I wanted to start off this morning with a little anecdote about diversity. I am a Korean adoptee who came to the U.S. when I was three months old after I was given up for adoption. I grew up in the well-off suburbs of St. Louis, Missouri in a predominantly white, Jewish area. I went to a predominantly white high school where most people of color were either bussed in from the city or flown in from overseas for exchange programs. I grew up positively loathing my Asian-ness. I was endlessly ridiculed for my eye shape. My white boyfriend dealt with constant mockery of the “nasty ch*nk” he was dating.
And in truth, I didn’t have it that bad. I saw kids in the halls each day who were much worse off than I, who looked more haunted than I felt. I still remember them now and I wish I would have done more to help them and stop the bullying.
Yet, I felt solace at the barn. At the barn, it didn’t matter what I looked like, where I came from, or who I was. I found friends (in fact, they left such an impact on me that I wrote about them two decades later), and I found myself. I felt included.
This is not the problem with our sport.
It is undoubtedly true that many riders of color may feel similarly when they reflect on how horses and the barn have made them feel. It’s true that most barns feel like families, which is why many find themselves bewildered at the state of the world now, wondering how so many could possibly feel so excluded.
The issue is this: when I was 13 and had a school project due, I wanted to illustrate my love for horses. I held onto this daydream that perhaps my birth mother was a famous Korean equestrian, and perhaps that was where my horse bug had come from. So I searched on the beginnings of the internet for an Asian woman wearing riding clothes. Pages and pages and pages…and the closest I could find was a brunette woman with narrow eyes. I printed the photo and pasted it onto my poster, squinting to figure out if she could pass as Asian. From that moment on, I tore through every Dover catalog that came into my mailbox, looking for one person who looked like me. One person who I could hang up on my wall and say, “I want to be like her.“
This is the problem with our sport.
Or, at least it’s the problem with diversity in our sport. It’s true that many people of color feel included — once they’re in the sport. But from the outside looking in? Have you ever been to a party full of people you don’t know? If you’re anything like me, you feel some trepidation before you open the door. You feel like a sore thumb sticking out. Once you’re in and you’re comfortable, it may feel better. But taking that first step and opening the door? That’s hard when no one is inviting you in.
I myself am guilty of not shedding enough light on more voices of color within our sport, and I’m undertaking a new intention to change this. I don’t want any other kids flipping through magazines or Instagram feeds and seeing no one that looks like them. I don’t want any other kids to feel they can’t get into something because they don’t see themselves represented. This will take an industry-wide change that involves brands, media outlets, and governing bodies. This is one small way in which we can effect change.
National Holiday: Today is National Eat Your Vegetables Day. We won’t tell anyone if you feed yours to your horse.
Nonprofit Spotlight: Literacy is a huge part of a young person’s education, and grabbing interest in reading early on can open doors for ideas and imaginations to thrive. Saddle Up and Read is a nonprofit organization dedicated to encouraging youth to “achieve literary excellence through equine activities”. Based in Wendell, North Carolina, Saddle Up and Read has also created a library full of books featuring Black equestrians. You can get involved, donate, or contribute to the group’s Amazon Wish List here.
“I didn’t think Black or Asian people rode horses.” It’s a sentiment reflected on by Horse & Hound writer Eleanor Jones in a new think piece on the barriers to ethnic diversity in equestrian sports. How do we go about changing this notion that only a white majority participates in these sports? Take a look at Eleanor’s dive into the horse community and what can be done to effect change.
This may have been posted in a News & Notes before, but I feel it’s worth another read. I know I learned a lot from this, and it’s important to understand the big picture of what we’re working with and where we need to go from here. Read this breakdown of how diversity and inclusion differ, and why they’re so important, here.
As we return to competition in some areas, volunteers remain an integral part of every event’s success. But there’s a new normal in place for volunteers and competitors alike to adhere to. Take a look at how volunteers are adapting here.
Spanish dressage rider Juan Matute Guimon is awake and talking again following brain surgery last month. Juan collapsed with a brain hemorrhage and has had two surgeries since.
Seattle Slew trainer Billy Turner, a racing legend and oldest living Triple Crown trainer, has had an accident and a GoFundMe has been started to assist with medical bills. Billy was at Ocala Jockey Club International last November for the prize-giving of the Seattle Slew Award, and is much beloved by the equestrian community. Can you help? [Donate Now]
Wednesday Video Break:
Financial literacy matters when it comes to maintaining an equestrian lifestyle. Managing money isn’t fun or sexy, but it is important — and it doesn’t have to be difficult or stressful! I stumbled upon this excellent podcast episode from Young Black Equestrians featuring money educator Jasmine Browne. Learn about things such as credit, budgeting, and misconceptions surrounding financing horses:
Ecovet is an entirely different type of fly spray … and you apply it to your horse in a different way, too. With fly season upon us, we’re sharing some tips for how to best apply Ecovet: