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Leaping Over Barriers: The Inspiring Legacy of Charles 'Sonny' Brooks, A Trailblazer in Black Equestrian History

Amidst the legends and grand champions of horse show jumping, the moving tale of Charles "Sonny" Brooks can be found in the archives of equestrian history. It is a story of more than simply victories and awards; it is a story of a spiritual bond with the most noble of horses.  A symphony of unspoken exchanges between man and horse, every look and touch in Sonny's life said volumes of mutual respect and understanding. His life was a ballet of grace and tenacity.

At the young age of 10, Sonny was doing more than just riding horses; he was communicating with their spirits, perceiving their unsaid tensions, and listening to their whispers in silence. He turned even the most ferocious horses into models of elegance and agility with hands as soft as autumn leaves and a presence as serene as sunrise. Sonny's touch was more than just physical; it was a consolation to the tired spirits of creatures misunderstood, a ray of hope in a world full of doubt.

Breaking Barriers in Equestrian Sports, Brooks became the most renowned Black show jumper of his time during a time when he was subjected to racial segregation and persecution. He excelled in show jumping, which was a sport that was primarily played by white athletes. Despite the fact that the United States was experiencing a tremendous deal of racial tension during the 1950s and 1960s, his accomplishment inspired and inspired many others. It shows that talent is colorless and that dedication can overcome social barriers.

A title at the National Horse Show here, a record at Piping Rock there—Sonny's legacy is a symphony of silent successes and tragic moments, each note blended with the golden harmony of empathy and patience. His relationship with horses was a mutually respectful dance in which both parties recognized and appreciated each other's advantages and shortcomings. Under Sonny's guidance, horses that others would have considered too untamed or too damaged became champions—not because of force but rather because of a relationship based on mutual respect and trust. As you learn more about Sonny's story, you'll see the undeniable parallels with the mission and spirit of SOOFA Ranch. SOOFA Ranch is proud to be the only Minority/Black-owned horseback riding establishment in the Southwest Metro Atlanta area focused on mental health and youth development. In addition to teaching riding skills, our programs empower, heal, and inspire our community, especially our youth.

Like Sonny Brooks our path is less traveled, especially in the realm of equine-assisted activities. With barely 10% of participants and less than 3% of practitioners, Black people are glaringly underrepresented in the equine-assisted therapy space today. This disparity highlights the value of places like SOOFA Ranch, where we work to establish a welcoming atmosphere that represents the variety of our world. We want to ensure that everyone, from all backgrounds, can benefit from the restorative and liberating benefits of equine assisted therapy and horseback riding by providing a curriculum that is culturally relevant.

SOOFA Ranch is committed to growing in both our influence and outreach in serving our community and in remembrance of Sonny Brooks. A crucial step in achieving this objective is our Ride Strong Multi-Use Community Center project, which promises to:

  • Serve an additional 1,000 youth and families annually.

  • Introduce 500 new participants to equestrian sports and equine therapy.

  • Double the capacity of our mental health programs.

  • Offer specialized training for 100+ professionals in the field of equine-assisted therapy.

The legacy of Sonny Brooks is a potent reminder of our capacity to overcome obstacles and accomplish greatness. In addition to honoring Sonny's enduring legacy, your support of SOOFA Ranch helps ensure that everyone has access to the therapeutic power of horses in the future, promoting empowerment, growth, and resilience in our communities

Let's celebrate the pioneers like Sonny Brooks and continue their legacy through our support for more inclusive spaces like SOOFA Ranch. Together, we can make a difference in the lives of our youth and our community. Support SOOFA Ranch through likes, shares, and consider making a small grassroots monthly donation to help us build a brighter future for all.

Together, Let's Ride Strong.

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