DENVER (KDVR) — Colorado has a rich history that resonates around the world, with millions falling in love with heroes in Western movies and television shows.
One in four cowboys was Black in the Old West, with many drawn to the sport of rodeo.
Today, a young crop of athletes includes two sisters from Colorado Springs who are poised for greatness.
After years of training, Aleeyah and Savannah Roberts are mastering the sport of barrel racing.
Nineteen-year-old Aleeyah placed in the Colorado Pro Rodeo Association finals.
Thirteen-year-old Savannah is a world champion of the Bill Pickett Invitational Rodeo and the Professional Armed Forces Rodeo Association.
The sisters have been featured in GQ Magazine and 5280 Magazine’s “Best of the Mountain West” Issue.
“Barrel racing is to me an adrenaline sport,” Aleeyah tells FOX31.
The sisters say they have loved horses for all of their lives.
“I just kind of grew up around horses,” Savannah said.
Their extremely proud father, who is from Texas, raised his daughters to be expert horsewomen and is involved in their training, always there to offer support.
“I’m the driver and I pay their entry fees,” he joked.
Roberts adds that he teaches his daughters to practice safety first when competing.
“You’re having to partner with an 1,100-1,200 pound animal that has a mind of its own,” Warren Roberts said.
Both Aleeyah and Savannah say they love barrel racing because it is exciting and challenging.
“You are against the clock with your partner, so not only are you hustling yourself, you’re hustling your horse as well. You want every second to count,” Aleeyah said.
Now, a powerful name in professional rodeo, bull riding icon Abe Morris, is making it his mission to help the Roberts sisters along the way.
“I said, ‘I’m going to reach out to my contacts who have helped me and see if they help them in return,'” Morris said.
Morris is the first African-American to earn a Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association announcer’s card, and was a Fox Sports commentator for the Cheyenne Frontier Days Rodeo. He has since launched a popular business, “Cowboy Chute Out Cookies.”
Morris also happens to be a spokesperson for several major Western brands, including Roper Apparel.
He surprised Aleeyah and Savannah with a shopping spree at the Roper facility in Aurora, where the sisters and their father marveled at the amazing selection of gear.
“Some shoes that I can wear when I’m going to an awards ceremony!” Savannah exclaimed.
Now, Aleeyah and Savannah say it’s time for them to pay it forward.
“I know a lot of little girls that have told me that they want to be like me,” said Savannah.
Aleeyah tells FOX31 she wants to donate lessons, horses or whatever else she can one day to help encourage young rodeo hopefuls.
Morris is proud to hand over the torch to the next generation.
“If I have to use a cane years from now, I want to be in the audience and I want to sit there and just go, ‘Hey, I’m glad they made the National Finals Rodeo because of what they did,’” he said.