Breaking The Silence Surrounding White Privilege In The Horse World

Jun 1, 2020 - 4:05 PM

Today marks the seventh day since the brutal murder of George Floyd. Yet mentions of his death from fellow riders have been few and far between.

For too long, the horse show world has chosen to ignore the extreme social injustice embedded in American policy and tradition. We are an insular community with a gross amount of wealth and white privilege, and thus we choose the path of ignorance.

Protest march against police brutality in Lower Manhattan following the death of Minneapolis man George Loyd at the hands of local police.
People across the United States protested against police brutality following the death of Minneapolis man George Floyd at the hands of local police. Christopher Penler/Alamy Photo

However, what the horse world fails to recognize is the prevalence of social injustice in our community. Trainers will support [President Donald Trump] and his racist comments and policies towards immigrants but hire undocumented workers from Latin America as grooms.

[The U.S. Equestrian Federation] has finally attempted to address the very prevalent issue of sexual assault, [and it’s been] faced with so much backlash that it turns into a joke. Many riders and trainers in our community identify as part of the LGBTQ+ community, but I still see people supporting a homophobic president.

People of color are so underrepresented in our sport, but does anyone stop to consider that the hostility of the show jumping community towards outsiders is so great that it causes a loss of appeal?

I’m tired of being one of the few who ever brings up civil rights. I’m tired of always losing my respect for the people I should look up to, such as our Olympians and prominent trainers when they refuse to talk about or silently support social inequity. I’m tired of being ridiculed by people I consider friends [when I] start conversations about police brutality, sexual assault, feminism, the environment, immigration and white privilege.

We often fail to recognize the vital truth that just because we benefit from a system of oppression does not mean we cannot work to dismantle it. Silence and neutrality only benefit the oppressor. Furthermore, neutrality is not acceptable when it comes to an issue like George Floyd’s murder. Neutrality is racism.

The personal acceptance of my privilege was a struggle for me. I have immense guilt that every action I take or possession I own unconsciously causes the oppression of marginalized communities. To compete at this level, I leave an embarrassingly large carbon footprint. The clothes I wear probably come from sweatshops abusing child labor—my cherished education funded by the wealth of corporations that steal from the people.

I will be the first to admit my life is full of unfair advantages and that my happiness and luxuries come at a dear cost. But I also know I will dedicate my life to service. I will work to tear down the dazzling structures that uphold my privilege. I’m not asking for applause or attention, but change.

So, to all the so-called leaders of our sport who throw a tantrum when the judging wasn’t to your liking or your favorite rider was one second too slow in the jump-off, I want you to think about your silence today. Who are you benefitting? Your white skin. Your wealthy client. Your ability to profit off undocumented workers. Yourself.

It’s so shameful that a community made of such wealthy and affluent people cannot riot together to fight police brutality. It’s an absolute outrage. So sign the petitions, take to the streets if you can, make the calls, donate money and speak up. I’m disgusted by your willful ignorance, and I refuse to accept anything but action. This country needs a revolution. This country needs authentic democracy. This country needs justice, and I’m demanding your help.


Sophie Gochman, 17, is finishing her junior year at The Spence School in New York City, and her family splits their time between farms in Flemington, New Jersey, and Wellington, Florida. Gochman began her horse show career in the pony divisions and has enjoyed success at every level along the way. Last year, she won individual gold and team bronze at the North American Youth Championships (New York), and she went on to win team gold at the FEI Nations Jumping Nations Cup Youth Final in Belgium in September. This spring she earned hunter and equitation tricolors at the Winter Equestrian Festival (Florida) and anchored the gold-medal winning youth team in the Enviro Equine Young Riders team competition at the Palm Beach Masters CSI (Florida).

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