Seminar on diversity in equestrian sports moves online

Horse trainer Tom Bass and the American Saddlebred mare, Belle Beach.
Horse trainer Tom Bass and the American Saddlebred mare, Belle Beach. From Famous Saddle Horses and Distinguished Horsemen by Jack Harrison / State Historical Society of Missouri

This year’s Tom Bass Seminar on Diversity in Equestrian Sports will be presented via video conference on Saturday, November 14, and will examine issues relating to diversity in domestic and international equestrian arenas.

Launched in 2019 as part of the 2nd Annual Day of the African Equestrian, the 2020 seminar takes place against a backdrop of social and political turmoil in the United States – in a year where the equestrian community has been forced to reckon with many of its own contradictions and activist riders of color including Brianna Noble and The Compton Cowboys have achieved international notice – in part through the use of horses in public protests inspired by the global Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement.

The seminar is being presented by the African Connections Research and Education Fund, Inc. in association with SportsQuest International, LLC. Invited participants include officials from the FEI, the US Equestrian Federation, activist Brianna Noble, pioneering African-American showjumper Donna Marie Cheek,; former Badminton Horse Trials Media Director Julian Seaman, and Jamaican equestrian rider and coach, Julian Hyde.

Topics to be explored during the seminar include:

  • Demystifying horse sport – not for rich kids only! Reviving equestrian heritage in lower and middle-income communities
  • Developing broad-based community support for equestrian activities at all levels
  • Building sustainable programs that support diversity in the horse industry
  • Incorporating the lessons gleaned from social activism into the ways in which we do business
  • Leveraging (new and traditional) media in horse focused education and promotion
  • Developing stories that more accurately reflect the life experiences of equestrians of color
  • Incorporating the rich equestrian heritages of non-white, non-European communities (including African, African-American, Asian, Hispanic, Native-American, Romani, South Asian and others) into our shared equestrian narrative

» Register for the seminar, on November 14, from 3.30 (EDT)

A legendary American Saddlebred trainer, Tom Bass (1859-1934) was born enslaved in Columbia, Missouri. He played a prominent role both in the establishment of the American Royal Horse Show in Kansas City and in the promotion of the city of Mexico, Missouri as the ‘Saddle Horse Capital of the World.’ Highlights of his extraordinary career include championships at two World’s Fairs and more than 2000 winning ribbons. For many years he was the only African-American permitted to compete at the American Royal. The Tom Bass bit, developed to give the rider control without causing pain to the horse, is still in use today.

During his lifetime, Bass performed before such luminaries as Queen Marie of Romania, William Jennings Bryan, P.T. Barnum and US Presidents Grover Cleveland, William McKinley, Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft and Calvin Coolidge. His more prominent clients included Roosevelt, Buffalo Bill Cody, Anheuser-Busch executives Adolphus and August Busch and Will Rogers.

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