Finding Their Passion With Riders United: Adrina Player

In the third installment of Riders United series, Phelps Sports’ contributing columnist Winter Hoffman was joined by young riders and cub journalists Indiana and Malena Tomsic to interview 14-year-old Adrina Player to learn more about her riding. Want to read more about these inspiring young riders in the Riders United program? Click here to read Winter’s previous interviews with Zoie Noelle Brogdon and Morganne Craig. 

Photo by Lonay Davis

Adrina Player is a 14-year-old rider who currently shows in the .65m divisions thanks to some assistance from Riders United. Based out of Thousand Oaks, California, Riders United evolved out of Compton Junior Posse (CJP), a former inner-city riding group designed to introduce urban youth to the world of horses. Riders United is one of only a few programs in the U.S. designed to provide minority riders of all ages and from many different socioeconomic backgrounds, the educational groundwork of horsemanship, and the opportunities to compete in the show ring. The program at Riders United emphasizes the appreciation of what makes each individual unique, sharing the passion of horses with those from all walks of life, strengthening the physical and mental well-being of both rider and horse, and proving that anything is possible through the power of optimism and humanitarian values.

How were you introduced to riding?

Adrina Player: “When I was six years old, I told my Mom I wanted to try something new. The Compton Junior Posse was in my neighborhood, and they were having Christmas Holiday Camp. My Mother thought I would enjoy riding, so she took me there to try it out. I was nervous. They interviewed me, and I felt very grown-up like I was applying for a job.”

How did you come to have a passion for the sport -through your parents?

A.P.: “Both my parents and my trainers inspired me to have a passion for the sport by setting high standards and encouraging me to train hard. I am competitive, and I love working with the horses to develop a special connection with every horse I ride.”

What are your thoughts on the Equitation as a foundation for show jumping?

A.P.: “Equitation is the foundation of riding and prepares me to be an effective and dynamic Show Jumper. It really gives me the skills to ride fast over technical courses.”

You spent the summer riding in Hidden Valley. Please tell us about the high points and what you’ve learned from this experience.

A.P.: “All summer, I worked on perfecting my position. Last season, when I was competing on my horse Tux in Hunters and Equitation, I rode too far forward, which caused him to refuse if my distance was not perfect. This summer, I developed a stronger core and learned to sit up. I am now in balance with my horse giving me more confidence and control.”

Photo by Lonay Davis

You must have a very supportive family! Please tell us about them.

A.P.: “My Mom is very supportive. When I am at a low point in my riding, she motivates me to conquer and overcome. I started riding with my sister and my brother, and now I am teaching my three-year-old cousin how to ride.”

Do you think COVID-19 has impacted the sport or the training plan you chose for you and your horses?

A.P.: “Yes, I live in the city, miles away from the barn, and transportation has been difficult, so I have not been able to train nearly as often as I want. I really miss interacting with my horses every day.”

What are your thoughts on the current state of showjumping in the USA and the rest of the world?

A.P.: “COVID has definitely affected the sport. Riders of all levels from Novice to International FEI were forced to put everything on hold and could not make plans for the future. It is really unfortunate that the Olympics were postponed. It is difficult to rate your progress with limited competition – so many classes were canceled, and we had to constantly regroup and change our plans.”

What is your favorite piece of equestrian equipment?

A.P.: “The bit because it is always a puzzle to find the most effective bit for my horse on any given day depending on how he feels and what we are asking of him. There are many variables such as mood, confirmation, disposition, type, and difficulty of competition, conditions, time of day, etc. That decision-making process develops horsemanship skills.”

What advice do you have for ambitious young riders?

A.P.: “Never give up! Work hard and develop good horsemanship. Do not ever say you cannot achieve your goals because nothing is impossible.”

What is a day at the barn like for you?

A.P.: “It is very important for me to have a strong bond with my horse. I like to do all horse care myself to expand the connection. I want my horse to have everything he needs and be in the best condition possible. In my lessons, I work on perfecting my position through body awareness and the distance selection process.”

Adrina and fellow Riders United competitor Morganne Craig

Please tell us about the horse you ride and what qualities you favor in a showjumper? 

A.P.: “I am in the process of looking for my perfect horse. I have been fortunate to ride some really good schoolmasters and one off-track Thoroughbred this year. They were all different, and all taught me different techniques to improve my skills. I like horses that are forward, balanced, and have good dispositions.”

You must have a routine to prepare yourself mentally before you go in the ring, what is it?

A.P.: “I talk to the horse. I get nervous before I go into the ring, and to calm myself down, I visualize a perfect round in great detail.”

What are your plans for the future?

A.P.: “I want to have a barn with programs to help kids that do not have the opportunity or funding to ride as I have been able to. A program like Riders United. My goal is to compete in the Olympics and be the first African American to win a medal in equestrian sports.”

What are your thoughts on being a rider of color in this sport?

A.P.: “There are only a few riders of color, so people are more aware of me. Some are very kind and go out of their way to offer support and opportunities. Some are very critical and judge me as a person before they know me.”

Who is your favorite amateur jumper rider and your favorite international rider, and why? 

A.P.: “Zoie Brogdon, a fellow Riders United member, is my favorite amateur rider. She has ridden and shown with me since we were in the CJP. She inspires me because she gives it her all. My favorite International Rider is Will Simpson. He is a perfect rider, and my goal is to be able to ride as effectively as he does.”

Have you had any funny experiences in the barn or out riding a horse?

A.P.: “The horse, King of Diamonds, that I learned to ride courses on would be a perfect gentleman around the whole course – slow and obedient and always steady- then on the last diagonal line when I was really feeling confident, he would take off after his lead change and try to buck me off. He was trying to tell me not to get too full of myself and stay focused to the very end.”

About Riders United:
Director, Victoria Faerber, tirelessly organizes the day-to-day operating logistics at the Thousand Oaks location, while former CJP member Nathan Williams-Bonner heads up the Temecula branch of the organization. Fellow Californian, Olympian Will Simpson was inspired by the cause in 2008, and stepped up to donate his time to train the riders, which currently range in age from 12 to 25. Rider’s United relies on monetary and in-kind donations from generous supporters.

About the Author:

With a background in filmmaking, fashion and contemporary art, Winter Hoffman brings a unique perspective to the equestrian world. A lifelong horsewoman she helped her daughter, Zazou Hoffman, navigate her way to a successful Junior career culminating in 1st place in the 2009 ASPCA Maclay Equitation Championship at the National Horse Show and second in the USEF Hunter Seat Medal Final with East Coast trainers Missy Clark and John Brennan. Zazou is now a trainer and professional rider at Meadow Grove Farm in California. She has competed on several developing rider Nations Cups representing the United States.

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