The black cowboys of Chicago’s South Side
Horse racing was also one of the city’s most popular sports, and by the 1930s Chicago had more horse racing than any other metropolitan area in the United States thanks to its legal gambling laws. By the 1950s, dozens of horse stables rented horses by the hour for recreational riding on more than 17 miles of bridle paths that stretched along Lake Michigan and through the parks of Chicago. But as the city and car traffic increased, the popularity of recreational riding declined. The last city-sponsored public riding stables, Lincoln Park’s New Parkway Riding Stables, closed in 1967.
But for the past 31 years, Murdock has worked to revive the Windy City’s equestrian heritage and make it more inclusive for the city’s diverse residents. Currently, his Broken Arrow Horseback Riding Club is located in the southern suburb of Chicago Heights and is loved by Chicago’s black cowboys who take part in the local latting rodeo just outside Chicago as well as national rodeos in the United States. At 73, Murdock didn’t hang up his cowboy hat either. “I was busy with calf straps and lashing straps for a while until I injured my back,” he said. “I still compete locally at latting rodeos and do the less dangerous events, barrel and flag racing.”
Choosing to just use his last name, which adds to his cowboy myth, Murdock grew up on Chicago’s mostly African-American South Side. He began riding as a boy in the city’s 380-acre Washington Park, which once had its own public riding stables. “My father owned a small print shop nearby, and in return for my occasional help, he paid for my riding lessons,” he said.