Places that Matter

Federation of Black Cowboys

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Fundraising for the Federation of Black Cowboys, September 2015
Fundraising for the Federation of Black Cowboys, September 2015
Federation of Black Cowboys, September 2015
Cowboy by the sign, Martha Cooper
Cowboy on the horse with the flag,
Cowboy by he horse in the stable,
Federation of Black Cowboys site,
A slice of the American West in Queens
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Deep in the heart of Queens, the Federation of Black Cowboys keeps some 25 horses at Cedar Lane Stables. Viewing the stark contrast of the stables and rodeo ring with the Howard Beach tract development, it is hard to imagine finding a comparable situation anywhere else in New York City, but somehow it seems to make sense. And the cowboys are glad they have this space.
The Cedar Lane Stables utilize a portion of about 25 acres of city-owned land with a corral the size of a football field, a recently renovated horse barn, as well as a portable holding office for the federation. The stables and horse stalls were upgraded in 2014, but for some years were dilapidated and structurally questionable. The horses held within were, and are, by contrast extremely well groomed, healthy, and, even in the middle of a January cold spell, happy.
While the federation owns the majority of the horses, a few are held over from the stables before the cowboys took them over in 1998, when they won an open-bid lease from the NYC Parks Department. The stables formerly had what is known as "rough board," which means that the horses were given a place to stay but had to be fed and groomed by their owners. As of 2015, the stables are "full board," This means that the organization is responsible for caring for resident horses.
The federation was formed in 1994 by a group of like-minded horse riders, most of whom were members of another organization, the Black Cowboy Association of Brooklyn. While the Black Cowboys of Brooklyn had a primarily social and fraternal function, the federation lists community service and youth involvement as its primary goals. Application for membership is open to all, but each application is reviewed with an eye to character, a record of community service, and skills to contribute to the Federation’s daily and general operations. With regard to cowboy activity, each applicant must at least have access to a horse and, as cowboy Lenard Herbert slyly adds, "You gotta have a cowboy hat." Although the federation's name is gender-specific, membership is open to women, who ride as the Cedar Lane Jewels. All of the members have and regularly use individually designated cowboy nicknames.

See the cowboys on video