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Hats off to rodeo royalty

Amy Hadden Marsh
Ag Talk

I am a frustrated rodeo queen. According to the American Heritage dictionary, one of the meanings of the word frustrated is “thwarted.”

I was thwarted from being a rodeo queen by accident of birth, i.e. being born in the wrong place. Cincinnati, Ohio, is famous for a lot of things, but rodeo queens is not one of them.

My dad had horses as a young man and even when he married my mother. But, by the time I came into the picture, all he had left was his saddle. As a kid, I would strap that saddle to a beam on our front porch and, with a rope around a post, would ride off into countless imaginary sunsets.

I rode horses at summer camp in the Smoky Mountains, and some of my friends were in Pony Club, but it wasn’t like it is out here.

My introduction to rodeo royalty was Annie McNeel, who was the Garfield County Rodeo Queen for two years in a row, beginning in 2012. Annie had a beautiful smile, a warm personality, and, boy, could she — and her attendant and princesses — ride a horse. I am easily impressed by people who can ride a horse, especially when they are teenage girls.

It never ceases to amaze me when they gallop around the arena on an animal 10 times their size while holding a large flag that acts more like a sail, and smile and wave to the crowd. All at the same time.

Horsemanship is one of the prerequisites of rodeo royalty. It’s in the application guidelines for the Garfield County Fair and is pretty much a given for any other rodeo. You don’t have to look good in a swim suit to be Queen of the Rodeo, but you do have to handle your horse.

Like, when it starts to go sideways during the Grand Entry or rear up during the national anthem when everyone else’s horse is standing still, you have to pretend that this is part of the routine and, while continuing to smile and to hold on to that flag, keep your animal under control. Heck, I can’t get my horse to stand still in the corral.

Yes, I now have a horse — the first step towards becoming a rodeo queen. But I am far from being a good rider. He and I have had our own rodeos, like the time he threw me while galloping lickety-split down Cattle Creek road. He got spooked and I was powerless to stop him. But I got back in the saddle, thinking “What would Tianna Davis do?”

Davis, who turns 17 later this month, was Carbondale Wild West Rodeo royalty a few years back. Not only can she ride a horse, but she can ride steers and other bucking animals, some of which are the size of a Volkswagen. If she can do that, I can surely clamber onto the back of my 26-year-old mustang.

These young women of the west are my inspiration. They are brave, smart and resourceful. All the things I wanted to be when I was a teen. And, as rodeo royalty, they blossom. The most common response I get when I talk to these girls is that during their reign, they gain confidence and self-esteem.

I’ll never be rodeo royalty but I’ll always be in the stands, cheering on these strong girls and their gleaming steeds, the Queens of the Rodeo.


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