Success Story June 29, 2021 at 12:30 pm

11-yr-old cowgirl competes at first nationally televised Black rodeo and makes history

Ama Nunoo June 29, 2021 at 12:30 pm

June 29, 2021 at 12:30 pm | Success Story

Kortnee Solomon gets ready to compete in the junior breakaway roping competition. Ivan McClellan for The Undefeated

A fourth-generation young Texas cowgirl made great strides as a professional rider at the first-ever nationally televised Black Rodeo. Kortnee Solomon entered her first competition at age five. Now at 11 years old, she returned to compete in the Bill Pickett Invitational Rodeo, the oldest Black-owned rodeo circuit in the United States, per The Undefeated.

The Bill Pickett Invitational partnered with Professional Bull Riders to produce the Showdown in Vegas this year, featuring seven professional events, including bareback, bulldogging, and calf roping.

The rodeo season usually starts in May through to September, with at least one event a weekend.

Even though Solomon is happy that the competition in Vegas has allowed her to make history in the first televised Black rodeo and meet her friends for the first time since January 2020, her love for competitions is in-born, even if it is with people twice her age.

The Texas native has won several championships, participating in the ladies’ barrel and junior breakaway events. At the Showdown in Vegas event, she was the only girl to compete in the junior breakaway roping competition.

“Before I run, I like to be by myself and to think about what I am going to do in that run,” she said of her demeanor before a competition.

Solomon’s family has been around horses long before she was born. Her mother, Kanesha Jackson, started riding horses at age three. She won her first all-around saddle competition with the Bill Pickett Invitational Rodeo a decade later and is an 11-time invitational champion.

Solomon’s father, Cory, is a Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association tie-down roper while her maternal grandmother, Stephanie Haynes, is an 18-time invitational champion who also serves on the Bill Pickett Invitational Rodeo board. Solomon’s grandfather, Sedgwick Haynes, was general manager of the Rodeo before his death.

Solomon and her mom Jackson bond while grooming, feeding, training, and riding horses on their property in Hempstead. The young cowgirl lives for the sport and the relationship she has with her horse Tiny is one worth admiring.

She is very committed to the sport. Jackson said that even though her daughter is an excellent rider, she wants her to be a well-rounded person. “I want Kortnee to live through her own purpose. She loves horses, but she also does dance, gymnastics, cheerleading, and basketball. I want her to experience everything, so she doesn’t feel like she missed out during her childhood,” Jackson said.

The Invitational’s CEO Valeria Cunningham is the only Black female owner of a rodeo taking over from her late husband, Lu Vason.

Cunningham managed to get the Rodeo on national television. CBS picked it up as part of the Juneteenth celebrations.

“For the past 37 years, we’ve been working to create a platform for Black cowboys and cowgirls, to educate people about how Blacks were left out of the history books in the development of the West and inspire people to have hope for the future…and see that Black cowboys and cowgirls do exist today,” Cunningham said. 

She refers to Solomon as the icing on her cake because anytime she mounts a horse, the confidence she exudes is beyond her age. “Kortnee always pushes herself and is willing to try anything because she knows what her abilities are,” she said. 

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