Compton Junior Equestrians

Compton Junior Equestrians: Leading the Ride to a Promising Future

As a young boy in the Compton Jr. Posse program, Randy Savvy dreamed of making a difference. Little did he know that he would eventually be leading the very same program that shaped his childhood under a new name -- Compton Junior Equestrians. While the name might be different, the life lessons it teaches inner-city youth are the same.

In 1988, a local horse program by the name of Compton Jr. Posse was founded by Mayisha Akbar in Compton, California. The program had one key mission: keep kids ON horses and OFF the streets.

With three horses in tow, the Compton Jr. Posse enrolled children in the neighborhood to meet after school to take care of the horses and learn riding skills. In theory, these skills would translate to valuable life lessons the kids would need to face the realities of the inner city outside of the ranch.

They even had a uniform: a sky-blue letterman-style jacket emblazoned with the Compton Jr. Posse logo. Wearing the jacket was a badge of honor reserved as a privilege for the older kids in the program to wear. For her nephew Randy Savvy, it symbolized hard work and dedication to the program that shaped his childhood, and now, his adult years.

When the program was ending after 30 successful years, Savvy couldn’t imagine his community without it. So, he set off to start the Compton Junior Equestrians under the same guiding principles.

Wearing the same light blue vintage jacket on his back, Randy shared fond memories of yearning for the day when he could wear it just like the older kids, and the sentiment that came with it -- being a real cowboy and representing the program he held dear.

“Whenever I wear this jacket, I feel that same spirit of those early Jr. Posse days,” he said.

“Going to the ranch was something I looked forward to every day as a kid – messing with the horses, exercising, and training. Then, looking forward to those days where we got to go compete in the rodeos or go show out in the parades, or even just riding around in the neighborhood.”

Beyond the day-to-day activities, the program instilled a sense of purpose and belonging for kids in the Compton community who needed it the most. Today, the Compton Jr. Equestrians aims to do the same for kids between the ages of 8 and 18 who are enrolled in the program. “That spirit has been reignited in me now as an adult on the other side -- running the program, watching my students do their thing, and just seeing how much pride and fun they have,” said Savvy. “I wanted to keep that spirit alive with the Compton Jr. Equestrians.”

According to its website, the Compton Jr. Equestrians uses “the majesty of the horse and the highly esteemed skill of horseback riding to inspire and provide a positive outlet for youth, while enriching the whole person through their five core areas of growth: academic enrichment, career skills, mentorship, character building, and healthy and sustainable living.”

Ariat first became involved with the Compton Jr. Posse over ten years ago when we were introduced by sponsored athlete and Olympic show jumping gold medalist Will Simpson. Simpson was on the board for many years and volunteered his time to coach their young riders.

Through the years, Ariat has provided financial aid and products to help support the program. It’s been rewarding to see the impact the program has had on its members, including Randy, and watch him take it to the next level.

Connecting with Nature

For children growing up in the inner city, nature is a commodity. For Randy, instilling a connection with the great outdoors in at-risk children from an early age is a core reason for the existence of the Compton Jr. Equestrians program.

“When you don't grow up surrounded by nature, it creates a gap where you don't really connect to life and living beings,” said Savvy. “There are few parks or places where kids can experience animals, plants, and the great outdoors.”

By juxtaposing a ranch in the middle of Compton, the program provides kids the opportunity to explore and connect with nature.

“Our program allows them to connect to nature at an early age so that they can learn to appreciate living, breathing things -- animals they must feed, care for, and grow companionship and partnership with,” he said. “Horses are so magical and draw our kids in so easily, so we’re already winning half the battle.”

Randy and the rest of the team at Compton Jr. Equestrians strongly believe these teachings translate to life in the streets.

“They're much less likely to want to harm somebody, much less likely to want to kill, much less likely to want to steal. That is so important here because those values get lost just by nature of the way we live and by nature of the environment here,” he said.

