BY KATARINA OSTROV
Work hard. Dream big. Reach for the stars. As long as you dream big you’ll make it… right? In the expensive and competitive equestrian world, the chance of making it big or turning pro is very slim.
I’ve been riding since I was nine, and absolutely love this sport. I do nothing but dream of going pro and making it big as a professional athlete. But over the years, I’ve come to realize that it feels like the more money you have, the further you’ll go in this sport and the better you’ll be.
Everyone knows money does not buy talent. I know that, you know that, even non athletes know that. But in the equestrian world, you know what money buys you? Lessons. Lots and lots of lessons. With lots of money you get more lessons, the ability to hire better, more experienced trainers. Plus, let’s not forget the most important factor—the horse! Let’s be realistic and honest here, the more money you have, the further you’re likely to go in this sport.
It’s been hard for me to understand as I’ve grown up. The girls at the barn with more money always seemed to be better than me. Being a super competitive person, it is hard to accept that your life passion and what you want to be the absolute best at is severely limited by finances. Even though I know that I am very fortunate for what I have and what my parents give me.
The sport is not accessible to all, that’s for sure. Although there are no easy answers, the equestrian community needs a change. I’d like the sport to be more accessible to the general public, so they can appreciate this wonderful sport. We need to be welcoming and accessible to equestrians of color, transgender equestrians, and queer equestrians.
Let’s Break the barrier of the wealthy white equestrians, and make this sport more accessible. Maybe a trainer or barn manager could try to work something out with a talented equestrian who may be struggling financially. It could be anything, barn chores in exchange for lessons, giving them the opportunity to school the lesson horses or even exercise the boarders’ horses. Give them the chance to succeed, if they aren’t wealthy.
Sometimes it feels like the extremely financially fortunate portion of the community is out of touch with the concept of money, and what typical American salaries can earn and spend in a year. Reality can get distorted in this unbearably expensive sport. We tend to forget that dropping 10 grand and above (often very, very much above) on an animal is financially unrealistic to many upper middle class families. We tend to get used to the ridiculous expensive price point that we constantly see on our showing and training bills. The equestrian lifestyle is extremely unrealistic to most.
I understand that profit is everything. But to those who are not financially able to drop thousands and thousands on a single week at a high level horse show such as HITS or WEF, going to such events or even progressing as a competitive rider can be little more than a dream for many kids. It’s never too late or too often to discuss these issues in our sport. Riders of all ages feel the financial pressure.
Katarina Ostrov is a 16 year old equestrian and fashion designer living in New York City. She plans on going to fashion design school and perusing being an equestrian as an adult.