Ghuan Featherstone - Urban Saddles
Michelle: (Silence). Hi, everyone. Thank you for meeting us, and coming on today's episode From the Basement Up, I have a very special guest today. His name is Ghuan Featherstone and he is a co- founder of Urban Saddles. This is a fabulous nonprofit based in LA, and I'm excited to introduce you to him and let him tell you the story of how he was able to build this amazing, amazing place for kids to go to in his community. Hi, Ghuan.
Ghuan Featherstone: Hello, how are you?
Michelle: Good. How are you?
Ghuan Featherstone: Oh, good, good. Thanks for having me here. I'm really excited about being on your show.
Michelle: Good. Well, thank you. And actually, Ghuan, I saw you on, I think it was Home Sweet Home on ABC.
Ghuan Featherstone: Yes.
Michelle: And watched you trade places with another family. And I just loved you. Emily is actually a family member and I made Emily watch the show, I'm like," You have to watch this family, it just..." I love-
Emily: It was so fun.
Michelle: Yeah. And I love how you-
Ghuan Featherstone: Thank you.
Michelle: You are in your community where you grew up and living in your home and raising your family. And I just, you have an infectious laugh and a great, wonderful personality. And I just was very excited to talk to you. So thank you for joining us today.
Ghuan Featherstone: Yes, ma'am.
Michelle: I think, the first question I have and the most important, is what Urban Saddles?
Ghuan Featherstone: Okay, well, Urban Saddles, we're a nonprofit and we're set up not only as a youth organization, even though that is our main focus, but we focus on the community. So our mission statement is building hope and opportunity for youth and community through the equine experience in the cowboy code West. And that meaning we bring the equine experience to the community and get them attracted to this different type of lifestyle that they're living within the environment that we're in.
Michelle: That's great. As far as the kids that are coming to this amazing place that you've built, can you explain kind of what's bringing them there and what they might experience when they actually come?
Ghuan Featherstone: Okay, yes. Well, the whole premise of our organization isn't only to build cowboys, we're trying to affect the community in a way that where we get to them organically. So when the kids come up, they have to clean, they have to groom the horse, and they have to learn how to care for the horse. They have to learn how to saddle the horse up, have to learn to put the bridle on, they have to learn everything about this majestic animal before they can actually get on the horse back. And then once they do that, they get to ride and then they get to learn how to actually control a horse and see the tails of the horse as far as what the horse is thinking by seeing his mannerisms movements and we teach balance. And mainly, it's a big circle, responsibilities that they have to take on, it's not just them getting a ride.
Michelle: I love that. As far as kids coming in, do you find that they can make connections with the horses?
Ghuan Featherstone: Oh yeah. Oh yeah. That's the only way to get the ride horse, you got to make that connection with the horse. And that's what we show them. That's why we don't just let them come up there and the horse is already saddled and they just hop on and ride around a circle. So that's the whole point of the cleaning the horse stall, they going out there and they grooming that horse, washing them, petting them, brushing them, talking to them, that's all part of the process before they even get to ride. So they have to build that trust with the animal. We show them that when a horse doesn't trust you, how it acts and how it responds and the movements, and you have to move slow and you have to never walk behind the horse and always keep one hand on the horse when you rubbing the horse, and just these different things. So they're building a relationship constantly with the horse. So that's it, but it's done organically. You see, we tell them like this, they don't even know the reasoning," Why is he making me brush this horse? Why is he making me clean this stall? Why is he make me..." So, but it just happens. And then next thing you know, they fall in love with the horse and they can't wait to ride the horse. And then they understand inaudible. I'm like,"Okay, the horse is inaudible, you got to talk to the horse, make friends with the horse." And so they get it, and I just love to see the process of the bonding period between the horse and the kid, and even adults too. Because they have to go through the same process. That's not a process just that I tell kids to do and inaudible. When adult came up there, you would be cleaning the poo poo. You would've to do that, yes.
Emily: I love that. That's good though. It creates a level of appreciation for the good things in life or the quick ride that you get. It's not free. You have to take care of the horse before and after.
Michelle: You have to work for things, absolutely. On a personal note, my son for years wanted Guinea pigs. So I finally broke down and got him Guinea pigs. Well, every week he would complain when he had to clean up the Guinea pig cage. And at this time he was wanting to do horseback riding. And I said," No way." I'm like, if we're having a hard time with Guinea pigs, there's no way we're getting promoted to horses. So yeah, it does take a lot of work, so.
Ghuan Featherstone: Oh yes. It's a daily effort. Yes,
Michelle: Absolutely. But I love how they're building trust with this animal. And how do you see that transitioning into their lives outside of Urban Saddles?
