In the second installment of Riders United series, Phelps Sports’ contributing columnist Winter Hoffman was joined by Ripley Jewel Erlich, a nine-year-old horse enthusiast, to interview Morganne Craig to learn more about her riding. Click HERE to read the first installment of the Riders United series featuring Zoie Noelle Brogdon.
Meet twelve-year-old rider Morganne Craig. As an 8th grader at Girls Academic Leadership Academy, she balances her STEM-focused curriculum with her riding training at Riders United in 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 on 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.
Morganne was first introduced to Riders United when she participated in their one week summer program. From that first experience, Morganne was hooked and made the transition to Riders United!
Winter Hoffman & Ripley Erlich: What got you into riding? Was it your mom or was it a trainer?
MC: Well, it was a friend and we were going on a trail ride in Griffith Park. At first when I started riding, I told my mom and she started looking for different places for me to ride and she found Compton, so that’s where I started. My grandparents are supportive. They are really competitive so any type of sport I do they want me to win and do my best in.
WH & RE: What do you like about riding?
MC: Everything! I get to interact with the horse and get to bond with the horse.
WH & RE: How will you manage school and your riding schedule with COVID-19?
MC: Since starting middle school I have not been able to ride on weekdays, just weekends. Now that my school has been mandated to homeschool due to Covid-19, I am able to ride on weekdays as well as the weekends.
WH & RE: Is riding the same during COVID-19? Or has it changed a bit?
MC: It’s the same, but it’s not the same. You’re not close to people, in the barn and the ring, but other than that, it’s really the same.
WH & RE: What do you learn from riding a variety of horses?
MC: When riding a variety of horses I get to learn how to adapt to each horse and that helps build my skill set.
WH & RE: Can you instill courage in a horse?
MC: Yes, you can instill courage and confidence in a horse because horses feed off the rider’s energy so they can tell when you’re nervous or happy. Feeling confident around the horse allows them to trust the rider and have confidence in what they’re doing.
WH & RE: How do you instill courage in yourself?
MC: To instill courage in yourself is to first always believe in yourself and what your abilities are. For example, when I compete, I don’t think about competing against those other individuals, I think about competing within myself and each time that helps me become a stronger and more confident rider. Also, whether I get a blue ribbon or a green ribbon, I’m still a winner. Regardless, I am grateful to have horses in my life.
WH & RE: What do you do at the barn every day?
MC: I ride and I take an hour or so grooming them, you know, just pampering them. Because it’s fun.
WH & RE: If you could ride any place in the world, where would it be?
MC: Thats hard but I think Cuba. I have family in Cuba and when we can visit I want to experience a ride in the mountains with my family. I want to share my love for horses with them.
WH & RE: What are your equestrian plans for the future?
MC: When I was younger I wanted to go to the Olympics but not anymore. I want to focus on other things. Honestly, I just want to keep riding. Maybe open my own barn one day?
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 authors:
Ripley Jewel Erlich is a nine-year old rider who loves all animals, but mostly horses! She likes riding horses and her favorite part of riding is jumping because it is fun. She had the opportunity to go to a very special barn where she got to meet the riders from Riders United. She interviewed Morganne Craig to find out how Morganne got into riding and her perspective as a rider of color.
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.