Gladney, who is 16 years old, is a star on the junior rodeo tour. She started participating when she was 7 years old, and earlier this year, at the Colorado Junior Rodeo, she won first place in pole bending.
This weekend, Gladney will be in Portland. She may break some people’s ideas about rodeo riders. She calls herself a “Black cowgirl” from Compton, California, and she’s used to people being surprised by her.
“A lot of people are like, ‘Oh, she’s from Compton? They have horses there?’ And I was like, “Yeah, Compton does have horses.” You won’t believe it.” Gladney is going to Portland on Saturday, June 17, for the Eight Seconds Juneteenth Rodeo.
This is the first Black rodeo to be held in Oregon. Ivan McClellan, a photographer in Portland, came up with the idea for the event at the Portland Expo Center. He has spent much time photographing Black rodeos all over the country and wanted to host one of his own.
There will be events like riding horses without a saddle, runaway roping, riding bulls, and barrel racing. Gladney is going to run in the barrel race with her horse Chrome. In this race, the horse and rider run as fast as possible to three barrels about 30 feet apart.
The horse runs as fast as it can to the first barrel, rounds it, and then does the same with the following two barrels before running as fast as it can back to the starting line. It takes Gladney less than 14 seconds to do it. Gladney wants to go fast but also to do a few other things.
She says she can’t wait for her first Juneteenth ride. WW called her last week and asked her how she got into rodeos and what it means to be a Black cowgirl.
WW: You Began Riding As Early As 4. What Was It Like, Essentially Growing Up Riding A Horse?
London Gladney: When I was little, my dad or anyone else who tried to take me off the horse would make me cry. Everyone around my dad was someone I looked up to. I thought, “That’s what I want to be like, I want to ride horses.”
Your dad, Dihigi Gladney, was a bull rider. What is it like having someone with that kind of experience so close to you as you’re growing up and competing?
When you appear as a black cowboy, people say, “Oh, she’s black. She doesn’t know what she’s doing.” When I arrive, they say, “Oh, she knows what she’s doing.” I know what I’m doing because I have a brilliant dad.
- Breaking News: The North Tabor Gunshot Victim Has Been Identified
- Breaking News: The Hit-and-run Victim From April 28 Has Been Identified
When Did You First Begin Competing In Rodeo?
I was 7. At first, it was scary. When I was little, I didn’t have many friends. I had this little pony named Asia, and when we would start to run in, she would throw me off. Then everyone would laugh. As I got older, I made many friends and started winning a lot, which I love.
How Often Do You Switch Horses?
At the moment, I own 10 or 11 horses all by myself. Right now, Chrome and Cruiser are both good horses that I use. Chrome can do barrel and pole work, while Cruiser can only do barrel racing. Chrome is just like a small dog.
He’ll sometimes lick my face like a dog or rest his head on my shoulder when I’m just standing next to him. I’ll sometimes sneak away to go ride Pumpkin, my aunt’s horse. She does a great job in the barrels.
I’ve beaten her back-to-back before. When I was young, I always rode different horses. I could hop on someone else’s horse and say, “Oh, I’ve ridden this horse before. I think I’m ready to go.”
Barrels Can Be Kind Of A Scary Thing To Watch. What Are You Thinking When You Do Barrels?
I will tell you the truth: half the time, I black out. Most of the time, I can’t remember anything. I can remember some things, but once I leave, I leave. I’m like, “Oh my gosh, I need to go faster.”
I’ve wanted to go to a Juneteenth rodeo since I was a kid. But they always live far away in Oklahoma and Texas. Then I knew it was coming and got a text message about it. “Please let me go,” I begged my dad.
Is There Anything Specific That You’re Looking Forward To?
I hope there are a lot of people there. I like the big crowds. My horses love to show off to a big group. And it’s good to see a show sold out because many people were like, “Hey, Black cowgirls, let’s watch. This ought to be fun.”
I try to show what Black people are like. A lot of people are shocked by it. People often say things like, “They have Black rodeos?” I told her, “Yeah, they’re a lot of fun to go to. You shouldn’t miss out, so you should be there.”