Ghuan Featherstone: I see them building relationships with their peers because we have to teach them that the same generosity that they show that animal, the same patience, and the same care, that people require that same type of attention. So if you want to foster good relationships with each other, you got to talk to your homeboy nice. You can't just be rough with them. Because they come there a little rough around the edges and then and then do their little bickering or whatever. But when they get in, we show them, okay, you can't rise up with the horse like that because you know that horse going to kick you. You scared that the horse is going to do something. So think about it with your friend like that too, don't make him feel some kind of way where he wants to do something to you or say something back negative. Always take the route up, trying to bring peace to the situation. And then so you can start seeing them doing and then they know that's how we operate up there, so after a few... And it takes a while because habits are hard to kind of break.
Ghuan Featherstone: So you got to go back and talk to them again," Hey, remember this, that," but after a while you see they got it. And once they got it, they become what we call little silos. And so we got a few ambassadors already there, so they're already there at the level to whereas I could trust them to tell the other kids and check the other kids. So it takes the little burden off of us because we don't have to really step in too much because the little wranglers on their neck. So they like,"No, no, no, you can't say that. You can't..." So I was like,"Oh, okay. All right so that works." And it kind of works a lot better like that, when they hear from their peers opposed to just feeling like we're just always on they head. And then so I really like that dynamic when I see the kids actually embrace it and then all we have to do is just sit back and monitor them.
Michelle: Sure. So I also wanted to let the listeners know that you're a veteran, you were in the army.
Ghuan Featherstone: Yes.
Michelle: And you were in the army for quite some time living overseas.
Ghuan Featherstone: Yes.
Michelle: Had some good experiences, or I guess difficult experiences, but I'd love to hear some of that. And then how you came back and got into horseback riding yourself.
Ghuan Featherstone: Oh well, yeah, I spent time in the United States Army, spent most of my time overseas so I got to see a lot. I was there when the wall came down in Berlin, Germany. I was at Checkpoint Charlie when the wall came down, and I just remember the people coming across and seeing them tasting that freedom for the first time. And I remember when the wall was up and how we used to get these things called flag corps in order to go over there to across the wall, but we'd have to wear our uniforms. We couldn't go over there in civilian clothes, we got to wear our uniforms. And we weren't allowed to take any pictures of any building that displayed the Russian logo on it. If you did, they could shoot you. It happened to a major, they killed him and... But anyway, it was a lot going on at that time in the military. But it just taught me a lot. Just of where I came from, and it just gave me a great appreciation for my country. And even more so, just seeing how other countries, how they live, some things are better, some things are worse, but it just gave me a great appreciation for the country I lived in. So when I did finally make it back to the United States and I saw the way that my neighborhood was it kind of disturbed me because I wasn't here for the riots. I didn't see'92 they had the big ride, Rodney King riots and they kind of burned LA up. So stuff that I knew that was once thriving was not there. So, and they didn't even fix the building. Some of the buildings are still tore up this day. But they tore downtown up. It just changed the whole dynamic of LA. So when I got back, and I saw that gang violence was still prominent and it's like," How did this stuff survive?" I came up as a kid in the 70's, and I saw the transition of gangs going from fighting in the streets to getting chains and batch to somebody getting a pistol then deb then drive by shootings. And I saw all of that happen in my community, and I just knew that when I got back, that stuff would be over with, you know what I mean? How can this stuff just keep going on and on. But it didn't, it just got more. The problem exasperated itself. You had all the streets against theyselves third street, fourth street, sixth street, just all these different gangs and it was just like crazy. And then I ran into somebody that told me about this place where horses were and that's how I got up into horses. And I went down there to this place, and that's a whole nother story in itself. But yeah, but that's how I got into horses.
Michelle: No, I love that, and I'm just... We talked a little bit before the show, and I loved how you decided to make the bridge, or build that bridge, between the horses and the community. And knowing that the kids in your community, how they would respond to this, because it was such a healing thing for you at a soul level, being with these horses and building that connection. What was, I guess the catalyst, that was just like," Wow, I can do this. I can make this happen in my community and make a huge difference"?
Ghuan Featherstone: The necessity was the catalyst for it, because a place had to exist like that. And like I said, when I got into horses, there was already a place that existed. It was already there for 75 years prior to me even getting there. And that's the place that helped me heal my spirit and learn to love the horses and fall in love with the whole culture. And so, it helped the community. It was like a safe haven. You had Bloods, Crips, Hispanic gangs, MS13s, white, Blacks, all these different people there at this place and it was working. Inside of those gates, there was nothing that those people held against each other because of their affiliations, and I really loved that. And it made me want to be there every day, because all around me outside of that place was different. Way different. So in 2012, it burned down. And when it burned down, we did our efforts and tried to get the place back up and running, and see if we could get the community activated to want to see this place exist. But pretty much, we couldn't. It didn't work. So at that point it was like," Okay, well, all right, we can't get the city involved. We can't get the community involved. We got to do it ourselves." And me and my buddies, we started this organization called The Hill Foundation, prior to being Urban Saddles, and we started trying to get The Hill up and running and see what we can do. That didn't work. And then we found this place in Southgate, and we said," Okay, well, we going drop trying to bring the Hill back." And then we started Urban Saddles. And we named it urban saddles. We didn't want to be LA Saddles, or Compton Saddles, or Compton Cowboy, LA Cowboy. We wanted to be something that was more inclusive to everybody within the urban communities. And so that's how we came up with the name Urban Saddles. In 2019... Excuse me. In 2019 is when we officially started the name Urban Saddles. But prior to that, we were already running because once the place closed down in 2012, we had a documentary that was being filmed of us trying opened the place back up. And during the filming of that documentary is when we found out that one, there was no way that we could do it there because owner wasn't receptive, and two that the need really had us to drive us even harder to do it. Because I got discouraged for a while because during that time period we lost some young ones that we knew. So, and then it was like," Oh we can't stop. We got to keep on going." But there was a point where it was like," Oh this is too hard. I'm just going to ride my horse and call it day." And then so, but when those tragic incidents has happened, it gave us the extra fire to just keep on going, keep pushing. So now we got this place, and it's open for everybody to come to. We got youth and adults being serviced at the place, healing theyselves. So it's a wonderful thing, God made it happen.
