A wild west rodeo teenaged girl in Silt wants to buck the trend as an adult bull rider

Amy Hadden Marsh
Citizen Telegram Contributor
Larry Williams/Contributed Photo
Staff Photo |

SILT – Teenager Tianna Davis may be local rodeo’s rising star.

The 14-year-old Silt girl has earned more than 400 points riding steers at the Carbondale Wild West Rodeo this summer, and is on her way to becoming steer riding champion for the second year in a row.

But she may face some stiff hurdles in the years to come, as she pursues her goal of being a successful bull rider. Namely, her gender.

“Sometimes I don’t notice I’m a girl,” said Davis. “[Riding steers] becomes a normal event. And there are people out there who still think I can’t do it, so I have to.”

Tianna, who enters Rifle High School this fall as an honors student, said she’s a natural at riding bucking bovines.

She began as a mutton buster at the Beaver Creek rodeo at age 5, when she asked her father, Terry Davis, for a kitten if she rode all the way to the end of the arena. Terry Davis said he didn’t think Tianna would make it, so said yes.

“She rode to the other end,” he recalled with a chuckle, “and won first place.”

Tianna went on to be champion mutton buster at the 2004 National Western Stock Show in Denver and stayed with the sport until she grew out of it.

Graduating to steers and junior bulls, she collected prize belt buckles for her efforts, including junior bull riding champion at the Flat Tops Rodeo Bible Camp last summer. Tianna is also an accomplished horsewoman, having worked on 4-H horse projects most of her life. She’s won prizes for trail, dally roping and other rodeo events.

Tianna and her sister, Taylor, 12, are Carbondale rodeo royalty this summer. Taylor, who became the 2013 Little Britches Rodeo world dally ribbon roping champion in July, shares princess duties with Mira Schoeberlein. Tianna is attendant to rodeo queen Taylor Van Zyle.

Now, she said she’s ready to go for bulls and bareback broncs, setting her sights on being an all-around world champion, like rodeo star Ty Murray.

Only different.

“They’ll have to take ‘cowboy’ off [the title] and put ‘cowgirl’ in,” she said.

But bullriding, on a professional level and even at some small-town rodeos, is not always welcoming to women.

The Women’s Professional Rodeo Association, headquartered in Colorado Springs, dropped bullriding in 2008. Neither the Little Britches Rodeo Association nor the Colorado High School Rodeo Association allow girls to ride roughstock. Until 2011, Colorado resident Polly Riech was the only woman in the nation who competed on the professional bullriding circuit.

T.J. Hooker, of Norco, Calif., is co-founder of the Women’s Roughstock Foundation, which supports women and girls who want to ride bulls and broncs. Now 28, Hooker’s been riding bulls since she was Tianna’s age.

As a woman, she was barred from bullriding in high school and college rodeos. But, once out of school, Hooker competed in open rodeos with Professional Bullriders Association riders and bulls. She has also ridden rodeos all over the West with the foundation and has the belt buckles to prove it.

But success has not come easy. Hooker’s been hurt a lot and has had to break cultural barriers that come from generations of men who don’t want to see girls on bulls. She said men are uncomfortable with women getting hurt.

“If girls get hurt, rodeo contractors will say they don’t want us,” Hooker explained and questioned the double standard.

“Guys get hurt, too,” she noted.

Tianna recalled times when stock contractors wouldn’t let her ride bulls.

“They need to open up,” she said. “It’s the 21st century.”

Jerry Berentis, who stocks bulls for the Carbondale rodeo, is skeptical about women entering the sport.

“To me, it’s like having a woman football player in the NFL,” he explained. “She must be real exceptional to compete with the men.”

Meanwhile, Tianna, undeterred, “cowgirls up” at the Carbondale rodeo every Thursday night, easing into the chute and tying her gloved hand down tight against the steer. After a few moments of mental preparation, she nods her head, the chute blasts open and she’s off for a winning ride.

“I like the adrenaline rush,” Tianna explained. “And, I like being one of the only girls.”

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