8 year-old equestrian has sights on the Olympics
Young, Gifted & Black Series
By Taki S. Raton
As with any other sport, bumps and bruises are a part of the business writes Eric Muhammad recently in the August 23 edition of The Final Call Newspaper. He adds, “but if you have focus and determination to be great, you can’t let that deter you.”
She is young, gifted and Black. Sumayyah Muhammad has proven, as noted in the Muhammad account, that she will not be easily deterred. This 8 year-old 45-pound rider has successfully demonstrated that she is able to control a 1,000-pound horse.”
Even after her first fall while attempting a jump, Sumayyah has evidenced tremendous determination beyond her years. Cites the Final Call writer, “She got right back up on the horse and continued to ride and jump again.”
Young Sumayyah has been riding for nearly a year and a half. She won first place in an equestrian competition after riding only for close to four months. Equestrian in this context pertains to the skills related to horseback riding
As quoted, “riding gives Sumayyah a confidence and sense of accomplishment. Years ago, she was afraid to even get on a horse let alone ride. She seemed to love the beauty of horses,” says Muhammad.
She has successfully advanced through various stages of her equestrian quest as leadline, hunter, trot, hunter jumper and high hurdles. Designed for very young children, an adult or an older child under leadline and trot ruling actually leads the horse in-hand while the child sits on the horse and holds the reins.
The child is judged by proper seating, leg and arm positions, and poise.
In the hunter jumper classification, the rider is not only judged on clearing jumps, but additionally on the rider’s form, the horse’s form, the pace of the horse and the striding rhythm between each jump.
This master rider becoming will soon be in training for graduated height hurdle jumping.
“Riding takes discipline, confidence and focus as well as determination,” as noted in the published account. “Sumayyah has developed greatly in her confidence just from riding in such a short time.”
Academically, she is a straight “A” student which will earn her scholarship opportunities.
Her mother, Lisa Borders Muhammad, has created a “gofundme” page to raise funds for Sumayyah’s participation in the 2018 Junior Olympics.
At the then age of thirteen, she would be one of the youngest Black equestrians to compete.
Says mother Muhammad in the ‘gofundme” posting: “We have set up the GoFund to hopefully enable this young child to own her own horse and qualify for the 2018 Olympics. Please give what you can.” The “gofundme” effort has to date raise $75. The goal is to reach $2,000.
The posting further reveals that she is taking lessons but wants her own horse so that she can get more riding practice in between lesson schedules.
Mrs. Muhammad and her family are presently looking for land in Virginia to open an equestrian center for young Black riders – male and female – to inspire and cultivate among African American youth interest in the sport. Sumayyah has already decided on a name – “Olympian Equestrian Center.” The Final Call submits that there are other young, Black female equestrians, “but not many, still slowly but surely, more are on the rise. It is a wonderful thing to see our young girls competing and doing things outside of dancing and singing.”
One such very seasoned and still emerging competitive equestrian is Shayla Wilson, a 2008 honors graduate of Virginia Intermont College.
Located in Bristol, Virginia, Virginia Intermont is the nation’s top equine university. Shayla was the first African American on the school’s equestrian team.
As shared by Cheryl Williams in a June 3. 2009 Urban Views Weekly posting, “African Americans are the minority within a minority as equestrianism remains an interest among a few people, primarily White.
But like Sumayyah, Shayla is determined to be one of those few. She began her college career at the University of Florida prior to attending Virginia Intermont. In her own words of her experiences on the Florida campus, Shayla submits: “At Florida University I was already an anomaly because I was the only Black person on the team. I only started being outcast by certain members once I made it to the Nationals, as if they’d realize ‘She’s serious’ or felt entitled, like I was supposed to get that spot!’ I ignored it and mostly dealt with my friends.
I liked Intermont and had a great world-class trainer.”
Although Shayla still has a dream of becoming an equine profession, she is as of a later personal exchange in a 2010 Urban View “Comment” section an instructor, a horse trainer and head coach of the Compton Jr. Posse, a not-for-profit group aimed at keeping young people off the streets and on horses.
“My dream of making it to the Olympics is still very much alive, as I have a great team supporting me here in L.A.”
The first Black female equestrian ever to become a member of the U.S. Equestrian Team was Donna Marie Cheeks who competed 23 years ago and earned a medal in the 1990 Olympics.
“We would like to share this sport as an opportunity for our young people and as an alternative,” writes Muhammad in his closing remarks. “Not all of us can earn scholarships playing basketball, baseball or football. If we show our children different avenues for accomplishment, they can and will accomplish what they desire.”
Not surprisingly given her love for horses, Sumayyah aspires to be a veterinarian and a horse trainer. But her primary aspiration at this time is competing in the 2013 Olympics.