Compton Jr. Posse: Changing the Course of Kids’ Lives

Read more from our 2017 Young Horse issue by CLICKING HERE

Story and photos by TPH Intern Irene Powlick 

In 2005, Nathan Allan Williams-Bonner watched the indomitable Will Simpson win a Grand Prix. Mesmerized by the experience, Nathan was left with a desire to ride. Two years later, Williams-Bonner got his first opportunity to sit on a horse. Fast forward ten years and he is now an accomplished rider competing at horse shows in California.

After seeing his first show jumping competition, Williams-Bonner asked his grandfather about riding, and was introduced to his grandfather’s partner, Mayisha Akbar. Akbar ran an organization called the Compton Jr. Posse, a riding program for inner-city youth to help get them away from the lure of drugs and away from the culture of street crime through horses and riding. Originally with western, rodeo-focused riding the Posse taught kids how to ride through barrel racing and pole bending patterns. Eventually, the Posse turned towards exclusively English riding, but has now reintroduced western, allowing children to pick their preferred discipline.

The Compton Jr. Posse allows for inner city youth to learn to ride through commitment on the part of the participants and their families. Children need to maintain their grades and commit to riding a specific number of times per week. In addition, parents must volunteer within the program for at least ten hours per month. Parents volunteer in any way possible, “however they can best help the Posse,” Williams-Bonner explained. Some parents do marketing, others work the Posse booth at horse shows, and those that are horse-savvy help with beginner lessons.

“The kids really have to show their commitment to riding horses,” explained Williams-Bonner. “It can be a lot of work, but those that do stick with it definitely see the benefits that riding can provide.”

Through their experience with the Compton Jr. Posse, at-risk youth learn responsibility, discipline, and self-esteem. “The kids that come here all benefit by learning skills that will help them in life after they graduate high school,” said Williams-Bonner. Children are required to gangs and into the barn to learn about horses. Since that first ride, Williams-Bonner has been a dedicated equestrian, working his way up through the program and eventually teaching beginners and competing at “A” rated shows.

More than twenty years ago, the Compton Jr. Posse was founded by Akbar, who saw the need to get children in the Los Angeles and Compton areas be reliable about their riding and academics, are expected to maintain positive behavior and citizenship, and are also encouraged to resist gangs and street crime.

The Compton Jr. Posse is completely reliant on donations. The horses are either donated or rescued, often due to injury or bad behavior. Tack and equipment, from saddles and bridles to helmets and show attire, is also donated. Williams-Bonner helps to fix up the horses to be used in lesson programs, especially those deemed to have behavior problems.

“Often, we will get a horse in that people think isn’t ridable because of some vice, but normally we are able to change that and use the horse in our lesson program,” explained Williams-Bonner. “We also get horses in that are injured, like my horse, and after the necessary rehab time, they can do well with us, too.”

One of the program’s greatest benefactors is Keihl’s heiress Jami Heidegger who is inspired by the kids’ hard work, dedication to the horses, and the responsibility they show while competing at the local horse shows. Heidegger brought on her family’s trainer, Will Simpson, to provide clinics and training sessions and to help at horse shows. The Olympic Gold Medalist is generous with his time and commitment to the program. Patricia Heaton, the actress in “Everybody Loves Raymond,” has also helped the organization provide more opportunities for children in Compton. She hopes the Posse will set an international standard in programs to help inner city kids through horses and riding.

Will [Simpson] has helped us so much. Because of him and the other people I’ve had the opportunity to train with, my riding has improved. Now I can go to shows on my own and do well,” said Williams-Bonner.

Since his early days at the Compton Jr. Posse, Williams-Bonner has blossomed into a talented rider, competitive at the local and “A” show levels. Last year, West Palms Events began their sponsorship of the Compton Jr. Posse, which has allowed Williams-Bonner and other students to show at their first “A” rated horse shows free of charge, putting their Olympic dreams that much more in reach. Wearing a show jacket once belonging to Simpson, Williams-Bonner is also sponsored by Ego 7, a boot company that has generously supplied beautiful attire.

“My horse was donated [because] of an injury, my helmet is a hand-me-down, my jacket was given to me by Will Simpson, I’m sponsored to have my boots, and West Palms sponsors us to show,” said Williams-Bonner. “I have nothing to hide because you have to make the best out of what you have. Thank you for the possibility for dreams to come true.”

While frequently facing challenges, the Compton Jr. Posse’s dedication to their mission to help inner city youth has persisted and flourished. Since its founding more than two decades ago, Akbar has been able to help more than 1,500 children learn about horses, bring up their grades, and become reliable citizens.

The Compton Jr. Posse relies on donations of all kinds. For financial donations, please visit comptonjrposse.com, or call (310) 632-1247 for sponsorships of horses or donations of tack, equipment, or training.

Read more from our 2017 Young Horse issue by CLICKING HERE