TOTD: Lack of Diversity in Equestrian Sports

February 9, 2021 - Grace Sacoman

For the past fifteen years, I’ve been heavily immersed in the equestrian world. I began riding as a youngin’—around five or six—so all I’ve ever known was riding and the society it was attached to. Dressage—the discipline* I compete in—is a very exciting, competitive, and opportunistic sport; but above all else, it’s whitewashed (in America, specifically). To give you some perspective, I can count on one hand the number of riders I’ve met who were a person of color. And out of those three, I only competed against one. Fifteen years. Ridiculous? Yes. Surprising? Sadly, no.

The equestrian world is a difficult place to succeed in. Not only do you need the right connections, but you better have a pretty penny in your pocket to keep up with training fees and your horse’s maintenance. Shows alone can cost thousands of dollars. On top of that, it is no stranger to racism.

As 17 year old show jumping* champion Sophie Gochman states, “we are an insular community with a gross amount of wealth and white privilege” (reported by Lucy Alexander from the Robb Report). Gochman also comments on the fact that too many powerful trainers and prevalent personalities in the community will root for racist “policies towards immigrants but hire undocumented workers from Latin America as grooms*” (you can find her awesome article on social injustices in the equestrian world here).

Mavis Spencer, professional show jumper and US Equestrian ambassador, sums it up skillfully: “Having the conversation about diversity in our industry always comes back to systemic racism because of financial constraints that have been in place for hundreds of years. That system needs to change” (her interview with Practical Horseman can be found here).

It pains me to see a world I call home have such limiting, discriminatory behaviors and a stark tolerance for ignorance. I no longer wonder why the warm-up ring* lacks diversity.

Thankfully, there are beacons of light for the sport. One of these beacons is Anna Buffini, an incredibly accomplished black dressage rider who’s claimed several regional and national titles at a young age. She is considered to be a prodigy in the horse world and expected to make prestigious dressage teams in the coming years. Anna is not only a dressage athlete, but an ambassador for Alexa Fairchild, a prestigious, ethical fashion brand. Strong figures like Anna encourage the younger, incoming generation of riders to not be afraid to step into the arena, no matter what they look like, what their faith is, or where they come from.


*DISCIPLINE: A specific type of horseback riding

*SHOW JUMPING: An equine discipline where horse and rider compete for the lowest time while completing an obstacle course of jumps in a specific order

*GROOM: A horse’s handler and caretaker. These individuals will often feed, groom, tack up, medicate, and look after the horse(s) they’re dedicated to

*WARM-UP RING: An area on the showgrounds for horse and rider to practice before entering the ring (competition)


Read more here!