Zoie Brogdon: Meet 16-year-old black equestrian Compton Cowboys

Get to know the next generation of must-have game-changing names in the series Presentation, or Illustrated sports and Empower Onyx celebrate black women and girls who are emerging leaders and rising stars in the world of sports.

Zoie Brogdon

Instagram: @iamzoienoelle

Name: Zoie Brogdon
Age: 16
Job: Equestrian
Hometown: Los Angeles

Zoie Brogdon is a bright, sparkling teenage girl whose eyes light up when she talks about the love of her life: her horse, Ninja. While she still can’t decide what her favorite song is on her 1pm playlist, or what she wants to do in the world, the free-spirited rider is saddled up and ready to boldly ride in the future, wherever it takes it. The young fashionista is hoping to see more black and brunette girls riding horses and making an impact in sports.

Empower Onyx: What do people say when you tell them you’re a rider?

Zoie Brogdon: “Oh my God, are you a girl on horseback?” To me, I’m like, Oh no! I cannot be labeled as the horse’s daughter. It’s weird. You are like becoming a horse. I’m like, no it’s not me. I happen to be really happy when I ride. After I explained what I do and how cool this sport is, they are so amazed. They say, “Are you like the people in the movies?” I’m like, yeah, I’m like the people in the movies.


EO: What is your definition of what a rider is?

ZB: It’s a little hard to define because people have different explanations for it. For me, a rider is just someone who really loves horses, who cares about them, who wants to be around them and who rides, of course.

EO: I was reading an article about the Netflix movie The more they fall. Actor Keith Stansfield spoke about how emotional he got when they finished filming because he truly bonded with his horse and felt that unconditional love. Everyone understands the love of dogs or cats, but talks about the love of horses.

ZB: Me and my Ninja horse are best friends. He’s my accomplice. We do it all together. I absolutely love it. Getting that emotion with any animal you’ve bonded with is such a special connection. For me and my horse, we grew up together and we know each other so well. It’s not like a dog or a cat; it’s not just your pets. This connection goes a step further. You entrust your life to your horse and they entrust theirs to you. It’s teamwork, you have to have some communication.

EO: What does it feel when you ride?

ZB: Like I’m flying? Honestly, absolutely love a good gallop. I love to jump. I am like in the air.

EO: What advice would you give to a young black girl who wants to be Zoie?

ZB: Compton Cowboys and Compton Jr. Equestrians work hand in hand and have done a great job of helping black and brown kids get started in the sport. Hopefully we can have a new generation of a diverse equestrian world.

EO: What would you say to a young person who thinks of an extraordinary sport?

ZB: At first I would ask, do you want to play sports? If the answer is yes, do it. Who is stopping you? No one stops you except yourself. If you don’t see like-minded people in sport, be the person you want to see in sport.

EO: Do you have any stories to share about adversity?

ZB: Anytime I have to put my hair inside a helmet. I have thick braids. It’s not going to fit. It never fits. I have had judges who rated me because my hair was in a bun instead of being pulled up in my helmet. I can’t physically put it in a helmet, I explained that. I was like, listen guys, I have braids. My natural hair can’t really condense into a helmet. It doesn’t happen as often because I don’t go to these classes like I used to. There are certain disciplines in this sport where it is mandatory to have a certain appearance. But I mainly compete in the rider arena, which is not so formal. I can leave my hair in a ponytail, which I love to do. I love to see my hair fluttering in the wind.


EO: Can you talk about the accessibility of sport?

ZB: It is an expensive sport because there is so much to do. I have these high boots. I have the jacket. I have this thick helmet, it’s for safety reasons, but it all goes into the sport look. I would love to wear sweatpants, sneakers and a tank top, but that’s not okay. All of these things go into sport and take care of you and your pet. Vet bills are extreme because they are large animals. Ninja doesn’t stop eating; feeding him is a lot. If you are participating in a competition, there is a charge for the competition and for the towing to bring your horse there. I was fortunate to have received the Michael Nyuis grant from West Palms Events to help me with my competition fees.

EO: Since you love to show off and style is an integral part of equestrian sport, what would be your dream fashion collaboration?

ZB: A collaboration of the Nike or Jordan brand with Ariat [equestrian gear] would be sick, because they are already working with other sports. It looks awesome. It would look cool. Think about the pictures. It’s the movement right there.

OE: What is Zoie’s future?

ZB: I would like to be a Grand Prix jumper [the uppermost level of show jumping]—At least 1.50 meters. That’s my goal. Afterwards, I don’t know what I want to do. I know I want to go to college, but I don’t know what I would major in and what would become of me in the world because I’m still figuring it out. Yeah, no matter where the world takes me I’m ready to take it all.

Editor’s Note: Shortly after the interview, Brogdon won a gold medal at the Markel / USHJA Zone Team Jumper Championship, after four perfect runs over three days in Thermal, Calif.

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