BY KAMERRA BROWN ALLEN (KK BROWN)
My love for horses began in Woodbridge, Virginia. Our neighbors had horses in their backyard and I loved them! Especially their little pony, Sugar. I always wanted to ride and finally got some of my first set of riding lessons at five years old. However, riding lessons were expensive for a five-year-old and for a single mother, so my mom encouraged me to also play different sports to see if I liked anything else.
I tried soccer, basketball, and track… but my passion and love for horses still could not be hidden—I wanted more riding lessons. One day in particular I really wanted to ride, so I ventured down through our back yard to the neighbor’s yard to ride Sugar. Little did I know, Sugar was their unbroke pony. I baited her to come to me on a stump with a carrot so I could ride bareback with no bridle! Luckily, the neighbor stopped me before that happen. Shortly after this incident, my mom knew that I was not going to give up on riding. After that day, I started riding and haven’t stopped since!
My parents separated when I was 11. It was devasting for me to leave my friends, the home I grew up in, and the elementary school that I loved. The transition was extremely tough on me. Every birthday I wished for a pony. My mom promised me that I would get a pony one day, and on my 12th birthday, my dream finally came true! It was truly a memory I will never forget.
That day I opened presents at breakfast with my mom. I was obsessed with this pony named Nina (along with every other pony I rode). The last present was a birthday card with a scratch ticket (I always wanted to scratch a ticket when I would see my mom occasionally get them from the gas station). Inside the card, it said: if you don’t win enough money to buy Nina, flip the birthday card over.
I won $20.00 on my scratch ticket, which wasn’t enough. However, when I flipped the card over, in big capital letters was written “YOU SOLD ALL YOUR BEANIE BABIES FOR $5,300.00!! YOU CAN BUY NINA!”
I cried, jumped up and down, and hugged my mom. I immediately scarfed down my breakfast and hurried my mom to get dressed for us to go to the barn to see Nina! Shortly after, I received a phone call from my friend who was at the barn to tell me that someone had bought my Nina. I was devasted. I begged my mom to get me to the barn as fast as possible. When I got there, my cousins and my grandmother were already at the barn with a birthday cake for me. As I got out of the car, saddened at the news that someone bought my Nina, I picked my head up, put my smile on, and walked into the barn with my family. As I was approaching Nina’s stall, I noticed a big banner hung stating, “Happy Birthday!” Then it hit me! My mom was able to get my beanie babies sold in time to buy Nina for my birthday!
We didn’t have a lot of money growing up. We were a very hard-working family, and buying a horse was something we could not achieve at the time… until that moment. That moment forever shaped me in my equine journey. My mom and I chose ‘A Promise Kept ’ for Nina’s show name because my mom kept her promise of me having a pony one day.
Growing up, my trainers were Karla Williams now Karla Pekor and Peggy Smith. While I was in college, I worked and rode for Rosemary Thomas at Summerduck Run Farm during my summers off. My two commandments were, “The horse comes first” and “If there is a will there is a way.”
As many horse enthusiasts know, buying the pony or horse is the easy part. It’s the care, board, farrier, vet, lessons, and horse show’s that cost the most. My mom, grandmother, and I would clean stalls 5 days a week to support my passion. When I started showing at a higher level on the rated circuit, we would clean stalls 7 days a week and bumped up to 30 stalls instead of 15. I remember getting to the barn early in the morning to clean stalls before we left for a horse show or being so tired and cleaning stalls when we got back from the horse show which could be 10 or 11 at night. It was hard work but it was worth it to me because I was doing what I loved.
Another wonderful memory I had was from an awesome rated show camp I had been really wanting to attend. The camp was to spend 1 week at the Deep Run Horse Show. All of my friends would do this camp every year but I was unable to afford it until one summer I saved up enough money to attend. I braided manes, worked at the barn riding everything on the farm that had 4 legs, body clipped horses, pulled manes, painted jumps, picked rocks out of the outdoor ring, moved jumps and set jump courses, cleaned water troughs—anything you could think of I did it with a smile on my face just so I could afford to be able to go to this camp.
I had a great horse show during my time there and as a result, I ended up qualifying for USEF National Pony Finals in Ohio. In order to be invited to this prestigious horse show, you had to have won at an ‘A’ rated horse show. My barn family was so proud and happy for me. We couldn’t wait to tell my mom on the drive back. When we pulled in the driveway everyone yelled with excitement to tell my mom how I qualified for Pony Finals.
My mom looked like she was ready to cry— not tears of joy but tears of disappointment. Tears of, “how am I going to tell her we couldn’t afford it?”
My mom quickly told my trainer Karla how we couldn’t afford it. But instead of accepting defeat, we immediately went to work to think of a plan. We did a car wash. We asked for sponsorships from different businesses. My grandmother even rolled up all her coins (which were mostly pennies). Everything came together with my barn family helping as well with a hotel. We even had a sign-up sheet for students to help be my groom at the show and there was a long list of students wanting to help. So, with hard work, donations, and a small village of amazing people, I was able to financially attend USEF National Pony Finals in Ohio!
