As the protests continue around the globe in the aftermath of the public murder of African American George Floyd, we are seeing horses used more often. And not, as we are accustomed to seeing in this scenario, where police officers sit mounted on horses wearing riot gear.
In the recent peaceful protests south of the border, many African American (and others) have chosen to show up at demonstrations astride their horses. Last week, horse trainer Brianna Nobles rode her horse Dapper Dan in an Oakland, California, protest, and later photos emerged of black riders and their horses in Houston and elsewhere in America.
This past weekend, the famous group of urban riders called The Compton Cowboys, of what was once South Central LA, put out a notice on social media to stage a peaceful ride to take part in the Black Lives Matter demonstrations. Country star and Oscar-winning songwriter Ryan Bingham joined the Cowboys on his own horse. The Cowboys landed on the front page of the LA Times the next day with the headline, “Riding Against Racism,” proving once again the power of the horse to garner attention and empathy.
The Compton Cowboys have been a fixture in LA for years, helping to bring to light the lost history of black cowboys and their place in the mythology of the old West. On Instagram their profile includes a motto, “Streets raised us. Horses saved us,” which helps explain the connection this particular group of protesters has to the animals they love.
Being saved by a passion for horses is something many of us can relate to! The men and women who make up the “Cowboys” are lifelong horse enthusiasts who rescue, rehabilitate, train and compete on horses that were often “discarded” or “abused.” While they use the term cowboy, the riders also train and compete in equestrian disciplines as well as rodeo.
If you’re interested in learning more about the Compton Cowboys, HarperCollins published a book this year written by a New York Times journalist Walter Thompson-Hernandez ‒ The Compton Cowboys: The New Generation of Cowboys in America’s Urban Heartland. It can be purchased here.