Dannielle Brown says that if her son was into basketball, football, soccer — or even golf — she’d know what to do.
But Jamal Brown doesn’t like any of those sports. His dream is to be a show jumper and ride for the U.S. Equestrian Team. What’s Dannielle supposed to do with that? It’s not something many people would expect of a 16-year-old African American kid from Northeast Washington.
“We thought it was cute,” Dannielle said of the obsession Jamal has had since he was a toddler, when he used to gravitate to picture books about horses. ” ‘Oh, he likes horses,’ like any child would like a dog or dinosaurs. But it just never went away.”
Back then, the family was living in Southern Maryland, and at 6, Jamal started taking riding lessons.
“When he got on the horse, the instructor was blown away,” Dannielle said. “She was like, ‘This boy literally taught himself how to ride through all the books that he read.’ ”
Books can only do so much, though, and when the family moved back to the District, Jamal started going to the stables at Rock Creek Park.
Then his mother got him a scholarship to the Barrie School. The Silver Spring private school has a dozen horses and ponies in its stables and a program that encourages students to ride them. Jamal is on Barrie’s JV equestrian team this year and will move up to varsity next year. A box full of first-place ribbons attests to his skill in equitation, an event in which riders are judged on how good they look on a horse.
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