Dominique Mungin: It’s All About the Moments

Collage: Mungin with her hunter, Reunion, left and below. Photos by Alexis D’Auria (left) and SEL Photography (top right)

The three-ring rider on her lifetime with horses, celebrating special moments over wins, and how our industry can do better

By Rennie Dyball

Dominique Mungin is the rare amateur who shows in Amateur-Owner hunters … and in the jumper ring … and in the equitation.

“I have loved the equitation since I was on ponies,” says Mungin. “Equitation is really about specificity. As a rider, I feel really seen in this ring. In the jumpers, it is me against the clock—equitation feels like me against me. It appeals to my competitive side and I just think it is a blast.

Mungin counts herself lucky to have enjoyed a lifetime with horses. Her mother, Patty Peckham, is a hunter/jumper professional, while her father, Abraham Mungin, was a barn manager and groom. Together, with their business partner Molly Flaherty, they started Arcadia Farm in Westchester County, NY. “Some of the earliest pictures of me are riding both real and stuffed rocking horses in a full cow-girl ensemble,” she says. Mungin started out on the local circuits and AA shows in New York, progressed to compete at the national equitation finals throughout her junior years, and now shows primarily in the Amateur Owner Hunters. 

But those other two rings haven’t lost their appeal. “Originally, I rode my young hunter in the equitation as a way to practice for handy hunter courses,” she says. But after more than a year back in the equitation ring, “I think it’s fair to say that I just missed it. I am hoping to go to the Ariat finals this year.”

Mungin has been back in the saddle for about three years after a 12-year break. Her main focus is her 6-year old gelding, Reunion, in the Amaetur Owner Hunters. “Hunters draw me in because they provide an opportunity to try to showcase the excellence in the jump of your horse and focus on a seamless trip,” says Mungin. “To me it is about making something that can be really difficult (like combating nerves, finding distances, and fluidity), look effortless. And in the jumpers, you take the skills you’ve learned in the other rings and apply them with a different tempo. The jumper ring pumps my adrenaline in a different way and is just plain fun.” 

Collage: Top: Riding Peter Pan; Bottom: Mungin on her first pony, Chipper. Photos by Anne Gittins (Top); all others courtesy Dominique Mungin

The Moments That Matter

While Mungin will share some show ring highlights only upon an editor’s polite insistence (see box), she prefers to note special memories over key placings. 

“I tend to remember the moments with special horses over the wins,” Mungin says. For example, years ago, I was super nervous to compete in the jumpers for the first time. My worries were unwarranted because my children’s jumper, Cricket (a.k.a. Imperial City) was a pro. On my way to my first triple-bar ever, I was pulling so hard that he trotted about a stride and a half out. My 12-year-old self grabbed the mane, hoped for the best, and sailed easily over the jump and through the rest of the course. He never held it against me or let it fluster him.”

“I remember going to Pony Finals for the first, and only, time with my large green pony, Peachy Keen. I was so proud of how shiny he was, how he showed up confidently in the ring, and stood patiently for the model.” 

“I think about my retired equitation horse, Raz, nuzzling my hair in a quiet barn as I cried after my dad passed away.”

“And I think about my current horse, Reunion, at his second show ever in Lake Placid. He curled up in his stall as he sleepily ate hay—proud of his 5-year-old self for conquering the adult hunters and self-assured enough to lay down in a new space. 

Or how sweet he was at the Hampton Classic, in a torrential downpour, politely going around the course although it was a bit like riding through a lake.”

How Our Industry Can Improve and Grow

The 32-year-old is currently based in Westchester, NY, and brings her thoughtful high standards to everything she does. She works full time for a tech company, building curriculum that focuses on diversity and inclusion. She is also part of the USHJA diversity committee, formed in 2020, which is a group of amateurs, professionals, and judges committed to advancing diversity and inclusion within the sport.

“I think there have simply been very few consistently visible examples of non-white identifying people in the sport at the junior, amateur, or professional levels,” says Mungin. “We learned at the USHJA annual meeting that there are fewer than 80 black members out of more than 35,000. Only about 8 percent of our membership is non-white.”

Collage: Right: Mungin on her jumper, Imperial City. Photos Courtesy Dominique Mungin

How can the horse world do better? For starters, she suggests, the industry can get involved in the advocacy for immigration reform. 

“This is an industry that relies on a large percentage of immigrant labor to function. We are also an industry with an incredible amount of wealth and influence,” she says. “We should be using that influence to progress the laws, define a clear and timely path to citizenship for undocumented individuals, and seek out longer-term work visas for folks who want to work in the horse industry.” 

And at every level, Mungin adds, it’s time to welcome more people in. “We need to continue and amplify the conversations around bringing more people into the sport in general—and in particular, bringing a more diverse group of people to our industry at all levels. It’s important not to back down from conversations about diversity in the horse world because this is a chance to expand a sport that has previously been seen as exclusive in many ways.” 

“The technicality and beauty in our sport are amazing. Horses are amazing. We should seek to grow our sport and share it with as many people as we can.”  

  • Dominique Mungin’s Show Ring Highlights
  • • Buttons and Bows Sportsmanship trophy at Pony Finals
  • • 9th overall at Pony Finals
  • • Zone 2 champion in the children’s hunters
  • • 8th in the Winter Equestrian Equitation Championship in Wellington
  • • 11th at the USEF Talent Search East
  • • Multiple wins and championships on the AA circuit on the east coast
  • • 11th in the Ariat Adult Medal Finals, 2020

*This story was originally published in the March 2021 issue of The Plaid Horse. Click here to read it now and subscribe for issues delivered straight to your door!