Rodeo is a sport that someone typically picks up at a young age and hones throughout their life. Brittaney Logan didn’t get on a horse until she was an adult, but from the moment she started riding she’s been a natural, and her speed of choice is a full gallop.
Logan was born in Washington, D.C. In her teenage years she moved to Upper Marlboro, a suburb of Maryland. That’s where she discovered rodeo. She founded a rodeo team that consisted of all Black women, called the Cowgirls of Color. As a team, they respectively participated in events like barrel and relay racing.
After being pushed to the fringes for decades, Black people are finally being highlighted for their contribution to cowboy and cowgirl culture. Last week I talked with Brittaney about what it feels like being on the first all Black female rodeo team, how her horses help her get through tough days, and common misconceptions about the rodeo.
When did you start riding horses and what was that experience like?
I started riding horses when I was 21 years old, when someone I met at work put me on a horse for the first time at my son's birthday party. It was exhilarating to say the least. I didn't know how to ride. I didn't know how to do anything. He put me on a horse and he said, "Go for it." I'm thinking that he meant, "Go for it." So I went fast. I went into a full gallop and I came back and he's like, "Oh my gosh, Brittaney. I didn't mean like that. I meant just walk. Well, you know what? You are a natural." Ever since then, I've been on a horse.
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How did you get into horses competitively and who taught you how to ride?
I was 28. I was seen riding a horse at one of my adult kickball games, by two girls that were former members of the Cowgirls of Color. It was a full girl rodeo team. They needed somebody at the last minute, two months before the rodeo. She called me and was like, "Girl, can you come ride and learn how to do this rodeo?" I said, "I ride in the woods and do leisure stuff. I've never been in no competition. I don't do things like that." She was like, "Don’t worry about it. Dr. Ray Charles Lockamy is going to teach you.” He invited me over to his ranch that day. Two months later, we were in our first rodeo at the Bill Pickett Rodeo in 2015.
You’re from the DMV area. What is rodeo culture like there?
Rodeo culture in the DMV is almost non-existent, to be for real. It's not something you see every day. In the more suburban areas, like Upper Marlboro, Brandywine area, you might see a lot of people with horses. People have horses in this area, but people don't do rodeos in this area. I’m one of a few that compete in barrel events, barrel racing, and a four-man relay team. But for your average person, you don't see this often. I didn't get exposed to this until someone invited me to a trail ride and there were hundreds of Black people with their own horses, trucks, and trailers at these trail rides. I'm like, "Where the heck was this when I was growing up?" I had never seen it before. Now, yes, it's getting more exposure, and more people are trying to enter these events. We’ve got the Bill Pickett Rodeo, which is very big in D.C. and Maryland. That's where they hold the championships. It's a lot of us that get ready for that at the end of the year.
How many horses do you own and what are their names?
I have three horses. The first horse that I actually bought was for my son for his ninth birthday. His name is Moonlight. He's a gelding, a male horse that's been stripped. I have a girl horse. Her name's Starlight. That's my competitive horse. She does all my barrel racing and pole bending and things like that. I have a miniature horse named Sweetheart. She is a tiny horse and that's who I use for my pony parties and things like that.
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Horses are said to have a therapeutic impact with riders. What’s your connection like with your horses?
My Moonlight is my avatar. I am connected with that horse so much, because he reminds me of my hard-headed son in every way possible. It's almost like Moonlight can feel when I'm not feeling good. He's got an easy ride when I'm impatient or when I'm anxious. It's like we really connect. You know how in the movie Avatar, they connect at the tail? That's how I feel when I'm on Moonlight, so my day could be going terribly, but when I ride my horse, my baby, my Moonlight, it just opens up all possibilities for me. It's so relaxing. Because they don't talk about you. They're not mean to you. They're just quiet and listen to your thoughts. I just love that horse.
My day could be going terribly, but when I ride my horse, my baby, my Moonlight, it just opens up all possibilities for me.
You’re on a rodeo team that consists of all Black women, called Cowgirls of Color. This is a first in your sport. What’s it been like participating in a sport that’s historically been dominated by white men?
It's powerful, because it's like when you see us out there, Black girls, we're not scared to get our hair wet, we're not scared to get dirty, we're not scared to get on these beasts, these 1300-, 1500-pound animals. We have no fear and I just feel so powerful. I know that people that are looking at me, especially young girls and young kids in general, they're just getting empowered just watching me, because it's obtainable. I think growing up, because I didn't get exposed to it, I didn't know this was available to me. I would have been started this by then. I didn't get into this until my adult years. I think that the people that are looking at us, they can feel a sense of empowerment too. They know that they can jump out there and do that too. That's the word for me. I just feel empowered.
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What are your thoughts on the depiction of Black rodeo in the media?
Before recently, it's almost non-existent. You didn't see it often. When you did see it, rodeo life was being portrayed by a white person. The media is bringing on this yee-haw agenda. I think that it's always been here. It's just that we didn't have the exposure. We didn't have people knocking on our doors, wanting to invite us to be in these movies and things. Now you’re seeing it more. It's in all these different movies with these Black cowboys, Black cowgirls. It's getting out there now. I think this is definitely a great thing and I'm just happy that I can bring light to it as well.
I think that the people that are looking at us, they can feel a sense of empowerment too. They know that they can jump out there and do that too.
Could you describe what the atmosphere at a Black rodeo competition is like?
That's another powerful feeling. I have never seen so many Black people that are so excited about this event that was never publicized before. You have thousands of people in the stands. You have these Black horse owners that are dressed with their belt buckles, their fancy shirts, their chaps and all that. They just look really professional and nice. You just have to be there to feel what I'm talking about. To me, it's better than a football game. You know how you go to football or baseball games and everybody's just so excited? Now you're watching this woman or this man doing something I say is dangerous if you don't know what you're doing. You're just rooting them on. You got people jumping on bulls and bucking horses. With Black people doing it, it's awesome.
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Could you talk a little bit about the Bill Pickett Rodeo Championship?
Every September is the championship. Bill Pickett is a national traveling rodeo. They're in Colorado. They’re in Las Vegas. It got highlighted big time at Las Vegas this year. That was the one show they were doing despite COVID that was televised on CBS. They go to Atlanta and Tennessee.
The coordinators come out on a Thursday to get everything set up. They get everybody's horses in their stalls, and they do a show on Friday for the kids. They invite different school kids. It's almost like a dress rehearsal and a meet-and-greet. Saturday is the main show. It's two shows, at 1PM and 7PM. Each person has to compete at each one of those shows. In between, we have a big cookout in the back area, where all the participants and their guests are eating and having fun. Then Saturday night, after the rodeo, is the party. That's typical with rodeo.
What’s a common misconception about the rodeo?
A common misconception about the rodeo is that we're abusing animals. We're not. It looks dangerous, but we take amazing care of our animals. Our animals probably get fed better than we do. Another one is that Black people don't do this. We do this. It's here, it's available. I'm telling you, it's about to get live, because people are catching on and people are about to just go crazy with this rodeo life, Black people.