Herd Member | Payton Flach
Hey herd; I’m Payton and I’m a 19 year old male equestrian from the Chicagoland area. I currently ride at a hunter- jumper barn and take lessons. I’ve been riding for a little over 3 years.
What got me into riding is not as straightforward as the average equestrian. No one in my family, or relatives, rides or owns horses. I grew up with a wrench in my hand, not a lead rope and horse treats. What got me into riding was a simple trail ride at a church camp that stuck with me. Every few years, it would pop into my head and I’d think about it, but nothing ever came of it, until a few months before I turned 16. I had a friend that had her own horse and rode at a nearby barn. She knew that I was curious about riding and brought me along with her one day. By just being there that one day, I knew this was for me. I wasn’t planning to do this for long. I could probably only afford a month or two and that would be the end of it.
So that day came around and I had my first lesson and after it, I knew that this was really for me.
Riding lessons are expensive, when I started, I didn’t have any means of continuing. But, it turns out that I got offered a job a week after I started riding at the hardware store in my town. Perfect for me. I’m very mechanically inclined and have always built things and worked with my hands. Towards the end of my senior year, I decided that I wanted to lease a horse for 2 months in the summer. I picked up another job doing landscaping, working 15 hours a week on top of the 35 hours I put in at the hardware store. Towards the end of summer, I competed in a schooling show at my barn and came in first and second in my jumping rounds, third in the flat, and overall reserve champion for my class. That was honestly one of the best experiences.
What it's like being a male in a female dominated sport:
I was once told that me riding, especially since I started so late, is like finding a unicorn. As I’ve mentioned, I’m a guy that rides horses, something that isn’t always common. Being a guy in a female dominated sport is something interesting. And it of course comes with its pros and cons, like having to find riding clothing when many places don't have any for the male equestrian. It also doesn't help that to 6’4”. But it's been really enjoyable for me. Almost everyone at my barn knows me by name and really looks out for me. Everyone has been really supportive in helping me progress as a rider and making me feel welcome. At first I didn't realize, but as I grew as a rider and interacted with more people, it can become more apparent how out of place I really was. It was particularly noticeable at Interscholastic Equestrian Association Horse Shows (IEA). Sometimes I would be the only guy competing there and at most there were only 2 other guys. It can make you feel really out of place. When you go; whether it be in a lesson, in the show ring, or to the tack shop; everyone notices you. It can put a lot of pressure on you. But, if you are doing well as a rider, it can help to be noticed by people and set yourself apart. Overall, everyone I've met in the equestrian community has been extremely supportive and encouraging as I continue my riding journey.
What’s it’s like being a part of the Herd:
Being a part of the Herd is something really special to me. It’s a group of awesome and supportive people that all have their own stripes to show.
You can also check out my new HofZ coloring pages here: herd-of-zebras.com/coloring-pages