Maya Schneider has loved horses for as long as she can remember. From her first time riding a horse at summer camp as a young girl to performing and competing in national horse shows, Maya has happily identified as an equestrian for most of her life. Recently, she qualified for the world-renowned Devon Horse Show and Country Fair in the jumpers – a huge undertaking for any equestrian – which is a show that has been on Maya’s bucket list for years.
In addition to her love of horses, she is passionate about making the equestrian community a more diverse and accessible space for all. She hopes to encourage the younger generation to explore horseback riding and to spend time around the four-legged beauties that have taught her so much about life.
Between Maya’s success as a horse rider and the work she continuously does to promote inclusivity in the sport, she keeps very busy. On top of all of that, she is a psychiatric nurse practitioner and shares two sweet dogs with her husband. Suffice it to say, Maya is a true inspiration to every community she touches.
Jumping for Joy
Maya recently transitioned from hunter riding to jumper riding. She had been a hunter rider for her entire career as an equestrian, but then she found Noble, a beautiful 10-year-old with a chestnut coat and white markings on his face and legs. Maya said she just had a feeling about him when they met.
She purchased Noble two years ago, and it quickly became evident that he had plans outside hunter riding. Once they gave jumper riding a try, it made sense, and the two of them have had a ball jumping ever since. “I never thought I would show in the jumpers,” Maya recently wrote on her Instagram page, “but I’m having more fun than I could have ever imagined.”
When they aren’t in the jumper ring, Maya says Noble is a very food-oriented individual. He loves carrots and apples, is not a fan of bananas, will eat watermelon (rind-free, per his requests), and is a fan of a good gingersnap.
For Maya, she is also really enjoying the creative freedoms that jumper riding offers regarding fashion. While hunter riding is known for being very strict with fashion guidelines, the jumper divisions allow for greater creative license. Some of her favorite stores and brands for horse riding attire are Exceptional Equestrian, EQL, Oughton, and Veltri Sport.
A Welcoming Space
As a woman of color, Maya wants to use her platform and her voice to speak to the importance of promoting diversity in horse riding. The sport is overwhelmingly white, and it is essential to begin conversations around creating a more safe, welcoming, and diverse community for all horse riders.
Maya is a member of the United States Hunter Jumper Association’s (USHJA) DEI committee, a member of the American Horse Council’s DEI task force, and manager of the Black Equestrians’ Instagram account. By starting small with concrete changes in the community, Maya hopes to make horse riding a more representative sport for all. “It’s helpful to not have anyone question that they belong in the space,” says Maya. She believes it is essential for all horse riders to see themselves on social media accounts and websites dedicated to the sport. As a manager for Black Equestrians’ Instagram account, Maya works to highlight Black horse riders around the country. From sharing wins of Black riders who have qualified for events to posting about the importance of creating a helmet that safely protects Black riders with natural hair, Black Equestrians encourages open dialogue centered around inclusion.
In addition to a more diverse online presence, Maya wants to start a conversation around access to the equine sport in the first place. She is transparent when speaking to the financial costs of riding lessons, buying necessary gear, and potentially leasing or owning a horse.
Since spending time with horses can be very therapeutic, it is especially important to assess who has access to horse riding and the benefits it offers. Maya would like to highlight one organization in particular – A Horse’s Friend, Inc. – which offers horse riding to at-risk youth from the City of Rochester. Such organizations are incredible examples of promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion in the equestrian community.
Community of Kindness
It is clear that Maya Schneider thrives in the equestrian community. Whether she is showing with Noble or advocating for diversity within the equine sport, Maya runs on horsepower. She believes horses are incredible creatures that can teach us a lot about ourselves and about how we treat those in our community. With kindness, perhaps a gingersnap in hand, and a lot of love, Maya is changing the world of horse riding one step at a time.