Badminton Media Director, EN Editor to Represent Eventing at TIEC Diversity Seminar

Abdelkebir Ouaddar of Morocco aboard Quickly de Kreisker at the 2016 Summer Olympics. Photo by Tasnim News Agency.

While black athletes have made huge inroads into many traditionally white-dominated sports in recent decades, equestrian sport has remained woefully out of step with that trend. The 2019 Tom Bass Seminar will examine issues related to diversity in the equestrian industry, as part of the 2nd Annual Day of the African Equestrian (#DOTAE2019).

The seminar will take place Saturday, Oct. 19 at Tryon International Equestrian Center as an adjunct to the Tryon Fall IV Horse Show. The seminar is presented free to the public by The AFRICAN CONNECTIONS Research and Education Fund, Inc. in association with SportsQuest International, LLC.

Panelists confirmed for the 2019 Tom Bass Seminar include: Julian Hyde, representing the Equestrian Federation of Jamaica; Stanford Moore, Publisher of Black Reins Magazine; Julian Seaman, Media Director of the Badminton Horse Trials; Hillary Tucker, Equine Services Specialist & Territory Sales Manager at McCauley Brothers, an Alltech company; and Nation Media, LLC editor Leslie Wylie (re-read her essay, “Where Is the Diversity in Eventing?“). The seminar will be moderated by Melvin H. Cox, Managing Director of SportsQuest International, LLC and a Lecturer at the University of California, Santa Cruz.

The seminar’s namesake is an homage to legendary American Saddlebred trainer Tom Bass (1859 – 1934), who was born a slave in Missouri. After the Civil War he found work as a stable boy and eventually became a world champion competitor, esteemed trainer and founder of the American Royal Horse Show in Kansas City. For many years he was the only African-American permitted to compete at the American Royal. He invented the Tom Bass bit, a benchmark for humane bitting that is still in use today, and performed for five different U.S. presidents. His clients included  included President Roosevelt, Buffalo Bill Cody, Anheuser-Busch executives Adolphus and August Busch, and Will Rogers.

Tom Bass riding his famous Saddlebred mare Belle Beach. Photo via Wikimedia Commons.

Topics to be explored by panelists include:

  • Demystifying horse sport – not for rich kids only!
  • Developing broad-based community support for equestrian activities at all levels
  • Leveraging new and traditional media in horse focused education and promotion
  • Making horses ‘legit’ again in lower and middle income communities
  • Identifying and promoting heirs to the popular equine icons of yesteryear
  • Incorporating the rich equestrian heritages of non-white, non-European communities into our shared equestrian narrative

A major challenge for an Olympic sport that promotes itself as being truly global and fully inclusive is a conspicuous lack of people of color. People of color are underrepresented in the ranks of riders, owners, trainers, breeders, veterinarians, farriers, nutritionists, sponsors, spectators and members of the equestrian media. Conversely, there is an overrepresentation as grooms, nannies, hot walkers and stable workers.

The economics of the $50 billion U.S. horse industry offer opportunity to minority youth and entrepreneurs, but there are significant obstacles to be overcome. The solution proposed by #DOTAE2019 Co-Chair Melvin Cox and others targets a more equitable distribution of the scholarships, internships, jobs, contracts, investment opportunities and profits associated with the global horse business.

Cox says interest in equestrian sports could explode across all socioeconomic strata but noted, “The outreach to new market segments will have to be done correctly — from a position of true humility and respect, and not from one of blatant arrogance.” (Read his guest editorial, “No Room for Bigotry, “on EN’s sister site Horse Nation.)

The 2019 Tom Bass Seminar will take place on Saturday, Oct. 19 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the Sky Deck overlooking the main arena at TIEC. An evening gala will follow at Harambee Farm in the Green Creek Township to honor equestrians of African ancestry active in national and international level pursuits since 1975. Guests at the evening soirée will enjoy food inspired by the cuisines of North Africa and the Americas prepared by chefs from the Hare and Hound Pub in Landrum. The Seminar is free; gala tickets may be purchased here.

#DOTAE2019 will benefit educational programs administered by The AFRICAN CONNECTIONS Research and Education Fund, Inc. View more event details at the website here.