as I can at the barn, I have met so many wonderful, truly incredible people who have really made a huge impact on my life. I am so grateful. So I decided it would be nice to do a blog, and share the beauty and experiences of my fellow equestrians and horse lovers. I love learning and believe that hearing about others experiences helps us all stay connected and supportive. Hope you enjoy.
Thanks for being here. xx Stef
Well, here we go, And welcome to the first post of Together, We Ride!
Representation and why it matters.
Meet my friend and fellow equestrian Chantel. Chantel and I both ride at the same barn in Los Angeles. She is a beautiful and talented rider, truly one of the kindest and warmest people you will ever meet. We have had some great talks about the importance of equality and inclusion. I thought it might a great time for Chantel to share some of her experiences being black within the equestrian community. So, I asked her a couple questions.
What has it been like not being represented in the world of equestrian sports?
How has this lack of representation impacted you?
My name is Chantel, I identify as a multiracial female whose Black and Western European heritage has significantly impacted the experiences and opportunities I’ve had throughout my life. I have been a lifelong animal lover, who became captivated by the art, athleticism, and beauty of equine sports in my early adolescence. Over the years, that horse-girl bug has led me to compete in local Hunter shows, be a proud member of my alma mater’s equestrian team, and find any excuse to spend the day at the barn.
As some of you may recognize, falling in love with horses is extremely easy; however, feeling at home in this unique world may be a bit more challenging. As a young girl, I searched for individuals who I could look up to within the Los Angeles equestrian community, as well as when I enthusiastically watched broadcasts of Grand Prix and Three-Day Eventing. In doing so, it quickly became apparent that there were very few riders who shared my complexion, had bodies that resembled mine, or seemed to come from the type of household that I was growing up in.
As I cannot hide or change who I am, nor do I want to, there have been instances where I’ve questioned if there is a place for someone like myself in the world of equestrian sports. I live in one of the most diverse cities in the United States, but more often than not, I’ve felt out of place in a community where individuals with Black heritage are not adequately represented. How many millennial riders grew up watching The Saddle Club and were glued to the television during Olympic equestrian events? I could picture myself as Carole’s character in the short-lived teen drama, but I never saw a Black rider represent the United States in any of our Olympic games. In a sport where riders are too often judged by their access to resources, and their ability to fit the mold of what an equestrian has looked like for centuries, this lack of representation perpetuates elitism.
Being Black and being different in the equestrian community is daunting. Although I have not experienced overt racism within our community and have found a barn that celebrates its diverse group of riders, it is difficult to overlook micro aggressions and the limited representation of Black riders within the sport. It saddens me knowing that the joys of horseback riding are not accessible to young men and women who could benefit greatly from the lessons that our horses continually teach us.
With the increase of social media, I now have the ability to see equestrians who do look like me and celebrate their achievements from afar. Even so, I still seem to be one of the few Black riders at my own barn and, oftentimes, one of only a handful of Black individuals represented at the shows I attend. How can Black riders, and those entertaining the idea of becoming an equestrian, believe they will find an inclusive and supportive home in this sport, if they do not see themselves represented in our communities? Similarly, how are they to trust that this highly competitive world will be free from prejudice and discrimination?
I do not wish to give the impression that my experience as an equestrian will have been identical to that of another member of the Black community. I do; however, hope that in sharing a part of myself, we may begin a conversation about the need for inclusivity of Black equestrians in our communities, as well as the need for the representation of Black equestrians throughout all levels of our sport. In a society where being Black inherently comes with a multitude of challenges, I wish more Black men and women had the opportunity to seek refuge in the world of horseback riding.