In middle school and in high school I ran track. I was very good, all-state, and still the record holder for the 55m dash at Culpeper County School with my picture on the wall. Through school, I juggled running and my number one passion—riding. When it came to a college decision, I had letters and offers from George Mason University and Marshall University to run track. When it came to riding I had also received letters from South Dakota State University, Virginia Intermont College, University of Georgia, and Delaware State University to ride on their college equestrian teams.
Being so Blessed, I was a duel athlete, being offered scholarships for both sports. Delaware State University is the only HBCU Division I NCAA NCEA equestrian program that offered full-riding scholarships. So, once again, riding won out and I attended Delaware State University. I was team captain from sophomore year until I graduated. I was the team’s most outstanding player on the Hunt Seat side at many competitions along with many of my talented and gifted teammates. I was also featured on Tom Joyner’s HBCU Jeopardy as the First African American to receive a full Equestrian Scholarship at an HBCU.
I graduated from Delaware State with a Bachelor’s degree in Animal and Poultry Science and was then asked by the coach at the time of South Dakota State University if I had any interest in helping with her Hunt Seat team while getting my Master’s. I said absolutely!
My original plan was to get my master’s in Equine Nutrition and go to Veterinary School at Virginia Tech. I quickly realized in the first semester that I loved teaching and wanted to pursue a career in coaching. I finished my master’s with a degree in Sport and Recreational Sciences with an Emphasis in Coaching and Teaching.
During the first year, after graduating with my master’s, the hunt seat coach resigned. I was hired on as the full-time Division I Assistant Equestrian Coach for South Dakota State University at the age of 23. In the second year of coaching the hunt seat team, we qualified for the national championships in Waco, Texas. It was their first national appearance!
I love South Dakota and I love South Dakota State University, however, my mom became very ill during my 4th year there. I was at nationals when she was put in the hospital. My mom didn’t want anyone to tell me, knowing how important this appearance was to the program and that it was a big moment for me as a coach. She knew I would’ve flown home knowing she was near death. I had to move closer to Virginia to take care of her. During that time my alma mater was looking for a hunt seat coach and I immediately took the job. I was still four hours away but a lot closer than twenty-three hours away.
It was great to be back at my alma mater, but also a change in what I was used to. Delaware State Universities Equestrian program was almost cut my senior year. The team fought, protested with signs, and went to court to keep our program. We won but we still struggled financially to be able to compete with riding teams that were fully supported by their athletic programs. I coached the hunt seat team, recruited, and also worked in the sports ticket office to financially support myself.
The riders on Delaware State’s Equestrian team are some of the most hard-working, driven, and passionate riders I have ever had the pleasure to meet. It was an honor to have been able to coach them. The hunt seat team also qualified for nationals in my first year of coaching them.
During my time coaching and living in Delaware, my mom gave me a couple more scares with her illness I also met my then-husband. He had lived in Virginia. Before he had plans to move up to Delaware, I told him that an opportunity for me presented itself at Bridgewater College in Weyers Cave, Virginia. Bridgewater was only an hour and a half from my mom and I would be the Assistant to Director of Riding! In this job position, I would be teaching equine classes, teaching lessons, taking students to Intercollegiate Horse Shows, some local horse shows, and some Intercollegiate Dressage Shows.
During my time there I coached national champions, zone champions, high point riders and helped riders qualify and point out of their divisions. I gained wonderful friendships and a wonderful mentor, but I still had more room to grow professionally. But before leaving Bridgewater, I was able to obtain a long-time professional goal of mine to be invited and attend the 45th annual NCAA Women’s Coaching Academy. During my time at the Academy, I was awarded the Judy Sweet Award. The Judy Sweet Award recognizes two members of each academy team whose spirit and dedication to their own and to others’ personal and professional success has made an impact on their peers. This award is granted via nomination by fellow classmates at each Women’s Coaches Academy program.
I am so excited and Blessed about my next adventure as Professor Kamerra Brown Allen and Hunter/Jumper Instructor at William Woods University, located in Fulton, Missouri. They offer four different riding disciplines; Saddle Seat, Dressage, Hunter/Jumper, and Western. With a third of the total student population riding, the program is going strong; offering the oldest equestrian degree in the United States. Being an Equine studies professor at William Woods University shows the skill of being able to Ride, teach in the arena and teach in the classroom sound equine business management practices and equine husbandry.
If I had to narrow it down to my top 5 proudest moments they would be as follows; finishing in the top 5 at the 2021 Thoroughbred Makeover with ‘Highest Rank’ out of 72 lovely horses and riders, NCEA Distinguished Alumni Award winner, NCAA Women’s Coaches Academy Graduate Class #45 Judy Sweet Award Recipient, as a rider and for the Delaware State Equestrian team in only our second year as a team making it to nationals (especially as an HBCU), and currently being at William Woods University as the Hunter/Jumper Instructor and Assistant Professor.
KK Brown has had much success and quite a few proud moments as a College Equestrian Coach on many levels from Intercollegiate to Division I athletics. She loves expanding my knowledge and passion as an Equine professor inside the classroom and in the arena.