The women of the West have always worked alongside the men—riding, roping, and branding to match the handiest cowboys. However, they’re rarely in the rodeo spotlight. The ladies of the Women’s Ranch Rodeo Association want to change that through a series of female-focused ranch rodeos held throughout the country.
“Women are so often behind the scenes when it comes to ranching and horses,” says current WRRA president McKenzie Minor. “The men are usually the ones recognized for that work, even though women do all that and more. They do ranch chores and then they go home, cook supper, and do the laundry. We want to empower women to compete front and center.”
The mission of the WRRA is to educate members and spectators about the heritage and importance of working ranch women while perpetuating and promoting the sport of Women’s Ranch Rodeo. Currently, the association boasts 200 team members from 10 states—up from just 12 members when the WRRA was first founded in 2005.
In the 2016 season, there were 20 sanctioned rodeos where cowgirls—from teenagers to grandmothers—competed in ranch-grown events like branding, sorting, tie-down mugging (where teams lay a calf on its side and tie three feet together), doctoring, and trailer loading. The year’s efforts culminated in the WRRA World Finals, held last year at the Ranch Events Complex in Loveland, Colo.
In the spirit of giving all women with a love of horses, ranching, and rodeo the opportunity to compete, the WRRA does not require its members to work for a ranch.
“This is where we differ from other associations.” Minor says, “Many of our members are involved in ranching, but we want to give every woman who wants to be involved the opportunity to be involved. You can have an office job and just have this as your hobby. You don’t need a background in ranching or horses at all. You can pick up on the skills, and if you love it, keep doing it!”
All skill levels are encouraged to form or join a team. Even Minor, a ranch wife from Nebraska, admits to a learning curve when it came to tying down a steer, which she hadn’t done prior to joining the WRRA in 2013. She says, “I practiced, I learned, and competing became addicting! It’s addicting to go out there and show what you can do!”
While its rodeos bring the crowds and adrenaline, the WRRA’s purpose extends beyond the arena. Buoying the competition element is a foundation of friendship, education, encouragement, and support. And as a non-profit organization, the WRRA is run entirely by passionate volunteers.
Says Minor, “We do it because we love it.”
Learn more about the WRRA at womensranchrodeo.org. The 2017 WRRA World Finals Ranch Rodeo will be held Sept. 8–9 at the Western State Bank Expo Center in Dodge City, Kan.