The Legacy of Black Horsewomen

Throughout equestrian history, the stories of Black horsewomen have often been overshadowed and forgotten. Cheryl White, Selika Lazevski, and Johanna July are just a few of the remarkable women who helped lay the foundation, breaking barriers with each stride! The compelling stories of these three historic Black Equestrians show their passion for horsemanship and illuminate their impact on the equestrian community and black culture. We must continue to honor these forgotten and invisible figures to keep their legacy alive.

Cheryl White

Cheryl White (b. 1953) is best known as being the first Black female jockey. In 21 years of racing, she won 750 races which included five thoroughbred races in one day at age 15 and five winning streaks at Appaloosa. Through her accomplishments, White was the first woman to win the Appaloosa Horse Club’s Jockey of the Year award four times, inducted in the 2011 Appaloosa Hall of Fame and received an Award of Merit through the African American Sports Hall of Fame. When she decided to step away from racing, she never left the equestrian community behind. In 1991, White passed the California Horse Racing Steward Examination and began serving as a racing official.

Selika Lazevski

Lazevski was a écuyère, also known as a horsewoman, who performed high level dressage. Dressage levels classify how advanced a horse and their rider are together. Écuyères are best known for riding side saddle in circuses and hippodromes. The name “Selika” became very popular in the equestrian world and in 1894, a thoroughbred filly called Selika won the Kentucky Oaks.

Johanna July

July was born in 1857 in El Nacimiento, Mexico. She was a Black Seminole and horse trainer and translator in the United States Army. She was a skilled horse breaker and best known for creating her own method of taming horses. She led them into the Rio Grande and gently eased them astride. As the horse tired in the water, they lost the strength to buck. She was remembered by everyone in her family as the “old lady who rode side saddle and walked around barefoot.” Black Seminole & Horse Trainer in the US Army

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