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Horses return to city
Stafford resident Mansfield Montague shares his love of horses--and his interest in black cowboys--with those around him

 Riders in the Urban Trail Ride head down Washington Avenue in Fredericksburg.
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Date published: 11/16/2008


Mansfield Montague looks like a man who's comfortable on a horse.

He can get gussied up for parades and cover his quarter horse, Storm, with all kinds of shiny accessories.

But for yesterday's event, the Fredericksburg Urban Trail Ride, the man most people know as "Monty" dressed down a bit.

He wore a black cowboy hat and sweatshirt, blue jeans and leather boots that he'd broken in long ago.

The "working saddle" under him was equally worn and dusty, and its horn was covered with duct tape.

Rolled up behind him was a long raincoat, the kind that Curly might have worn in the movie "City Slickers."

Montague and the 35 other riders didn't need jackets during the humid ride through downtown yesterday morning.

But if Montague had put on the black slicker, he probably would have looked even more authentic.

"Doing stuff like this, you ain't supposed to look fancy," Montague said as he sat with his feet in the stirrups. "You're supposed to look like a cowboy."

Being a cowboy--and honoring black cowboys from the past--is what the Stafford County resident is all about.

Montague is president of the United Horsemen's Association, a regional group that started in 1985 to let young people know that men of color rode horses, even though they're not found in the movies or history books.

In the 30 years after the Civil War, between 5,000 and 8,000 blacks, mostly ex-slaves, drove Texas cattle along trails north and west, according to the book "Black Cowboys." They represented about a fourth of the working cowboys in that period.

When the United Horsemen's Association first formed, most members were black like the cowboys they honored. These days, the group includes people of all races.

"If you have that love for horses, you're welcome to join us," said Angela Stephens, the group's business manager.

The association puts on various events to introduce children and their parents to horses. They tell them what's involved in their care and handling.

Montague is a stickler for safety, the same way he stresses that people follow the rules or go elsewhere.

The members look for every opportunity to ride, and they're regulars at the Christmas parade in Fredericksburg.

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