Michelle: So you must be a pillar in your community, I guess that's what I want to say. If I was a child in your community, I would just be just so excited that you are doing this and putting this effort. It is a huge effort to create something in a community, and I just commend you. Amazing work. I want to also, one of the reasons why I started From the Basement Up, was so we could hear stories and get pointers. What are some pointers you would recommend for people out there who are thinking of starting something similar for their community?
Ghuan Featherstone: Well, I would say if your heart is in it, and people try to discourage you from doing it because it doesn't make sense to them. They don't see your vision or it doesn't make economical sense. But you feel that it's something that's dear to you, that you want to do to achieve some type of success for your community, and you want to feel the need and the gap that is there, never stop. You can do it. You can do it. Even if it takes you 10 years, 20 years, 30 years, you can do it. So just remember that the world is going to be against you. That's just the way it is. The world is going try to discourage you,"Oh, it doesn't make sense. Your idea has flaws in it." They going to tell you all of that. But if you believe in your heart there's something that you want to do, do it.
Emily: And I'd like to say too, you kind of talked over it pretty quickly, but you started it and you kept going and you picked yourself up after losing people in your community, because you were like," This is that important. These are the kids we're doing outreach to, this is why we have this program. This is why we're bringing ourselves together and creating this peaceful environment. We can't..." It's terribly sad but that's why you're doing it.
Ghuan Featherstone: Yeah.
Emily: And I feel like that is the true passion in your work, is it's for those kids.
Ghuan Featherstone: Yeah. It's for those situations.
Michelle: You're saving lives and empowering young people. So, it's amazing. So I wanted to know and find out about just some of your events that you have and share those with people.
Ghuan Featherstone: Okay, well, we do trail rides. When we get together, we get the community involved with the trail rides and do those type of events. We'll have special events happening down at the barn or take them out to where we trailer out to different locations. We take them camping and do things like that. And we have a trail outside of our area where we're at and we get the kids good enough to ride the trail. They get real excited about that. We also offer trail rides for adults too. Everything that I'm saying that we do for the youth, we also do separate things for the adults as well. Because our organization, what I have to reiterate, that it is designed to empower the family. Empowering the youth, what I've seen in our community, is you can give kids an outlet, right? And especially one like this. You can give them an outlet, but if their parents aren't on board with that outlet, they're not going to get there. They can't just hop on a bus and come to Urban Saddles. The parents got to get them there. And if the parents don't see the benefit in it, or the interest in it, they're not going to get the kids to come do this stuff. So we try to get the families involved. It's imperative actually because we're not a daycare. So we try to get the families involved, so that when we say what we say and we try to instill the values that we instill in them, that that stuff is being regurgitated at home as well. That they're all, everybody's in, it's a village type effort. So, that's the motivation of this whole thing. And then only that way... When we could get all of us thinking in the same direction, only that way, it is going to work, as far as changing our community. Because I could be the voice of reason, and if a child is surrounded by all the negative, I say," Oh, don't steal," and everybody around you like," Come on, let's go break into this. Let's go steal this." They only with me a couple of hours. That's going to win, all the time. So I try to change even what they're hearing at home, I try to affect those people so they're kind of saying the same stuff too like," Oh no, I need to you up there. I want you..." So it's a long process. That's why I don't feel really like I'm doing much. Because people always say," Oh yeah, you're doing amazing things. And you're doing this and doing that." And I see so little that I'm doing in my own mind because my vision is bigger. It's with a whole community. So I still see kids killing each other. I still see on the news, every time I... inaudible we got this thing called Citizen. I get alerts there's robberies all around me, it's this, that. So it's like," Okay, well I'm not doing nothing." But then I think about the kids that do come and I'm happy that they're happy, and that they get to come and they get to tell their people that they're around to come. And then it motivates me more like," Okay. Well, Ghuan, you can't worry about what you not doing. Just keep concentrating on what you can do." But in my mind, it's so much more, so much more.