In addition to connecting with nature, the Compton Jr. Equestrians program is deeply rooted in teaching children the fundamentals of horsemanship from the very beginning. Before even getting on a horse, the kids must learn how to bond with it.

“We don't immediately put the kids in saddles, bridles, and bits. We put them on the horse with nothing. They learn balance. They learn how to feel the horse -- the warmth of the horse, the horse's body shape, how the different horses move.”

This bareback teaching technique isn’t the most common, but it’s something the Compton Jr. Equestrians program stands by.

“They need to learn those fundamentals before anything else. Everything stems from horsemanship – your one-on-one connection with the horse. If you have a good connection with the horse, everything else comes easily.”

A Day in the Life

On a typical day at the Compton Jr. Equestrians' ranch, the kids show up after school and get started right away. Between 3 to 6 p.m., they do their homework and complete horse grooming and care. Then, they get on the horse to practice different exercises and ride.

“We’re starting to integrate important workshops and clinics into the day-to-day of our program,” said. Savvy. “Whether it’s talking about mental health or career opportunities and introducing them to veterinarians or farriers. We also show them the production and entertainment side of things, which the Compton Cowboys does a lot of.”

Ariat has helped support these endeavors too. Over the years, Ariat has brought athletes like Ezekiel Mitchell, a professional bull rider, to the Compton Jr. Equestrians ranch to talk to and mentor the kids.

Special opportunities like these help keep the kids motivated. In order to remain members of the program, the young riders are required to maintain several criteria.

“We make sure they’re getting good grades, their behavioral reports are on point, and their attendance isn’t lacking,” he said.

Perhaps one of the greatest aspects of the Compton Jr. Equestrians program is that the kids can take part in the standard offerings and choose how they want to further engage.

“We want to be able to provide as many resources to the kids as possible so we can support them as far as they want to go,” he said. “If they want to earn a spot on their high school club, we help them in that chapter. If they want to get a college scholarship, we want to help facilitate that and be able to support them with that, too.

No matter where the young riders want to go in life, the Compton Jr. Equestrians wants to help them get there.

“What we’re doing with this program is nothing new – there have been communities of cowboys and cowgirls for centuries in this country,” he said. “Black men and women have been instrumental in pioneering the West and developing civilization as we know it, through the bonding and use of horses.”

“All we’re doing is adding more ingredients to the pan and using our platform to showcase what has been put down before us -- the road that has been paved and how we’re continuing the path for new generations.”

The Spirit of a Champion

The lessons Randy learned during his time with the Compton Jr. Posse are the same ones he works hard to instill in the Compton Jr. Equestrians riders today.

“We didn't set out to win when we started competing in rodeo events. Our goal was simply to perform to the best of our abilities and prove to ourselves and our community that we belonged there,” he said. “Through hard work and determination, we were able to reach new heights and achieve victories that were more than just horse show wins.”

While winning is always celebrated in the Compton Jr. Equestrians program, losing is perhaps an even more important lesson the young riders learn.

“A lot of the kids in this community already come from losing environments,” said Savvy. “When we’re teaching our kids how to win, we also teach them how to lose.”

Encouraging the kids to get back up on a horse if they fall off is a lesson they can apply to so many of life’s scenarios. According to Savvy, it’s also the mark of a true champion.

“The spirit of a champion is about always being on the hunt for victory while also being a team player, a humble competitor, and accepting when you don’t win.”

As Savvy adjusts his sky-blue jacket, it’s clearer than ever – it not only symbolizes his early riding years, but also his commitment to future generations of young riders and giving back to his community.

“When I put on this jacket and go out there and look at the ranch and see all the little kids running around and the staff helping them with homework and see the horses playing around, it just makes it all worth it,” he said.

With stewards like Savvy, the Compton Jr. Equestrians will continue to pave the way for Compton youth to soar. The horse is just a catalyst.

Learn more about the Compton Jr. Equestrians and donate here.