Emma Knight
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Emma Knight


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About Emma Knight

I’ve been riding for six years, started my college's small equestrian program, and share a lovable but fiery OTTB named Beau with my dad, Mark. We plan to take Beau to his first eventing competitions this summer!

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Diversity and Opportunities: Leg Up for Cleveland’s Kids

It’s easy to get trapped in the bubble of our own existence, and nothing makes us more excited than seeing the citizens of EN looking beyond themselves and stepping up to help make a real difference in the world. Emma Knight, an eventing enthusiast and student at John Carroll University in University Heights, Ohio, has undertaken an effort to share her passion for horses with at-risk youth in her community. It just goes to show that you never know what can happen when you take the time to care. 

Photo courtesy of LUCK.

In January 2018, Leslie Wylie wrote an Eventing Nation article called “Where Is the Diversity in Eventing?” It struck a chord with me, and I began to wonder what I could do about the issue as a white, broke college student. Most of the comments both in and around the article agreed that the major issues are financial status and urban settings.

Please bear with me as I write this, because I acknowledge that there are many well-off men and women of color that live in many areas. However, I decided to focus on those issues because they are real issues that face equestrian sport. Horses require quite a bit of money and space; many urban environments offer neither.

I started thinking about how we could bring diversity into the sport more. As everyone knows, the next generation is the future of any sport. I started focusing on kids, and what we could do to provide more opportunities. Kids means schools.

Photo courtesy of LUCK.

I’m lucky to attend John Carroll University, where service is an important part of education. So, I knew I could start a service club at JCU. I called it JCU’s Equine Opportunity, where urban kids and JCU students could work together with horses. I pulled inspiration from organizations like the Compton Jr. Posse in Los Angeles, City Ranch, Inc. in Baltimore, and the Fletcher Street Urban Riding Club in Philadelphia.

I wrote up a proposal and brought it to JCU. Imagine my surprise and delight when John Carroll told me that a similar program had already been started in Cleveland. With the blessing of the school to go out to the program about starting a JCU student service club to provide volunteers, I contacted LUCK.

Photo courtesy of LUCK.

Leg Up for Cleveland’s Kids, or LUCK (www.luck4kids.org), is a program that provides free instruction and transportation for urban kids in Cleveland to horse barns nearby. The area that LUCK runs in is primarily hunter-jumper, but you better believe I’ll be bringing a little eventing touch. It is not a therapeutic program, though the kids benefit from the calming effect horses have.

LUCK’s mission statement:

“Leg Up for Cleveland’s Kids, known as ‘LUCK,’ addresses multiple challenges facing Cleveland’s vulnerable youth. A shortage of extracurricular and career-readiness activities, coupled with a sustained environment of community trauma and strained relations between neighborhoods and authority figures, negatively impacts young people’s ability to create viable and sustaining futures.

“Through riding and caring for horses, program participants acquire valuable job-training and social-emotional skills that prepare them for success. A partnership with Cleveland’s Mounted Unit offers unprecedented collaboration and community engagement, while immersion in the equestrian industry allows Cleveland youth access to previously unreachable social capital and career pathways.”

Photo courtesy of LUCK.

When I reached out to LUCK, they were excited to have me. Not only could JCU students provide support, my website experience came in handy as LUCK had yet to build theirs (check it out at www.luck4kids.org). I’ll continue to provide publicity support as the organization grows.

In my planning meeting with co-founder and, ironically enough, JCU professor, Laura Hammel, I realized just how much impact LUCK can have. She told me about a girl who lost her sibling in a gun accident that coped with the trauma with “her” horse. She told me about a boy who rides every month and has the drive to continue riding as long as possible as he wants to become a mounted unit police officer. She told me about a girl who said, “If I could be around horses more, maybe I wouldn’t be so angry all the time.” The students that work with LUCK enjoy it and learn from it.

Photo courtesy of LUCK.

What started out as a push for diversity has transformed into something bigger. LUCK gives kids a chance to discover something new. To push themselves. To take care of another. To learn a trade. To make connections. These kids are strong, intelligent, and ready to thrive; they just need a Leg Up.

