Compton Cowboys Use Horses To Get At-Risk Teens Off The Streets

Ride to thrive

Feb 12, 2019


Compton Cowboys on their horses

(Courtesy Compton Cowboys)

At times, help and guidance arrive in the most unexpected ways. When you think of Compton, you may not automatically think of horseback riding, yet that’s exactly how this group is getting at-risk young people off the streets.

The Compton Cowboys--a group of determined Black community leaders--ride horses through the city to mitigate and prevent racial violence by encouraging teens to trade crime for riding lessons.

The 10 founders met each other at a nonprofit stable in California when their families empowered them to seek safety and meaning outside of their communities rife with gang violence. Away from the violence, the youngsters were able to thrive and find a peaceful setting they didn’t know before.

In March, one of the Compton Cowboys told the New York Times that he credits the stables for getting him away from a dangerous lifestyle.

“I was always around shootings and gangs, but none of that happens when I’m in the stables with the horses. There’s peace with the animals,” he said.

Even the horses have been rescued from a life of instability, malnutrition, and abuse. Now, under the care of the Cowboys, they’re happy and healthy. Cowboy Randy Hook said that the horses needed rescuing just like the riders.

“The throwaway horses that we were given ended up being the best horses for us because they had a feisty spirit and a chip on their shoulder just like we did,” he told the Times. “They were the underdogs just like we were.”

An additional perk of the Cowboy’s program? Educating young Black people about the rich history of Black cowboys that’s often disregarded from history. After the Civil War, between 5,000-8,000 men and women became ranchers and herders, a fact that helps empower riders and change the community’s view of what a cowboy “should” resemble.

“At the end of the day, we want people to also think about us when they think about cowboys, not just a bunch of white guys in cowboy hats who smoke Marlboro cigarettes,” added Hook. “We’re trying to be the guys who make it cool to wear Stetson hats and Wrangler jeans in the ’hood.”

In some places, it takes a village to raise a child; In Compton, takes a dedicated group of cowboys to inspire and help young people to thrive.

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Rebecca is passionate about reading, cooking, and learning about people doing good in the world. She especially loves writing about wellness, personal growth, and relationships.