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Growing Up Rodeo

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Growing Up Rodeo

Growing up in a rodeo family isn't always easy.

Photo © Mary Vogt
Some kids grew up playing soccer and riding around in minivans. Others were cheerleaders, tagging along to their older brother’s football games. I had none of these luxuries; my family didn’t own fancy cars and didn’t take vacations. I never needed for anything, but I certainly didn’t get everything I wanted; I learned from a young age I had to work to get the things I wanted. I grew up shoveling manure and throwing hay to hungry horses; I grew up gathering eggs and herding cattle into winter feeding pens. I was always dusty, covered with small flecks of hay and a fine coating of various animal hairs. I was born into a rodeo family, and I feel blessed for every scraped elbow, every stomped foot and every bruise I got along the way.

The Early Years

Growing up in a rodeo family, my formative years were spent in the arena. I was literally on horseback before I was born, and my parents wasted no time in acclimating me to life in the saddle. By the age of 3, I was perched atop my own Shetland pony, guiding her around the arena with furious kicks of my tiny legs. She was none too fond of this, and routinely found a reason to unseat me. I very distinctly remember my aunt telling me, “There’s no time to cry! You’ve got to get up and catch that pony.” While some people may have seen it as harsh, it is a lesson that serves me well to this day: when life knocks you down, you’ve got to get back up and press on. My friends often spent their days at the pool or playing in their backyards while I spent mine brushing away crusty mud spots and spraying the horses for flies, but I loved every minute of it.

Diving In

As I grew up, my passion for rodeo only grew stronger. I found a passion in barrel racing, and focused most of my efforts in perfecting my skills. My perfect barrel racing partner presented himself in the form of an imperfect breeding-stock Paint gelding that was afraid of hail storms, pigs, and riding alone in the trailer. Moon, as he would later be named, was barely green broke but displayed so much raw talent and maneuverability I couldn’t pass him up. He was a blank slate, and together we grew from an awkward pair into a perfectly matched team of speed, grace and precision. We rocketed to the top of our local saddle clubs, routinely winning events in 1D times. I applied for my provisional card from the Women’s Professional Rodeo Association when I was old enough, and earned enough to go pro in very short order. In addition to barrel racing, we competed in a variety of Western and English events, and I was crowed queen of a number of local, regional and state rodeo associations. It was an honor and a privilege to be presented as royalty at larger events, and I wore my sash and tiara with pride.

Life on the Road

Professional rodeos are a different animal from small, local shows. The crowds are larger, the parking lots jammed with more cowboys and cowgirls, and the spectators are more eager for plenty of raw rodeo action. I traveled thousands of miles a season, riding in dozens of events throughout the Western half of the United States. The Western divisions are some of the most competitive in the country, and I went head to head with the fastest cowgirls in the world. Some events I won, some I lost, but I felt blessed every time my loyal partner and I stepped into the arena. The waving fans, the flashing lights and the roar of the crowd produce an adrenaline rush unlike anything I’ve ever known. Some of my closest friends growing up are now internationally famous cowboys and cowgirls, and seeing their names on the top of the leader boards, including this year’s National Finals Rodeo, certainly makes me proud of our rodeo roots.

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