Emily: And that's your values. I immediately thought back to your mission statement, it goes back to community. It's all about the hope and using this kind of implementation of a change in the way they conduct their everyday lives to change their overall community.
Ghuan Featherstone: Yeah.
Emily: Yeah. I think that is a lot, even though you might not feel like it's a lot, they probably go tell their friends the lessons they learn from their horse that day and from you.
Ghuan Featherstone: Mm- hmm( affirmative), they do. Yeah, they do. Yeah, they do.
Michelle: And I'm sure-
Ghuan Featherstone: I just want about a million of them to do it.
Emily: We'll get you some more ears hearing your voice.
Ghuan Featherstone: Yeah.
Michelle: I'm just curious, as far as the kids that are coming, how often are they saying," I woke up this morning excited to be here today"? You must hear that a lot.
Ghuan Featherstone: Yes. Oh yeah. Oh yeah. Oh yeah. Most definitely. And like I said, and that what keeps it going. That keeps all of us motivated to keep doing what we're doing. You see the excitement that they have and want to get out there. And it just makes me... I get to relive my first day riding a horse every day. See so, I'm like a big kid all the time see. So it's a wonderful thing. I must admit that everybody that has entrenched themselves in the program and in the lifestyle, I could see the change that it's had and the effect that it has had in their lives, outside of the stable as well.
Emily: That's awesome.
Michelle: As far as the families, how long does a family unit... Because I know you were saying how important that is. Will they come and ride together? Does it happen for months or for years? Or is-
Ghuan Featherstone: It happens as long as they want to. Yeah. Then it happens as long as they want to. Some people come, they did it for a week. Something good that they family did. Some people come and just stick around, and that's what they do see. So some people in and out. Here this month, gone for a couple months, back this month, you know this. So yeah, that's why I love seeing people that didn't have horses buy horses because now they love it so much. So you could just see the lives that are affected by the power of the horse.
Michelle: So, I mean, since Urban Saddles, I guess, was officially established in 2019, I know it's been a... You guys have... It's been a journey and different transitions. How big has the organization gotten to? How many riders do you typically have in a week?
Ghuan Featherstone: In the week we typical, have maybe about 30 to 50 people frequent to place. But if we go out and do events, because we'll go out on the weekends and we'll do stuff, and so we engage lots of people at those functions. And we'll do events and parties where we give rides to the community. So, but as far as people that come down, we about 30 to 50. At our facility, you can only come with an appointment, it's not just a walk up because of COVID. COVID kind of changed the way we had to operate. When we went into 2019, aw man, we had big kick off and we advertise something. Because we had the film Fire on the Hill going on and we did a big advertising to get the people there, and we're like," 2019 was going to be going crazy." And then, I mean," 2020 is going to go crazy." And then they just shut us down. They was like," Oh no." We had about 250 people there at one time, but people just wanted to come out and just enjoy the place. But due to the COVID regulations, we had to shut that down immediately. And then we've been operating ever since then, since pretty much our existence of trying to get people there with appointments only, due to COVID. Yeah. So, and but when we do go out to events, I don't know how many people they're going to have at their event and how many people they're not going to have, but we service everybody that comes up and wants to explore the horse. So, and sometimes it'll be 300 people, sometimes it be 400. Yeah. So it really touches the community. Because when those same people that we see at these events, they'll see us out on the street or they'll call us later and want to come down to the barn. So I can see the need for it. And when we ride through the street, everybody turns into a big kid when they see these horses coming down the street. The kids come running out of the houses, the parents are like,"What? Horses? What the..." Even the dogs on the street," What kind of dog is that?" So it's exciting.
Michelle: Good. Now, how often are you riding through the streets? Or does your events that you-
Ghuan Featherstone: Well, that happens, yeah, probably once a week. Yeah. Probably once a week we'll go and let the horses get out. And it is good training for horses, our horses are desensitized to things that normal horses will probably get spoke and scared of. So loud noises, our horses can ride with a motorcycle group.
Michelle: Oh sure.
Ghuan Featherstone: And with the Harleys going off, low riders jumping, and they just ride. No problem.
Michelle: That's awesome.
Ghuan Featherstone: So, but that comes with the exposure. We had our horses out on 4th of July riding through the community.
Michelle: Oh wow.
Ghuan Featherstone: We went to an event and watched, they did a big ceremony for the community, and watch and they had fireworks blowing off and the big light show. And horses, they there, we on their backs just looking at the show.
Michelle: Oh, that's awesome.
Ghuan Featherstone: People like,"Wow, these horses are calm." Yeah. But that's all because the environment that they're in.
Michelle: So, I do want to tell you, because I follow you on Instagram From the Basement Up Instagram page, I saw you-
Ghuan Featherstone: Oh, okay.
Michelle: Did you guys do a ride on MLK day?
Ghuan Featherstone: Yeah. Yes, yes.
