In summer 2020 we launched a 1st Annual $5,000+ Diversity Scholarship with the support of generous donors, inviting minority equestrians to contribute to the discussion of diversity and inclusion in equestrian sport. It is the mission of this annual bursary, which we intend to expand in coming years, to call for, encourage, elevate and give a platform to minority voices in a space where they are underrepresented.
How do we build a more diverse, inclusive and accessible sport? In the coming weeks we will explore this question alongside many of the 27 Scholarship recipients as they share with us their essays in full. Collectly, their perspectives coalesce into a body of work that will no doubt help inform a viable path forward for equestrian sport, and we are committed to connecting their actionable ideas with the public as well as leaders and stakeholders of the sport.
Today we welcome Malachi Hinton. More voices: Aki Joy Maruyama | Anastasia Curwood | Caden Barrera | Dana Bivens | Dawn Edgerton-Cameron | Deonte Sewell | Jordyn Hale | Jen Spencer | Julie Upshur | Katherine Un | Leilani Jackson | Madison Buening | Malachi Hinton | Mitike Mathews | Muhammad Shahroze Rehman
When this sphere of diversity and inclusion awareness began to sweep throughout our nation and consequently our equestrian community it brought out both a sea of overwhelming emotions and thankfulness from within me. I have felt at times that I have been a lone traveler, relying on an indescribable love for horses that pushed me to compete and persevere within the sport of showjumping. With the support of my mother and other members of the African American community I have been blessed with opportunities which allowed me to reach into this sport and instill this passion within my heart. So, every time that I ride past, present, and future I step forth knowing that I am not just doing this for me but also for all of those in my community who did not think it possible to see an African American girl not only riding on a horse, but striving to compete amongst the best.
At moments I have been so proud of the equestrian community, and at others I have felt utterly disappointed. Due to my skin color I have been mistreated, demeaned, and excluded by members of our equestrian community. Refused common kindness, spoken down to, singled out as merely only capable of the hard labor work that occurs behind the scenes, and even made to feel less than as a child when one person refused to share the same ring with me at one of my first local shows. In that instance as a 10-year -old child, I knew I steered very well and was respectful in the ring and therefore did not fully understand the implications of the person’s actions.
However, as I grew more knowledgeable and aware of my differences, these experiences weighed on me. And as many of my horse friends believe me to be stoic, unphased, and always with a smile, my mother saw the true pressures of my experiences. With every tearful night, she would express her belief that I have been put in this position for a purpose and with that I would wipe my eyes and stand tall once again. Therefore, for me to be the upcoming young rider that I am I could not have done it without my mother, supporters, and the many kind people within the
sport that have been blessed to have met.
All this is to say that I am so excited about the major step that our equestrian community is taking to include and care for everyone within our sport. Together we are standing up to injustices and I cannot be more overjoyed! This is a catalytic moment within our community in which everyone will be made to feel welcomed and appreciated and those who may not have been aware of others’ experiences can now have an insightful glimpse through the eyes of another.
As an up and coming African American rider, I would like to contribute not only to this discussion but also the action necessary to create change. This will enable more like me to not have to struggle with or experience such traumas as I have experienced within our equestrian community. This is a time for lasting change within our nation and the equestrian community will stand out as a leader in this movement! It begins with awareness and encouraging diverse conversations. Policy must be reviewed and reformed in an effort to make sure that as an equestrian community we are upholding the proper treatment and inclusion of all people regardless of their different ethnicities, races, or backgrounds.
Another step that I am so proud to already see taking place is awareness of the need for more opportunities within the horse industry. I believe in hard work; however there are challenges that may alter an individual’s opportunity to even learn about the equestrian world. More inclusive equestrian programs that enable diverse children and adults to learn about and engage in the equestrian world will open opportunity for those who may not have been granted such otherwise.
And as Nation Media and its many supporters have done by offering this scholarship, investing into the diverse group of people that lies within the equestrian community will make the world of difference. And for that I thank all those who genuinely stand for change and want to make a difference. You will make a difference that will positively impact generations to come!
Get Involved: It is heartbreaking to hear of Malachi’s childhood experiences of being mistreated, demeaned and excluded by members of the equestrian community due to her skin color. It’s up to us all to monitor both our own behavior and that of those around us, and to speak up when we see someone being treated unfairly. We should also never hesitate to report these individuals to authority figures. If you are a young rider who witnesses discriminatory or racist conduct in the barn, tell a parent, trainer or another adult. If you see it at a horse show, report it to a show official. Silence is compliance.
We are heartened by programs like SafeSport, a function of the IOC that is focused on ending all forms of abuse in sport through prevention, education and accountability. In addition to handling reports of sexual abuse and child abuse within the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Movements, the U.S. Center for SafeSport also accepts reports of emotional and physical misconduct (including bullying, hazing and harassment). SafeSport training is now mandatory for all USEF members, using a video-based online training program for coaches, staff and volunteers that addresses misconduct and provides an in-depth look at how to recognize, reduce and respond to abuse. We encourage all equestrians, whether USEF members or not, to complete this training.
We would like to see the SafeSport program expanded to more directly address issues of racism and discrimination. In addition, we would like to see members of Team USA and other top equestrians use their platforms to take a more vocal and actionable anti-racist stance. The Olympic Games are a very powerful global demonstration against racism; we thereby we believe that it is our team athletes’ obligation to set an example as strong allies and advocates for riders like Malachi, who represent a more vibrant, healthy, diverse and inclusive future for our sport.
Nation Media wishes to thank Barry and Cyndy Oliff, Katherine Coleman and Hannah Hawkins for their financial support of this Scholarship. We also wish to thank our readers for their support, both of this endeavor and in advance for all the important work still to come.