Kirstie Marie captures our show horses through her lens, but in her travels she has captured a greater perspective than that often seen at our horse shows.
We are very thankful to her for sharing this recent blog post with our readers.
by Kirstie Marie
As horse lovers, you and I know that horses heal humans. Many of us have been given love, purpose, opportunities, and endless life lessons from the back of our steeds.
Last year I had the opportunity to photograph merchandise for the Compton Cowboys in California (recently shared in Western Horseman Magazine). The second part of that session was dedicated to highlighting Kika, a female member of their group nicknamed “The Compton CowGirl”. Kika is a mother, a barrel racer, and a black cowgirl who spends time giving back to the Compton community.
The Compton Cowboys (including Kika) are lifelong friends who have joined together to lift their community in Compton through horseback riding at their mentorship program called Compton Junior Equestrians. Through riding lessons and programs for at-risk youth in Compton, the Compton Junior Posse is a 501-c3 committed to giving these young men and women a brighter future. When you support the Compton Cowboys, you support the Compton Junior Equestrians.
The morning I spent with the Compton Cowboys was one of the best memories of my life. Their joy and energy are infectious. I cannot overstate how genuine this group of horse-obsessed equestrians. They are making enormous contributions to their city in Compton while inspiring people across the globe. Please consider supporting them by sharing their social media accounts, buying their merchandise, and donating to their non-profit organization.
Follow the Compton Cowboys on Instagram here.
Shop CC Merch here.
The Compton Cowgirl
Keiara Monique—nickname Kika—grew up in Compton, California, and she’s a second-generation barrel racer. She worked her way up through the barrel racing ranks before setting aside horses to pursue a degree in nursing. Today she’s 31, back in the horse world, caring for her family and striving to make the world a better place.
While the pandemic has put a hold on Keiara’s work with the Compton Junior Equestrians, and a twist in her plans to open a non-profit (more on that in a minute), she’s not discouraged. She sat down with writer Abigail Boatwright to talk about what horses mean to her, how she’s introducing her 3-year-old daughter Taylor to horses, what drives her to achieve her dreams, and her thoughts on the groundbreaking shifts happening in our country’s understanding of racism.
Abigail: First off, how are you doing? Living in California, you’re still under a stay-at-home order due to COVID-19. How has that affected you?
Keiara: I’ve had to be flexible and adaptable, especially with having my daughter. But I’m doing good. My faith is strong. I feel like the world wasn’t operating how it was created to be, and we’ve gotten to where our success is based on how we live and how we represent ourselves. To me, that’s not truly success. I believe the pandemic is a way of God reminding us he’s in control. We forgot about him, but even with all the money in the world, you can’t buy yourself out of this crisis.
So I’m thankful for my faith, and I appreciate this time. It’s helped me slow down even more. I’ve been working on getting balanced, and more structured on the things I want to work on within myself.
A: Can you talk to us about how horses have shaped your life?
K: Growing up, my household was dysfunctional. Our communication was off. Alcoholism runs in my family, including my grandfather. My mom’s drinking started when I was young, and I didn’t understand what it was doing in my household. She would drink on the weekends, and it would cause conflict between us.
The weekends were also when I got to go to barrel races with my mom. I had a lot of anger, but it was really hurt by a lot of things happening in my life. The way I expressed it was by lashing out. And the barrel races went from being my only peace to being taken away.
But when I was 16, I got my license, and my own horse, and I was able to go to the barn and ride my horse every day after school, instead of only on the weekends. I believe that is what kept me sane. There was so much I was dealing with at home, but I would go out and ride my horse every day. It felt like when I stepped onto the ground at the barn, everything changed. I had no worries, no thought of anything going on outside of me being there with my horse.
Horses have impacted pretty much everything about me. They helped me be more disciplined. They taught me a lot of responsibility. As a teen, I had to care for the horse, I had to go get feed at the feed store, I had to manage my money and my time. Horses gave me peace, but I didn’t understand any of that until I went to college in Texas, and I didn’t have a horse, so I didn’t have that outlet. Horses had kept me grounded, but It took some time for me to understand how much I need my horses.
When my brother passed away in 2014 and then soon after, when my old horse I had back home also passed away, I felt lost. My only outlet was riding horses. That’s all I knew as a way to cope. So when I didn’t have horses, I didn’t know how to deal with it.
But in 2015, I was given a horse, and I am so thankful. It gave me back that peace. It helped me understand how important they are to me.
A: Tell us about your horse, and what she means to you.
K: She’s a Quarter Horse named Penny, and she’s 15 now. She’s the horse version of me. She’s very particular about how you treat her and handle her. If I’m in a bad mood, if I pull up to the barn and try to ride her, she won’t be responsive to me if I’m not handling her correctly. She’ll let me know, and she helps me have awareness of myself. I’ll check myself, walk around, get myself together and get clarity mentally and spiritually. She’s constantly reminding me of growth. Even if I don’t ride her, if I just go see her, she helps my energy.