Michelle: Because it looked so cool. It was literally the street and then you're like horseback and I'm just like," Oh my God, they're out there right now in the middle of downtown riding horses."
Ghuan Featherstone: Yes, yes. Yeah.
Michelle: But it's such a celebration. That must have been fun.
Ghuan Featherstone: Oh yeah, that was. That was a real nice event. The community appreciated that we still came out. Because we ride in the parades when they have them, but they haven't had them the last couple years and they were going to have one this year, but right at the last moment, like two weeks prior, they canceled it. And then so everybody was still like," Well let's do something." And it was cool. Because in Leimert Park they did a big ceremony, had all the booths out, all the vendors out, and we rode over there and the community still got to touch the horses, and we let some of them ride and it was cool. Yeah, it was really nice.
Michelle: That's awesome. Like your own little parade.
Ghuan Featherstone: Yes, exactly. Like our own little parade.
Michelle: Awesome. So as far as building Urban Saddles, what is your vision? What is your... I know that you have grand plans, I can tell, you were thinking these big things. But yeah, as we come out of COVID, what are you hoping for, probably in the next year or two, what-
Ghuan Featherstone: Well, I'm hoping that Urban Saddles gets the opportunity to go to these schools and talk to the schools. Bring a program, we can bring the horses to different schools. Go around and do the horse husbandry aspect of what we do to the kids. We could teach them about the horse's anatomy, teach them about the saddles, and get them interested and then get them down to the facility where we could get them riding. And that's the next step of what we're going to do. Get a program for.... We have children's services out here, DCFS, try to get involved with those kids that are actually placed in these like boys homes, girls homes, and foster care. Give them something, an outlet, something that they could do. And we want to grow those type of avenues.
Michelle: That sounds fantastic. Is this a COVID restriction, that you're just not able to quite branch out at this time? Just-
Ghuan Featherstone: Mm- hmm( affirmative), because of the COVID restrictions. And they still haven't really figured out how they want to do it, and we really haven't figured out how we want to do it. Because everybody that we come in contact with, we're exposed too. So all of that is a factor in the way that we've been operating, because before COVID, it was just so free. The vision was so clear. I just had a great plan, but...
Michelle: Oh my gosh. I said this in another interview, but you're making me think of that quote. Do you know it? It's man plans and God laughs.
Ghuan Featherstone: Exactly.
Michelle: I think just COVID life. That's how it's.
Ghuan Featherstone: Yep. That's how it's. And I had to laugh at that too, and I think that's funny that you said that, because I always say," It's a Ghuan's plan and there's a God's plan, and most the time Ghuan's plan does not work at all."
Emily: I love it. That's funny.
Michelle: But I do love your vision, I love how you're putting it out there, and that's the start.
Ghuan Featherstone: Yes.
Michelle: So it's fantastic.
Emily: And it's going to happen.
Ghuan Featherstone: Yes, yes, exactly. Exactly. Hopefully, we'll draw in some people that could help take us to the next level. Because right now, one of our biggest obstacles is finances, trying in this COVID time. We had a lot of members not working all of a sudden. The capacity of us being able to get people down there to be able to pay to handle our bills down there and feed them. we have 12 horses at the barn and we got to feed them every day. We got to pay this stall rent, stable rent, shoes, So it's a lot of money involved when it's only coming from yourself. inaudible none of us are rich by far. And so that's been our biggest challenge, trying to keep the finances, keep the places just going, because we're not really charging the community. And so, but that's one of the reasons that we want to get into these other programs. Maybe strike a deal with the LAUSD, or one of these school districts or some type of government program. Where they want to get involved and help the kids, and where they just pay the bills and we just go out and do the work. So, but that's why I said what I said about our focus on where we're going to go down those avenues. And once we secure that, that opens up the door for us to broaden the aspect, because we are more than Cowboys, where we at. We want to teach the kids construction. We want to teach the kids... Because that's my trade. I don't know, if you know that or not, but that's what I do by trade. I'm a commercial superintendent. So build like Targets, Wells Fargos, Starbucks, stuff like that. Worked for a company called Curtom Dunsmuir for years doing that. And I just stepped back for the last couple of months. I'm going to have to go back to work soon. But just to try to just build Urban Saddles and concentrate on the plan you here. But in order to do that effectively, we're going to have some type of superpower jump in and say," Okay, well I can handle these bills. I could do this for, y'all. Get a grant, get you an LAUSD, or something just to keep it going." So, but God is willing, and we're motivated, and we're persistent. That's the good thing about it.
Michelle: I love the determination. I mean, and that's how it happens, and the fact that you've been making it happen through COVID. I know what happened to us here and it was quite scary, so.
Ghuan Featherstone: Oh yeah.
Michelle: Yeah, great job.
Ghuan Featherstone: Thank you.
Michelle: I had a couple questions as far as the West, the old West, just as far as the history of Cowboys and I wanted to kind of just kind of hear it from you. And then also find out who your favorite cowboy was.
