Riding Clubs in Central Louisiana

by Rolonda Teal

Club members saddled up.

Riding clubs have a relatively short history of less than 40 years in the Natchitoches Parish area. No one seems to be certain about the origin of the clubs, but Oprie Turner, a former president of the Big "T" Riding Club, states that the Cane River Riding Club was the first in Natchitoches. The Big "T" Riding Club and the Louisiana Highsteppers then followed.

Rosie Young

Since those beginning days in the 1970s, the clubs have grown in number and size. Comprising Northwest Louisiana are two main chapters, the North Division and the Central Division. Within each division are several clubs with names like the Rhinestone Cowboys, the Big "W," and the Dead End.

One club member, Troy Coleman, says there are numerous clubs because each provides the members with something different. Some clubs sponsor concerts, while others give to charitable organizations or provide horse-riding activities for children. Coleman says, "We get together to have a good time and be with friends, some of whom also ride horses."

Representatives from the Triple 3 Hillbillies, the New Breed, the Big T, the Rhinestone Cowboys, the Shadow Walkers, the Independents Riding Club, and the Bayou Boureaux Riding Club.

Reasons for joining these riding clubs are numerous and range from love of horses to a love of Zydeco music. One may become a member of riding clubs by being invited, or by expressing a desire for membership and then paying monthly dues.

Among some African-American and Creole community members, the clubs provide a social outlet in which they can participate with friends and family members. For others, the clubs represent a place to dance and/or ride horses. Perhaps the most popular events are the community parties sponsored by each group. These parties provide an opportunity for members and non-members to come together in a safe, family-oriented environment.

Todd Roque

Regardless of the reasons that people become members of the clubs, what appears evident is that riding clubs have mixed appeal for some Natchitoches residents.

Ray Johnson, Pat Beaudoin, Gwen Johnson, Patrick Beaudoin, Emma Evans, and Oliver Roque.