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The Black Cowgirls of Southern California

Black Women in Sports

The Black Cowgirls of Southern California


Three local women bucking cowboy stereotypes are part of a lesser-known legacy of African-American horseriders in the West.

For Black History Month, Chanel Rhodes decided to give her horse — a brown-and-white spotted Tobiano named Lady — an experimental makeover. Dressed in jeans and a black shirt, Rhodes expertly crocheted tracks of brown and blonde extensions into Lady’s mane to create an “Afrocentric pony” look.

“I see all these people doing artsy things with horses,” Rhodes says. “I thought, what if I put a weave in my horse’s hair? What kind of reaction would I get?”

Rhodes posted a video of her project to Instagram. It was quickly shared through the equestrian community and landed her a guest spot on the “Young Black Equestrians” podcast, a program dedicated to equine culture with “an extra dose of melanin.” She soon began getting requests from other riders to create wig caps for their horses and her business venture, Mane Tresses, was born.

For Rhodes, horseback riding has been a life-long passion. “I never grew out of my pony phase,” she says on a sunny Saturday morning at the Rancho del Rio stables in Anaheim. “I was always obsessed…

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I am a future butterfly at the stage of growth when I am turning into an adult. I am enclosed in a hard case shell formed by love, family, and friends. It is the hardest stage of becoming a black butterfly. You will encounter many hardships only to come out stronger and better than what you went in. At this stage, you are finding out who you truly are and how to love yourself.

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