Ghuan Featherstone: Oh, okay. Well, when Cowboys were prominent back in the day, people don't know, but Black Cowboys were about one quarter of the Cowboys. Probably, about 20, 25% of all Cowboys were Black, when Cowboys roamed the Great Plains. And so now that was robbed of the history because of Hollywood. Hollywood didn't want to put that image of a Black man out there on this animal controlling this big majestic animal, because it was a powerful image. And so at that time, Black men were boys, so even the term cowboy was a derogatory term at that time. There was the field boy, then you had your cotton boys, you know what I'm saying? And you had your Cowboys, this, that, but you could never put a man on the Black man's name at that time. So, but then you had Cowboys, such as Bill Pickett, took the cowboy thing to the next level as far as inventing bulldog and having all these good events and all this other stuff. And it became cool, the term cowboy was cool. It's like," Oh, Cowboys, Cowboys out here doing it." They seen them Black guys out there wrestling with cows. They were the ones doing that. White guys just made inaudible happen," I want my cows over there, get them over there, boy." Then they," Ooh, look at that though." So it became cool to see those Black guys out there wrestling in cows. But when Hollywood wanted to show that image, they couldn't show a Black man doing that. They'd rather teach a white guy to do to play the part, before they put a Black guy on camera showing him doing this amazing thing with these animals. And so the Black cowboy image was just muffled. And so it's been around for a long time. This isn't something new that just came out of the blue. So you have Black Cowboys that served in the military, inaudible Buffalo soldier that served and helped the military, and they were on horseback. And see so, a lot of people don't even know that. They think Calgary, don't think about any Black guys being on horses doing that type of stuff. So as long as the term cowboy existed, they've been Black guys doing. So let's get that one right.
Michelle: My son actually taught me about Bass Reeves and that he is the Lone Ranger, and-
Ghuan Featherstone: Yeah, Bass Reeves is the Lone Ranger.
Michelle: Yep, absolutely.
Emily: Oh, something happened to your video.
Ghuan Featherstone: Yeah. Somebody tried to call me. Can you see?
Michelle: Yeah, we're good. We can see.
Ghuan Featherstone: Yeah. Yeah. But yeah, Bass Reeves, he was an escape slave and he became US Marshall. He went and lived on the Indian reservation and learned all these good tracking and hunting skills and all that good stuff. And then he landed him a job as a US Marshall doing all of this stuff that... Going into the Indian territories and everywhere where the white guy didn't want to go. You know? So because that used to be the thing, back in," Hey, okay, you go Rob a bank or something like that. You going to run off to Indian territories, run off to Mexico, or do your thing see." So he was the guy that they would send to go in those territories, where white Marshalls didn't want to go. And he got accredited for over 3000 something arrests. He was the man, you know? So he was the man inaudible. But then I'll tell you that, you know what I'm saying? crosstalk Lone Ranger was my hero.
Michelle: Of course, inaudible they don't. Yeah. well, he was amazing.
Ghuan Featherstone: Yes.
Michelle: And I think something about he handed out silver dollars for every... I something... So that kind of came about with the silver bullet. So he gave silver dollars to whoever it was that helped him capture., And he didn't kill a lot of people, he actually captured, like 3000 people.
Ghuan Featherstone: Yeah, he captured. Yeah.
Michelle: Yeah. Phenomenal.
Ghuan Featherstone: Yeah. That was his thing. He was capturing, like how they showed the Long Ranger shooting pistols out of people's hands. See because back in that day, he knew that if he killed the white man, the backlash that he would have on him out here. Just imagine, you got this Black dude going around there killing all these white men. Even though they was bad, he was like," Oh boy, I know Jeb robbed a bank but.,."
Michelle: You have a good laugh.
Ghuan Featherstone: I didn't tell you to go get him. So, he actually used his skills to try to disarm them and catch them. You see what I'm saying?
Michelle: His job was twice as hard. It was impossible.
Ghuan Featherstone: Yes.
Michelle: And he did. I think he has the best record ever, just an amazing arrest record.
Ghuan Featherstone: Yes.
Michelle: And I just... They need to make a movie about Bass Reeves. I mean, he's just-
Ghuan Featherstone: They are. They're going to make one. They're making one.
Michelle: Oh good.
Ghuan Featherstone: Yes, they're making one. I forgot who's actually doing it. But I want to say the same guy that's trying to do that did James something, he just did The Harder They Fall. But I think the next one he's going to do is Bass Reeves.
Ghuan Featherstone: If I'm not mistaken, yeah.
Emily: We need some of this corrected history out here.
Ghuan Featherstone: Yeah.
Emily: Because I mean, this is... It's so fun to learn about what actually had to happen and what actually happened.
Ghuan Featherstone: Oh yeah, yeah, yeah, exactly. It's a lot of history out there that we don't know.
Emily: And with the years that have passed by, I mean, I only expect to learn more because there was just a light shown over where it hasn't been shown.
