Like many, I have been ill while watching the news lately. It is not a surprise or shock to me that I am part of a racist system. But I have not done enough. I also know that this is not about me, so here is my goal: to talk about equestrianism as a racist system, and to make space for voices of color.
Think about the last horse show you attended. Think about the fellow boarders at your barn. Think about the kids in your lesson program. Think about the Instagram accounts that you follow and the blogs that you read. Think about the models who show off new tack and clothing trends in catalogues. The overwhelming majority of them are white. Maybe they’re in fact exclusively white. Has that ever occurred to you? Maybe, if it has occurred to you, you thought it was just a coincidence.
It’s not a coincidence. No space that is exclusively or near-exclusively white is a coincidence. It is a deliberate, systematic erasure accomplished through a variety of ways: careful stacking of privilege, intimidation and bullying, and then careful removal. Black people, and more broadly people of color, have been closely associated with horses for as long as human beings have been.
It’s important to know, understand, and sit with that. Equestrianism is not neutral. It is not an escape – or if it is those things for you, then that’s a sign of your own personal privilege. What are you going to do about it?
Below, I’ve tried to gather a collection of links that represent people of color in the horse world, both past and present. If you have something to add to this list, please leave a comment. I will continue to update this post. I will also continue to update as I do more of my own research. If you want to start to undermine the whiteness of equestrianism, start by listening to these voices.
First: an excellent roundup by L. Williams of Viva Carlos here: So You Want to Be an Ally… I will not duplicate any of her work in this post; you should read it in her own words and appreciate the work she did to pull it all together.
Books & Articles (~ denotes a children’s book)
No Room for Bigotry in Equestrian Sport from Horse Nation
Buffalo Soldier from Wikipedia (includes a list of Medal of Honor recipients)
The Kentucky Derby’s Forgotten Jockeys from Smithsonian Magazine
Cheryl White was first out of the gate from The Undefeated
Race Horse Men: How Slavery and Freedom Were Made at the Racetrack by Katherine C. Money
Beautiful Jim Key: The Lost Story of the World’s Smartest Horse by Jim Eichler Rivas
~The Last Black King of the Kentucky Derby by Crystal Hubbard
Buffalo Soldier by Tanya Landman (YA)
Equestrian Organizations & Businesses (* donates that they accept donations as a nonprofit)
*Saddle Up and Read (and their GoFundMe) (I will post further about this excellent organization shortly.)
*Work to Ride
*Compton Jr. Equestrians
*The Urban Equestrian Academy