I have so many ideas swirling in my head about how to make LUCK better and how to reach more kids. We have a Friend-raiser coming up November 3 for potential donors and friends of the program to meet LUCK students and see what we do. If you’re interested in attending, please email [email protected].

Photo courtesy of LUCK.

The kids have loved the clinics and workshops that LUCK has provided so far (farrier, vet, braiding), and I’d love to have clinicians from different disciplines (eventing, dressage, western disciplines, etc.) come in to teach or demonstrate. They also enjoyed attending the Chagrin Hunter Jumper Classic and volunteering. If you would like to donate a clinic or workshop or have another idea LUCK kids would enjoy, please reach out!

Many thanks to LUCK for the good and important work it is doing, and to Emma for sharing her experience. Learn more about the program here

Safety Initiatives in U.S. Eventing

This post was originally published on Emma’s blog, OTTBs and Oxers.

Photo courtesy of ERA International.

With all of the back and forth on safety in eventing after the euthanization of Boyd Martin’s Crackerjack at Les Etoiles de Pau, Doug Payne’s Facebook post (a copy of the post by Denis Glaccum) has raised over $1,500 in donations to safety research after laying out the scope of safety efforts in relation to the fatality itself.

But what is the USEA already doing to research safety in eventing before a fall occurs?

In the comments of the post, one USEA member brought up the idea of transparency — how can the association members see what the board and committees see? I brought up the idea of an annual report — which already exists — but the fact that I didn’t even know about it shows that it is not enough in of itself.

Next, Rob Burk, the CEO of the USEA, was brought into the conversation. He linked a series of useful pages — which, again, I didn’t know existed. However, the information on the pages, while explained well, was wordy even to me, a nerdy college student with way too much time on her hands. Of course, I had to be extra and make the infographic I suggested myself.

So, I’ve done the work for you! Below is a series of graphics that pull out the main points from each report in an easy-to-understand way. Obviously, by doing it this way, you lose context and other factors, so I’ve also included the links to the pages themselves in case something strikes your attention.

I believe the USEA is doing a phenomenal job increasing safety in conjunction with the other national and international associations and governing bodies. Do we have a long way to go? Yes. But it’s important to see how far we’ve come and how much we are doing. Many people believe eventers live on the edge all the time (OK, maybe we do), but we also care. We give 110% to make this sport better every, single day.

I hope you find this useful and learn something new!

If you feel inclined to donate to the USEA, there is a donate button at the bottom of Doug’s post.

If you would like to download a PDF version of this infographic, click HERE.

(The links won’t work in the picture, so I’ve copied them below.)


Other Good Links:

If you spot a mistake or would like to speak with me about this topic, email me at [email protected]. Thanks for reading!

Go Eventing!

Finding the Balance

Practicing our jumping. Photo by VR Photography. Practicing our jumping. Photo by VR Photography.

Having goals is important. Whether it’s to someday ride in Rolex at the four-star level or to finally perfect that walk to canter transition, goals keep us focused. But when do goals stop being goals and start being obsession?

Inevitably, sometime during your horse career, you will meet someone who simply has horses to compete. What a sad horse life that is! One of the things that sticks in my brain about the horse world is that there are two types of horse people: those who care for their horses first, and those who ride and hand off their horse to a groom, not to be seen again until the next ride. I’m not talking about the upper level riders who have too many horses to handle without a team, I’m talking about the people who think they are doing the horse a favor by riding it. Any horse that allows you to ride, especially ride well, has done you an incredible privilege.

I have two dueling goals for my horse always in my brain. The first is to compete, hopefully successfully, starting at Starter and moving up from there. This is, to most eventers, an obvious goal. We love to compete, and we sure as heck love to show off our horses! The second goal is just as important, but more often overlooked. That is to just enjoy my horse.

You may think, “But can’t we enjoy our horses while working towards our competitive goal?” The unsatisfying answer is, “Kind of.” We enjoy our horses when they do something incredible, when they nail that leg yield, or transition, or take off from just the right spot. We praise them and tell them we love them and that they’re the most incredible horse on the planet (because every horse lover thinks their own horse is the best!)

