Auriel August

Meet Auriel August, we talk about No Pablo No, yes that is her current horse’s name. We also talk about her journey to become a surgeon, and also a biomedical engineer, how does she find the time and the money to do everything that she does? We also talk about what it was like growing up as the only black kid at her barn, and how does that work now, since the equestrian world is very traditional..

How did you end up being a horse girl, where did you start? 

– I was a kid that loved to try everything. There was this movie, about barrel racing, so western riding, and I thought that looked really cool. So i tried it. Then I saw someone jumping, so I switched to english jumping, pretty shortly after starting western, I was like no no, I wanna jump stuff. That looks way cooler. 

I eventually moved to a bigger show barn that had a youth program, the head trainer at that barn saw one of my lessons and was like, oh I want to pull her to show at the top barn. Then I showed with her for about three years. In childrens hunters and pony jumpers. I was definitely a horse girl, my parents would drop me off at the barn at 8:am in the morning with a cooler with snacks and come and pick me up at 5:pm. 

How did you figure out the financial part of being an equestrian?

– My trainer kind of paid for me, I was never able to afford my own horse, I came from a relatively middle class family. Not that we had a hard time by any means. But the horse stuff is way more expensive than normal things.

I needed to quit riding because my parents were out of money.This was my freshman year of highschool, I was devastated. Then I went off to college, for engineering. I found out they had a riding club, so I did jumping for three years in college. But when I graduated I had to quit again because I couldn’t afford it. 

What made you find your way back to horses?

– Then I went to Darthmuth for medical school. And eventually to Stanford for residency. Where I met my current finance Natalia. I’ve always talked to her about horseback riding like “oh i have to get back to it someday”, and she asked “why not now? I always thought that I had to wait until I’ve finished training and I’m a rich attending, and have all the money and then I can do it. But she convinced me to do it now. 

I was really lucky to find this awesome trainer who was willing to cut some costs for me. I wanted to do the higher jumpers, so I needed to get my own horse. We went on a search for this diamond in the rough kind of horse. Still working three jobs essentially, I was still on a tight budget. We found No Pablo No in september 2020. She’s this awesome mare that I love, very spicy if you know what I mean. I wouldn’t change anything. I’m so grateful for my partner, my trainer, for everyone. So many stars aligned to make this happen and I feel really fortunate, even though I’m in a ton of debt right now. 

“I have this mentality that I can do it all”

How do you find the time to do everything you do, and still be able to ride? 

– With very little sleep, I’ll be honest. The truth is you can’t do it all without a significant amount of sacrifice in some area. The only reason I thought that I could do it, is because residency is grueling. It’s a lot of scheduling, and I squeeze riding in either early in the morning before my workday, or at lunch time. I always work remotely when I go to a show. It’s not like I take that time off.

Has horses led you into what you do now in some way? 

– Yes, horses did lead me into biomedical engineering when I was younger, I remember learning that race horses, when they break their leg they have to be put down. I was devastated. I thought “No that’s so awful, how can we do that? What if we can make a prosthetic leg for horses?” 9-years old, I asked my parents; “What kind of person does that”. And they told me a biomedical engineer, and I was like “oh cool, ok, that’s what I wanna do”. And it stuck with me all the way through college. 

Tell us about your horse, what is your main focus together right now? 

– Her show name is No Pablo No, very weird, her barn name is Rue. Mostly the amateur jumpers 1,20 m, we have also done the 1,30 m. We would try to move up, but we are only going for such a short amount of time, that we found a sweet spot so I might as well be successful in that spot. 

What is Rues favorite snack? 

– Peppermints, she’s definitely one of those “give me all the snacks” horses. I really love her because her ground manners are really sweet. Riding her, another thing, she fights you all the time. 

“Cute and comfortable is definitely my go to both for the stable and street”

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How would you describe your style, from street to stable? 

Street:

– It’s interesting, I got to play a lot with this through the years, being also that I’m a lesbian, I think I’m very much the tomboy femme, where it’s still feminine but just with a little edge. I do like my flanell and my beanies. 

Stable:

– And at the barn it’s still very preppy, which is fine. I have my breeches, and my shirt but then I usually throw on some sort of hoodie or sweater that makes me feel a little bit more like; “I throw on my beanie on top and still have a nice look”. I like function with a little bit of style. I love the stable jacket and the crossbody belt bag. They are definitely pieces that I would wear to the barn as well as going out (which hopefully will happen again soon!). 

“I have cut my way through this forest on my own. To show people that there is a way to be a black-surgeon-lesbian-equestrian and thrive and love it”

Growing up with your ambitions, what helped you accomplish your goals? 

– I’ve always been a really self motivated kid, my mom tells me. My parents didn’t really push me into doing something specific. My mom told me; Just because you said you wanted to be a doctor it doesn’t mean that you have to. I was like; no no, I do. 

The equestrian world is pretty traditional, has that affected you? 

– Definitely, growing up I think it was a little hard because I did stand out, I was the only black kid at the barn, and also didn’t have a ton of money. But I always thought “If I show up in these second hand stuff I just need to ride really well, so I think it definitely motivated me to really push myself. Like in which other sport is it that no matter how much talent, no matter how hard you work, you can only go so far, unless you have the cash. There is no “one way” to be a part of this sport, as it likes to tell you.