Meet the Black equestrian who designs manes and tail extensions - petsitterbank

Meet the Black equestrian who designs manes and tail extensions

“My Economy” tells the story of the new economic normal through the eyes of people trying to make it, because we know the only numbers that really matter are the ones in your economy.

Growing up in Southern California, Chanel Rhodes loved horses but saw few people like her riding them. “I asked my mother, ‘Do Black people ride horses?’ because I didn’t know,” she said. Her mother told her, “You can do whatever you want to do.”

Rhodes worked at a stable to pay for riding lessons. Today, she owns a paint horse named Lady and competes in various riding events.

Her journey to equestrian entrepreneurship began in 2019. “I wanted to contribute something creative to Black History Month,” she said. “So I decided to make a prototype wig for my horse.”

Using synthetic hair from a beauty supply store, she designed a wig for Lady and called it, “Afrocentric Pony.”

Chanel Rhodes riding Lady while wearing colorful hair extensions.
Chanel Rhodes riding Lady while wearing colorful hair extensions. (Courtesy Chanel Rhodes)

After documenting the project on Instagram, Rhodes began receiving media attention. “My friends from Young Black Equestrians were like, ‘You should really make this into a business,’” she said.

A number of companies make mane and tail extensions for horses ranging in price from under $50 to several hundred dollars. “Newsflash: not all horses have perfect hair,” said Rhodes. Tail extensions not only matter for aesthetics but also help horses swat flies away.

Rhodes wanted to design a product that would be relatively affordable, easy to use, and available in a wide variety of colors. “I kid you not, I probably cranked out 40-50 some-odd prototypes,” she said.

Chanel Rhodes and her horse, Lady, in an “Afrocentric Pony” wig in 2019
Chanel Rhodes and her horse, Lady, in an “Afrocentric Pony” wig in 2019. (Courtesy Chanel Rhodes/Andrew Garces)

Eventually, after teaching herself to use a sewing machine, she developed a line of hairpieces for horses ranging from $55 to $275. She named her company, “Mane Tresses.”

“I live in a small bed, one-bedroom apartment in Southern California and my horse is 30 miles away,” said Rhodes. “Getting there and having my prototype fail 40 to 50 times is pretty nerve-racking … but I had little girls looking at me.”

Rhodes said she received messages from parents on Facebook who said their little girls wanted to be like her. “When I was a kid, I didn’t even want to be like me,” she said. “It’s still not easy and I’m still at the beginning of my journey, and I’m still working on propelling myself forward and growing as a person, but I would never have imagined myself here.”

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