Hardin-Simmons freshman blazing trails as first African-American Six White Horses rider

POSTED: 12:02 PM Dec 24 2013   UPDATED: 2:33 PM Oct 28 2013
ABILENE, Texas -

Abilene native Jess Goodlett is the first African-American to ever be a part of Hardin-Simmons University's Six White Horses program.

She's hoping to set an example for anyone else wanting to follow in her boots.

Goodlett said she love horses.

"It's a friendship...with a horse, you get on an animal that's bigger than you and you connect with them, you become one," Goodlett said.

Goodlett said the riding program is the reason she chose to go to HSU.

Not only did she make the team as a freshman, but she's also putting her name in history books.

"It's an honor, definitely," she said.

She said progress in the way people think has made all the difference.

"Color of skin doesn't matter, which is important, because unfortunately, race was something people were against," Goodlett said. "If you were darker-colored, you were not thought of as smart or capable of doing something. The fact that now, changes are being made and people are allowed to be treated the same is very important."

Feedback from the team, school and community has been positive.

"I feel like I've been treated exactly the same, which is good," Goodlett said. "I'm just a person. I'm not any different and that's how I want to be treated."

"It just shows that if you really work hard and you put your mind to it and you try, it's possible," she said. "It really is possible."

The Six White Horses director Debra Jones said while Goodlett is the first African-American rider, the team has seen diversity before.

The program has included a Navajo rider from New Mexico, as well as Hispanic riders.

Here are some interesting facts about the Six White Horses program:

It started in the late 1920s.

An important part of the work of the program is visiting area elementary schools; each year, more than 15,000 children have the opportunity to sit on a white horse.

The riders wear Western-style clothing to pay tribute to the ranching roots that helped started up the university.