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This Is What An Equestrian Looks Like

Shariah Harris was 8 years old when her mom took a wrong turn in Philly's Fairmount Park neighborhood, and she saw other Black kids riding horses. They were with the Work To Ride program, in which children ages 7-19 participate in equestrian activities, and receive tutoring to maintain grades and enroll in college. There is an intern program for youth in which they get a stipend as a junior counselor at the Summer Camp.

Work to Ride was love at first sight for Harris and her siblings, who spent hours at the barn, learning to ride, groom, and clean stalls. At age 12, Shariah joined the polo team and ended up playing mostly with boys. They didn't cut her any slack, and the challenge turned her into a very physical player with exceptional drive.

Work To Ride offered Shariah amazing learning opportunities, including trips to Nigeria and Argentina, and led to her acceptance at Cornell, where she captained the polo team for 3 years and earned a reputation as a formidable player. She got her degree in animal science, then went back to school for a registered nurse degree. She played on the Work To Ride team, sponsored by Melissa Ganzi, with British 10-goaler Nina Clarkin, Maddie Grant, and Caitlin Cregg, and scored the winning goal in a match on 2.7 in the U.S. Women's Open Polo Championship. Harris is the first Black woman in America to play polo at this level. She also organized the team.

My favorite Shariah Harris quote comes from the National Public Radio piece. Shariah says, "I hate to lose more than I love to win." That article has more about Lezlie Hiner, the force behind Work To Ride. Lezlie is also 'what an equestrian looks like.' These photos were taken at the Wellington, FL, Grand Champions Polo Club. See more on the Work To Ride Facebook page. https://www.facebook.com/work.ride


 copyright Lezlie Hiner. All rights reserved



Why I Love This Story: It's the plot of half the horse stories I ever read, or wrote. A young person with disadvantages; a 'chance' encounter with horses; a stable as refuge; a wise mentor; add hard work, courage, and a supportive mom, and bingo! Several years later, 'instant success'! I also love how formidable Shariah Harris is, and how she rocks that polo helmet. And I love the smile. Harris is an operating room nurse, a skilled and dedicated professional, yet she is finding time and creating opportunities to keep doing the sport she loves.






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