Zoie Brogdon

Zoie Brogdon: An Emerging Equestrian Star

Meet the 17-year-old who is taking on the world one jump at a time, all while inspiring other youth to get into the sport.

Black History Month begins on February 1. Throughout the month, we’re highlighting and celebrating the stories of BPOC on Ariat Life.

Zoie Brogdon is a rising star in the equestrian community. The vibrant 17-year-old is taking on the world one jump at a time, all while inspiring other youth to get into the sport. Her equestrian journey began one late August when she was only 9 years old. Her mother Tracy enrolled her in a summer riding camp hoping to keep her busy for a few weeks before school started, thinking it was only for a short stint. Zoie’s passion and potential was evident from the very first day, and her mother was urged by riding instructors to enroll her in year-round lessons.

After extensive research on local riding programs, Zoie began riding with the Compton Jr. Equestrians (formerly known as the Compton Jr. Posse) and her enthusiasm for the sport and love of horses grew from there.

The Compton Jr. Equestrians is a non-profit organization founded in 1988 with a simple mission: To use the highly esteemed skill of horseback riding to inspire youth, while enriching the whole person. Zoie and her mother agree the program delivered on that promise.

“At CJP, we all learned how to groom, muck stalls, clean tack, and to work as a team,” she said. “We often rode bareback (paying homage to our own Compton Cowboys) and we were required to ride different horses each week.”

Olympic gold medalist Will Simpson first met Zoie as part of his involvement in the Compton Junior Equestrian program and has helped coach her over the last seven years. "I admire Zoie for hanging in there and pushing through the hard parts,” he said. “She is now a well-rounded, very determined rider. She has the right amount of bravery, caution, feel, and determination--all the things you want to see in a rider."

“She learned not only how to ride, but she also learned horsemanship,” said Zoie’s mother Tracy Burnett. “What is most rewarding to me as a parent watching Zoie grow up and develop in this sport, is knowing that she has found her passion, and she will learn life lessons that will make her successful in life in whatever she ends up doing.”

Those who know Zoie say she embodies true horsemanship both in and out of the arena. As a typical teenager, she loves fashion, music, and spending time with her friends. But she’s also making an impact far greater than a typical teenager in the Black community and beyond.

“I started out just being an equestrian. Because I’m Black, I gave so many other black and brown kids inspiration because they hadn’t seen many other equestrians that looked like them,” she said. “I am always amazed and flattered when I read the comments from POC around the world saying how I inspire them to pursue their dreams.”

Shane Holman

Zoie challenges herself every day to excel in her riding, and her equestrian accomplishments reflect that. This year, she won Individual Gold in the USHJA Zone Team Jumper Championships, Reserve Champion in the USHJA National Championships, and was named the 2021 Horse of the Year Champion.

She is also a multi-year recipient of the West Palms Events Michael Nyuis Grant, which offers support for young riders who have the passion and drive to compete but lack the financial resources to do so consistently throughout the year. Zoie attributes much of her success in 2021 to this grant.

Beyond the titles and awards, Zoie hopes to inspire others.

“I want to bring excitement to the sport like Serena and Venus Williams did for tennis,” she said. “I know it’s an ambitious goal, but I feel when young Black kids see that it’s possible, the sport of equestrian will find a whole new audience.”

Zoie has high aspirations for herself as a rider and looks to the late Kobe Bryant for inspiration before she competes.

“Kobe is one of the greatest basketball players in history. He had a drive and commitment that was unmatched, and he called it the "Mamba Mentality”. It's a mindset that represents excellence. Just like Kobe, every time I go into the arena, I go in to win.”

When asked what advice she would give to other black youth who want to start riding, she responds with maturity far beyond her years: “I would encourage them to not let any obstacles stand in their way. Because where there is a will, there is a way,” she said.

“Zoie is not the first black equestrian to be successful in the sport, but she is the first that a lot of young black kids have ever seen,” said her mother Tracy. “One day, Zoie might stand for aspiration...not for being the best that ever did it, but the best for attempting to do it. She has a community rooting for her and we’re excited to see what happens next.”

Zoie’s other piece of advice?

“Follow your dreams, work hard, and most importantly, be a good person and good things will come into your life.”

Follow Zoie's equestrian journey on Instagram @iamzoienoelle.

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