The Equestrians of Color Photography Project: Meet Kyle Bumgarner, Kelsey Graven Sauza and Taylor White

Kyle Bumgarner. Photo by Rachel Griffin Photography

The Plaid Horse is proud to introduce some of the photo project’s featured equestrians to our readers in each issue.

In 2020, a group of photographers came together to create the Equestrians of Color Photography Project, a weekly blog that promotes inclusion and amplifies the voices of equestrians of color ready to openly share their story with the community. Learn more at

The Equestrian: Kyle Bumgarner
The Photographer: Rachel Griffin Photography
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How do you describe yourself as an equestrian?

I describe myself as an adult beginner. I’ve always loved horses but I didn’t have any knowledge of commercial barns, horse lessons, or the accessibility of English style riding. About a year ago during the first stages of quarantine, I started researching riding lessons. Ever since lesson one, I’ve been absolutely entranced by the equestrian sports. At this stage of my training I’m not sure where exactly I plan on going within the equestrian community, but I do know that I’m so blessed and excited to learn everything I can about caring for horses as well as proper riding and training techniques.

How has your culture influenced your equestrian lifestyle?

I’ve always been a minority no matter where I go or what I choose to do; I’m multi-racial (Black/White/Native) and I’m gay. I’ve kind of learned to own it. I’m just excited to bring a different perspective to the equestrian community. Ready to share my story with other adult beginners, especially ones of color, as well as with children who might have an interest in horses. To share my experience of healing through horses. Growing up, I never thought riding lessons or working with horses to be an attainable goal. It feels amazing to now be achieving my smaller goals and taking the steps toward achieving my ultimate goals of training horses of my own, at my own horse property.

The Equestrian:  Kelsey Graven Sauza
The Photographer: Roam Photos
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What challenges have you faced as an equestrian of color?

I am forever asked, “Where are you from?” with the second question following closely: “No, where are you REALLY from?” Whether the microaggressions are due to a lack of diversity in the social community, or in the horse community, these questions are rude and cause me to feel alienated. I am an American. I have lived in the United States for my entire life since I was an infant, and this is the only culture and customs that I know. I find this very intrusive and feel backed into a corner as if I’m forced to disclose intimate details of my personal life and adoption in certain situations where I feel like it’s not appropriate or necessary.

What words of encouragement would you have for other equestrians of color or people of color becoming equestrians?

Don’t feel like you have to settle in a place where you feel uncomfortable. Find the environment that will allow you to thrive. Enjoy your time with your horses, and work on building lasting relationships with friends and barn family. I’m very fortunate to have had mainly positive experiences in the horse community, and I feel so lucky to have found wonderful friends through horses. This sport and hobby requires so much from its participants. It can stress emotions (and finances) but it’s important not to lose sight of why you’re at the barn: to find joy and happiness through horses, learning, and riding.

The Equestrian: Taylor White
The Photographer: Jessica Lian Photography
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How do you describe yourself as an equestrian?

I grew up learning to ride English from my mother. It was always a great day headed out to the barn to go ride with her! When I turned 14, I started to get into the sport of rodeo. Like any other teenage girl, I wanted to barrel race, so my mother bought me an appaloosa and said, “If you can teach this horse to run a pattern while riding bareback, I will get you a coach.” I had so much determination to succeed in rodeo that I completed this task within a week! As an equestrian, you learn that hard work is key to being successful.

What challenges have you faced as an equestrian of color?

The biggest challenge I have faced as an equestrian of color is not being taken seriously. When I started rodeoing, I rode an Appaloosa for 3 years. Everyone would tell me that she is not the ideal horse to rodeo with. They would associate my color with me not being able to have a horse that could do well in rodeo. I wanted to prove myself to others that I was just as good as they are. I ended up taking my Appaloosa mare to the BBR World Finals, and suddenly everyone had a change of mind. It isn’t about what you ride, it is about how you ride. It isn’t about your race, it is about how you make yourself just as good. 

Share your story

If you are an equestrian of color (16 years or older) interested in sharing your story through The Equestrians of Color Photography Project, you can connect with a local photographer ally via the project website 

*This story was originally published in the March 2022 issue of The Plaid Horse. Click here to read it now and subscribe for issues delivered straight to your door!