When most people hear of cowgirls, they often picture a Caucasian girl in the southwestern region of the United States, not to talk of the term “rodeo” which is usually not even ascribed to the African-American community. To change the narrative, a group of African-American women from Maryland and Virginia formed an all-female rodeo team, The Cowgirls of Color.
They were first assembled in 2015 by a veteran Maryland horseman Ray Lockamy when he had an idea to put together an all-female black cowgirl team to compete in the country’s only African-American touring rodeo competition, the Bill Pickett Invitational Rodeo.
Out of the four women he invited to join the team, only one of them had ridden a horse while growing up. The women were driven by their passion for the sport initially when they agreed to join the team, little did they know they will become ambassadors inspiring little girls and women all over the country to saddle up their horses to join them.
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The first to join the group was Kisha “KB” Bowles, 43. Then came Selina “Pennie” Brown, 47, and Sandra “Pinky” Dorsey, 34, both of Upper Marlboro. Brittaney “Britt Brat” Logan, 32, was the fourth and last member until Leslie “Camo” DeLacy, 42, joined them recently.
“When I first started riding and training, I just wanted to learn everything about horses and get better,” said Bowles. “But once we started getting more visible, we recognized our role in the community to challenge and inspire women and little girls by doing what we love to do.”
These women set out to debunk stereotypical notions about Black women riding horses professionally or even for leisure but in 2016, they became the first all-black, all-female rodeo team to participate in the Bill Pickett International Rodeo.
“We’re certainly not the first black cowgirls or black relay team, but we’re picking up where the people before us left off and continuing the tradition,” Dorsey said. Coached by Lockamy, the women were fan favorites in last year’s relay division — an event akin to the 4×100-meter race in track and field. They finished third overall.
The response from the public has been amazing. According to the Washington Post, the team receives about 50 emails a day and many more messages via its Facebook handle on how to start horse riding.
The Cowgirls of Color say it is a privilege to use their national platform to continue to raise awareness about rodeo and equestrian events and the general Western lifestyle through their community outreach programs. Older women also tend to get emotional when they see them at events because they have never seen a black cowgirl before.
Being a part of the team is more than a hobby. The ladies believe they are bringing a much-needed representation to the usually white male-dominated sport.
They want to leave behind a legacy and something for the next generation of cowgirls and cowboys to look up to, and they sure do hope all their efforts will help form a strong generation of horse riding loving community among Blacks.
“I want kids to see me, a black woman riding a horse,” Brown said. “If for nothing else, than to give them the confidence in knowing they can do anything they set their minds to.”
One of the biggest notions they have had to debunk was the age limit ascribed to horse riding. Many were of the view that if one does not have any experience riding as a child then it is impossible to pick it up at an older age.
But that is not the case at all. As mentioned earlier, only one of the women on the team had prior experience with horse riding before becoming a Cowgirl of Color and this is proof that anyone can start following their dreams no matter their age.