‘When you have a connection with an animal, they can really soothe who you are inside.’
“My mom was an immigrant from Guyana, working two jobs while my grandmother raised me. Horses were not an option for someone living on Section 8 housing in Brooklyn. She saved money to take me on our first vacation to a dude ranch, and that changed my life. After, I wanted to ride, but she said we couldn’t afford it. I met a New York City police officer who helped me when I was 12. If she hadn’t, I wouldn’t be where I am today. When you have a connection with an animal, they can really soothe who you are inside. I’ve been riding for 32 years, and I’ve been a professional equestrian since I was 23.
“Providing access to the officer’s horses created a space of exposure to equestrian sports, which in turn provided discipline to keep me straight in school and my priorities, gave me responsibility and helped prepare me for the U.S. Navy in missile defense and intelligence. Right now, I’m focused on the Metropolitan Equestrian Team, which I founded in 2010. MET is the only nonprofit in the globe that does education and horseback riding, regardless of socioeconomic status.
Never give up on your dreams. Work for what you want. Hard work brings positive results.
“What the officer did for me is what I’ve developed for MET. We utilize the equestrian sports to keep kids interested in academics and get them into over 400 colleges with equestrian teams. It’s really important to be an example to our students because of that perseverance the police officer — and my mom— instilled in me. MET started with one location in Brooklyn. Now our headquarters is in Times Square, and we’re in nine other states.
“MET provides collegiate advisory, horseback riding, after-school tutoring, leadership classes and programs around STEAM. We make our students diverse in their portfolio of experience to become strong college applicants. MET is designed for the experiences provided to me by an equestrian community that loved me during my mother’s financial hard times. They took me into their homes and provided me with access to equestrian sports and a lifestyle I never would have been able to achieve otherwise. I’m able to now provide that to the next generation. The values Heidi passed on to me that I pass on to my students are: Never give up on your dreams. Work for what you want. Hard work brings positive results.”
Interviewed by Liza Burby