My goal to enjoy my horse is bigger than that. Beau is a 12-year-old, off-the-track Thoroughbred gelding, and he has had a long, hard life. I want to enjoy just being with him, turning him out, hanging out in his stall, brushing him to a shiny glow. But I board him half an hour away, and I can’t always do that. So my goal is a little more difficult than I thought.

Beau relaxing in the field with his buddy Magic. Photo by Emma Knight.

Beau relaxing in the field with his buddy Magic. Photo by Emma Knight.

Instead, I have to plan to balance my visits to my handsome boy. Enough rides to keep both of us in shape and advancing to our competitive goals, but remembering to take time to just enjoy his company. One of my favorite ways to do this is to ride bareback. Something about a bareback ride is just so connective, so bonding. It’s a fun way to love on your horse!

Finding the balance means working towards your competitive goals, always trying to move forward. It means long hours practicing, long hours training. But it also means relaxing. It means taking the time to tell your horse you love him when he’s just being a normal horse, too. It means creating that bond that will ultimately make it easier and better to compete. It means having fun!

So, remember to hug your horse. Remember to love on him or her, because even if they haven’t done something great to work towards your competitive goals, every moment spent with you is a moment more of bonding. Every moment is more of their company to enjoy. Finding the balance may not be easy, but it is oh so worth it!

Go Riding!

About Emma: I’ve been riding for six years, started my college’s small equestrian club, and share a lovable but fiery OTTB named Beau with my dad, Mark. We plan to take Beau to his first eventing competitions this summer! Horsey Instagram: @knight.eventing

An Open Letter From a Young Rider to Adult Amateurs

Emma's father, Mark Knight, teaching her and their shared horse Beau. Photo courtesy of Emma Knight.  Emma's father, Mark Knight, teaching her and their shared horse Beau. Photo courtesy of Emma Knight.

To the adult amateur riders in our equestrian community:

I think as a young rider (I’m 18), I often forget to thank the older, wiser riders in my life. So many people have inspired me and given me the confidence to get to where I am now. Of course, there are trainers and coaches and barn moms and friends (maybe they’ll get their own articles someday!). They all play a part. Yet I think the most underrated influences are the adult riders who inspire me on a daily basis.

As someone who has just started college, I’m thinking more and more about the role horses will have in my life. I love riding, caring for, and just being around my equine counterparts. But the logical and reasoning part of my brain has a different opinion.

There’s a reason the saying goes, “To earn a million dollars in the equestrian world, you have to start with two!” As a (shockingly) non-millionaire, this is something that is important to think about. I have to find a career that I love that can allow me to at least hope for the continuation of my love of the equine community.

My barn at home is full of adult amateur riders, and I wouldn’t have it any other way! The friends my age that I have made are awesome for being silly and having fun, but the adults who are always there add that extra spark to the barn that makes it such a great place.

Not only do we have the best manager and coaches, the adults, both boarders and lesson riders, are always willing to give some advice or help out when needed. I know I’ve had my fair share of problems and rough days, and there are some people that are always there for me. And when was the last time I thanked them? I mean, really thanked them.

The people that continually inspire me, time after time, are the people that make it work. These are the people who don’t ride professionally, who don’t have two million bucks to spend; these are the extra shift takers, who deal with that extra stress to afford the lessons they need or that piece of tack that just make all the difference; these are the people who get up on Saturday morning to muck stalls to help with board; these are the people who would rather pay for the vet bill than fix their cars; these are the people work every bit as hard as the professional rider with half the recognition; these are the people that will take in that rescue horse because they can’t bear to let it suffer anymore, even when it means funds might be stretched tight for a while; these are the people that volunteer for early show mornings to help out with anything they can, as much as they can.

These are the people that take chances. These are the people who will risk it all for love of their sport.

So, to you, these people, the adult amateur riders of the equestrian world, I thank you. Thank you for working hard. Thank you for making it work. Thank you for giving me the hope I need to continue reaching for my goals. Without you, our community would miss out on a whole lot of great people, fine horses, and a ridiculous amount of hope. I think I can speak for the whole community when I say that we are so blessed and grateful to have you.

About Emma: I’ve been riding for six years, plan to start my college’s first equestrian club, and share a lovable but fiery OTTB named Beau with my dad, Mark. We plan to take Beau to his first eventing competitions next summer!