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 equestriansofcolor.com.
The Photographer: Purple Horse Designs
Learn more: equestriansofcolor.com/quinnten-alston
How did you get into horses and what is your current position in the industry?
I was bitten quite early. I started riding when I was 5 years old and continued recreationally through high school and college. College turned out to not be my thing, so I found myself back with horses and turned it into a career.
I started by cleaning stalls and relatively quickly began handling professionally for breed shows and inspections on the East Coast which helped me set roots. With my husband, Jonathan, I currently manage our small breeding program Quantico Sporthorses, along with working full-time as an in-house rider and the sales manager for Iron Spring Farm in Coatesville, Pennsylvania.
What is your happiest or proudest moment as an equestrian?
It is difficult to pick just one! The gratification of watching a breeding decision culminate in a live, healthy foal is unmatched. I recently backed our first homebred under saddle myself which has been an otherworldly experience, and that mare also had the highest inspection score for the year within the US for her respective breed registry.
I also hold dear many moments from Dressage at Devon, but especially our own horses being named Champion Young Horse in 2016 and Champion Mature Horse in 2019. The “Fabulous trot and the horse is nice too” meme has been fun to be a part of, and what’s more, it has been a good vehicle for BIPOC representation within the equine community.
The Photographer: Bethany P Photography
Learn more: equestriansofcolor.com/brittany-hazzard
How do horses take part in your life today?
After some time working in the industry and living the farm life I realized it really wasn’t for me. I love horses and working with horses—even doing farm work is enjoyable to me. But I could no longer see myself doing it as a career.
Despite this, I couldn’t give up horses entirely and still spend the bulk of my free time at the barn. As a Ph.D. student, things can get a bit hectic, but I can’t see my life without horses. I see many of my colleagues working themselves to the bone, stressing over every little thing, anxious about what’s around every corner, and I couldn’t be more thankful for my barn time.
Horses are my getaway and my stress relief. When I ride, that is all I’m thinking about. Not work, not the future, just what I’m trying to get the horse to do in the moment. No matter how bad things went in the lab that day, or how bad I messed up, none of it matters once I’m at the barn.
What would you like people to know about your experiences as an equestrian of color?
I personally find writing about this kind of stuff difficult. Whether that is some internalized racism or somehow not feeling “authentic” enough, I’m not sure. I’m mixed race, though I absolutely cannot pass for white. I’m very well educated (BS, MS, and halfway through a Ph.D.) and have experienced very little actual hardship. I cannot stress enough how privileged my upbringing was. My parents weren’t, and still aren’t, rich by any means, but they afforded me a life of minimal struggle.
I don’t think this invalidates my experiences, but may help others understand that the barriers to increasing diversity in the equestrian world are not limited to the financial. I’ve seen far too often discussions in the equestrian community be shut down simply by saying, “Well, the sport is expensive and inaccessible in more urban areas,” without addressing the very real prejudices that perpetuate that reality.
It took me a long time to realize that, for many people, being the only one who looks like you is a deterrent in and of itself. I’ve always been able to look past this and not let it stop me from doing something I love, but understanding this reality has made me more aware of the impact representation has in our sport.
The Photographer: Shelley Paulson Photography
Learn more: equestriansofcolor.com/lara-rahman
How do you describe yourself as an equestrian?
I have been riding for almost eight years and for most of that time, I was a very timid rider. The fear of “what if this could happen” slowed my progress down.
In the last three or four years, I have learned to let go of the fear and embrace the unknown aspect of our sport. I am always pushing to learn more and how to become a more effective rider. I learn both by watching others ride and then doing it myself.
I fell in love with the horse years ago and that has never changed. I feel as if I am a determined rider, who loves those lightbulb moments in a lesson and tries to have fun every time I step into the barn.
What words of encouragement would you have for other equestrians of color or people of color considering becoming equestrians?
Do what you love and hold your head high, you deserve to be here. Sometimes I have felt that I do not deserve to do this beautiful sport due to interactions I have had. [But] you do deserve it. Surround yourself with a community of people who will encourage you, support you, and be there when you need a shoulder to cry on.
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: equestriansofcolor.com
*This story was originally published in the May/June 2022 issue of The Plaid Horse. Click here to read it now and subscribe for issues delivered straight to your door!
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