I was overjoyed to have the opportunity to speak with Abriana Johnson of Black Unicorn Creative, LLC.. She has an incredible riding, and life story of going against the grain to follow her dreams.
Abriana started riding around the age of 7 at a hunter/jumper barn. She started off riding a lazy horse that took a lot of work to get going, much like many beginner lesson ponies. While she now understands the importance of riding horses like this to learn, she did not feel the connection to riding at that time. Losing interest, she stopped taking organized lessons. Fast forward to high school, her cousin told her about a trail ride he was going to and asked if she wanted to ride. She accepted! She had ridden a horse before right? She did not think trail riding would be much different, but boy was she wrong.
Abriana was in awe at how large the trail riding community was, and that it was so diverse. She was able to go out on her first trail in 2008, and has been hooked ever since. She remembers the adrenaline rush and the fellowship that she was able to experience. Her family started with going out for the weekend with tents, to campers, and now a big hauler. Her motivation for learning more about riding was making sure she did not fall off in the woods. She had the pleasure of riding a very strong and forward Tennessee Walking Horse named Coco, a horse she still has to this day.
On her first trail with her horse CoCo, she came up to the puddle that her horse wanted to drink out of. Little did she know it was not a puddle at all, and they went falling down into a hole in the ground. Her horse was able to climb up the sides of the hole, and everyone was safe. It was a crazy experience that she was able to learn, and grow from. One of her favorite trails is the P&P Explosion in Castalia, North Carolina. Her favorite trail riding memory is pulling away from the group on her current mount, 8 year old TWH Maestro, behind a Black cowboy on a Racking horse. This horse was moving faster at the rack than her horse at the canter. She looked around at the scene, weaving in and out of trees chasing behind this man and his horse and felt exhilarated. She felt her cares melt away and felt connected with her horse and with nature, all while this man on the racking horse was egging her on.
During her sophomore year at North Carolina State University, Abriana bought a weanling. While she does not recommend doing this, she would never trade the experience and connections she made along her journey. Abriana was volunteering at the NCSU Equine Education Unit at the time and gained experience with foaling out mares, working with foals, and handling stallions. Due to the experience she gained at this unit, she felt comfortable with her purchase and building a relationship with her new horse. Abriana made sure to expose him to a variety of different things such as tarps, umbrellas, and made sure to incorporate voice commands in his training. She was grateful for the experience to be able to raise her horse from the ground up. Before this, she had not owned any horses, but was fortunate her family had the property to house them.
After graduating with a Bachelor’s Degree in Animal Science, Abriana entered the workforce as a veterinary technician. She worked in that position for about 3 years then was promoted to management. Abriana was able to learn the business side of the veterinary industry while managing a growing pet resort. Although this was an exciting challenge for her, she always had a side hustle. Abriana completed a Master’s Degree in One Health and used her additional training to bridge her passion for the horse industry, her creativity, and her knowledge of the business to build a lucrative business. In August 2020, she decided to follow her passions full time. She wanted to see how much she could accomplish by putting all of her attention towards her podcast, Young Black Equestrians, and her business, Black Unicorn Creative, LLC and her books, Cowgirl Camryn.
While imposter syndrome created fear around taking the leap, Abriana knew the worst that could happen was needing to find another job to help pay the bills. She felt entrepreneurship was something she had to pursue because if she didn’t try it, she would never know how much of a success it might be. Abriana shared this piece of advice, pursuit of your passion is not a box to check off, but a journey with challenges and triumphs.
During our conversation, we also discussed the hierarchy of disciplines within the equestrian community. Many of us equestrians know that typically competitive riders are heralded as the most important demographic, while non-competitors aren’t necessarily catered to. She challenges us as equestrians to have mutual respect for each other. There should not be this particular dichotomy because we are all in this industry for the same reason, the love of horses.