Ghuan Featherstone: Oh yeah.
Emily: So I'm excited to learn. I feel like the wave that came, it's going to continue to come.
Ghuan Featherstone: Oh yes, it's coming.
Emily: And we'll just keep finding out more history. Yeah.
Ghuan Featherstone: Yeah. I just learned about another guy named Kendall Marshall, I think, I got to look it up. But it was another Black guy that became a sheriff, almost in the same way as Bass Reeves did. But he was a Buffalo Soldier, he was in the military, then he got out of the military and he got a job as a sheriff. But the only way he got it was to actually go get the baddest dude in town that killed the last sheriff.
Ghuan Featherstone: He had to do the same thing. He couldn't just kill the guy because he's... So he had to bring him in alive, and so he shot the guy's guns out of his hands and he was able to arrest him. But he did wind up killing two of his counterparts. And then so then he got backlash behind that, but they stood up for him because they did draw they guns on him to kill him, so. But yeah, that was another story.
Michelle: That's a good one. That's a good Western story. Definitely.
Ghuan Featherstone: I'll send you the little article about it I was reading. inaudible.
Michelle: Yes, please.
Emily: And we can include it too, in our show notes.
Emily: So that people can read up.
Ghuan Featherstone: Yeah, there you go.
Michelle: Absolutely. So, as far as... I just thank you so much for meeting us today. I know you're so busy. Is there any-
Ghuan Featherstone: You're welcome.
Michelle: Is there anything else that we can share with the listeners that you would want them to know about?
Ghuan Featherstone: Well, yes, this is something off of the side, and in order to come up with some funds to help our program and to keep us going, we've been thinking about creative ways to make extra money to help. So I'm going to release a EP. I do music. My wife makes the music and I write the songs, and I'm going to release the EP for sale. So look out for that.
Emily: On Apple music?
Ghuan Featherstone: Yes.
Ghuan Featherstone: Yes.
Emily: Okay, cool.
Ghuan Featherstone: Apple music, Spotify, all of that. Exo skills is my stage name.
Emily: What is it?
Ghuan Featherstone: Exo skills.
Michelle: If you could share that with us, send us an email, and we'll put that in the show notes as well.
Ghuan Featherstone: Okay.
Michelle: And so what we'll be doing is sharing everything with our Name Bubbles parents, and we'll be... Obviously, we're also out there on Spotify and out there on the podcast and Apple, but just-
Ghuan Featherstone: Oh cool.
Michelle: Yeah. But we'll be letting our parents know through our Name Bubbles community as well, but I'm just so glad we were able to connect and-
Ghuan Featherstone: Me too.
Michelle: Thank you so much.
Emily: I have a joke for you. What does one Dorito farmer say to the other?
Ghuan Featherstone: One Dorito farmer say to the other?
Emily: Cool ranch.
Ghuan Featherstone: Hold the ranch?
Emily: Cool ranch.
Ghuan Featherstone: Oh, okay.
Emily: I thought you might like it because it's like ranch, I don't know.
Ghuan Featherstone: Yeah. Yeah. I'm like,"Huh, what could he say?
Emily: I'm like, you don't have to figure it out.
Ghuan Featherstone: Cool ranch, yeah.
Emily: I wouldn't know it.
Ghuan Featherstone: I like that.
Emily: But I thought that you might like it.
Ghuan Featherstone: Yeah.
Emily: You can take it.
Michelle: But Ghuan, thank you for making such the safe space for kids in your community, and you are someone that we can all look to. And I found now that I'm getting older, I'm in my fifties, now's the time and we start... As we get older, we need to start giving back and we need to-
Ghuan Featherstone: Yes.
Michelle: Be part of our community. And I don't think I ever realized how important that was until probably COVID. That's embarrassing to say, but COVID really kind of hit me hard and just seeing how people were struggling and you've been doing this for decades. So just-
Ghuan Featherstone: Yes. Well, when you see the need is when you see the need, you know? So when you saw the need, now look at you.
Michelle: Yeah. But you have a superpower and that is giving to others, and just thank you.
Ghuan Featherstone: Oh, thank you very much. Thank you. Thank you.
Emily: And I wanted to re... So we can highlight again, because I think we talked about it before the recording began, but the basis of the organization was 70 plus years, correct?
Ghuan Featherstone: Yes. It was 75 years in existence prior to me even getting there. See so that's a lot of years. Yes. That's a lot of years.
Emily: Yeah. And sometimes it just takes maybe the right idea or the right person to finally impact,, or create the impact, that you kind of envisioned and maybe they had before.
