Cowgirls of Color, Selina “Pennie” Brown, 47, Brittaney “Britt Brat” Logan, 32, and Kisha 'KB' Bowles, 43, dance while sitting on their horses in response to music blaring from the rodeo arena. (Photo by Melissa Lyttle)

“It's just like a big dog,” said Selina “Pennie” Brown, 47, as she introduces her horse to people in the neighborhood at D.C. police's “Beat the Streets” event in Anacostia. (Photo by Melissa Lyttle)

In 2015, veteran Maryland horseman Ray Lockamy got the idea to assemble a relay team of black cowgirls to participate in the Bill Pickett Invitational Rodeo, the country’s only African American touring rodeo competition. He invited four women from the Washington region to join him. Only one had ridden a horse.

The women, now part of the Cowgirls of Color, can laugh about it today because it sparked something in all of them. “When I first started riding and training, I just wanted to learn everything about horses and get better,” said Kisha “KB” Bowles, 43, of the District. “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.”

Bowles was the first to join. Selina “Pennie” Brown, 47, and Sandra “Pinky” Dorsey, 34, both of Upper Marlboro, soon followed. Brittaney “Britt Brat” Logan, 32, rounded out the group. And recently, Leslie “Camo” DeLacy, 42, joined the team.

“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 4x100-meter race in track and field. They finished third overall.

The Cowgirls say they receive about 50 emails a day from people wanting to know how they can get started riding horses in their towns, with many more messages coming in through their Facebook page. Fans want to know if there are weight requirements or age limits. Older women who meet them at events frequently have tears in their eyes because they have never seen a black cowgirl before. Teenagers who have never seen a horse want selfies.

All say being a Cowgirl of Color is empowering, confidence building, healing and life changing. “It’s a lifestyle, not a hobby,” Dorsey said. More than anything, they say, it is representation. The women are honoring a rich tradition and providing visibility and exposure in the hope of creating the next generation of black cowgirls and cowboys. “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.”


Rashyah Brazier, 13, of Toledo came to watch the Cowgirls of Color compete at the Bill Pickett Invitation Rodeo in Upper Marlboro, Md., in September 2018 along with her aunt Crystal Orr. (Photo by Melissa Lyttle)

Brittaney “Britt Brat” Logan, 32, of Upper Marlboro, Md., dances to music while the other riders, as well as their families and friends, hang out behind the Show Place Arena during a break from competition, barbecuing and catching up with one another. (Photo by Melissa Lyttle)

With horse riding in her blood, Jay Carter of Spencer, Okla., competed in the Ladies Steer Undecorating and Ladies Barrel Racing events at the Bill Pickett Invitation Rodeo in Upper Marlboro, Md. (Photo by Melissa Lyttle)

One of the Cowgirls of Color, Kisha 'KB' Bowles, 43, of Washington, leads a little girl on a horse ride through the park during the D.C. police's “Beat the Streets” event in Anacostia. “People in some neighborhoods have never seen a horse before, so they're absolutely amazed,” said Bowles. “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.” (Photo by Melissa Lyttle)

While hot dogs and hamburgers cook on the grill and a local group of teenagers sings and dances on a makeshift stage nearby, one of the Cowgirls of Color, Kisha 'KB' Bowles, 43, of Washington, leads a little girl on a horse ride through the park during the D.C. police's “Beat the Streets” event. (Photo by Melissa Lyttle)

Hadiyah Muhammad, 66, of Washington, D.C., left, wears her hijab under her cowboy hat at the Bill Pickett Invitational Rodeo in Upper Marlboro, Md. Elvera Patrick, 64, of Washington, made her own outfit, complete with a tiara fitted around her cowboy hat to wear at the same event. (Photos by Melissa Lyttle)

Kisha 'KB' Bowles, 43, of Washington, walks arm-in-arm through the stables with the newest Cowgirl of Color Leslie “Camo” DeLacy, 42, in between events. Their manager, Crystal Orr, describes the black rodeo circuit as more of a camaraderie and less of a rivalry. (Photo by Melissa Lyttle)

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