Meet the black knight who designs ponytails and tail extensions

The Economist tells the story of the new economic situation through the eyes of the people trying to make it happen, because we know that the only numbers that really matter are those in your economy.

Growing up in Southern California, Chanel Rhodes loved horses but had seen few people like her ride 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 in a stable to pay for his riding lessons. Today, she owns a drawing horse named Lady and competes in various riding events.

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

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

Chanel Rhodes riding a lady while wearing colorful hair extensions.
Chanel Rhodes riding a lady while wearing colorful hair extensions. (Courtesy of Chanel Rhodes)

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

A number of companies make accessories for horses that range in price from under $50 to several hundred dollars. “Newsflash: Not all horses have perfect hair,” Rhodes said. Tail extensions are not only aesthetically important, but also help horses fly farther.

Rhodes wanted to design a product that was relatively affordable, easy to use, and available in a variety of colours. “I’m not kidding you,” she said, “I probably made 40-50 weird prototypes.”

Chanel Rhodes and her pony, Lady, wearing 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 horse hair pieces ranging from $55 to $275. She named her company “Mani Trace”.

“I live in a crib and one-bedroom apartment in Southern California, and my horse is 30 miles away,” Rhodes said. “Getting there and failing my prototype 40 to 50 times is pretty nerve-wracking…but I had young girls looking at me.”

Rhodes said she’s received messages from parents on Facebook who said their little girls wanted to be like her. “As a child, 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, I’m still working on moving myself forward and growing as a person, but I could never have envisioned myself here.”

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