Christopher Ferralez: ‘Minorities Can Be a Positive and Powerful Voice Within Our Industry’

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 Christopher Ferralez. 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

Christopher Ferralez in a Grand Prix with his horse Cubscout BG. Photo by Andrew Ryback Photography.

Within this ever changing world it is beautiful to see that the topic of diversity is at the forefront within our equestrian community. I am a 35-year-old Latino Amateur Equestrian who primarily shows in the jumper ring. I have been riding since I was the young age of three, spending my summers with my grandparents in Puerto Rico on their farm. And that is where my love of horses was instilled within me. My grandfather taught me that nothing was ever going to be handed to you and that whatever you wanted in this world had to be earned. I come from very humble beginnings where I was raised by an amazing and hard working single mother that would work two jobs just to make sure I never went without. She would send me to live out my summers in Puerto Rico with my grandparents just so that she was able to work more. 

As a child I was very involved in sports. I dabbled in riding here and there but I was very involved in figure skating. My mom sat me down at a very early age and told me that she was unable to allow me to participate in both riding and figure skating and that I needed to choose one or the other. I knew that I could always come back to riding later on in life but that figure skating was an age related sport. Be that as it may I was heartbroken mainly because I just loved the bond with horses. 

In my mid-20s I was fortunate enough to return casually back into the equestrian world. I have now been riding competitively for roughly 10 years with Janet and Ryan Sassmannshausen of Kinvarra Farm and have felt nothing less than a warm and kind embrace from everyone within our sport. I have worked in a lot of aspects within the equestrian world. From managing a tack shop, to being a sponsorship coordinator, to even starting a horse investment company called Arkham Investments LLC I’ve worn many hats within our industry. 

Arkham Investments LLC was started with my best friend and trainer Ryan Sassmannshausen, and what a journey it has been. We travel all over looking for prospects to be a part of our program. We’ve expanded into breeding and it is so rewarding watching the journey from the very beginning to the day they graduate from our sales program. Arkham’s future is looking bright with the addition of our 2020 foals. 

I have met some amazing people within our equestrian industry and find that being Latino is a very valuable asset. I am fluent in both English and Spanish and I feel that I am more relatable and personable to some of our industry’s amazing staff that only speak Spanish. I think this Scholarship is such an amazing opportunity to minorities such as myself that can be a positive and powerful voice within our industry. With this platform I could be a great mentor to other minorities. My goal would be to use the allocated funds towards continuing in competition in hopes to inspire and guide others that are not traditionally represented. I would be very grateful if this scholarship was bestowed upon me and promise to put it to great use. 

Get Involved: Christopher talks about how being fluent in both English and Spanish languages has been an asset to him in the industry — amen! With Hispanics and Latinos dominating the equine industry workforce and rising in representation among riders, trainers, owners and other key stakeholders as well, learning Spanish can be rewarding not only for improving communication but also in demonstrating respect and appreciation for cultures that are different than our own. 

The Ultimate English/Spanish Dictionary for Horsemen” is a great primer for breaking through language barriers in the equestrian world. Written specifically for horse people, the dictionary covers topics and words that regular English-Spanish dictionaries might not. For example, horse health care, feeding, grooming, tack and equipment and breeding terms are part of the more than 10,000 topically grouped word and phrase entries commonly used in the horse industry. Additional features include a points of the horse illustration labeled in both Spanish and English, regional variations and a pronunciation guide. These days there are also language learning apps like Babbel that can help us develop a more comprehensive grasp of a second language, in addition to tools like Google Translate.

Increasingly, the world is becoming a global village comprised of various ethnicities and cultures, all merging to make the collective fabric of our lives more vibrant and unique. Let’s embrace our differences as well as the unifying power of our love for the horse to make our equestrian community feel like a safe and welcoming space for all. 

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.