Ghuan Featherstone: Yes
Michelle: It takes-
Ghuan Featherstone: Yes. And nobody saw the vision, when you... You got to watch Fire on the Hill because he has some really real moments in there. And the movie could actually went on and on, it could have actually have been a series. That's a whole another conversation. But you're going to see the excitement, the determination, the disappointment, and all of that because the community wasn't for what I was doing. And it kind of shook me because I'm like," I'm trying to do this for us. Not, not... This isn't a me thing." That's why I never once was a Ghuan thing or a Exo skills thing, or I tried to make it about me. But the problem with a broken community is that is broken. You know? So people think the way they think, and they're like," Okay, well, everybody's all about, well, it's me, me, me, me, me." And the ideology of somebody think about this could be for us, it kind of shook them. See so it was like, I was met with a lot of opposition. Oh you haven't been at The Hill as long as me, you're not a cowboy like me, you don't bull off. You don't..." Wait a minute, how do this... This has nothing to do with me or what I can do, I'm a super cowboy. You never want to inaudible. Nothing about that. You know what I'm saying?"Oh, this the stupid cowboy, Ghuan, got it." No, no, it's not that kind of movement, but people took it as such, and it kind of shocked me, the opposition that I was met with. So that's why I kind of did it the way that I did it. So just, all right, I'm just going to do it then. The guys that's with me, we going to do it. If I can't get everybody involved, then few that I can, we just going to just make this thing happen. And then so later on, people started coming back into the fold and so, but yeah.
Michelle: Well, I'm glad that they came back into the fold to help out. So getting people back in to help you. And I saw that your team, it seems like you guys have been there together for quite a while.
Ghuan Featherstone: Yeah. Yeah, decades, and that's the great thing about it. So, we were there prior to all of the hoopla and we going to be there after that, because our family's all entrenched with one another, with like uncles and brothers and cousins and sisters.
Emily: That's great.
Michelle: As far as I saw that you're raising your kids in the same house you grew up in.
Ghuan Featherstone: Yes.
Michelle: And you must know all of your neighbors. I mean, that's a beautiful thing. I'm a transplant, and I always kind of go," Okay, where am I going to go next?" And the more I think about it, I'm like," Gosh, it is about those generations knowing each other and having that shared relationship and those memories." It really-
Ghuan Featherstone: Oh yeah.
Michelle: It makes something very special in the community.
Ghuan Featherstone: Because I live both ways away and with the community that I grew up in. And I must say, I really like being around the community where I'm at right now, because it still gives me a sense of what I need to do and what I want to do and what I want to see change. And that was a question that me and my wife was asking ourselves for years about moving out," Let's just go ahead and move out of the city. It's rough for kids," and this and that. And I really didn't need and the urgency to do that because I had so much I wanted to see happen within the community. So I don't know, I'm just stuck. I just love the community. I got a lot of memories around this community, good and bad, and the bad ones I would like to see not happen for anybody else. And so that's part of the mission.
Emily: Yeah. That's awesome.
Michelle: Definitely. I mean, you've seen a lot through your lifetime, and I appreciate you giving us some of the historical background on that too, and letting the listener hear that. Because there are downs, but that the fact that you're making something to build a brighter future is resilient and fearless. And you are a doer, so thank you for being a doer of bright and wonderful things.
Ghuan Featherstone: Oh, thank you. Thank you.
Emily: And your intention. Thank you for that too. Because just going back to-
Ghuan Featherstone: Oh, thank you.
Emily: Like treating the animal with respect and learning how to understand them, and how to communicate with another being that can't talk back to you. It's really, really cool what you're doing.
Ghuan Featherstone: Thank you. Thank you.
Michelle: But Ghuan, thank you for joining us today. And actually, to the listeners, make sure you come onto the show notes, and take a look at some of the background and look at Ghuan's EP, and then also the donate button for Urban Saddles. So we definitely want to contribute and support in this wonderful effort and this wonderful nonprofit. So thanks for joining us, Ghuan.
Ghuan Featherstone: Oh, thank you. And y'all have a blessed day.
Emily: Thank you, you too.
Michelle: Thank you.
Ghuan Featherstone: Bye bye.
Join us for our next installment of From The Basement Up where we chat with Ghuan Featherstone, founder of Urban Saddles. The two words of the name of this non-profit organization juxtapose each other in the best way possible, but that is exactly what Ghuan was aiming for.
Ghuan himself has an extremely inspiring story we are so fortunate to get the chance to hear. Having served in the United States Army, then returning home to a still treacherous environment that was his hometown of Los Angeles in the early 90s, he wants to bring something positive to those around him.
Urban Saddles is a community organization, primarily focused on engaging youth, serving in areas where opportunities and hope are lacking. Ghuan instills the cowboy code of the West in all of those he can.
It’s not just about riding horses and wearing the cowboy garb. It’s about learning how to take care of something, taking on responsibility, and knowing that responsibility affects a group of others around you.
Ghuan sees that if the youth coming from unfortunate and often dire circumstances are able to connect with their peers through a common strength, and also connect with the animals, they start to embrace a new reality. Peace begins to set in.
We are beyond thankful to Ghuan for participating in our podcast, From The Basement Up, and sharing his heroic endeavors with all of our listeners. After speaking with Ghuan, we’re convinced that the world needs the equine influence.